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."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Did a Typewriter Play a Role in Nietzsche’s God is Dead?!

Andrew Sulliavn wrote on June 15, 2008 in The Sunday Times:

“Here’s something I didn’t know: Friedrich Nietzsche used a typewriter. Many of those terse aphorisms and impenetrable reveries were banged out on an 1882 Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. And a friend of his at the time noticed a change in the German philosopher’s style as soon as he moved from longhand to type.

“Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote. Nietzsche replied: “You are right. Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”

Gulp. The technology writer Nicholas Carr, who pointed out this item of Nietzsche trivia in the new issue of The Atlantic, proceeded to make a more disturbing point. If a typewriter could do this to a mind as profound and powerful as Nietzsche’s, what on earth is Google now doing to us? …”

or should it read "I've killed Good Lord."?

Artist: John M Price The New Yorker 9 March 1940

Friday, June 27, 2008

Whose Nice Decade/Century/Millennium was it Anyway?

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has declared the “nice decade” to be over.

Tim Bond argues in FT May 19, 2008 that we are now in the ‘nasty decade’ and life won’t be easy there.

For vast majority of Indians, could any period in India's history be called "nice"?

Social scientist V K Rajwade’s (विश्वनाथ काशीनाथ राजवाडे 1863-1926) following extract from his essay महाराष्ट्र व उत्तरकोंकणची वसाहत (The colony of Maharashtra and North Konkan) is interesting.


click on the scanned pages above to get a larger view

(source: राजवाडे लेख्संग्रह Rajwade Collected Essays, संपादक: तर्कतीर्थ लक्ष्मणशास्त्री जोशी editor: Tarkateerth Lakshman-shastri Joshi, Sahitya Akademi, 1958)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How Tall can Pencils Grow in Green Pune, NASA'a Innovative Zero Gravity Pen


Artist: Tom Cheney The New Yorker 30 June 2008 caption contest # 151

Proposed captions:

1. "“…So you are saying I may go to jail if we don’t take permission from Pune Municipal Corporation before sharpening them because they technically are now trees.”

2. “I just wanted to create a living monument for our innovative spirit and extend it. Remember, NASA’s extravagance and its tendency to look for complex solutions when they developed a pen that would write in zero gravity while we Russians made do with pencils.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Like Brahmins in the past, Wheat has Enslaved us

Girish Karnad says: “No one understood the sense of humiliation as Vijay Tendulkar विजय तेंडुलकर did.” (Frontline June 20 2008)

If so, I wonder if Tendulkar ever wrote anything about eating millet (मिलो in Marathi) because for most people of Maharashtra eating red coloured rotis of millet- if they did it- was one of the most humiliating experiences of their life. The year 1972-73 saw Maharashtra in the grip of a severe drought. For those who were alive then, even finding 'lowly' millet was not guaranteed.

Why don't Maharashtrians just say they did not like the taste of millet? Why feeling of humiliation? Do Maharashtrians discriminate based on what one eats the way they did (or do) based on what profession one’s ancestors held? For example, during my childhood at Miraj, eating rice was considered “feminine”.

Business Line reported on June 8, 2008:

Millet Network of India (MINI) has demanded that the Union Government include millets in the public distribution system, while announcing an ecological bonus to farmers growing millets. This will help the country address the food security and agrarian crisis…

… the two major advantages of growing millets were saving valuable water and ensuring the nutritional needs of the people…millet farming didn’t consume much water and has zero dependence on chemical fertilizers…Millets have 30 to 300 per cent more nutritional elements such as calcium, minerals, iron and fibre.

… millet acreage had fallen over a period of time due to undue focus on rice and wheat. From 45.9 million hectares in 1990, the acreage decreased to 31.5 million hectares, a drop of 35 per cent…”

In Japan, Tsubu Tsubu cafes across the country have millet dishes on their menu, recipes that suit modern tastes.

Millet and other `miscellaneous' grains were the staple food for Japanese across the country from ancient times until as recently as 30 or 40 years ago.

Yumiko Otani says: “Millet grains can expand and stabilise food supply; these grains can grow in poorer soil and colder areas compared to rice and wheat, and are resistant to aridity and climate change. They require less irrigation and fertilisers. Considering that Japan's self-sufficiency rate of food supply is 40 per cent (calorie-base) and that it imports more than half of its food from overseas, the country, in a way, could help tackle the world's food problem by changing from white rice to miscellaneous grains. By learning to supply foods to its own people, using its own land more efficiently, Japan can reduce pressure on farmlands abroad.

These grains are rich in dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins; contain both protein and vegetable fat, and are nutritionally well-balanced. Diets based on polished rice and processed wheat, on the other hand, can cause "hidden starvation" because they lose many of their nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

The grains are more resistant than rice or wheat to diseases and pests, and are easily grown without pesticides. Post-harvest, they can be stored for a longer period of time.

These wholesome grains require a lot of chewing, and are rich in flavour and taste; it is easy to switch to a millet-based, no-meat diet.”

Urban Indian children prefer to eat only wheat and rice. My wife and I love to eat jowar but our son doesn’t even try.

Like Brahmins in the past, wheat and rice have enslaved us. Read an earlier related post here.

Picture Courtesy: The New Yorker 2008


Following caption is mine.

“We get it, Wheat - We urban Marathi speaking people owe our survival to you.”

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Enjoyment of Aesthetic Experience- Jyotirao Phule ज्योतीराव फुले and Nanasaheb Peshwa नानासाहेब पेशवे

Marathi readers are fortunate that Marathi became the chosen medium for some of the best poetry in the world.

Marathi prose has not scaled the same heights though.

There are some exceptions. Here are two of them.

John Maynard Keynes(1883–1946): “…one's prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge.”

One of the greatest personalities of India, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule महात्मा ज्योतीराव फुले (1827-1890) knew that well.

Following is one of the most moving passages I have read in Marathi. Its author Phule imagines what our pre-religion-caste ancestors must have witnessed in the nature around them.

The last line reads:
“…looking at this, ancestors of our human brothers who call themselves Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Mahar, Brahmin etc must be feeling so delighted!”

(click on the picture to get a magnified view)
source: शेतकर्याचा आसूड Shetkarayacha Aasud (Cultivator's Whipcord), July 1883

Jyotiba had no respect for Brahmin rulers of Pune- Peshwas. Peshwas, never visionaries like Shivaji or Akbar, were products of their time. But most of them did show some great qualities.

Nanasaheb (1720 or 1721 - 1761) नानासाहेब पेशवे- wrote following letter that brings out the finest qualities of his personality.

Nanasaheb wrote it when Marathas were campaigning in southern India. The letter describes qualities of south Indian landscape and people inhabiting it.

(click on the picture to get a magnified view)
source: पेशवेकालीन महाराष्ट्र Peshwekalin Maharashtra by वासुदेव कृष्ण भावे Vasudev Krushna Bhave, 1936

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Guns made in China from Manhole Covers of Mumbai don’t Shoot Straight!

Times of India on June 17 2008 reported:

“…Civic officials say the massive construction activity undertaken for the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing has increased demand for iron ore globally. As a result, they claim, organised gangs are now operating in Kurla, Bandra, Mankhurd and parts of Byculla to systematically steal the manhole covers. A staggering 1,500 covers have been stolen in the past few months—each costing a handsome Rs 5,500 in the grey market…

BMC officials have shot off a letter to the Mumbai police, asking them to speed up the detention in cases of these thefts. They have also unsuccessfully tried drastic measures to prevent thefts, from chaining the manholes to covering them with concrete, but to no avail…”

(Read the full report here)


Artist: Lee Lorenz The New Yorker June 23 2008 cartoon caption contest # 150

Proposed caption:

“That gun doesn’t shoot straight, honey. It is made in China from manhole covers of Mumbai. It’s kind of cursed by citizens drowned there.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nil-nil is the Score of Life but thankfully not at Euro 2008!

From 1972 Munich Olympics onwards, milestones of my life’s journey are Olympics, world-cup football and euro. Throw in some closely fought cricket, field hockey & kabaddi and map of life is complete.

All personal events of my life are sort of in between.

I still remember electricity of Marco van Basten of Euro 1988 and here he is looking as dapper as 20 years ago, in the dugout as a coach, ready to come out any minute to score a goal himself.

When my sister gave birth to a baby boy in 1991, I suggested a name- Donadoni. It was turned down. Ishan is now 16 and Roberto Donadoni is present here as Italy’s coach.

Has life stood still in some ways?

Michel Platini is gushing.

“…The quality of play is extolled by everyone, defensive tactics are nowhere to be seen, team play is not stifling the talent of individuals, who are frequently giving some particularly dazzling performances…”

This football on display reminds me of the football we played at our school in Miraj. One ball, 40 odd boys, running from one end of the ground to the other until the bell rang.

I like Adam Gopnik’s analysis- "Nil-nil is the score of life.” but happy that Euro 2008 is not following it!

The European Union makes one excuse after another to keep out knocking Turkey- waiting and frustrated- from joining them but here they can’t do so. Turkey has just knocked the door down to enter the quarterfinals.

I am tired of verbose limited-overs cricket where some times analysis runs longer than the playing time especially when it comes to umpiring decisions.

Read Platini on the subject- “…The referees are controlling these fast and energetic matches well and one or two minor errors of judgement, usually down to just a few centimetres and, moreover, spontaneously acknowledged, have not spoilt this great festival of football…To err is human and that is how it should stay as far as football is concerned.”

(This picture reminds me of some of the best test-cricket pictures of Patrick Eager)



Loneliness of Petr Czech
Picture Courtesy: Times of India and Reuters

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Newspapers that Speak from the Loins

If a person who doesn’t understand either Marathi or English were to look at daily morning newspapers at Pune, how will she distinguish between the two?

Answer: Marathi dailies have less female frontal nudity!

I wonder why because their morals and ethics are as suspect as those of English papers. Read the late Vijay Tendulkar विजय तेंडुलकर on this subject.

Is it because Marathi media have been hypocrites for a long time? For example, they ridicule Hindi TV sitcoms while producing far worse serials than Hindi.

Or is it because they can't afford to pay for the porn or extra pages?

Times of India Mirror Pune edition now has a license for nudity in the name of generation Y. Who knows it may turn out to be its chief quality when they start pricing the tabloid.


‘Yes, it is spoken from the heart, but our readers prefer books that speak from the loins.’


The Spectator June 14 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

India’s Greed Belts

SOMINI SENGUPTA of NYT recently discovered what many of us now have known for a while:

“Many in India’s upper middle class have moved to gated communities, with servants who live in nearby slums.” (June 9, 2008)

Read an entry dated November 20, 2007 from this blog here.

The NYT article says:

“…Hamilton Court — complete with a private school within its gates, groomed lawns and security guards — is just one of the exclusive gated communities that have blossomed across India in recent years…

In China, the main Asian competitor to which India is often compared, the state managed early on to harness economic expansion for huge public works projects and then allow more and more Chinese to partake of the benefits. There, the poor are far less likely to be deprived of basic services, whether clean water or basic schooling.

In India, poverty has also dropped appreciably in the last 17 years of economic change, even as the gulf between the rich and poor has grown. More than a quarter of all Indians still live below the official poverty line (subsisting on roughly $1 a day); one in four city dwellers live on less than 50 cents a day; and nearly half of all Indian children are clinically malnourished…”

What I didn’t know was how China handled this challenge.

Movements of Indian upper middle class are an old story. Recently a relative made a statement: “Poor people hate us because we have a big car.”

D D Kosambi has written about “senseless opportunism and termite greed of the ‘cultured’ strata” through India’s known history.

T S Shejwalkar त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर has written some of the best essays in Marathi on various subjects.

In an essay dated Diwali 1962, he writes:


"बुद्धिवादी आणि सुशिक्षित समाजाची नीतिमत्ता" "Intellectual and Educated Society’s Morality”
("निवडक लेखसंग्रह" त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर; परिचय गं दे खानोलकर
"Selected Articles-collection" by Tryambak Shankar Shejwalkar 1977 introduction: G D Khanolkar)




The Spectator September 22, 2007

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bank Robbers at Pune may now need Financial Adviser!

Times of India / Pune Mirror reported on June 11, 2008:

“Police chief cannot protect banks, he can’t stop MNS from holding illegal rallies. He can’t keep senior citizens safe. He can’t stop burglaries, chain snatchers. Under the present circumstances, he says he is helpless.”

On June 9, 2008: Broad daylight dacoity at Punjab National Bank, Sanewadi Branch, Aundh. Eight robbers enter the bank at around 10 am.”

In calendar 2008, this was 10th attempt of burglary at a bank in Pune.

Police commissioner said: “Maybe the banks are apathetic towards safety as the cash is insured.”

Following picture shows a classic win-win! Bank , bank-employee, robber.


‘Would you like to see a financial adviser, sir?’

The Spectator

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Maybe Hillary didn’t Lose because she was a Woman but Joan of Arc?

Pundits wrote Hillary couldn't lose. Therefore, I made an appeal to her using poet B S Mardhekar's बा सी मर्ढेकर words. Read it here.

Now pundits are analysing her loss.

“…Obama is like her idealistic, somewhat naïve self before the world launched 1,000 attacks against her, turning her into the hard-bitten, driven politician who has launched 1,000 attacks against Obama.

As she makes a last frenzied and likely futile attempt to crush the butterfly, it’s as though she’s crushing the remnants of her own girlish innocence. “

MAUREEN DOWD, NYT May 7, 2008

“…She didn’t lose because she was a woman. She didn’t lose because America isn’t ready for a woman as president. She lost because of her own — and her husband’s and Mark Penn’s — fatal missteps.”

MAUREEN DOWD, NYT June 8, 2008


Artist: Mischa Richter The New Yorker 29 January 1949

Monday, June 09, 2008

BJP Saffron and Ivanovic Neo Red are going to be Huge this Summer

Frontline Jun 07 - 20, 2008


A Colourful Champion


Artist: Robert Mankoff The New Yorker September 27, 2004

new caption: "Ditch Detainee Orange now, BJP Saffron and Ivanovic Neo Red are going to be huge this summer."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Have you read M F Husain Version of Ramayana?

U.R. Ananthamurthy says: “The only two languages that are understood all over the country are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.” (India Today, August 20, 2007)

I know there are many versions of these two ‘languages’ but don’t know which one M F Husain uses.

This refers to “Politics of Art” by GPD from Economic & Political Weekly dated May 17, 2008.

GPD sounds naïve even comic when he compares “blasphemy” of Saint Janabai संत जनाबाई with insensitivity, ignorance and plain mischievousness of M F Husain. He seems to be carried away by the fact that Husian hails from Pandharpur पंढरपुर.

On this subject, I wish to quote the late Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत, who all her life defended freedom of expression, challenged the dictators like Indira Gandhi when most intellectuals were silent and fought culture-vultures of Maharashtra while defending Marathi author Bhau Padhye भाऊ पाध्ये who was accused of obscenity.

“…why does Husian draw Seeta sitting on the tail of Lord Maruti flying across the sky? And that too naked one? Obviously religious people will get angry, won’t they? Basically Husain has not read Ramayana is obvious because no where in Ramayana, Maruti carries Seeta. In Ashok-vana, he offers Seeta that he would transport her on his shoulder safely. Seeta declines the offer because she wants Rama to go there personally, slay Ravana and free her. That shows Seeta’s confidence in Rama and also pride. Without considering this context, drawing revealing pictures of Hindu goddesses has to be considered objectionable. Such pictures are naturally going to hurt the sentiments of religious people. Not just that even a religious Muslim may not like this insult of gods of other religions.”

In the same book, Ms. Bhagwat dares likes of GPD to defend the right of Salman Rushdie to write “The Satanic Verses”.

(Source- ऐसपैस गप्पा : दुर्गाबाईंशी लेखक प्रतिभा रानडे “Aispais Gappa: Durgabainshi” by Pratibha Ranade, Rajhans Prakashan, November 1998)


Artist: Alan Dunn The New Yorker 22 April 1961

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mobile Towers are a Health Hazard for Parachute Jumpers!

The New Yorker's Cartoon Caption Contest #149


Artist: Mick Stevens The New Yorker June 9 2008

"You completely forgot about the last communication tower installed by Bharti Airtel in our neighbourhood last week. Didn't you?"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mothers and Sparrows Don’t Thrive on Neglect

I always took my mother and a sparrow for granted.

And why not. They were the two species I sighted most during my childhood. The story millions of Maharashtrians most heard- in Marathi- in their childhood was that of a sparrow and a crow.

The story runs something like this: a sparrow builds her nest using wax and a crow builds his using cow-dung. A rainfall washes out crow’s nest and he goes to sparrow’s nest asking for a shelter. Sparrow refuses to oblige, giving one reason after another.

Although I now refuse to believe that crows are that stupid, I enjoyed the story especially when my mother told it in her clear diction.

My mother now is gone and they say sparrow too may be on its way. Read Outlook India story here.

Therefore, these days every time I spot a sparrow, I get the same pleasure as I may get finding dinosaur bones.

I have learnt one hard lesson. Unlike some flower, mothers and sparrows don’t thrive on neglect.

(Isn't picture below apart from its other qualities just poetic?)


Artist: Perry Barlow The New Yorker 10 April 1948

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sakharam Binder सखाराम बाईंडर and the Basic Middle-Class Hunger for Property

Writing Vijay Tendulkar’s विजय तेंडुलकर obit, Girish Karnad says:

“…Then came Sakharam Binder. It's not only Tendulkar's best play, but one of the masterpieces of Indian drama. When first performed, several political parties united to demand a ban on the play, and it had to be rescued by the courts. Its critics claimed to be scandalised by its overt sexuality. But one suspects that Tendulkar had once again hit a raw nerve, the basic middle-class hunger for property as a guarantee of security, and the ruthlessness this hunger could unleash. Lakshmi, a perfect embodiment of Hindu womanly virtues, manoeuvres a murder to keep the roof intact over her head, invulnerable in her sense of moral rectitude…” (Outlook June 2, 2008)

This angle I had never thought.

As real estate prices climb relentlessly in Pune, everyday one hears sordid stories of greed, corruption, moral decay and crumbling family values. Duryodhana’s following words don’t sound all that far-fetched: “The Pandavas will not receive even a needle- point of territory,"

In 1980’s, I lived in a Bombay where girls fell in love only after ascertaining where the suitor’s property was located. Western suburbs upto Andheri were preferred over eastern ones. I had no chance because I had neither! Now I joke about it, then I felt castrated.

Now, the whole of urban India is Bombay.

I mentioned ancient India by quoting from the Mahabharata. Let us turn to an example from American history.

WILLIAM HOGELAND said in NYT December 27, 2006:

“…In 1763, George III drew a line on a map stretching from modern-day Maine to modern-day Georgia, along the crest of the Appalachians. He declared it illegal to claim or settle land west of the line, all of which he reserved for Native Americans.

George Washington, a young colonel in the Virginia militia, instructed his land-buying agents in the many ways of getting around the law. Although Washington was not alone in acquiring forbidden tracts, few were as energetic in the illegal acquisition of western land…

… By the early 1770’s, George Washington had amassed vast tracts to which his titles were flatly invalid. The Revolution rectified that. With British law void, Washington emerged from the war with his titles legal by default…”

Jonathan Yardley said in Washington Post May 18, 2008:

“…Not merely did George Washington want the capital on the Potomac, he also "was determined to place the capital close to the Eastern Branch, today known as the Anacostia River, virtually across the Potomac from his own estate at Mount Vernon." Washington believed that the Potomac was fated to be the essential connection between the Atlantic and the rapidly growing West -- he didn't know, or more likely didn't want to know, that for most of the year much of the Potomac is unnavigable -- and "he stood to make a great deal of money" from a capital on the Potomac, a useful reminder that the motives of the Father of His Country were not always pristinely patriotic…”


Artist: Bruce Erik Kaplan The New Yorker 17 January 1994