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."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pean to Potato

Business Line October 22, 2007 has published an AFP story on potato “Diplomatic tool, humbler of leaders, unifier of nations

To begin with,personal disclaimer:
Potato not just sustains lives of my son and I but gives us ultimate gastronomic pleasure. My wife though could get by without it.

I often think a writer like Dnyaneshwar (along with Tukaram, the best Marathi produced) was handicapped not because of absence of 21st century toys and gadgets in his 13th century but he didn’t know potato (introduced in India in late 16th / early 17th century), chilli (introduced in India in late 15th century) and dinosaurs (discovered in 19th century).

Imagine how more powerful metaphors and imagery Dnyaneshwar would have created if he knew potato, chilli and T-rex!

AFP story says: “Few vegetables can claim to have shaped nations, sent the economy of a country tumbling, or played a starring role in diplomatic spats. But the humble potato can….

The impact of the humble tuber stretches back centuries. The population of Ireland was cut in half in the mid 1800s after the potato crop failed and a four-year famine ensued. The then agriculture-based Irish economy crumbled and the population plummeted from eight million to four million, through deaths from hunger and emigration.
It only surpassed the four million mark in the 1990s, when Ireland entered an economic boom.The massive wave of emigration from Ireland, sparked by the potato famine, shaped politics and history not only locally but also in the United States, the destination for the vast majority of those who left…”

In 1997, Tony Blair, British Prime Minister, apologized to Ireland for the famine which caused 1 million deaths. Many Irish people believe that Britain, which controlled the land, was more than negligent -- that it in fact worsened the problem by allowing the profitable export of grain and cattle from Ireland even as the poor starved.

(Btw- I wonder if Britain ever apologized to India for the Bengal famine of 1943 that occurred in British administered Bengal. It is estimated that 1.5-3 million people died from starvation and malnutrition during the period.)

And finally, what does potato on the plate have to do with the one on couch?

“British potato farmers have marched on the houses of parliament in London to demand that the term "couch potato" be removed from the dictionary. They argued the expression - which is derived from the slang word for a television, "tube", which gave rise to "tubers" for those who spent hours hunkered down on the sofa gazing at it - gave the impression that potatoes are bad for the health and, therefore, bad for their business.”


‘You want us to go up the hill to fetch a pail of water? Not now we’re watching TV.’

The Spectator September 8, 2007