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."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Omar Khayyam or Tycho Brahe? Mardhekar Chose Tycho Brahe.

While reviewing book on Marco Polo (“MARCO POLO/ From Venice to Xanadu.” By Laurence Bergreen) , BRUCE BARCOTT said:

“…In the end, Marco Polo’s greatest contribution to history was to deliver this simple news to Europe: The Asians, they’re not so bad. They’re kind of like us. In some ways, they’re better.” (NYT December 2, 2007)

I wonder what Europeans learnt from Polo’s message but what about us, Indians?

We still don’t know enough about greatness of our neighbouring civilizations in China and Iran. I was never taught in my school anything good about China. We then thought Chinese ate roaches and geckos for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Iran particularly has fallen off the map of most educated Indians. Funny considering Marathas, for a tiny while in 18th century, nursed the dream of invading Iran and Farsi once was as important in India as English is today.

Here is one possible reason.

I am told you don’t ever get US visa if your passport is stamped with Iranian visa. And for middle class Indians, US visa is better than even that of mythical Chitragupta’s चित्रगुप्त visa to heaven!

Quite a few Indians know about Omar Khayyam (1048 – 1131), an Iranian, though thanks to “… the Rubaiyat, a collection of his free-spirited quatrains made famous around the world by the translations of the 19th-century poet Edward Fitzgerald.

It has been said that these immensely popular books, first published in 1859 and running into numerous editions, contributed more phrases to the English language than the Bible and Shakespeare combined.”

Marathi has seen few translations of the Rubaiyat. My father (Gopal Dutt Kulkarni) for instance made one- “Geet Rubayat” (गीत रुबायत)- during 1960’s.

Justin Marozzi reviewed “Omar Khayyam: Poet, Rebel, Astronomer /His own man by Hazhir Teimourian” for The Spectator, 21st November 2007.

He said:“…Khayyam developed a calendar which had an error of one day in 3,770 years (superior to the Gregorian calendar with an error of one day in 3,330 years).

It was based on his amazingly accurate determination of the length of the year as 365.242199 days. The length of the year is currently 365.242190 days...”

Even today, almost 1000 years later, I have hard time comprehending this accuracy. Number numbness!

Poet B S Mardhekar बा. सी. मर्ढेकर (1909-1956) was an ardent fan of another good poet and Farsi pandit Madhav Julian माधव जूलियन् जुलियन(1894-1939). (btw- Mardhekar has written a moving poem on ordeals faced by Madhav Julian.) Madhav Julian माधव जुलियन translated the Rubaiyat from Farsi into Marathi (1929-1933). He also created a Farsi- Marathi dictionary (1925).

Mardhekar chose to use Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) who was famous for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical observations in following lines of his well-known poem: [मी एक मुंगी, हा एक मुंगी, (I am an ant, he is an ant,)] (poem 16 "आणखी कांहीं कविता" some more poems)

ह्या नच मुंग्या : हींच माणसे :
असेच होते गांधीजीही,
येशु क्रिस्त अन् कृष्ण कदाचित्
कालिदास अन टैकोब्राही.

(These not ants : these only humans :
Like this was Gandhi too
Jesus Christ and Krishna perhaps
Kalidas and Tycho Brahe too)

If he were to use Omar Khayyam instead of Tycho Brahe, it would read like this:

ह्या नच मुंग्या : हींच माणसे :
असेच होते गांधीजीही,
येशु क्रिस्त अन् कृष्ण कदाचित्
कालिदास अन ओमर खय्याम.

Still sounds great to me!

I wonder why Mardhekar didn’t choose Omar Khayyam. Did he know Omar Khayyam too was a great astronomer?
Also, in politically correct second half of 20th century, it would have meant showcasing a great Muslim in the company of great Hindus and Christians.

Pity, I still know so little about Khayyam as a poet, rebel, astronomer and possibly a tent maker!


Artist: Ed Fisher The New Yorker 26 March 1990

p.s. Now I think I know why Mardhekar chose Brahe. Read this article from NYT dated Nov 29 2010.