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.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

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."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Patient with India, forever?

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, though some officers do a great job. But 90% of civil servants are clerks and chaprasis, and less than 10% are Class I and II officers…. 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 bulk of PDS supplies are diverted to the open market. Many poor families have no Below Poverty Line cards, but some rich folks do (such as the West Bengal governor)… Subsidies remain at 14% of GDP although half of these are non-merit subsidies, and go mostly to the non-poor… The problem is a decaying government sector that neither Congress nor other parties are willing to reform. So, expect the aam admi to keep voting out incumbent governments.”

Poor and downtrodden have always suffered in India at the hands of bureaucracy and the establishment. Read D D Kosambi or Indivar Kamtekar for more on this.

Let me narrate an interesting account of an old lady from Emperor Aurangzeb’s time (born 1618- death 1707, reign 1658 - 1707). This is taken from historian and Persian/Urdu scholar Setu Madhavrao Pagdi’s Marathi book “Bhartiya Musalman: Shodh and Bodh” (Indian Muslims: Search and Lessons) Parchure Prakashan Mandir (1992-2006).

“An old lady took a complaint of extortion against a district collector to the emperor. Emperor ordered the money to be returned to the old lady. Few days later, the old lady returned and complained that not only money had not been returned but also she was being harassed and hence suggested that the collector be transferred. Emperor signed the transfer order. Little later the old lady again came back with another compliant that not only new collector continued to harass her but was demanding money from her because he felt her payment to his predecessor was part of ‘Hapta’ (periodic bribe) and hence he too was entitled to it! On hearing this, Aurangzeb asked the old lady to pray to god that he sent her another emperor...

Khaphikhan, Aurangzeb’s well-known biographer, says that the emperor did not punish either of the corrupt officers.
Khaphikan also says that corruption among revenue officials was rampant and the officials who were sent from the emperor to check these practices were also equally corrupt! “

Just substitute “Aurangzeb” with “Manmohan Singh” and the story still looks entirely plausible.

Without getting mad, poor and downtrodden continue to be patient with India’s emperors and prime ministers.


Artist: Helen E. Hokinson The New Yorker 2 May 1942