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.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

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);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

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."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dealing when I should be wheeling. And vice versa!

I don't consider myself a failure but by most criteria of the society I live in, I probably am one!

I went to IIT and qualified for IIM. I worked for leading multinationals before I became disillusioned with them.

I went abroad many times each time wanting to return home more desperately.

I left Miraj, the town where I lived for first 21 years of life, with some excitement but now I realize I have ended up "on a hillside far from home under an alien sky".

CHARLES ISHERWOOD has written an excellent essay “Take a Bow, Loser, the Spotlight’s Yours” NYT April 8, 2007.

I really liked a few points he has made:

“……Behold a new face of the Broadway musical, bearing a wry comic grimace that reflects the new mood abroad in America. A country renowned — for good or ill — as the land that enshrined success as a prize to be cherished above all others has lately evinced a sneaky fascination with failure. The losers on “American Idol” are almost as famous as the winners — sometimes more so. Kicked off one contest show, a new-minted pseudo-celebrity becomes a star of the next. Paris Hilton’s very pointlessness constitutes the whole of her appeal; no one really wants her to acquire a talent………

The affection for life’s also-rans is equally strong at the moment in the more popular media. Exhibit A in the case for the country’s new love affair with flopdom would have to be “American Idol,” arguably the most influential showbiz phenomenon of the last decade. ……

Maybe this new mood enshrining failure as the new success is related to the last decade or so of dissatisfaction with the country’s ostensible political winners, and the policies they’ve pursued. But it surely reflects a population embarking on the new century with a perhaps not unhealthy dent in its self-esteem……….

But everyone of a certain age (say 30) has probably lived through a few of those startling moments when you take stock of your life as it is and wonder: How did I get here, exactly? When did the curves come that moved me away from one destiny and toward another? I guess it all must have happened during intermission.”
Artist: Richard Decker The New Yorker 13 Oct 1962

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Are we Haves and Give Nots?

Reading the late Arun Kolatkar’s poetry at its best is like reading Tukaram and W H Auden (2007 the centenary year of his birth) together.

Jejuri” (1976) is arguably Arun Kolatkar’s finest work. I consider it a collection of the best poems written in English by an Indian author.

I have not been to Khanderaya’s Jejuri yet, but it is all around me! Its 'old woman' asks me: Where do you belong? ......... Haves, Have Nots, Gives, Give Nots

"An Old Woman

An old woman grabs
hold of your sleeve
and tags along.

She wants a fifty paise coin.
She says she will take you
to the horseshoe shrine

You've seen it already.
She hobbles along anyway
and tightens her grip on your shirt

She won't let you go.
You know how old women are.
They stick to you like a burr

You turn around and face her
with an air of finality.
You want to end the farce.

When you hear her say,
'What else can an old woman do
on hills as wretched as these?'

You look right at the sky.
Clear through the bullet holes
she has for her eyes.

And as you look on,
the cracks that begin around her eyes
spread beyond her skin.

And the hills crack.
And the temples crack.
And the sky falls

With a plate-glass clatter
Around the shatterproof crone
who stands alone

And you are reduced
to so much small change
in her hand."


Artist: Dana Fradon The New Yorker 17 Aug 1957

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sex in no longer a taboo subject but........

When I googled Taimes of India’s website for word “sex” “appearing in headline” for “within past 30 days”, it threw up three pages of results.

One imporatnt search result: Governments of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra have banned sex education in school. The sex education classes were part of the adolescence education programme for Class IX and above, aimed at creating AIDS awareness among students.

Chief minister of Madhya Pradesh said: "...... Children should be taught yoga and Indian culture and tradition instead of sex education.” (March 20).

A Maharashtra law maker said: "The message reaching younger generation will be different from what the government aimed at. Instead of having a healthy attitude towards sex, the images currently used actually harm young and impressionable minds. These books are so bad and lacking in sensitivity that they will destroy Indian culture." (March 30)

There is another important news item dated April 4 2007: “US 5th-graders arrested for having sex in class- Five fifth-grade students face criminal charges after authorities said four of them had sex in front of other students in an unsupervised classroom and kept a classmate posted as a lookout for teachers.”
Artist : Eldon Dedini The New Yorker 17 Sept 1966

Temples of modern India or disease of giganticism

Ramachandra Guha in his essay “Prime Ministers and big dams” for Hindu on December 18, 2005 says:

“SPEAKING to the Central Board of Irrigation and Power in November 1958, Jawarhalal Nehru deplored a "dangerous outlook developing in India", which he termed the "disease of giganticism". The "idea of doing big undertakings or doing big tasks for the sake of showing that we can do big things," remarked Nehru, "is not a good outlook at all". For it was "the small irrigation projects, the small industries and the small plants for electric power which will change the face of the country, far more than a dozen big projects in half a dozen places". The Prime Minister drew his audience's attention to "the national upsets, upsets of the people moving out and their rehabilitation and many other things, associated with a big project". These upheavals would be on a lesser scale in a smaller scheme, enabling the State to "get a good deal of what is called public co-operation……..For this was the same Nehru who was an enthusiast for large projects, who once celebrated big dams as the "temples" of modern India.”

I see no problem here.

Great leaders are like great books. And to follow them, we do Ned Flanders (the Simpsons Character) when he says: “ I've done everything the Bible says - even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!”
Artist: Richard Decker The New Yorker 17 July 1948

Saturday, April 07, 2007

To hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner

When in college, I read the late Prabhakar Padhye’s Marathi book “Manav Aani Marks”.

It taught me a lot of things.

For example, how alienation is not necessarily bad for mankind. How? If not for alienation, Tukaram might not have written his Gatha. (The greatest book in Marathi and one of the best in the world).

I read in it Marxism’s ultimate goal: “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity...society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, herdsman or critic.” This was very charming. I have never ever got over this.

Although I still did not know what Marxism was, I became more Marxist after reading all this!

The Economist (Christmas Special Double issue of 2002) has a good essay on Marx. It says Marxism as a system of government is dead or dying but as a system of ideas, its future looks secure. Lord Meghnad Desai, author of “Marx's Revenge”, argues that Marx was misunderstood and that the great man was right about far more than he is given credit for.

When Lisa Simpson tells her father ( [3F03] 'Lisa the Vegetarian' Original airdate: 15-Oct-95): " While I was gone I got some really good advice from Paul and Linda McCartney." Her father Homer Simpson says: "Rock stars. Is there anything they don't know?".

Similarly Gandhi and Marx have commented on just about everything under the sun. Much more than even prophets.

I wonder if there is any comment from Marx on this specific “tired, rundown feeling”. Also, will these guys ever get a chance to hunt or fish?

Artist : Mario Micossi The New Yorker 10 Oct 1964

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It’s good to be Thackeray or Pawar!

The Times of India on 31st March 2007 reported:

"Vijay Tendulkar calls Bal Thackeray and Sharad Pawar Jekyll and Hyde personalities with a mix of the good and the bad."

Tendulkar indeed has mellowed down because earlier he had called Thackeray choicest names.

But his description of Thackeray and Pawar fit us all. By morning Dr. Jekyll, by evening Mr. Hyde. Or the other way round.

So we all are like Thackeray and Pawar. Only a whole lot poorer!

Therefore, to paraphrase Mel Brooks, I say:” It’s good to be Thackeray or Pawar.”!

Artist: Sidney Hoff, The New Yorker, 6 Feb 1960

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Gosh darn

In the past, comic Marathi serials on TV would make fun of Hindi soap opera like “Sans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi” but would kindly leave their ‘sister’ programming in Marathi alone. Time has now come for them to light into Marathi soap opera because Marathi serials on TV have hit a new low.

For a long time now most of them have been either vulgar or prurient or dumb or combination of them. Silly but not dangerous perhaps. Now, they have crossed the threshold. They have turned injurious to our health.

Serial “Asambhav” on Zee Marathi give credence to things like rebirth, ghosts, black magic etc. Many of them (“Vahinee Saheb”, “Avghachi Sansar”) show abominable violence against women. They perhaps would like to show more sex to make the ultimate cocktail but currently don’t.

If there are any sensible actors involved in making of this trash, I am sure they ask:
“During rehearsals, at least, couldn’t I just say ‘Gosh darn’?”

Artist: Richard Decker The New Yorker 12 Jan 1963

Harrison, yes, it’s just a game

Why have we become so jingoistic when it comes to sports?

Cannot we just enjoy a good afternoon of bat versus ball when no wicket falls, not many runs are scored but still enough happens to show us game’s inherent beauty.

Adam Gopnik puts it well for football: “ -- man accepting his hard circumstances, the near-certainty of his failure. There is, after all, something familiar about a contest in which nobody wins and nobody pots a goal. Nil-nil is the score of life.”

John Carlos 1968 Mexico Olympics 200m Bronze Medallist- who along with gold medallist Tommie Smith raised black-gloved fists on the podium for the medal ceremony to protest US government’s policies:

“Why do we have to wear the uniform of your country? Why do they play national anthems? Why do we have to beat the Russians? Why do the East Germans have to beat the West Germans? Why can’t everyone wear the same colors but wear numbers to tell them apart? What happened to the Olympic ideal of man against man?”

Artist: Richard Decker The New Yorker 4 Oct 1958

Lead them to their death

NYT article by CARL ZIMMER on March 27, 2007 screams : “Scientists Explore Ways to Lure Viruses to Their Death”.

It says : ” There are only a few basic ways to fight viruses. A vaccine can prime the immune system to attack them as soon as they invade the body. If a virus manages to establish itself, a doctor may be able to prescribe a drug to slow down its spread. And if all else fails, a doctor may quarantine a patient to head off an epidemic.
Now some scientists are exploring a fundamentally different strategy to fight viruses. They want to wipe them out by luring them to their destruction, like mice to mousetraps.”

Next what? Chattering viruses?


Artist: Helen E. Hokinson The New Yorker 2 Aug 1941

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bombs are obsolete

JAMES CARROLL “60 years of faulty logic” on March 12 2007:

“……………….Last week, the Bush administration announced plans for the first new nuclear weapon in more than 20 years, a program of ultimately replacing all American warheads. So much for the nuclear elimination toward which the United States is legally bound to work by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Washington simultaneously assured Russia and China that this renewal of the nuclear arsenal was no cause for them to feel threatened. Hello? Russia and China have no choice but to follow the US lead, inevitably gearing up another arms race. It is 1947 all over again. A precious opportunity to turn the world away from nuclear weapons, and away from war, is once more being squandered -- by America.”
Artist : Rober J. Day The New Yorker 18 Aug 1945
p.s. On August 6, 1945, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki.
Did Day finish his picture before or after Aug 6, 1945?

Bringing up Berlin

JAMES CARROLL “60 years of faulty logic” on March 12, 2007:

“SIXTY YEARS AGO today, Harry Truman went before a joint session of Congress to announce what became known as the Truman Doctrine. "At the present moment in world history, nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life."

With that, an era of bipolarity was inaugurated, dividing the world between forces of good and evil.

The speech amounted, as one of Truman's advisers characterized it, to a declaration of religious war. In the transcendent struggle between Moscow and Washington, "nonalignment" was not an option. Truman declared that the United States would actively support "free" people anywhere who were resisting either internal or external threats to that freedom. The "free world" was born, but so, eventually, were disastrous wars in Korea and Vietnam.

The occasion of Truman's pronouncement was his decision to militarily support one side in the civil war in Greece, and with that, the deadly precedent of American intervention in foreign civil wars was set. Fear of communism became a driving force of politics and a justification for vast military expenditures…….”

Gore Vidal is one of the sanest American voice still occasionally heard.

When he was asked if cold war was complete illusion, he said : “ No, it was a complete fact. But it was based on an illusion that the Russians were coming. This was the propaganda that never ever let up, until finally Gorbachev dissolved the whole story. We had maintained the myth in order to keep 51% of the US budget for a military which has no enemy. “

Berlin was a shining symbol of the Cold war. ( Remember, JFK’s "Ich bin ein Berliner”?)

Many conversations were ruined by the very mention of it!

Artist: Alan Dunn The New Yorker 29 July 1961

The desert is in my heart

Global warming, pollution have now become household words. Partly because they now are part of our children’s curriculum. Partly because our lives seem to be affected by some of them. Summers start early, winters never arrive.

It is also because we can blame some one else for it! Just like the way we blame all ills in our society on politicians. It is sooooooooooo convenient.

But our greed is responsible for global warming. Mahatma Gandhi asked us to simplify our habits. We are constantly engaged in complicating them. We want larger houses. Larger cars. Larger air conditioners, many clothes, footwears...............

Remember what T S Eliot said:

“The desert is not remote in southern tropics,
The desert is not only around the corner,
The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
The desert is in the heart of your brother.”

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar has an interesting take on our fondness of cars - "The hidden social cost of vehicles” Times of India March 25,2007:

“……….There is little appreciation among politicians or the middle class of the huge social cost of cars. They cannot see that huge subsidies, mostly hidden, are being ladled out to car-owners. These need to be abolished and replaced with user charges or taxes that reflect the full social cost of cars. The Left front, which once supported high taxes on petrol, now acts as though petrol is a Fundamental Right. So does Sonia Gandhi……I am not among those who want cars to be abolished and replaced entirely by buses and trams. Public transport has an important place in cities, but so does private transport. I believe in the freedom of people to travel where and when they want. But this freedom imposes a wide array of hidden costs on a city economy, and car-owners should pay these costs in full. Otherwise we will be subsidising pollution, fuel adulteration, congestion, respiratory disease, and the disappearance of green spaces”

Artist: Joseph Farris The New Yorker 5 Dec 1964