मेघदूत: "नीचैर्गच्छत्युपरि च दशा चक्रनेमिक्रमेण"

समर्थ शिष्या अक्का : "स्वामीच्या कृपाप्रसादे हे सर्व नश्वर आहे असे समजले. पण या नश्वरात तमाशा बहुत आहे."

G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

सदानंद रेगे:
"... पण तुकारामाची गाथा ज्या धुंदीनं आजपर्यंत वाचली जात होती ती धुंदी माझ्याकडे नाहीय. ती मला येऊच शकत नाही याचं कारण स्वभावतःच मी नास्तिक आहे."
".. त्यामुळं आपण त्या दारिद्र्याच्या अनुभवापलीकडे जाऊच शकत नाही. तुम्ही जर अलीकडची सगळी पुस्तके पाहिलीत...तर त्यांच्यामध्ये त्याच्याखेरीज दुसरं काही नाहीच आहे. म्हणजे माणसांच्या नात्यानात्यांतील जी सूक्ष्मता आहे ती क्वचित चितारलेली तुम्हाला दिसेल. कारण हा जो अनुभव आहे... आपले जे अनुभव आहेत ते ढोबळ प्रकारचे आहेत....."

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Is it all only PERFORMANCE?

Every winter, one is subject to various film award ceremonies. In India there are by dozens and in US there are a few. They all look same to me.

People give same speeches- "oh my god" et al. Women wear similar see-through gowns. In the front row, you see Jack Nicholson making same gestures every year. Since 9/11, black actors tend to get more awards.

In Maureen Dowd's words: "...you see no furrowed brows, no regretful winces, no unflattering wrinkles, no admissions of imperfection, no qualms about puffing up what you really have, no visible signs of hard lessons learned, and no desire to confront reality in the mirror."

It all looks and sounds so artificial. And worse boringly predictable. Is such a continuity reassuring? Is this much touted soft power- alternate to nukes- that is required to rule the world?

Artist : Bruce Erik Kaplan The New Yorker 21 Mar 1994

Friday, January 26, 2007

Commies were coming.And so are Islamists. Some day Indians?

Our democratic rulers really know how to rule us.

Gore Vidal: “ Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national-security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold, and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27. 1947. Place: White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, a handful of congressional leaders. Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he could have his militarized economy only if he first "scared the hell out of the ,American people" that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged. The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by, and for the people is now a faded memory.”

Harry Truman: “The attempt of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, et all. To fool the world and the American Crackpots Association, represented by Jos. Davies, Henry Wallace, Calude Pepper, and the actors and artists in immoral Greenvich village, is just like Hitler’s and Mussolini’s so-called social states”

And thus began one of the worst chapters in human history - McCarthyism (the late 1940s to the late 1950s).

After Russians, it has been turn of Japanese, Chinese and now Islamists. Some day even Indians may qualify.

Artist : Kenneth Mahood Publication: The New Yorker 27 Aug 1960

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Honey, I shrunk the Jurassic Park

Astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees warns: "What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter."

Jurassic Park is a tale of an experiment which has gone horribly wrong.

What if we shrunk the giant dinos like Stegosaurus and Trex? Can we co-exist?

On a practical note, are roaches and mosquitoes basically dinos shrunk?

Artist : Al Ross Publication: The New Yorker 21 Mar 1994

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Smell the flowers along the way

Walter Hagen:

"You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way."

Artist : Bruce Eric Kaplan Publication: The New Yorker 20 Apr 1994

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Being symbiotic with people

In Indian epic Mahabharata, dog is part of a very moving story.

After fighting bloodiest battle of the time, Pandavas, the victors, began their final journey towards heaven atop Himalayas, a dog accompanied them.

All except the eldest brother- Yudhishthira- died on their way. Only Yudhishthira and the dog reached the door of the heaven. Indra came on his chariot to get pious and truthful Yudhishthira to heaven. Yudhishthira paid his respect to Lord Indra and asked his companion dog to get into the chariot. Indra was shocked, “A dog to heaven?” When Yudhishthira refused to go to heaven without the dog, the God of Death, Dharmaraj Yama emerged out of the dog and blessed Yudhishthira. Yama was testing the steadfastness of Yudhishthira.

If there was any other animal instead of dog, it may not have understood when Yudhishthira motioned it to get into the chariot!

The Economist in Feb 2004 had a story "Sensitive souls" on dogs. Why did dog become man's best friend?

It says: "NO SPECIES has developed a closer relationship with humanity than the dog. But that relationship's basis—what it is about dogs that allows them to live at ease with people—is still little understood. After all, dogs are descended from wolves, which are big, scary carnivores that would certainly have competed with early man for prey, and might not have been averse to the occasional human as a light snack……

sensitivity to human social cues is a recent genetic adaptation that has evolved specifically to allow dogs to enter a new ecological niche—that of being symbiotic with people."

Therefore no amount of teaching or coercion will help a cat to wag its tail!

Artist : Tom Cheney Publication: The New Yorker Nov 11 1985

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Free Tagore and Sane-guruji

Indian copyright laws were changed to enable Santiniketan to hold on to the rights of the literary works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore longer- from 50 to 60 years after his death. Indian copyright law now deems that literary works of authors would come to thepublic domain 60 years after their death.

This change was outrageous and Tagore himself would have cried foul.

"Jawaharlal Nehru's literary works, turned over toprivate publishers last year (1994), have emerged bestsellers. And the books,re-born with a more stylish and contemporary look, are bringing rich returnsfor their two main royalty owners - his great grandchildren Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. The copyrights of Nehru's writings, published for decades by OxfordUniversity Press and the National Book Trust and funded by Jawaharlal NehruMemorial Fund and Children's Book Trust, were handed over last year to Penguin India Ltd. So the Gandhi siblings will continue to get 10-15 percent royalty on the sales of these books till 2024. "

The Economist (Apr 15th 2004 ) : "Copyright was originally designed to restrict publishers from exerting too much control over information; today it constrains individuals from creating new works".

Lessig says: ".....we come from a tradition of “free culture”—not “free” as in “free beer” (to borrow a phrase from the founder of the freesoftware movement2), but “free” as in “free speech,” “free markets,” “free trade,” “free enterprise,” “free will,” and “free elections.” A free culture supports and protects creators and innovators. It does this directly by granting intellectual property rights. But it does so indirectly by limiting the reach of those rights, to guarantee that follow-on creators and innovators remain as free as possible from the control of the past. A free culture is not a culture without property, just as a free market is not a market in which everything is free. The opposite of a free culture is a “permission culture”—a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past."

In his famous book "Free Culture" he says: ".......the free culture that I defend in this book is a balance between anarchy and control. A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property. It is filled with rules of property and contract that get enforced by the state. But just as a free market is perverted if its property becomes feudal, so too can a free culture be queered by extremism in the property rights that define it. That is what I fear about our culture
today. It is against that extremism that this book is written."

Therefore, let Bible be Bible first and then S&S publication!

Artist : Alan Dunn Publication: The New Yorker 31 Oct1936

All my genius is in my nostrils

Artist : George Price Publication: The New Yorker 7 Nov 1936

Friedrich Nietzsche: "All my genius is in my nostrils."

Mine too! Not for its Aryan straightness -far from it, it is quite Dravidian- but for its core function-SMELLING. For me, olfactory clues are more reliable than visual ones. When I walk into a gathering or a crowd, I am concerned about the smell. If it smells well, I settle down.

Lara Feigel has written a brilliant essay “Turning up our noses” for Pospect Magazine December 2006.

She says: “Humankind, even in its most primitive form, had a brain very similar to ours now, yet we have a much weaker sense of smell than our cave-dwelling ancestors. Indeed, congenital anosmia is on the increase, so the whole human race may be heading for an anosmic future. Characteristically, Freud suggests that ancient psychosexual anxieties are behind this decline in our nasal capabilities. For him, it all began when man raised himself from the ground to walk on two feet, flashing his genitals to all and sundry. The shame of this sudden exposure, the theory goes, triggered a species-wide repression of the sense of smell. Humans found genitals less embarrassing when they were seen but not smelt. This meant that men were no longer able to smell menstruation or ovulation. Smell became less important in creating sexual excitement, and humans began to be turned on more by the look of each other's bodies than the odour. As evidence for this view of smell as a forbidden, repressed sensation, Freud cites the fact that his hysterical patients often had extremely sensitive noses…

The 17th-century poet Robert Herrick found Julia's sweat as much of a turn-on as Napoleon did Josephine's 200 years later. (He famously sent word from the thick of battle that she should abstain from washing now that his return was nigh.) ”

I don’t want to be part of such an anosmic future when I have to say : “I can’t smell a thing”. I would rather be Freud’s hysterical patient!

Anti incumbency

We Indians are very proud of our democracy. Even author Pankaj Mishra who otherwise is so scathing about the country finds elections a somewhat redeeming feature.

"For decades now, India's underprivileged have used elections to register their protests against joblessness, inequality and corruption. In the 2004 general elections, they voted out a central government that claimed that India was "shining," bewildering not only most foreign journalists but also those in India who had predicted an easy victory for the ruling coalition."

For first few decades of our republic's existence, Congress party ran away with all the electoral success.

Not any more. Now the party in government, except places like West Bengal, gets trounced because our voter behaves like...

Artist : Helen E Hokinson Publication: The New Yorker 31 Oct 1936

Oh, hell

In Marathi literature, poet the late B S Mardhekar बा. सी. मर्ढेकर is next to only the giants - saint-poets - Dnyaneshwar, Eknath, Tukaram and Ramdas. He was deeply entrenched in native traditions and also influenced by Western poetry of T S Eliot, W H Auden among few others.

Literary critic Shri M V Dhond म वा धोंड has written perceptively on Mardhekar’s poetry. Dhond has discovered meanings there, which may pleasantly surprise even Mardhekar!

But the poem above is straightforward and meant as a caption for Peter Arno's picture from The New Yorker of 25 July 1936.

The Guide

I thought R K Narayan's book "The Guide" is sublime. Raju the guide is a very ordinary person but his story shows us how extra-ordinary one's life can become. Indeed it is one. One has to just discover it.

Raju towards the end is forced to fast to bring rains. Food is on his mind all the time. But then..."If by avoiding food I should help the trees bloom, and the grass grow, why not do it thoroughly? For the first time in his life he was making an earnest effort, for the first time he was learning the thrill of full application, outside money and love; for the first time he was doing something in which he was not personally interested. He felt suddenly so enthusiastic that it gave him a new strength to go through the ordeal....."

And then it rains.................Next, can Raju prevent wars? Sure, if we learn to breath properly!

Artist: Helen E Hokinson Publication : The New Yorker 25 Jul 1936

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thomas Malthus, eat my shorts

Artist : Peter Arno Publication: The New Yorker 17 Oct 1936

World 6,569,534,871 @ 13:41 GMT (EST+5) on Jan 13, 2007 and counting!

courtesy: http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html

What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?

Artist : Richard Decker Publication : The New Yorker 26 Dec 1936

On December 17, 2006 for NYT, Peter Singer has written thought provoking "What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?"

He says: “The Nobel Prize-winning economist and social scientist Herbert Simon estimated that “social capital” is responsible for at least 90 percent of what people earn in wealthy societies like those of the United States or northwestern Europe. By social capital Simon meant not only natural resources but, more important, the technology and organizational skills in the community, and the presence of good government. These are the foundation on which the rich can begin their work. “On moral grounds,” Simon added, “we could argue for a flat income tax of 90 percent.” Simon was not, of course, advocating so steep a rate of tax, for he was well aware of disincentive effects. But his estimate does undermine the argument that the rich are entitled to keep their wealth because it is all a result of their hard work. If Simon is right, that is true of at most 10 percent of it.”

Singer's Answer:

In India and other similar countries, people like me who enjoyed huge public subsidies in higher education should remember this all the time.

Not intent on arriving

Lao Tzu : A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.

I like to move absolutely aimlessly. Just watching life. Other than air travel done for business, once begun I have enjoyed almost every journey in my life. Even when I was going away from my mother.

Although I agree with Walter de la Mare when he says:
"No, No, Why further should we roam
Since every road man Journeys by,
Ends on a hillside far from Home
Under an alien sky", I want to see that sky.

I will be renting the trailer below.

Artist : Richard Decker Publication : The New Yorker 18 Jul 1936

Friday, January 12, 2007

On the edge of intolerable frustration

Artist : Richard Decker Publication: The New Yorker 4 Jul 1936

Technology could be frustrating. We all experince it all the time. Frustrating for all - seller, buyer, user.

Andrew Odlyzko says : "We were frustrated with computers a decade ago, we are frustrated with them now, and will continue to be frustrated in the future. As long as technology offers enticing new products and services, we will continue to live on the edge of intolerable frustration...

If the level of frustration is not going to decrease, is there any point in developing new technologies, and in paying any attention to ease of use? There certainly is. We will still be frustrated, but at a higher level of functionality, and there will be more of us willing to be frustrated....

Building complicated systems that work is hard. Building ones that work and are user-friendly is much harder.

Edward Tenner points out: "Microsoft has triumphed because it has given us what we asked for: constant novelty coupled with acceptable stability, rather than the other way around. ... People talk simplicity but buy features and pay the consequences. Complex features multiply hidden costs and erode both efficiency and simplicity."

Artist : Robert J. Day Published : The New Yorker 29 Feb 1936

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Not simply That sort of thing

Organized religion is doing well for itself outside Europe.

In India it is more visible, noisier, more violent, more conservative. Queues outside temples get longer and wealthier. Superstars and sport-stars make headlines not just for their sex lives, income tax problems and political connections but also for their religiosity.

Scientist Jayant Narlikar observed wryly how young people consult horoscopes before finalizing their marriage though their parents or grandparents may not have done so for their own. More educated people think astrology is a science just like astronomy. Probably more exact. TV Programs on astrology have far higher TRP's than those on science.

Jagdish Bhagwati in Oct 2006: "I was actually surprised with the Hindu ceremony (at a public function where Bhagwati lectured on October 18), with all this pujas , Sanskrit slokas and lighting the lamp. Of course, I know it's Diwali; but it was a Hindu ceremony throughout. And I was a bit horrified. I am used to Gandhiji's way of doing things - little bits from the Koran, the Bible, and the Gita and Zoroastrian texts. Nobody even thought about it. They were all busy lighting lamps with Sanskrit slokas going on and invoking Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. I mean, Goddess Lakshmi and Ganesh are Hindu things. They were supremely oblivious of the fact that some Muslim or Parsi might not appreciate it, much as they might be tolerant. This is our culture. But our culture is more broad-based than just Hinduism."

When Indians talk it is always “fate” and never “luck” or “chance”. And fate is what is decided by either stars or is pre-determined at the time of birth.

How about religious institutions like Shankaracharya or Roman Catholic Church? They always don’t seem to be doing as well. There was a big controversy about Kanchi Shankaracharya in 2004 when he was accused and arrested of murder charge. Church’s biggest problem seems to be not Osama but sex scandals.

Artist : James Stevenson publication: The New Yorker 1 Oct 1960

Is Timothy 2007, who in picture above looks so pious, a paedophile and is worried about pending internal enquiry? After all it surely cannot be dismissed as lightly as “that sort of thing”.

Artist : Mike Luckovich

One thing that surely should be said in favour of exiting priests is – they all are honest about their past. How many of us can claim that?

Nothing personal. Just want to kill you.

Such talk is always ominous. “Purely political”, “just business”, "Nothing personal".

When you hear it, one can be sure massive bloodshed is around. It takes away any personal responsibility from an individual and assigns it to something abstract.

Marlon Brando “ ….if the Mafia had been black or socialist, Corleone would have been dead or in jail. But because the Mafia patterned itself so closely on the corporation, and dealt in a hard-nosed way with money, and with politics, it prospered. The Mafia is so…American. To me a key phrase in the story is that whenever they wanted to kill somebody it was a matter of policy. Just before pulling the trigger they told him: “Just business. Nothing personal”. When I read that, McNamara, Johnson, and Rusk flashed before my eyes.”

Artist : R K Laxman Published: Times of India Jan 9, 2007

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Advertisement for Life?

Artist : Alan Dunn publication: The New Yorker 15 Feb 1936

Oh, do they?

Today she may end up not watching another movie in her life because hardly any one is based on a good book.

I don’t know the last decent Hindi film based on a good book. 1983’s Ardha Satya ("Half Truth") based on Sri Da Panwalkar’s story? Yesterday, I read Vinod Khanna, mega- star of yester-years, saying as much - dearth of good scripts and scrpt-writers.

What about Hollywood?

LYNN HIRSCHBERG writing in New York Times Magazine, November 14, 2004 “What Is an American Movie Now?” said:

“…America seemed, at best, an absurd, vaguely comic place. When you look at the big international hits of the year, it is easy to understand why the world views America with certain disgust. Shrek may be a lovable (and Scottish) ogre, but nearly every other global hero in American movies is bellicose, intellectually limited, stuck in ancient times or locked in a sci-fi fantasy.
American films used to be an advertisement for life in the states -- there was sophistication, depth, the allure of a cool, complex manner. Now most big studio films aren't interested in America, preferring to depict an invented, imagined world, or one filled with easily recognizable plot devices.

"Our movies no longer reflect our culture," said a top studio executive who did not wish to be identified. "They have become gross, distorted exaggerations. And I think America is growing into those exaggerated images. My fear is that it's the tail wagging the dog -- we write the part, and then we play the part."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Modern Times

It was interesting to read Jagdish Bhagwati invoking Chaplin's Modern Times in his comments to Financial Times on Jan 3, 2007 titled "Technology, not globalisation, drives wages down".

He says: "Recall how he (Charlie) goes berserk on the assembly line, the mechanical motion of turning the spanner finally getting to him. There are assembly lines today, but they are without workers; they are managed by computers in a glass cage above, with highly skilled engineers in charge.
Such technical change is quickly spreading through the system. This naturally creates, in the short-run, pressure on the jobs and wages of the workers being displaced."

What about alienation? I thought the scene from Modern Times was more about Charlie's alienation than his wages.

What is true of a call center worker in 1936 below is perhaps still valid for a swanky BPO factory in India today.

Artist : Alain publication- The New Yorker 11 Jan 1936

Monday, January 08, 2007

Culture Vulture of Pune

I have been living in Pune since 1999. Pune they say is a cultural capital of province of Maharashtra, India.

For me culture is first and foremost civility and I think Pune lags behind many other cities of India in that regard. I have seen people here getting ruder and ruder. But even I was shocked to learn this.

"Parking woes assume serious proportions Times of India December 22 2006

Pune: One would never have imagined that serious crimes like culpable homicide, assault and threats would replace squabbles over parking of vehicles in the city. Developments over the past four days only go to prove that parking woes are now leading to serious crimes.

Barely four days ago, a man lost his life allegedly over the issue of parking, in Bibvewadi (my suburb).

In another case, the same night, Prashant Chaudhari (32) of Sanghvinagar lodged a complaint with the Chatushrungi police station (noncognizable offence registration number 5103/06), alleging that a top army officer assaulted him over the issue of parking and threatening him with dire consequences.

These are not stray cases. Police stations of Deccan Gymkhana, Vishrambaug, Faraskhana, Khadak, Swargate, Bund Garden and Cantonment have received complaints of brawls involving motorists over parking of vehicles. "

Pleading guy in the picture has to careful. At Pune, he may never need to park his vehicle again!

Artist : Helen E Hokinson published The New Yorker 4 Jan 1936

Sunday, January 07, 2007

God bless you!

Few bad or evil things can have some good consequences. Unintended mostly.

Friedrich Nietzsche claimed- war built courage & honor in men.

Black plague of 14th century that annihilated third of Europe's population may have caused emergence of the Renaissance.

Tragic crash of meteor 65 million years ago wiped out dinosaurs giving a chance to rat like mammals to launch their bid to rule the earth one day in future.

Leave alone these big things. Even a minor (not so minor for those like me who suffer from it) ailment like common cold too can have a positive fall-out.

Artist : Sidney Hoff published The New Yorker March 5 1960

BTW- man may achieve whatever. For example virtual sex as in Minority Report. But he will not stop dreaming of eradicating common cold. Good luck!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Uninfomed opinion

Television has bred our familiarity with strangers.

For instance, Sunil Gavaskar is someone who comes to our drawing room every day of the cricket match. Talking intimately. Gossiping. Therefore, we have an opinion on everything Gavaskar does or has done in the past, not just related to cricket.

Uninformed opinion is perhaps the most important characteristics of our age.

Artist: Everett Opie published The New Yorker Jan 30 1960

p.s After I wrote above, I came across following in FOUAD AJAMI's review of Pervez Musharraf's books "IN THE LINE OF FIRE, A Memoir" (NYT Jan 7 2007).

"We may not know Bahrain but we can be friends with its king; we may not have known Persian ways, nothing, for instance, of the seminarian culture of Qum, but we knew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and our travelers and diplomats and journalists felt at home in his court. Jordan may be a realm apart, a place of poverty and a breeding ground of angry warriors of the faith, but young King Abdullah II and his queen, Rania, are fixtures on the international circuit. And now that we have extravaganzas like Davos, no land is truly foreign, the exotic rulers can rub shoulders with Oliver Stone and Angelina Jolie. They can all serve on panels together. Why bother learning Arabic, Farsi or Urdu, when the rulers of distant lands offer a shortcut for the voyeurs and the travelers. "

Therefore, if Opie were to draw this picture from Kennedy's viewpoint, it might read: "It is hard for me to have an opinion about Sheikh or his camel since I haven't met them or been to his land or studied anything about his culture........hey but hold on, I am meeting him at Davos next month and then maybe I will know enough about all this to invade and occupy his land"

We’re killers, but we won’t kill today

Artist: Dana Fradon published : The New Yorker 24 Dec 1960

Dear Mr. Fradon,

It is very likely I have no clue to your cartoon here. However, I am going to try because I like it.
In December '60, your lady character did some crystal ball gazing to proclaim “no war”. I envy her ball’s optimism. Yes, it is very wonderful if anyone or anything foretells no war for next 7 years. But I have some bad news to report from year 2007. ‘1960’ was as bad a decade as any in 20th century- easily the bloodiest century in human history by some distance.

The lady in your picture perhaps shared her findings with our Prime Minister Nehru (who often was a target of the late Shankar of your tribe, India’s most celebrated cartoonist) because he too believed that there would be no wars.

Our nation had lost most of its innocence during ethnic cleansings following 1947's partition and assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. We lost the rest when we fought two horrible conflicts- with China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1965 - paving the way for what economist Surjit Bhalla calls "rotten age period (1960 to 1980) of declining growth and increasing poverty". During the time, India as a country went nowhere while our East Asian neighbors marched on to tiger-hoods lifting millions out of poverty.

Elsewhere the world looked down the barrel of nuclear gun with 1961’s Bay of Pigs Invasion and another bloody chapter was written in the history of Middle East with 1967’s Six-Day War (Third Arab-Israeli War). Btw- you know ink in the latter is still very wet. As I write this, one more colourful chapter is being written there.

You may visit Wikipedia to learn the complete list of conflicts at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_1945%E2%80%931989#1960_-_1969

However, I want to end on an optimistic note of Star Trek’s Capt. James T. Kirk

“We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we won’t kill today.”


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Adam's Curse

In Maharashtra,India, when people are describing someone male, borne in early to mid 20th century, one attribute is often used to describe their nature- volatile- given to extreme anger. My father’s father belonged to that category and my father followed the suit. My son may write what I do.

According to my father, he loved his father deeply. My father, when he was twenty-one, married my mother much against his father’s wishes. He and his father remained estranged until I was 27. For almost 30 years, they did not meet each other, including when my father’s mother died.

My wedding gave some kind of an opportunity to both of them to patch up. They seemed to succeed at that. I was present at their reunion. It was both moving and funny. Moving for obvious reasons. Funny because I don't know what happens when you lead your separate lives for 30 years!

Then, I had heard my grand father was making plans to visit and stay with my parents for few days. But suddenly he died leaving behind a will.

The document disinherited four of his sons bequeathing all his property (including some prime property in Pune) to his youngest son. My father did not want a dime from his father but what really broke his heart was the will document spoke scathingly of him. My father thought my grandpa might not give him anything material but would recognise his qualities as a good son. He did neither. He perhaps never forgave my father.

All because, remember, my grandpa’s nature was volatile!

Did my grandpa look like Peter Arno's character below when he wrote his will?

BTW- Another volatile old man I knew, my friend's grandpa- Bedekar, looked like the old man in the picture. I don't know about his will but I remember his anger. When my friend and I were playing a game of chess, he came over and started moving pieces on his grandson's behalf. Unfortunately he lost. His whole body was shaking. I was scared.

Artist: Peter Arno Publication date : Dec 7, 1940

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

For whom the bell tolls.......

Art critic and a versatile artist himself the late Da Ga Godse द ग गोडसे wrote a brilliant essay “Ashtavinayak” for Maharashtra Times annual 1975. It is now part of his book “Samande Talash” (Shree Vidya Prakashan 1981). DGD has claimed in his essay that ancient Ashtavinayaka’s have nothing to do with ‘modern’ idol of Ganapati.

When on a visit to one of the eight Vinayaka’s, Girijatmak at Junnar, Maharashtra, he discovered how a Buddhist Vihar has been intruded into by Hindus and converted into a very popular temple. He was particularly angered by the ugly sight (attached newly to that ancient roof) and cacophonic sound of the temple bell there. Godse imagined how quiet it would have been there, few hundred years before, when Buddhist monks sat down for meditation. The only sound they occasionally made was of their breathing!

But a faithful has little regard for sensitivities of others around him. He wants to ring the bell hardest so that god hears him. He wants to sing hymns loudest so that god hears him. For many years now, Ganpati festival, spread over 10 days, has been the biggest sound polluter in Maharashtra. The next comes Diwali, particularly the day of Laxmi Puja, when you wish you were deaf for few evening hours when Puja is being performed.

Unfortunately, unlike in the picture, I cannot get the hell out of here.

Artist : Alain Published : The New yorker Aug 13, 1960

Jeevo Jeevasya Jeevanam

When I was working at a mega-corp in last century, I told my colleagues how our lives resembled to that being shown on National Geographic or Animal Planet.

Call it what you like: dog eats dog, eat or be eaten, survival of the fittest, a rat race (that makes you a rat even if you win it), in Sanskrit –Jeevo Jeevasya Jeevanam etc.

My colleagues made light of that and dispersed laughing. I knew they were little nervous.

Artist : James Stevenson Published The New Yorker 27 Aug 1960

Cause draft, cause gale

In India where most public places are crowded, you are in constant danger of becoming an unintended victim of your fellow citizens. I use public transport a lot. Therefore, I have some first hand experience.

People can gesticulate so much that they may end up giving you a bloody nose. Then, there is a constant threat of wild sneezing, a shower of saliva while talking, spitting while chewing pan or a booger hidden in a dark corner. Not to mention loud and irritating conversations on the mobile phones, habit of crossing their legs while sitting very close soiling your trousers with their footwear……….

On a cricket field, a batsman with a big backlift can cause a draft in the slips by waving his bat violently.

Here, speaker on the dais has caused a draft. Giving chills to Richard Nixon.

Btw- Nixon sitting dignified here lost this particular election all right but soon, when elected, his actions would produce a gale called Watergate.

Artist: William O'Brian published The New Yorker Oct 1, 1960

Don't get 'Mall'ed

Artist: James Stevenson Publsihed : The New Yorker December 10 1960

In India, retail revolution is supposed to have begun. Malls have now become landmarks. ‘Maller’ the place, better it is. May not be for living but certainly for buying property! When I recently quizzed a relative, an NRI doctor, why she did not return to India, she said ya it should be considered as India now has malls!

But never dare say, commercialism should be taken out of Diwali or Ganpati or Durga Puja or Christmas. You sure will be ‘mall’ed.

James Surowiecki, author of that brilliant “The Wisdom of Crowds”, has written an essay “THE GIFT RIGHT OUT” in The New Yorker dated Dec 25, 2006

He says: “Christmas shopping in the U.S. has been a reliable source of anxiety and stress for well over a century. “As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten, the great question of buying Christmas presents begins to take the terrifying shape it has come to assume in recent years,” the New York Tribune wrote in 1894…………..In fact, the more we spend at Christmas, the more we waste. We might actually be happier—and we’d certainly be wealthier—if we exchanged small, well-considered gifts rather than haunting the malls”.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fooled by Randomness- We all are!

One of the best books I read in 2006 was "Fooled by Randomness; The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

For 46 years, I have been fooled and I will continue to be so but now atleast I know that fact.

When I heard stochastic process in inventory control, I could not have guessed how they drive my life!

Hagar the manager

Hagar is at his best when he is managing his men. And he does no better or no worse than the current manager!

Here are my favourite five.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Waving or Drowning

Not easy to judge. Listen to Stevie Smith first and then see what James Stevenson says.

Stevie Smith (1903-1971)

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Artist : James Stevenson published The New Yorker 19 Nov 1960

our own Waheeda Rehman or Ginger Rogers

Waheeda Rehman by some opinion in her prime ("Guide") was one of the most beautiful actresses of Hindi film industry.
Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan (one of the handsomest men himself) considers her the most beautiful woman world has known. For me, Ginger Rogers is equally vivacious.

Marathi author Va Pu Kale has written few good stories. In one of them, protagonist in due course discovers Waheeda Rehman in his wife.

Don't we all remember the day our wife looked like Waheeda or Ginger?!

Artist: Barney Tobey publsihed : The New Yorker 31 Dec 1960

Parental discretion!

My wife often asks me to be discreet when our son is around.

"Watch your tongue" is a constant refrain. I cannot lose my temper when he is awake. Why? Because "our son will follow you and use the same foul language which is not good for his future".
She thinks invoking our son's future is a clinching argument.

I sometimes think it is a clever ploy to shut me up for good...... what a drag.
Artist : Frank Modell Published: The New Yorker 19 March 1960

for Democracy's sake!

Artist : Joseph Mirachi Published The New Yorker June 25, 1960

In India democracy is alive and well most time kicking! Opposition opposes because they are in opposition. And even friendly fire from parties like communists is most times deadly.

If today non-congress parties were to be asked what they stand for, their honest answer would be whatever congress doesn't stand for. No more, no less.

But if we want to give it a positive spin to this behaviour, call it to "keep alive the multi-party democracy".