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.”
Albert Einstein: “I am content in my later years. I have kept my good humor and take neither myself nor the next person seriously.” (To P. Moos, March 30, 1950. Einstein Archives 60-587)
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: "… इ. स. 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."
Friday, November 30, 2007
“Archaeological Survey of India scars world heritage site: Ajanta Caves Vista Spoiled With Cement Work.
The outer portion of second century BC and Unesco World Heritage Site Ajanta caves has been badly scarred after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) dug a pit and hastily abandoned the construction of a cement portico, which was meant to be pleasing to the eyes…”
This didn't surprise me because on February 3, 2004 NYT had reported:
“…Only in 1986 did a group of Indian archaeologists resume work at Angkor Wat, but their techniques -- chemicals to clean the temple towers and cement to support interior walls -- were widely criticized.
Mr. Borath defends the Indians. ''Their presence was politically important,'' he said. ''They were the first to return, with few resources and under very difficult conditions. There was a cease-fire, but still great insecurity. Perhaps their method was not correct, but it is good to remember the conditions.'' "
I felt deeply sad at this development because just this fortnight, Frontline (December 7, 2007) has showcased Ajnata Caves: Simply Grand as the eighth part of their ongoing 25-pat series on Indian art.
“Around the 2nd century B.C. at Ajanta, great shrines and monasteries were carved out of the mountain…
…in the gorge of the Waghora river, Ajanta’s paintings occupy the pre-eminent position in the mural traditions of Asia. However, its sculpture, among the finest ever created in India, is often not given the attention it deserves…
…Colossal Buddha, Kanheri, 5th and 6th century. This figure, more than 22 feet (6.7 metres) in height, marks the beginning of a long tradition of colossal Buddhas, which became a popular representation across the Tibetan plateau and Central Asia…”
Talking of colossal Buddhas, remember Bamiyan Buddhas, destructed by philistine the Taliban?
But we 21st century Hindu Indians are as much philistines as any. What do we care for preserving our history and composite culture? Many of us just want to use our history and mythology to attack minorities.
One has to be reminded that Pune is a historical city. There is hardly any evidence of it other than ghostly Shaniwar Wada, poorly maintained Sinhgad fort and a couple of other places. It's hard to believe that once rulers of Pune ruled India, from Sindhu to Kaveri.
A couple of examples:
Ibrahim Gardi and his division (consisting largely of South Indian low caste Hindus called Telange) showed the greatest valour at the third battle of Panipat (January 14, 1761). But there is no monument to remember that supreme sacrifice and show case India’s composite culture.
Alandi, near Pune, where Saint Dnyaneshwar ज्ञानेश्वर (1275-1296) took samadhi (a yogic path to salvation by giving up life) is a centre of spirituality for whole of Maharashtra and beyond.
Scholar and critic M V Dhond has commented on Alandi's degradation in following words:"...second regret,degradation of Alandi...I feel terrible pain remembering bad condition of my Jñanadeva's place of samadhi...will this place ever get back its original serene and gratifying looks?..." (February 2, 1996)
म वा धोंड:"...दुसरी खंत, या आळंदी क्षेत्राच्या दुर्दशेविषयीची...माझ्या ज्ञानदेवांच्या समाधिस्थळाची दुर्दशा आठवून माझ्या चित्ताला फार क्लेश होतात...या परिसराला त्याचे शांत व रम्य असे मूळ रुप परत कधी लाभेल का?..."
Cave 26. In the Mahaparinirvana scene, the Buddha's disciple Ananda sits at his feet. He is sad and forlorn at the passing away of his master. The simplicity of this representation and the humanity expressed in it are remarkable. The abstract representation of the flowering tree above is delightful
Artist: Rea Gardner The New Yorker 3 August 1940
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Fleming is seemingly devastated by his boss’s argument. He probably didn’t want to be the first victim of management wisdom. But he is.
Can he still be happy?
Asian Age on November 24, 2007:
“Got a pay hike! Bet you won't be that happy. Research shows that men are happiest with salary rises only if their colleagues get less. Researchers in Europe, who have carried out the study, found that most men get the biggest buzz from a monetary prize when they know it's a much bigger award than that received by someone else, The Independent reported in London on Friday.
According to lead researcher, Professor Armin Falk of Bonn University, the findings go against conventional theories about economic rewards, which "suggest it is the absolute hike in pay, rather than the relative one, that matters most".
"This result clearly contradicts traditional economic theory (which) assumes only important factor is the absolute size of the reward," he was quoted as saying…”
I am surprised that the professor is surprised.
Paul Krugman said this in June 1999:
“…A more important point, probably, is that human beings are hard-wired to judge themselves not by their absolute standard of living, but in comparison to others. It may be true that in material terms today's borderline poor live as well as the upper-middle class did a few decades back, but that does not stop them from feeling poor. And consumer spending ultimately disappoints because of habituation: once you have become accustomed to a given standard of living, the thrill is gone…”
Therefore, if Fleming’s colleagues don’t get any raise like him or get a cut or lose their jobs, Fleming may still be happy.
Or Fleming can draw comfort from following:
“…A notorious study in 1974 found that despite some 30 years worth of stellar economic growth, Americans were no happier than they were at the end of World War II. A more recent study found that life satisfaction in China declined between 1994 and 2007, a period in which average real incomes grew by 250 percent.
Happiness, it appears, adapts. It’s true that the rich are happier, on average, than the poor. But while money boosts happiness, the effect doesn’t last. We just become envious of a new, richer set of people than before. Satisfaction soon settles back to its prior level, as we adapt to changed circumstances and set our expectations to a higher level…” (EDUARDO PORTER, NYT, November 12, 2007)
Artist: Richard Decker The New Yorker 20 December 1947
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
“With the state government giving its nod for high-rise buildings, Pune is set to join an exclusive club of skyscraper cities. The city, that had till now buildings with a maximum height of 40 metres or 11 floors, will soon get to see building with over 30 floors and rising up to 100 metres…”
I am not going to bring up boring “green” subjects like roads, public-transport, electricity, pollution, urban-warming etc. Instead, I am going to look at another dimension!
Pune is home to a booming IT industry where there is constant talk of rising salaries and falling libidos among its workers. See the story "IT boom gives way to baby gloom." (Times of India April 20, 2003)
Therefore, my only hope: High-rise at Pune won’t look as boring as Express Tower and Air India Building at Mumbai. They invoke no feelings in me or don’t remind of anything.
Instead, Pune structures can look exciting and also serve a social purpose.
Artist: Robert Menkoff The New Yorker 22 November 1999
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
“Govt to ensure quality products. Tough laws likely to empower consumers against sub-standard products.”
It’s about time. And they should also cover services.
Over last few years, most service providers (banks, mutual funds, telco's, ISP's, electricity boards, muncipal corporations, hospitals...) and product manufacturers (tv, pc, laptop, mobiles, DVD players...) have done every thing possible to make me do a murder or commit suicide.
Fortunately for them, I phone or e-mail them to redress my grievances. If I were to meet some of them...
Artist: Otto Soglow The New Yorker 21 Feb 1948
Monday, November 26, 2007
Paul Doyle of The Guardian said:
"...The brutal truth of tonight's 3-2 defeat is this: England aren't one of the best 16 teams in Europe, let alone a world football power.
Blame it on the manager if you want, or a decadent society that means the country's current crop of players are more a bling generation than a golden one. Or perhaps it would be better to blame it on a blind fear and loathing of foreigners, the malaise that moved English fans to boo the Croatian national anthem before the game..."
Sunil Gavaskar wrote (Sportstar November 10, 2007):
“…. England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 would be akin to India not making it to the main draw of Asia cup.”
This comparison is not fair. The field for qualification for Euro 2008 was much stronger than Asia cup cricket.
But the point is taken. Gavaskar has always enjoyed rubbing it in when it comes to England. Me too!
The fair comparison would be England’s this failure with India's failure to qualify for the final stage of Cricket World Cup
Gavaskar also said:”…the English players are far more concerned about their club than their country…”
This may also happen to Indian cricketers once professional cricket leagues (Zee and BCCI) in India take off.
Does this loss matter to either team? I think not.
Football in England and Cricket in India are locomotives of massive commercial interests. Those interests keep everybody (media, fans, advertisers, sponsors, commentators, coaches) still follow the losers as closely as winners. In fact, winning or losing is only incidental.
I feel cricket matches in India in future may be organized like free-style wrestling bouts involving brothers, Dara Singh and Randhawa, at Vallabbhai Patel Stadium, Worli in the past: Opponents get beaten by Indian team to give Indian fans a huge high.
Team Croatia played excellent football on Wednesday. But I don't know a single Croatian footballer!
However, I know many English footballers thanks to their scantily dressed wives and girlfriends (WAGs), who keep making appearances on the pages of Indian newspapers almost every single day! Thank goodness, my familiarity with Indian cricketers is more direct!
For example, Carly Zucker of Joe Cole fame appears very often:
Artist: R K Laxman Times of India March 20, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
“Emotions trap lonely seniors:
Acute loneliness among the wealthy elderly in cities is driving some of them towards "emotional entrapment" wherein they are being duped or are willingly bequeathing valuable real estate to their domestic help, driver or other such seemingly helpful people…
…because children and other relatives don't have the time to take care of elderly people living alone. Some acquaintance willing to do all possible errands and is considered trust-worthy, becomes indispensable and wins the hearts and minds of everyone in the family…
…loneliness was a very serious concern among parents of young Indians settled abroad… "
Before my mother died, she used to be taken around in Nashik city in an auto-rickshaw by a loving guy Bhausaheb. He was like a son to her. She loved me; my brother and she loved Bhausaheb. When she was hospitalised, Bhausaheb was in tears, when she died, he was inconsolable.
No reward to Bhausaheb was unfair.
See the picture below.
Hapless old couple, 10:30 PM, failing vision, stiff joints, half-asleep, waiting perhaps for an ISD call, watching domineering, decadent TV.
If anyone cares for them, what do you think is that caring person’s just reward?
Artist: Vasant Sarwate Lalit Diwali वसंत सरवटे ललित दिवाळी 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
“Taufel bored with sledging: Citing an example of monotonous sledging, Taufel said, “I was in Pakistan recently with Andre Nel playing for South Africa against the Pakistanis. Andre unfortunately only had one line that he was dishing out to Shoaib Malik and the boys… so it got a bit monotonous there.
“We just had a chat to Andre and said to (captain) Graeme Smith, ‘Well, look he’s only traipsing out one line, it’s getting a bit boring.”
How I wish he were umpiring in 1981 Perth test between Pakistan and Australia when Javed Miandad attacked Dennis Lillee with his bat raised. (See picture below)
Currently, Simon Taufel is umpiring at Delhi test match between India and Pakistan. At the end of it, he can fly to Hyderabad to visit Andhra Pradesh assembly, and with luck, can hear following lively exchange between the current chief minister and his predecessor:
“Why are you feeling so restless. I will thoroughly expose you today…(so much so that)…you will feel ashamed that you were born to your mother, you will feel that you should not have born at all. This is just a preamble.” (Times of India July 24, 2007)
However, let us remember what Tanya Aldred claimed in The Guardian October 25, 2007: “Cricketers behaving badly beef up the game's appeal”
Pakistan tour of Australia 1981-82 Perth Test. Poor Tony Crafter, Umpire
Artist: Peter Arno The New Yorker 17 June 1933
Friday, November 23, 2007
Indian Express August 18, 2007 reported:
“…the (Indian) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh revealed how the BJP had tried to invoke divine forces not just to unseat him, but to kill him.
“They (BJP) didn’t even believe I would last as the PM and some leaders even did havans that I should die on a certain day,” said Manmohan Singh in an interview to India Today three months ago but published today…”
On November 20, 2007, The Hindu reported:
“The former (Karnataka)Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa on Monday charged the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his sons with resorting to “black magic” to finish him off.
“I am facing a threat to my life. I know the places where they did pujas under black magic. I will write to the Home Department on Tuesday complaining against the black magic of Mr. Gowda and his sons. They will be responsible if anything happens to my life,” he said.
He said he would also write a public document in this regard.”
I have seen this all in corporate world.
Then, 1989-92, I worked for a major multi-national company in Eastern India. Wife of its Managing Director firmly believed that her husband was the target of Bhanamati, black magic and related stuff. Who was doing it?
None other than his own sister! Mantrik used to often visit them and objects like bones (animal or human?) were hung at different places to counter the magic.
I am sure it exists in film industry too.
It exists in sports. Remember, Sarpa-dosha of Sachin Tendulkar?
Now that he is getting out in 90’s, I wonder if he is going back to Kukke Sri Subrahmanya Temple ahead of tough Australia tour this winter. Brett Lee like Glenn MacGrath before is an evil man!
I have given new caption to following cartoon.
Husband tells his wife: "Honey, Pack Your Needles. You have a Plum Job Waiting in India."
Artist: Charles Addams The New Yorker 21 Apr 1956
Thursday, November 22, 2007
“Musical Saubhadra”, Lord Krishna blessed love story of Subhadra and Arjun, by Annasaheb Kirloskar (संगीत सौभद्र, अण्णासाहेब किर्लोस्कर), the biggest hit of 19th and 20th century Maharashtra, completed 125 years of its staging on November 18, 2007.
D G Godse द ग गोडसे and M V Dhond म वा धोंड have written memorable essays on the subject of Marathi stage.
Godse in his essay “centenarian Saubhadra” (शातायुषी सौभद्र, included in his book नांगी असलेले फुलपाखरू, 1989), written to celebrate centenary of the play said:
“...The play is essentially a farce but its structure and development are not foreign but native and in the nature of folk play…
The inspiration could also have come from recently published English historical romantic novels…
Saubhadra, tender and entertaining, never becomes serious but never crosses the limits of good taste...
The play featured for the first time bedroom scene on Marathi stage, done boldly, confidently but tastefully, with restraint…”
Main characters of the play are Krishna, Balaram, Arjun, Subhadra, Rukmini, Narada, Satyaki and among them they sing about 100 songs!
Dhond says:"...Shankararaav Mujumadaar शंकरराव मुजुमदार who played Rukmini couldn't sing. Therefore, Rukmini who moves among the people who sing at the drop of a hat was given no song by Kirloskar!"
Subhadra in later years was played by Marathi stage legends like Balgandharva बालगंधर्व and Keshavrao Bhosale केशवराव भोंसले.
Imitating Balgandharva, college-going young men from all over Maharashtra used to dress like women, get photographed and carry the picture around proudly.
Is this the birth of modern Indian metrosexual man?
If Saubhadra is the greatest comedy of Marathi stage, “One More Glass” by R G Gadkari (1885-1919)[एकच प्याला, राम गणेश गडकरी] is perhaps its greatest tragedy. It soon will complete its own century.
Dhond is his book “Moon of the Fourth Day” (चंद्र चवथिचा, 1987) claims that prodigally talented Gadkari almost invented The Theatre of the Absurd which was later done by Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco.
Are women in the picture below watching Saubhadra?
Artist: Peter Arno April 10, 1926
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
“…There is not enough about nature in Outlook. The only magazine which has made it a regular feature is Frontline. But it tends to be scholastic, with limited readership appeal.
Outlook could not only explain phenomena like the disappearance of vultures, sparrows, frogs, fireflies and moths during the rainy season but also have more stories about human-animal bonding.
Besides dogs like Vinod's Editor, cats, parrots and partridges, there are plenty of stories of humans with pet donkeys, goats, hens, squirrels, lizards, cows, buffaloes, camels etc, which are very heartwarming.”
After reading this and reading it aloud, I did my own stock taking.
My wife and son next day showed me a frog. We still spot sparrows and moths but they have considerably reduced in number and their arrival inside the house is a novelty now. And I haven’t seen a vulture and fireflies for years now.
Indian newspapers too have so little on nature. I am talking about the nature around me in urban sprawls, and not in some distant Chandrapur or Himalayas. (Sorry Maruti Chitampalli मारुती चित्तमपल्ली, you have written so well on Indian wild life. But I am not talking abour your kind of writing.)
For example, as I was writing this, I saw a small stray cat chasing a full size mongoose. I couldn't follow the duo. I wonder what happened. During my school days, I used to follow big ants मुंगळे for hours.
Every tree, weed, flower, insect, amphibian, bird and mammal has a story to tell and some one needs to hear and tell it. Similar to what Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत did it in her Rutu Chakra ऋतुचक्र (1956).
I am particularly impressed with Verlyn Klinkenborg of The New York Times who writes about such things regularly. Or read two excellent articles on the subject of ants in NYT November 13, 2007.
Thankfully, Marathi newspapers couldn’t ignore colourful guests who have barged in this month.
Lokmat November 18, 2007 has the following story on migratory birds.
I wonder to which airport lounge following board belongs!
Artist: James Stevenson The New Yorker 22 Apr 1974
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
For India of 1932, when Mahatma Gandhi still walked upon the earth, Brave New World would have looked very, very far. But for today’s Indian middle class, it’s here and now!
I give a small example. I then was working for a small IT company started by Indian-Americans. One day I heard the ultimate desire of three of my highly educated (IIT, CA, REC) and very well paid colleagues: To stay in gated-communities in Mumbai, to avoid all the dirt and poverty of the place.
Margaret Atwood writes for The Guardian.
“…Brave New World hasn't gone away. Shopping malls stretch as far as the bulldozer can see. On the wilder fringes of the genetic engineering community, there are true believers prattling of the gene-rich and the gene-poor - Huxley's alphas and epsilons - and busily engaging in schemes for genetic enhancement and - to go one better than Brave New World - for immortality.
…The first world war marked the end of the romantic-idealistic utopian dream in literature, just as several real-life utopian plans were about to be launched with disastrous effects. The Communist regime in Russia and the Nazi takeover of Germany both began as utopian visions.
… At the time he was writing Brave New World he was still in shock from a visit to the United States, where he was particularly frightened by mass consumerism, its group mentality and its vulgarities.
… Despite the dollops of sex-on-demand, the bodies in Brave New World are oddly disembodied, which serves to underscore one of Huxley's points: in a world in which everything is available, nothing has any meaning.
… Meanwhile, those of us still pottering along on the earthly plane - and thus still able to read books - are left with Brave New World. How does it stand up, 75 years later? And how close have we come, in real life, to the society of vapid consumers, idle pleasure-seekers, inner-space trippers and programmed conformists that it presents?
The answer to the first question, for me, is that it stands up very well. It's still as vibrant, fresh, and somehow shocking as it was when I first read it.
The answer to the second question rests with you. Look in the mirror: do you see Lenina Crowne looking back at you, or do you see John the Savage? Chances are, you'll see something of both, because we've always wanted things both ways. We wish to be as the careless gods, lying around on Olympus, eternally beautiful, having sex and being entertained by the anguish of others. And at the same time we want to be those anguished others, because we believe, with John, that life has meaning beyond the play of the senses, and that immediate gratification will never be enough…”
'It kind of brings a tear to your eye -- a whole new generation of little consumers.'
Monday, November 19, 2007
"....journalism may be the greatest plague we face today- as the world becomes more and more complicated and our minds are trained for more and more simplification". (Fooled by Randomness, 2004)
“Journalists will have to face up to a bruising fact: The poor are not their concern any more. Reporting the rich and their ways matters. The public does not believe them any more. They do not take them seriously.”
David Foster Wallace
"TV is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests."
"Since most of the media is run by brand managers, and since nearly all restaurants (excluding dhabas) are potential advertisers, it is considered prudent not to annoy them."
Asian Age on November 17 2007 reported:
" Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Friday said he found it difficult to distinguish between "page one of many newspapers and the famous page three" which, at times, was only a reference page for all the numerous pages in the day’s newspaper.
Speaking on "Media as People’s Voice — Pre and Post-Independence" at the national press day celebrations organised by the Press Council of India, Mr Chatterjee said the basic feature of post-Independence media is the change in the nature of ownership.
"Owning a channel or a newspaper is now seen as a profit-making venture, as indeed it is in all countries where advertising sustains the profitability of a channel or paper," he said.
Commenting on the change in priorities of the media, the Lok Sabha Speaker said:
"We have the spectacle of newspapers and new channels spending considerable space and their time either telling us about the latest developments in the social lives of those who are in the entertainment industry or some favourite sportspersons or giving unsolicited astrological advice or covering extramarital affairs of even ordinary people sometimes and bizarre stories from remote corners, like snake gods drinking milk in a particular home."
Note- Following picture was drawn pre-independence of India and published post-independence.
Artist: Barney Tobey The New Yorker 16 August 1947
Sunday, November 18, 2007
“Prices of commonly-used medicines have gone up by nearly 10% every year for the last 10 years. This is much more than the country's inflation rate and higher than annual increase in income of the common man. ….”
What is India’s current inflation rate?
According to Business Line November 12, 2007: For September 2007, Wholesale Price Index-based inflation was 3.39% while consumer price index for urban non-manual employees was 5.74%
Times of India also reported on October 26, 2007:
“Painkillers overtake cough syrups: When diabetes and hypertension are increasingly becoming part of our lifestyle, it seems aches and pains are bothering us the most. Painkiller drug Voveran has emerged as the top brand in the domestic pharmaceutical market with the largest sales, for the first seven months of 2007.
Sales of Voveran by Novartis, outstripped the traditional top rankers - cough and cold formulations, Phensydyl and Corex - with sales touching nearly Rs 75 crore for January-July this year, according to ORG….”
Asian Age September 3, 2007
(click on the picture to get an enlarged view)
Friday, November 16, 2007
TV program showcased halgi (हलगी, a small drum) player Raju Awale who played at the tournament including the final. It brought back memories of ever-smiling, friendly, wiry wrestler Suresh Awale सुरेश आवळे of Miraj who died very young in a train accident.
For the first time in my life, I watched wrestling for the title of Maharashtra Kesari live on television. What fun! Although it lasted for just over 3 minutes and took place on mat, wearing non-traditional clothing.
For few years, occasionally, I have participated in red clay wrestling. Smell of the clay still fills my nostrils. I used to get beaten quite easily. If your face is in clay longer than your opponent, you get more time to smell it! This all happened at the red clay wrestling ring of Bhanu Talim भानू तालीम,Miraj.
Wrestlers were as popular as cricketers. Every time Hindkesari Maruti Mane was spotted on his motorcycle at Miraj, we stopped in our tracks and looked in awe. When we went visiting our aunt Tai-mavashi ताई-मावशी at Kolhapur, we saw gentle giants of Motibag Talim मोतीबाग तालीम. They walked past aunt's house the way elephants go to watering hole, with grace and humility, without a sound.
When at 1972 Munich Olympics Premnath (4th place Bantamweight) and Sudesh Kumar (4th place Flyweight) did well; they were as big heroes for me as Sunil Gavaskar and G R Viswanath who had helped us beat West Indies and England previous year.
On the other hand, North Indian wrestler Satpal was as unpopular as Ahmad Shah Abdali because he used to beat Marathi speaking wrestlers.
Kabaddi is another sport that has given me endless pleasure. I was better at it than wrestling! Even if we got 15 minutes of free time at school, we played Kabaddi.
Asian Age November 15, 2007 reports:”British in India to play kabaddi”.
I ask: When are Indians in India going to wrestle and play kabaddi?
Artist: Otto Soglow The New Yorker 25 February 1928
Thursday, November 15, 2007
“Making nonsense is very difficult.”
Douglas R. Hofstadter wrote an essay “Stuff and Nonsense” (December 1982), included in his book “Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern”.
He concludes: “…The purpose of this column was to emphasize the very fine line that separates the meaningful from the meaningless. It is a boundary line that has a great deal to do with the nature of human intelligence, because the question of how meaning emerges out of meaningless constituents when combined in certain patterned ways is still a perplexing one….”.
English language has produced plenty of delightful nonsense, in the form of verses, poems etc. One example:
“Buz, quoth the blue fly,
Hum, quoth the bee,
Buz and hum they cry,
And so do we:
In his ear, in his nose, thus, do you see?
He ate the dormouse; else it was he.”
By Ben Jonson
Indian languages too have produced plenty of nonsense.
In January 2007, Penguin published- “The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense Edited By Michael Heyman with Sumanyu Satpathy and Anushka Ravishankar”
In Marathi, Vinda Karandikar विंदा करंदीकर has written quite a bit of 'nonsense'.
Hindi films have plenty of nonsense. Playback singer and actor Kishore Kumar किशोर कुमार was the greatest practitioner of it.
Now, you and I may never understand, in following picture, what the lady means by "grrzlackity….bonk" but the motor mechanic surely does!
Artist: Sidney Hoff The New Yorker 4 Nov 1950
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
“When there is chaos, Wall Street makes more money.”
“Market fundamentalists never really appreciated the institutions required to make an economy function well, let alone the broader social fabric that civilizations require to prosper and flourish.”
On November 8, 2007, NYT reported:
“…As oil approaches the $100-a-barrel milestone, M. S. Srinivasan, India’s petroleum secretary, has an unorthodox recommendation for cooling overheated prices: halt trading of crude oil on commodity exchanges….
Mohammad Alipour-Jeddi, the head of market analysis for OPEC, and William F. Galvin, the secretary of state in Massachusetts, have blamed speculators for rising prices. “There is enough crude in the markets,” Mr. Alipour-Jeddi said Monday. Bottlenecks in refining and “speculative activities” are forcing prices higher, he said.
Conspiracy theorists have long been saying that oil prices are being manipulated to hurt prospects of emerging economies like China and India.
Gordon Gekko’s of oil trading have emerged. Sunday Times, London reports:
” THREE science graduates with a combined fortune of more than £500m have emerged as the commodity traders who led the “oil rush” that has pushed petrol prices to more than £1 a litre.
David Harding, Michael Adam and Martin Lueck are renowned in the City for their skills in targeting the most lucrative trades in commodities, including oil.
Their system - known as the “black box” and based on mathematical algorithms - is now deployed by three of the biggest hedge funds in London and has helped push oil prices towards $100 a barrel.
The three funds, AHL, Aspect Capital UK and Winton Capital Management, control more than £15 billion of funds used to buy future oil contracts and other commodities, usually on the gamble that prices will rise…”
Artist: Chappatte November 9, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
“…We are culturally poor. But no one talks about it. We don’t have picture-literacy. The British misguided us that we could become cultured without picture-culture. Our education system was based on that belief….”
If we consider the times during and after the British Raj, this assessment, with the exception of Tagore’s Shantiniketan, may be fair.
However, we had very robust “picture-culture” before the Raj. The late D G Godse द ग गोडसे has convinced me about it long ago. If you need any proof and can’t access D G Godse, just follow 25-part series on Indian Art being published by Frontline.
Indic art, which is on display all over India, does not strive to convey photographic reality. Instead, it depicts the grace that is inherent in all creation.
I have been reading Orhan Pamuk’s books and the thing that strikes me most is the importance of miniatures, the highly stylized paintings, in Turkish life.
ORHAN PAMUK too talks about grace:
“My miniaturists saw the world through the God's eye, so that's a very communitarian world where the rules are set and there is an endlessness of time.”
Orhan Pamuk compares and contrasts Western and Eastern art forms like painting and miniature. He claims that the Western portraiture is a more popular art form since the artist imitates reality as it is, as if immortalizing the one painted. However, the Eastern miniatures are more original in content since they turn out to be the expression of the miniaturist's synthesis of the external reality through his own prism.
One of Pamuk’s character says: “Believe me, none of the Venetian masters have your poetic sensibility, your conviction, your sensibility, the purity and brightness of your colors, yet their paintings are more compelling because they more closely resemble life itself... Indeed, [the Venetian masters] paint what they see, whereas we paint what we look at. Beholding their work, one comes to realize that the only way to have one's face immortalized is through the Frankish style... Just a glance at those paintings and you too would want to see yourself this way, you'd want to believe that you're different from all others, a unique, special and particular being.”
Most popular Marathi writers of 20th century have not much demonstrated their “picture-literacy”. Versatile artist P L Deshpande पु ल देशपांडे is almost mute when it comes to paintings and cartoons. If he were to, Punch and The New Yorker would have figured in his writings. He would have paid more than just lip service to the art of great cartoonist like Vasant Sarwate वसंत सरवटे.
Pictures and we go back long way. Even in caves, our vanity was expressed through them. Worse, our wives caught us RED-handed!
Artist: Ed Fisher The New Yorker 11 Feb 1956
Monday, November 12, 2007
“…In the sky above Japan that August day, he polled his crew: “Do we all agree that this is Hiroshima?” Afterward, he noted that he could taste the bomb in his mouth. “It tasted like lead.”…”.
Thanks to controversy in USA over Chinese toys, lead has been a lot in the news this year.
NATALIE ANGIER has written beautifully on the subject of lead (NYT August 21, 2007).
“The human body needs a diet enriched with many ingredients from the periodic table that sound less like food than like machine parts or spare change. We must have iron to capture oxygen, copper and chromium to absorb energy, cobalt to sheathe our nerves and zinc to help finger our genes. Other creatures demand the occasional sprinkling of tin, nickel, platinum, tungsten and even strontium.
But when it comes to lead, the 82nd item on Mendeleev’s menu of the elements, the universal minimum daily requirement is zero. As far as we know, neither we nor any known life form needs the slightest amount of lead to survive. And for humans, especially infants and young children, consumption of even moderate amounts of the metal can have serious consequences.
Developing brains seem to be extremely sensitive to the effects of the metal, which is why many scientists who study lead were distraught by the latest news of lead paint’s being used on children’s toys…
Lead was a civilizing metal, there were so many things it could do…”
Was atom bomb too a civilising bomb for Americans?!
Artist : Chappatte August 17, 2007
Scientific American reports in November, 2007 issue: “A headless roach may not be the smartest of its kind, but it can certainly survive.”
If Indian politicians are headless chickens, most Indian senior civil servants must surely be headless cockroaches- the teflon coated ultimate survivors.
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar wrote in his column for Times of India May 27, 2007:
“…most of the government sector is third-class and tarnished…… Actually, government spending is gargantuan: a million crores per year. But it has so much waste and corruption that voters refuse to show gratitude for the little that gets through…
The police no longer catch criminals and the courts no longer convict them. Conviction rates have fallen to 16%… Bureaucrats are typically callous and corrupt…
Around 35% of all electricity is stolen, causing power crises…
it takes Rs 3.65 of government spending to get one rupee of Public Distribution System benefit to the poor. What a waste! …
The problem is a decaying government sector that neither Congress nor other parties are willing to reform.”
Members of Indian middle-class are in the habit of blaming all the ills country faces on politicians. Instead they should target senior civil servants.
They don’t because they are their cousins, parents and children.
Artist: R K Laxman Times of India August 23, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
”The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad said that nobody would defecate in public by 2009.”
I thought we had moved on from the days of Mark Twain and V S Naipaul. Not really.
Newsweek November 12, 2007 has an article “The rich are getting richer due to market forces—and to very human choices” by Daniel Gross.
“…Aneel Karnani, an economist at the University of Michigan, notes the widespread "self-applause" in India over the booming private sector, with the increased penetration of consumer items like cell phones, but is critical of the nation's failure to provide basic health and a social infrastructure to the masses of citizens.
"The representative image of contemporary India is not a cell phone, but rather defecating in public," he says. "In Mumbai, the business capital of India, about 50 percent of the people defecate in the open."…
India's poor should get their privacy to defecate.
There's another bad news for them. India's Supreme Court says:"A Killing provoked by littering isn't murder".
If a person throwing waste and rubbish is knifed, I wonder if a defecating person will be lynched.
Personally, I defecate with dignity therefore I am. And NOT iPhone therefore I am!
Source: The Spectator 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
“A brew served by BJP leader Jaswant Singh to welcome Rajasthan party dissident leaders at a much publicised at-home at his native village of Jasol in Barmer district is threatening to leave the host with a nasty after-taste.
A Jodhpur special court dealing with drug-related offences has agreed to hear a petition against Singh on Saturday which wants directions to be issued to the police under the harsh Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act — better known as NDPS Act — which prescribes a minimum 10-year jail term for offenders…”
The paper had reported in 2006: “Indians among highest opium users…According to the report, India has 25 million drug users, which makes the country account for 1/10th
A great leveller opium,like alcohol and tobacco, has always been with us.
I am told opium is eaten, drunk and smoked.
My father’s father- D G Kulkarni- was a political secretary to the ruler of princely state of Aundh- BHAVAN RAO SHRINIVAS, Pant Pratinidhi - until its accession to Indian union in 1948.
My grandpa's family hailed from Atpadi. His younger brother once came from Atpadi to visit him at Aundh and asked for something. Brothers had an argument. Younger brother wasn’t happy with the outcome. He felt so depressed that he bought opium from multiple vendors at Aundh-one could buy only a limited quantity from a vendor- and walked all the way from Aundh to Atpadi consuming opium all along. He died at the end of the journey.
(I have never known if my grandfather felt any guilt for this involuntary manslaughter and if he did, how he dealt with it.)
No artist has described as well as Graham Greene what it must feel while smoking opium pipes in the company of a Vietnamese girl. Read his “The Quiet American”. It’s very tempting!
William Dalrymple says in “The Last Mughal”:
“In northern India opium was drunk rather than smoked, and judging by the frequency with which opium shops appear in miniatures of the period, opium addiction seems to have been a major problem. Since the Company had the monopoly on the growing and trade in the substance, which by the 1890s provided an astonishing 40 percent of their exports from India, it of course made no attempt to control the problem.”
Artist: Leonard Dove The New Yorker 26 Feb 1949
Unlike New York of The New Yorker above in Delhi of following miniature you didn’t have to ask for opium dens, off the record!
A Delhi opium den with recumbent addicts, from James Sinner’s Tazkirat al-umara
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Comparison between Lenin and Hitler is fair when we count the murders they committed in the name of one thing or the other.
All American Presidents,including Harry S Truman , and all religious terrorists, 20th century onwards, put together, have committed far fewer murders than either Hitler or Lenin.
I deeply appreciate efforts of Indian left when they bring up issues ranging from Indo-US nuclear deal, natural gas pricing, rotten wheat import etc. But I don’t understand why they bring up emotional issues like Lenin. When they do, they sound exactly like Indian right bringing up issues like Ramsetu.
Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot killed millions in the name of a truly great man- Karl Marx.
Reuters reported on October 30, 2007:
“Karl Marx, who complained of excruciating boils, actually suffered from a chronic skin disease with known psychological effects that may well have influenced his writings, a British expert said on Tuesday.
Sam Shuster, professor of dermatology at the University of East Anglia, believes the revolutionary thinker had hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) in which the apocrine sweat glands -- found mainly in the armpits and groin -- become blocked and inflamed.
"In addition to reducing his ability to work, which contributed to his depressing poverty, hidradenitis greatly reduced his self-esteem," said Shuster, who published his findings in the British Journal of Dermatology.
"This explains his self-loathing and alienation, a response reflected by the alienation Marx developed in his writing."...
Marx, who died in 1883, was one of the most influential philosophers of the 19th century and his radical writings formed the basis of modern communism.”
Our history has been shaped by physical affliction of great men. Leaders, thinkers, artists, scientists...
Dr Dermot Kennedy wrote to The Economist (May 12, 2007):
“…Known as Spes phthisica, or the euphoria of the tuberculous consumptive, this partly explains the disease's impact on a long list of aesthetes, including George Orwell, D.H. Lawrence, Franz Kafka, and Amedeo Modigliani.
Frédéric Chopin complained that he could not compose unless he was coughing blood.
John Keats, “With anguish moist and fever dew”, poured out his ineffable poetry as the disease accelerated.
An interesting aside to this is the aphrodisiac effect of tuberculosis, so familiar to staff working in sanatoriums. As a nursing sister in my hospital once said, “You need a blowtorch to separate them.”
M. A. Jinnah was dying of tuberculosis in 1947. If others knew about it, one of the worst human tragedies of 20th century- partition of India- could have been avoided.
To give more personal touch, my father-a prolific writer all his life- suffered from psoriasis.
I too suffer from much milder version of what Karl Marx suffered from. Is this blog coming out of that suffering?!
Artist: Perry Barlow The New Yorker August 1, 1931
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
"…………a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys" (A Christmas Carol 1843)
Was Mark Twain fair in saying:
"It is a curious people (Indians). With them, all life seems to be sacred except human life." (Following the Equator; a Journey Around the World 1897)?
At Miraj, I remember when mother kept earthen lamps outside the house and in windows, they were stolen, not for decoration but for cooking oil.
It's hard to be indifferent to such poverty.
Rajendra Pachauri has asked us:
Say no to firecrackers
Use diyas and candles
Don’t choke gifts with plastic wraps
Cut down on materialism. Gift a plant
Keep your car parked in the garage. Use the public transport to visit the friends.
(Indian Express November 4, 2007)
The Economist November 3, 2007, our thought-leaders' Reader's Digest, has called India "the world's most religious country". Therefore let us invoke god.
Open your “shut-up hearts freely” and observe green ways during the festival otherwise gods will be angry!
Artist: Charles Addams The New Yorker 13 June 1964
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
”… This rescue operation (for Pakistan) has to come from some other source, perhaps the Supreme Court. One clutches at straws that are available and in our reduced circumstances it is only the Supreme Court which is keeping the nation’s hopes alive…”
On November 3, 2007: “Embattled President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday night clamped a state of emergency in Pakistan ahead of a crucial Supreme Court ruling on the legality of his re-election, plunging the country into a fresh political crisis.
An eight-member Supreme Court bench immediately set aside the Emergency order which suspended the current Constitution amid reports that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who has been at loggerheads with Musharraf, has been asked to go.”
Courageous Pakistani press and senior judiciary are fighting back.
Lawyers are getting beaten black and blue reminding me of the scene of Dandi Yatra from film Gandhi. (Not surprising because so many lawyers were at the forefront of India’s freedom struggle! American image of blood sucking lawyer doesn’t quite hold in South Asia.)
What happened in India during Indira Gandhi’s emergency from 25th June 1975 to 21st March 1977?
In Kuldip Nayar’s words:
“…Nonetheless, had the Emergency not been imposed, the fallibility of the press, public servants and the judiciary would not have been proved. Newspapermen, in the words of L.K. Advani, began to crawl when they were asked to bend. The anxiety to survive at any cost became the key concern of public servants. Most of the judiciary was so afraid that it would reject habeas corpus petitions against detention without trial. The high priests at the SC, with the exception of Justice H.R. Khanna, upheld the Emergency and the suspension of fundamental rights.
The imposition of the Emergency exposed the timidity of Indian society once again. Its moral hypocrisy was reinforced. There was no awareness of what was wrong, nor was there a desire to act according to what was right. The dividing line between right and wrong, moral and immoral, ceased to exist. And the nation is still paying for it….”
My thoughts and prayers are with Pakistani people.
Poet B S Mardhekar बा. सी. मर्ढेकर has said:
धैर्य दे अन् नम्रता दे
पाहण्या जें जें पहाणें,
वाकुं दे बुद्धीस माझ्या
तप्त पोलादाप्रमाणें ;
(Give me courage Give me humility
To witness all that I see,
Let my intellect bend
like red hot steel; )
Like in the picture below, President Musharraf wishfully thinks Pakistan needs a kind of supreme supreme court! No, it just needs the existing Supreme court and Chief Justice Chaudhry.
Artist: James Mulligan The New Yorker 6 July 1957
Monday, November 05, 2007
They dream: People who are walking and cycling will buy a scooter/ motor-cycle. Those who are driving two wheelers will buy sub-one-lac.
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN says in his NYT column dated November 4, 2007 “No, No, No, Don’t Follow Us”:
“India is in serious danger — no, not from Pakistan or internal strife. India is in danger from an Indian-made vehicle: a $2,500 passenger car, the world’s cheapest…
Blessedly, many more people now have the incomes to live an American lifestyle, and the Indian and Chinese low-cost manufacturing platforms can deliver them that lifestyle at lower and lower costs. But the energy and environmental implications could be enormous, for India and the world…
If India just innovates in cheap cars alone, its future will be gridlocked and polluted. But an India that makes itself the leader in both cheap cars and clean mass mobility is an India that will be healthier and wealthier. It will also be an India that gives us cheap answers to big problems — rather than cheap copies of our worst habits. “
PANKAJ MISHRA (Outlook Magazine, August 20, 2007):
“…The breathtaking originality and sophistication of these (Indian) thinkers and activists long convinced me that the country in which they flourished has something more profound to offer to the world than its ability to imitate the consumer societies of the West.”
Led by IT, the booming Indian economy has given young Indians the kind of money their parents made only when they won the lottery. (In 1970’s, long cherished dream of my father, a college teacher-one of the best paying job in India then, was to win Maharashtra State’s lottery that offered the highest prize of 2.5 lac rupees and retire!).
Money has brought self-righteousness- “Since I am making lots of money, what I am doing is right and moral. I don’t need any additional soft-skills. I will not mend my ways.”
Like Americans, we associate wealth with personal merit or poverty with personal failure. We don’t want to be a loser. There is no incertitude, no dilemmas. Destination is known. Road is well traveled. In a sub or super one-lac-rupees car!
Artist: R K Laxman Times of India September 1, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
At Miraj, mother always woke us when it was still dark and cold. It felt colder because our house had a tiled roof, I was less fat and there was no constant talk of global warming.
Feasting frenzy soon followed the bath.
I liked that day the best. I still like it because I like getting up early. They say this liking is written in one’s DNA, a gene called Period 3. Yes, I agree because my mother too liked it.
In that respect, I am not like a cockroach.
Business Line on September 30, 2007 reported that:
“It's not just people who find it hard to get going in the morning. Cockroaches don't like mornings either, according to US researchers.
A study by biologists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, found dramatic variations in a cockroach's learning ability throughout the day. In the morning, the insects couldn't learn a new task, but in the evening, something kicked in…
This study was a surprise from the beginning to the end—the fact that cockroaches could be trained, even though you would not generally say they are a high IQ creature, and the impact that their body clocks had on their ability to learn…”
Roaches are in excellent company of Calvin, my son and my wife!
Artist: Bill Watterson Calvin And Hobbes
(click on the picture to get a larger view)
“In the early hours of August 31, Lakshmana Kailash K was asleep at his home in Bangalore. He was woken up by eight policemen from Pune who came knocking on his door and waved the Information Technology Act, 2000, in his sleepy, terrified face. Get dressed, he was told, we are taking you to Pune for having defamed Shivaji. Lakshmana protested that he didn't know anyone called Shivaji.
The policemen said that they were talking about Chhatrapati Shivaji and that an insulting picture of him had been uploaded on the Internet networking site, Orkut. The trail had led them to his computer in Bangalore. Turning a deaf ear to his protests, the cops took him to Pune and put him behind bars. Along the way, the 26-year-old Lakshmana, who works with HCL, learned that what he was being arrested for was a case that had triggered riots in Pune in November 2006. Political parties had forcibly closed cybercafes and gone on a rampage over the posting of the illustration which had poked fun at Shivaji.
Lakshmana was released after spending 50 days in jail, three weeks after the cops claimed to have nabbed the "real culprits".
This reminded me of the infamous case of P Rajan, an engineering college student during Indira Gandhi’s emergency.
Why does the state do this in the name of Shivaji- one of the most tolerant, sensitive and fair rulers India produced? (Akbar, Ashoka & Krishnadev Raya are luckier. No one still does this in their names!)
In 17th century, Shivaji- enraged at this gross injustice to a common man- would have ordered hacking of arms of erring staff of the ISP who apparently gave wrong IP address to the police.
Meanwhile, Lakshmana Kailash’s only consolation can be….
Artist: Charles E.Martin The New Yorker 16 Nov 1957
Saturday, November 03, 2007
I wonder why godlessness feature of the left has to be a threat.
Bhagat Singh belonged to “godless left”. He united the country as much as Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and, at any rate, more than BJP and its affiliated organizations like RSS/ Jansangh/ VHP/ Hindu Mahasabha.
M V Dhond म वा धोंड, arguably the greatest living scholar of Bhakti literature in Marathi and art critic, is an atheist and, not just that, claims even Sant Tukaram was one!
"...तुकाराममहाराजही माझ्यासारखेच नास्तिक होते. ते म्हणतात:
आहे ऐसा देव वदवावी वाणी । नाही ऐसा मनीं अनुभवावा ।"
[source-ऐसा विटेवर देव कोठें! ("Where on bricks, the god like this!") Rajhans Prakashan 2001]
In November 2006, Times of India conducted a survey across 10 major cities of India on the subject of god. The survey asked “What’s more important?”- Believing in God or To Be a Good Person. 43% replied, “to be a good person”. Tukaram would be happy.
Many bright minds in the West are attacking the god.
Richard Dawkins in his best selling book “God Delusion” has lampooned religion and railed against the devout.
Tukaram was more tactful. He might say: “It is the final proof of God’s omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.” (Peter De Vries “The Mackerel Plaza” 1958).
Artist: Geoff Thompson The Spectator
Friday, November 02, 2007
One of them is यात्रिक (Pilgrim) included in the collection पिंगळावेळ (Pinglavel)(Popular Prakashan 1977). It's an allegory of Cervantes's Don Quixote.
In the story, the fool tells Don: "...hey, instead of creating changing metaphors on stupid, gross world, if the world changed according to your metaphors what more you want."
"अरे, निर्बुद्ध, जड़ जगाविषयी बदलती रुपके करत राहण्यापेक्षा तुझ्या रुपकांप्रमाणे जर जग बदलत जाऊ लागले तर तुला तरी जास्त काय हवे सांग."
Many dreams and metaphors may sound crazy but they have the power to transform the world.
Margaret Mead has said: "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have".
Loveable Calvin is as quixotic as you get and maybe, just maybe, the slide will transform accordingly.
(click on the picture to get a larger view)
Artist: Bill Waterson Calvin and Hobbes