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.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

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."

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