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.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

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."

Thursday, January 31, 2008

What is Consumption Factor of My Household Vs. Sunita’s?

Scientist Jared Diamond- sounding exactly like Mahatma Gandhi- wrote “What’s Your Consumption Factor?” (NYT January 2, 2008):

“…The average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world. That factor of 32 has big consequences…

…To understand them, consider our concern with world population. Today, there are more than 6.5 billion people, and that number may grow to around 9 billion within this half-century. Several decades ago, many people considered rising population to be the main challenge facing humanity. Now we realize that it matters only insofar as people consume and produce. ..

… The population especially of the developing world is growing, and some people remain fixated on this. They note that populations of countries like Kenya are growing rapidly, and they say that’s a big problem. Yes, it is a problem for Kenya’s more than 30 million people, but it’s not a burden on the whole world, because Kenyans consume so little. (Their relative per capita rate is 1.) A real problem for the world is that each of us 300 million Americans consumes as much as 32 Kenyans. With 10 times the population, the United States consumes 320 times more resources than Kenya does.

People in the third world are aware of this difference in per capita consumption, although most of them couldn’t specify that it’s by a factor of 32. When they believe their chances of catching up to be hopeless, they sometimes get frustrated and angry, and some become terrorists, or tolerate or support terrorists. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has become clear that the oceans that once protected the United States no longer do so. There will be more terrorist attacks against us and Europe, and perhaps against Japan and Australia, as long as that factorial difference of 32 in consumption rates persists…

…If India as well as China were to catch up, world consumption rates would triple. If the whole developing world were suddenly to catch up, world rates would increase elevenfold. It would be as if the world population ballooned to 72 billion people (retaining present consumption rates).

Some optimists claim that we could support a world with nine billion people. But I haven’t met anyone crazy enough to claim that we could support 72 billion. Yet we often promise developing countries that if they will only adopt good policies — for example, institute honest government and a free-market economy — they, too, will be able to enjoy a first-world lifestyle. This promise is impossible, a cruel hoax: we are having difficulty supporting a first-world lifestyle even now for only one billion people…

… No, we could have a stable outcome in which all countries converge on consumption rates considerably below the current highest levels. Americans might object: there is no way we would sacrifice our living standards for the benefit of people in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, whether we get there willingly or not, we shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable.

Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates. Much American consumption is wasteful and contributes little or nothing to quality of life…”


Artist: Roz Chast The New Yorker 25 June 1990

p.s. Sunita is our hardworking, sincere but unlucky maid.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Institutionalised Racism Runs Deep amongst Middle and Upper Class Urban Indians

Indian media are rejoicing today.

Times of India January 30, 2008 screams: “Monkey off Bhajji’s back.” And then gives all five instances of Harbhajan Singh’s violation of the ICC code of conduct.

“But Bhajji won’t be racial. He’s our boy.”

Sounds like typical Indian parents defending their spoilt children.

The same paper asked for annulment of Sydney test.

I wonder if they will ask annulment of medals table of 2008 Beijing Olympics if- as is likely- India fails to get on to it and Indian athletes are found doping.

Economic & Political Weekly January 12, 2008 said:

“The hysteria in the past week over l’affiare Sydney Cricket Test has shown urban India at its sanctimonious worst; quick to don the robes of the victim and at the same time ready to flex its financial muscle to dictate its orders to the rest of the cricketing world. It is not the emotions that have been expressed in this cricket-crazy society that have been surprising. It is that most commentators have refused to use the opportunity to engage in any introspection or reasoned discussion – be it of matters cricket or Indian society’s attitude to racism and colour prejudice.

To begin with the more important issue of racism in sport: Here was an opportunity for the media and public opinion to use the following cricket has in India to confront the issue of prejudice on colour. Instead, the overwhelming response has been either denial or a resort to homilies about India’s record in fighting racial discrimination.

The first thing to note is that the moral high ground that urban India has sought to occupy compares poorly with the fair amount of diversity, self-criticism and condemnation of the national cricket team that has been expressed in Australian public opinion…

…The fact is that colour prejudice, if not institutionalised racism, runs deep amongst middle and upper class urban Indians. How easily we forget that skin whitening cream is the largest selling “wellness” product in India, that matrimonial advertisements need to draw attention to colour and at times hide the dark complexion of the bride-to-be by describing it as “wheatish” and that for a baby to be born with a fair complexion is a source of immense pride to the family. No black visiting India leaves the country without being horrified at Indian expression of colour prejudice. And in cricket, for years spectators have often taunted West Indians for being, yes, “monkeys”…”

From January 12-26, 2008, from time to time, I was amidst marriage party gathered at Pune. We had a few guests from US. Two of them were white females, one of them Anglo-Saxon. That gave me one more opportunity to witness colour prejudices in our society.

What are we as a nation capable of?

SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR Times of India SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2003:

“…India says the UN should sanction any war on Iraq. Did India ask the UN permission for its 1971 war with Pakistan? Not at all, it acted unilaterally. It used its buddy, the Soviet Union, to veto peace moves by the UN. Officially, India claims that Pakistan started that war through an air attack on December 3. In fact the Pakistan Air Force was simply responding to the intrusion of Indian troops into East Pakistan on November 21, an invasion reported by the international press but blanked out totally by the tame Indian press…”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Feeling Nostalgia for Teasing Concealments. Remembering Thanthanpal ठणठणपाळ.

Colin Burrow wrote a review of “Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature by John Mullan”, a “rangy and lively history of authors hiding their identities, Anonymity” (Guardian, January 26, 2008).

“…Jane Austen was one of many writers in the 18th and early 19th centuries who never published a single novel under her own name (she would even hide the evidence of her work in progress when friends came to visit). Throughout this period, and in the 16th and 17th centuries too, most fiction and much verse was published anonymously or pseudonymously. The list reads like an edited history of English literature...

On the whole Mullan thinks the underlying reasons for anonymity were psychological and personal…

Anonymous authorship was more or less killed off by the literary marketplace, and Mullan's book makes one feel more than a little nostalgia for its teasing concealments. “

Marathi too has history of anonymous authorship.

The most famous example perhaps was Jaywant Dalvi जयवंत दळवी who wrote by pseudonym of “Thanthanpal” ठणठणपाळ.

Dalvi remained anonymous for general public from 1963-1969. During this period and after he delighted many with his sharp wit and penetrative observations, exposing many hypocrisies in the world of Marathi literature in the process. (Like Khushwant Singh, death was no deterrence for Dalvi. He attacked G A Kulkarni जी ए कुलकर्णी after latter's death)

Vasant Sarwate वसंत सरवटे played perfect foil to Dalvi’s words with his caricatures and cartoons.


Artist: Vasant Sarwate (left- Thanthanpal, right- Jaywant Dalvi)

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Letter to NEW Quest on V S Naipaul

"New Quest" is a quarterly journal of participative inquiry into society and culture, launched by the late A.B.Shah. The journal seeks to generate a serious debate on issues ranging across the humanities and social sciences. It also encourages literary contributions in the form of original as well as translated poetry and fiction.

Its hon. editor is Dilip Chitre.

Its latest issue no. 169 July-September 2007 carried my following letter.

Letters to the Editor

Sir,

This refers to "Home truths" by V.S. Naipaul (India Today, September 10, 2007).

As exemplified by his book "India: A Wounded Civilization", Naipaul has understood many facets of our civilization quite well. But his problem, like most Western analysts of India, is that he does not read any native Indian language. That is a big handicap because India's best is expressed in its native languages.

Naipaul has clearly not read Vinoba Bhave's Marathi books. If he had, he probably would have still maintained his view of Bhave as a copycat Mahatma, but would have uttered a few nice words for Bhave as a writer. He would have realized why, along with the saint-poets, Vinoba is a rare 'best-selling' author in Marathi.

Naipaul says "(In India) literary criticism is still hardly known as an art". This is far from the truth. He should take the trouble to read Dilip Chitre's book on Tukaram ("Punha Tukaram", which is also available in English), Durga Bhagwat's commentary on the Mahabharata ("Vyas Parva”) or M.V. Dhond's criticism of B.S. Mardhekar's poetry.

Naipaul says that “Indian writers, to speak generally, seem to know only about their own families and their places of work". This may be true of R.K. Narayan or Vikram Seth but certainly not of Bhau Padhye, the original chronicler of Bombay (long before Vikram Chandra) in all its colours.

I agree with Naipaul that he is getting on. And like most old people he has nothing new to say.

Sincerely,

Aniruddha G. Kulkarni
Pune, India

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Aficionados of R D Karve र धों कर्वे Rejoice

The late Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत rates R D Karve र धो कर्वे next only to Mahatma Gandhi. She does it for his spearheading of important "family planning" movement in India.

M V Dhond म वा धोंड taught us how R D Karve's objectives were much broader than just "family planning".

Visit for my take on Karve's work here.

I have said elsewhere on this blog how we Indians are so poor at preserving our history. Even the history of 19-20th century, let alone the earlier one.

Marathi has seen lots of good, interesting stuff since mid-19th century. But little remains accessible to general public.

On January 13, 2008 Washington Post reviewed a "cluster of smartly designed, comprehensive reprints of vintage comics, going all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century -- and, in one notable case, earlier."

In Maharashtra, I have rarely seen such reprints in recent times.

One notable exception was Popular Prakashan's पॉप्युलर प्रकाशन reprinting of 'Riyasatkar' Govind Sakharam Sardesai's रियासतकार सरदेसाई work.

Now comes Padmagandha Prakashan's पद्मगंधा प्रकाशन project to reprint the entire work of R D Karve. It is slated for a release on March 15, 2008.



source: Lalit ललित January 2008

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mahabharata Redux. On Iraq and On EBAY.

Asian Age on January 24, 2008 reported: “Bush lied 259 times.”

“A study by two non-profit journalism organisations has found that President George W. Bush and top administration officials issued 935 false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

President Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about WMDs in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda, the study found. That was second only to then secretary of state Colin Powell’s 244 false statements about WMDs in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and Al Qaeda…”

This brought back Yudhisthira Dharmaraja to the mind. He too lied. He did it only once. But it was WMD kind of lie.


“…In the war, the Kuru commander Drona was killing hundreds of thousands of Pandava warriors. Krishna hatched a plan to tell Drona that his son Ashwathama had died, so that the invincible and destructive Kuru commander would give up his arms and thus could be killed.

The plan was set in motion when Bhima killed an elephant named Ashwathama, and loudly proclaimed that Ashwathama was dead. Drona, knowing that only Yudhisthira, with his firm adherence to the truth, could tell him for sure if his son had died, approached Yudhisthira for confirmation. Yudhisthira told him: "Ashwathama has died". However Yudhisthira could not make himself tell a lie, despite the fact that if Drona continued to fight, the Pandavas and the cause of dharma itself would have lost and he added: "naro va kunjaro va" which means he is not sure whether elephant or man had died.

Krishna knew that Yudhisthira would be unable to lie, and had all the warriors beat war-drums and cymbals to make as much noise as possible. The words "naro va kunjaro va .नरो वा कुंजरो वा" were lost in the tumult and the ruse worked. Drona was disheartened, and laid down his weapons. He was then killed by Dhristadyumna.

When he spoke his half-lie, Yudhisthira's feet and chariot descended to the ground…”

Talking of epics, in India, most of us know our Ramayana and Mahabharata but not many of us have read them as they are i.e. translated line by line from Sanskrit in their tongues.

For example, Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत is her classic Vyasparva व्यासपर्व 1962 writes about the song of Kunti when she abandons Karna, setting him afloat in a box in a river.



We all know the scene but very few perhaps know the beauty of this passage.

Following picture reminded me the episode of “The Game of Dice” from the epic where Yudhishtira gambles and loses his wife.


The Spectator January 12, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Indian Stock Market Crash. Can Tragedy be Quietly Enjoyed?

John Kenneth Galbraith:

“…And tragedy can be quietly enjoyed when, as is not true of war, nothing is being lost but money.”

(Full disclosure- I have lost fair amount of my own paper money in this!)

By the way, Subhash Bhende सुभाष भेंडे informed us that M V Dhond म वा धोंड dabbled in stock market as much he did in classical arts. Dhond apparently lost a fortune in the stock market before India’s independence. But it didn’t deter him from staying in the market.

Bhende saw it as a contradiction.

I don’t see it that way after reading Nicholas Taleb.


Artist: R K Laxman Times of India January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Celebration of Hobby…Er Addiction at Dharmapurikar Wedding

In last 47 years, I might have seen thousands of wedding cards- simple, elegant, beautiful, functional, even vulgar.

I thought I had seen them all.

I was wrong.

Madhukar Dharmapurikar मधुकर धर्मापुरीकर- once a promising cartoonist, storywriter, and above all a cartoon nut- recently sent me his son’s wedding card.

It probably made me happier than my own wedding card! See pictures below.

First picture makes you dizzy. Guy might fall to his death, the way he is rushing down.

But the second picture brings sheer joy. Eternal joy of swirling.

My wish for the wedding couple?

Let that joy enter their lives on February 1, 2008 and let its momentum last forever.




Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fate, Destiny or Luck of Girish Wagh and Vasudev Deshpande

Indians tend to use the word "fate" very often. They seldom use "destiny" or simple "luck". Marathi author G A Kulkarni जी ए कुलकर्णी, deeply influenced by Greek culture preferred "destiny" नियती.

I am more comfortable with the word "luck", toss of coin.

In January 2008, media and the world at large hailed the launch of Tata's Nano. Ratan Tata very generously gave large credit of this success to Girish Wagh.

I am sure Wagh deserves all his success but does he know that he also is very lucky?

41 years ago in 1967, in the middle of what Surjit Bhalla calls India's "rotten age period (1960 to 1980) of declining growth and increasing poverty", a young man Vasudev Deshpande helped design "Meera Mini Car" for now defunct "Meera Automobile & Engineering Industries Pvt Ltd" based in small town of Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district. See few relevant pictures below.

India's automobile industry history has almost forgot Deshpande.

History is replete with such examples. When we hail new heroes and their achievements, it also is time to reflect on who all went before them.

Nicholas Taleb:

“Heroes won and lost battles in a manner that was totally independent of their own valor; their fate depended upon totally external forces, generally the explicit agency of scheming gods (not devoid of nepotism). Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.”

Vasudev Deshpande will remain a hero to me.



Please note Numberplate




Vasudev Deshpande explaining features to a minister

Phantom महाबली वेताळ in My Classroom. Speaking Marathi.

NYT editorial of January 3, 2008- “Comic Books in the Classroom”- said:

“Generations of children grew up reading comic books on the sly, hiding out from parents and teachers who saw them as a waste of time and a hazard to young minds. Comics are now gaining a new respectability at school. That is thanks to an increasingly popular and creative program, often aimed at struggling readers, that encourages children to plot, write and draw comic books, in many cases using themes from their own lives…

…Teachers are finding it easier to teach writing, grammar and punctuation with material that students are fully invested in. And it turns out that comic books have other built-in advantages. The pairing of visual and written plotlines that they rely on appear to be especially helpful to struggling readers. No one is suggesting that comic books should substitute for traditional books or for standard reading and composition lessons. Teachers who would once have dismissed comics out of hand are learning to exploit a genre that clearly has a powerful hold on young minds. They are using what works.”

I know the power of comic books.

When I grew up, no one (yes, including Shivaji) captivated me more than Phantom, Mahabali Vetal महाबली वेताळ in Marathi. I read and re-read exploits of Phantom and Mandrake, published as part of Indrajal Comics series by Bennett, Coleman & Co

Those heroes’ families became mine.

Bheem of Mahabharat was strong as Lothar, Mandrake as clever as Shivaji. When Princess Diana died I felt sad because she had the same name of Phantom’s wife!

Kolhapur had many attractions for me. One of them was my cousin’s collection of Phantom and Mandrake books. I knew by heart all those books. They were translated in Marathi with some chutzpah.

I have never understood why Phantom comics books were not published in Marathi later.

I wish I had the help of Phantom to learn Newton’s laws and Diana’s help to understand working of the United Nations!

Marathi newspaper Sakal सकाळ on January 18, 2007 reported: “अल्लाद्दिन, टारझन, मोगली आता मराठीतून 'बोलणार'!” (“Aladdin, Tarzan, Moguli now to ‘speak’ in Marathi”)

Poor Sakal. It doesn’t even mention the rich world of Phantom in Marathi that came to pass.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anil Kumble’s Team is Largely Brahmin. So was Shivaji’s Ministry..

Indian media is angry because Australian media have raked up caste.

The Sydney Morning Herald article says:

“…The Brahmin caste, which forms only a tiny fraction of India's population, has always dominated the national cricket side.

Even today, with the game reaching further and further into the countryside, and the so-called lower orders, the Indian team has a decided flavour with Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, R.P. Singh and Ishant Sharma all Brahmins. Wasim Jaffer is a Muslim, Harbhajan Singh a Sikh, while, of the Hindu players, only Mahendra Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh come from "lower" castes…”

The other day I read T S Shejwalkar’s article on the importance of work of Saint Ramdas who was a Brahmin.

("रामदासांचा उपदेश व उद्योग महाराष्ट्र्राज्याला विघातक ठरला काय?" त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर 1943)

He said:”…seven out of eight members of Shivaji’s 17th century administration were Brahmins…only chief of army was non-Brahmin...”

Most Hindu Indians are sensitive about caste. Most of them like me marry into their own caste. I have even heard some Muslims talking ‘proudly’ how their ancestors were Brahmins!

Why can’t foreign media talk about it?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Y D Phadke य दि फडके No More

Yesterday afternoon I spoke to Vasant Sarwate. I thanked him for sending me two of his books. I read his obit of Ramesh Mantri रमेश मंत्री and felt sad.

Little did I know by evening I would be sadder.

I have created five entries pf prominent Marathi speaking personalities in English Wiki- Vasant Sarwate, D G Godse, M V Dhond, Y D Phadke, T S Shejwalkar.

Four of them are now dead.

I couldn't have imagined that it would happen so soon after M V Dhond.

19th/20th century Maharashtra produced some great historians.

V K Rajwade, Riyasatkar Sardesai, Vasudevshastri Khare, T S Shejwalkar...

Y D Phadke easily fitted in that tradition.

Unlike Shejwalkar, he was not great original thinker but focused on hard data and facts.

When Ramachandra Guha wrote "A Corner of a Foreign Field", I suggested him to check his fundamental thesis with Phadke.

I like all of his books but particularly like Nathuramayan नथुरामायण. He is not much known outside Marathi reading world because most of his work is not translated in English.

Non-Marathi reading world is poorer for it!