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."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hoisting Saffron Flag On Attock To Pave Way for Union Jack on Shaniwar-Wada

It was interesting to read Mr. Irfan Husain’s article “Fault lines in the mind” in Dawn on September 29, 2007.

“…In the September issue of National Geographic, Don Belt writes in a long piece on Pakistan:
“If there is an address, an exact location for the rift tearing apart Pakistan, and possibly the world, it is a spot 17 miles west of Islamabad called the Margalla Pass. Here … two ancient and very different civilisations collide. To the southeast … lie the fertile lowlands of the Indian subcontinent… To the west and north stretch the harsh, windswept mountains of Central Asia … where man fears one God and takes no prisoners…”

… I would personally place the fault line at Attock, where the Indus meets the Kabul River. For centuries, this was the point on the Grand Trunk Road that divided Afghanistan and India. Indeed, the British decision to push this boundary forward to the Khyber Pass that marks the present Durand Line has been the subject of much bitterness in Kabul. To this day, the Afghan government has refused to accept this border.

Much of Pakistan’s woes in the region can be traced back to this re-drawing of frontiers by the British for their own imperial interests. So to some extent, the insurrection in the tribal area on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border can be viewed as a national struggle over lost territory.

But Belt is right in pointing out the geographical and cultural influences that differentiate the two vast regions. The lowlands are home to Sufi saints and gurus, and their shrines that have traditionally provided spiritual solace to the many different peoples inhabiting the subcontinent. Temples, churches and mosques have co-existed peacefully for centuries. But from across Attock have come waves of Muslim warriors who spread death and destruction in the early half of the last millennium. Temples were destroyed by the hundreds, and an incalculable number of Hindus killed and enslaved.

Over time, many of these fierce horsemen settled in India, forming their own fiefdoms and kingdoms. They were tamed and civilised, and gradually adapted to the local way of life. However, their brethren in Afghanistan remained rooted in their primitive tribal ways, with Islam providing a unifying overlay.”

Attock is part of consciousness of almost every educated Marathi speaking person. They are taught that Maratha Empire at its zenith reached beyond Attock. Horses of Maratha warriors drank water of River Sindhu.

T S Shejwalkar- arguably the best historian and thinker on Maratha history- wrote “Panipat 1761” (first published in 1961 to coincide with 200th anniversary of the battle). I keep reading the book from time to time. After reading Mr. Husian, I re-read parts of it.

I always find something there I didn't find earlier!

Maratha chieftains sound and behave like Americans do today and British did yesterday.

At one point, the Peshwa instructed his commanders not to bother about any principles or values and assign fiefdoms to those who paid maximum CASH to Marathas! (Remember war essentially for oil?)

Unlike Shivaji’s time, there was no effort to consolidate what was won militarily. (Any one Afghanistan, Iraq?)

Maratha chieftains (Bhau, Raghoba, Shinde, Holkar among others) did not work as a team and often worked at cross-purpose. (Echoes of Powell, Cheney?)

Instead of plotting to stop British in Bengal, “wise-man” and key advisor Sakharam-Bapu had started planning based on Maratha Empire’s imaginary sway over entire India including dreams of reaching Iran and beyond. (George Bush’s dream of democracy for the entire Middle East)

On the evening of January 14,1761, a festival day in Maharashtra, Maratha Empire fell in a big heap thanks to crushing defeat in the third battle of Panipat. Many north Indian Hindus like Gosavis fought against them and, arguably, the grandest valour on their side was shown by the division of their Muslim commander- Ibrahim Gardi and his Telangi (low caste and probably non-Marathi) soldiers. (BTW- Ibrahim Gardi deserves a statue in front of Shaniwar Wada, Pune next to that of Bajirao-I)

By year 1818, British Union Jack was hoisted atop Shaniwar Wada, Pune.

Will empires ever learn anything from the past?


Artist: Patrick Chappatte http://www.globecartoon.com/

Shooting a Monk in Mandalay

Paul Theroux wrote in his “The Great Railway Bazaar” (1973)-one of the best books ever-“Nothing happens in Burma, but then nothing is expected to happen.”

Well, a lot is happening there finally.

Mandalay and Burma entered my consciousness very early because the last Mughal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Subhas Chandra Bose were imprisoned there.

George Orwell wrote one of the greatest essays in English language: “Shooting an Elephant”. It showed what was wrong with the British Empire, its sheer futility.

The shooting incident happened in Moulmein, in lower Burma.

Orwell writes: “…That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes… But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing – no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at…”

And then he goes on to shoot the elephant.

Amitav Ghosh wrote “The Glass Palace” (2000) with a backdrop of Burma. Ghosh tries to answer why Indians became hated there, why the British treated Burma very differently from India (answer- abundant, raw natural resources) etc.

The book also tells the tragic story of the last Burmese king (King Thebaw) who was exiled to Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

Picture Below: Watching shooting of a monk? Unemployed youth in Yangon

Source: Frontline October 19, 2007


Artist: Patrick Chappatte http://www.globecartoon.com/