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, September 21, 2007

What Colour Band-Aids for Dalits?

Many upper-caste Hindus – sympathetic to the plight of the untouchables over centuries- often complain about their inability to ‘understand’ Dalits, their politics, their actions, their thinking, their leaders, their art etc.

They are correct because Dalits now have decided to navigate to their own destiny themselves. They feel upper caste gods, leaders, writers, thinkers, artists, philosophers have let them down.

Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar श्रीपाद कृष्ण कोल्हटकर (1871-1934), arguably 20th century's best writer in Marathi , was an exception. He reminds me in many ways- particularly humour and social sensibilities- of Mark Twain.

Keshav Meshram केशव मेश्राम, a prominent Dalit and ex-president Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, has written about qualities of Kolhatkar’s literary work as well as his vision. (“Shabdavrat शब्दव्रत” by Keshav Meshram). Meshram quotes what Kolhatkar said after reading H N Apte ह ना आपटे’s (first Marathi novelist of any sigificance) “Pan Lakshat Kon Gheto पण लक्षात कोण घेतो”.

”If Mr. Apte could tell the story of misery of backward caste people (Dalits) the way he has told of (Brahmin) women, such a novel would be second in revolutionary qualities only to ’Uncle Tom’s Cabin’”.

Meshram says Kolhatkar’s conscience based bold opposition to the practice of caste brought him in direct confrontation with Lokmanya Tilak लोकमान्य टिळक and N C Kelkar न चि केळकरwho chose to ‘ignore’ challenges of caste instead of addressing them.

Another quality of Kolhatkar was his ability to identify and encourage young talent.
R D Karve र धो कर्वे(1882-1953) – visionary social reformer and practicing sexologist- wrote only one obit in his periodical-Samajswasthya समाजस्वास्थ्य (July 1927- November 1953)- ever. It was of S K Kolhatkar!

Young historian and thinker T S Shejwalkar त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर too received valuable encouragement from Kolhatkar.

Shejwalkar’s writing is brilliant, vision broad, thinking global, language precise but there is only one problem.

He probably never gauged accurately the importance of Dalit-movement led by Dr. Ambedkar to the future of India. Contrast that with V S Naipaul’s description of Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday celebration at Mumbai in his book “India A Million Mutinies Now” (1990).

Shejwalkar is not alone. This blog is indebted to The New Yorker. It has scored many hits and few misses. Here is their biggest miss of them all.

John Updike says:”(During the fourth decade of The New Yorker 1955-1964) the foremost domestic issue of the time was the struggle of the black minority for civil rights, yet people of color are almost totally absent from these cartoons.”

The only exception is this picture...


Artist: William O'Brian The New Yorker May 10, 1963