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.”
Albert Einstein: “I am content in my later years. I have kept my good humor and take neither myself nor the next person seriously.” (To P. Moos, March 30, 1950. Einstein Archives 60-587)
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: "… इ. स. 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
“IT’S the rainy season in Myanmar. It’s also cholera season. When Cyclone Nargis arrived two weeks ago, the waters it unleashed destroyed houses and killed people and livestock. The storm also devastated other things that haven’t made the headlines, but that can mean the difference between life and death: toilets. Even before the cyclone, 75 percent of Burmese had no latrines. Like some 2.6 billion other people worldwide, they do their business by roadsides, on train tracks or wherever they can. But the few latrines that did exist in the Irrawaddy Delta are now flooded or flattened, and their contents have seeped into already filthy waters.
So what? There are other priorities, aren’t there? Food, shelter and clean water are what aid agencies emphasize. But human excrement is a weapon of mass destruction. A gram of human feces can contain up to 10 million viruses. At least 50 communicable diseases — including cholera, meningitis and typhoid — travel from host to host-in human excrement. It doesn’t take much: a small child, maybe, who plays in soil where people have been defecating, then dips his fingers in the family rice pot. The aftermath of a disaster like Cyclone Nargis — with masses of weakened people on the move — is a communicable disease paradise…”
This blog already has a post on the status of sanitation in urban India of 21st century. See it here. What chance did then a brutal battle location almost 248 years ago have?
For a period of 2.5 months in late 1760 to January 14, 1761, Maratha army camp- approximate 200,000 people strong- was forced to stay put in an area of about 15 miles long near Panipat. It could never change its location even once unlike their enemy army of Ahmad Shah Abdali that changed its own location 3 times.
Unfortunately today there are few letters available that were sent from the Maratha army camp during this period because most of the sent ones were captured and destroyed by the enemy.
T S Shejwalkar त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर has described the kind of difficulties Maratha army probably faced- foul smell, polluted and inadequate water (Rs. 1 per pot!), famine like food supply, lack of clothing to protect from severe and unusually wet North Indian winter, undisposed rotting corpses of soldiers who died in skirmishes etc. A lot of people and cattle died due to starvation and disease.
Foul smell, polluted and inadequate water? Surely human feces, a WMD, got deployed.
“…In our sanitary, plumbed lives, the toilet — an engineering marvel — removes waste out of sight and out of mind. As Steven Pinker recently wrote in “The Stuff of Thought,” the vocabulary of excretion has sneaked in and taken the taboo place previously held by religious words, and this switch parallels the rise of sewers and the sanitizing of excrement. A substance common to us all, and as vital to life as breathing, has become unspeakable, and particularly in the polite and powerful circles that could do something about its deadly effects…
…This year, the International Year of Sanitation, is a fine time to address a pointless and damaging conversational taboo. Solving sanitation is about more than semantics. But our refusal to talk about it says something about us, and none of it good.”
Not every one refuses to talk about human excrement though.
Vinoba Bhave used to say “प्रभाते मलदर्शनम” (In the moring sight feces) rephrasing the last line famous Sanskrit shloka
कराग्रे वसते लक्ष्मी:
करमूले सरस्वती ।
करमध्ये तु गोविंद:
(At the tip of the hand resides Laxmi, At the root Sarasvati,
At the centre Govinda, in the morning sight hand.)
Not too long ago in India, during early years of my childhood, human soil was carried manually in carts. If Americans (and during Nixon administration it was entirely plausible) came looking for WMDs in India then news ticker in the picture below could read…
"White House says latest attacks prove Indira Gandhi has human carts of mass..."
Artist: Michael Crawford The New Yorker 8 December 2003