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, December 31, 2009

Are you ready for Eternity?

Anton Chekhov in 'The Three Sisters' (Tri sestry), 1901: "Well, maybe we’ll fly in balloons, the cut of jackets will be different, we’ll have discovered a sixth sense, maybe even developed it - I don’t know. But life will be the same - difficult, full of unknowns, and happy. In a thousand years, just like today, people will sigh and say, oh, how hard it is to be alive. They’ll still be scared of death, and won’t want to die.”

महाभारत १/१/२४७: कालमूलमिदं सर्व भावाभावौ सुखासुखे॥

(Mahabharat 1/1/247: Living and death, happiness and sadness all originate in time.)

महाभारत १२/२२७/५६: कालेनाभ्याहताः सर्वे कालो हि बलवत्तरः॥

(Mahabharat 12/227/56: Time has killed all. Time is the most powerful.)

Simone Weil:

“All the tragedies which we can imagine return in the end to the one and only tragedy: the passage of time.”

Roger Penrose:

"So this means that in a sense, the present past and future are out there, and that also gives us a very deterministic view of the world. We have no control of what happens in the future because its all laid out. I think the trouble that people have with this idea is that you think the future is under your control, to some degree, and so this means that if the future's laid out then in a sense its not under your control.

The question of the passage of time is something the scientists have rather set aside, and taking the view that its not really physics, it's a subjective issue; and subjective questions are not part of science. Now when you start talking about phenomena like one's own perception of the passage of time, then that is a subjective thing. And that's almost a taboo subject for science because it's subjective. The physical world at least according to Relativity, is out there, and there is no flow of time, it's just there; whereas our feeling (we have this feeling of the passage of time) are intimately connected to our perceptions."


Artist: Robert J Day, The New Yorker, December 4 1943

Mark Twain has tried to answer the question:

"I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Is Bengali Cosmopolitanism a Bengali Parochialism?

Pradip Das in Asian Age Dec 16 2009 on the state of West Bengal:

"...Frustration, fear, insecurity and mindless violence have overtaken a state which, at one point, touted its intellectual and cultural superiority over its counterparts across India..."


Reviewing Indian bestseller "The Hindus: An Alternative History" by Wendy Doniger, A K Bhattacharya writes in Business Standard October 29 2009:

"...Swami Vivekananda’s role in the revival of Hinduism is dismissed in one page. While Rammohun Roy gets some mention for having worked towards abolishing the Sati system, there is no mention of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, who not only helped Roy in his reform movement, but also influenced the British to allow remarriage of Hindu widows..."

Perhaps not fair to the great trio.

However, Bhattacharya does not say if the book does justice to the work of other great Indian reformers like Jotiba Phule (ज्योतीराव फुले), B R Ambedkar (भी रा आंबेडकर) and reformers from other parts of India, particularly from the South.

Phule and Ambedkar are probably the two most important names from the history of Hinduism of last two hundred years.

Kancha Illaiah says: "Hinduism is in a state of crisis, facing a kind of civil war within. The primary reason for this is the stranglehold of the varnashram system which keeps 750 million Hindus subjugated and humiliated.

These are the Dalits, tribals and the backward classes. Hinduism has failed to convince them that they are part of it, despite the fact that they were the carriers of all science and technology for centuries.

Hinduism is the only religion that has failed to negotiate and engage with reason and science.

No social reformer, except Phule and Ambedkar, challenged the caste system. Other religions are now competing to win over these people hence there is an imminent explosive crisis..."

When I recently acquired Doniger's tome, I looked up the index to see how many pages mentioned Phule and Ambedkar.

Out of seven fifty three pages, Ambedkar gets three and Phule gets one.

(M S Golwalkar too gets three pages and is mentioned ahead of Phule, Ambedkar in the book. I hope Golwalkar's Hinduism does not prevail over that of Phule-Ambedkar in future. Although Phule-Ambedkar lead Golwalkar 4-3 in this contest, looking at the current environment of intolerance in urban middle-class Maharashtra, I am not sure what will happen!)

Doniger talks about just one work of Phule while her treatment of Ambedkar doesn't do justice to his impact on the past of Hinduism and the likely impact on its future.

While I will talk about Doniger's work later- currently I am quite enjoying reading it- I can't hide my irritation with Bhattacharya's approach.

When one writes for a national newspaper, one is expected to take a larger view, national if not global.

But this shouldn't have bothered me because earlier I had read this:

Ramachandra Guha reviewing "The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity" by Amartya Sen wrote in 'The Economic and Political Weekly':

"...All works of history must necessarily be selective; still, reading Sen’s book, a younger reader may come away thinking that, apart from the splendid aberration of Rabindranath Tagore, there were no Indian intellectuals or arguers between the age of Akbar and the age of Hindutva.

I wonder – is Sen’s neglect of what I have called the proximate argumentative tradition linked somewhat to the characteristic insularity of the Bengali intellectual? The typical “bhadralok” scholar travels a straight line between Kolkata and some point to the west: this might be London or, by way of variation, Paris or Moscow or Havana or New York.

But his interest in other parts of India is pretty nearly non-existent. In this respect his Bengali cosmopolitanism is also a Bengali parochialism.

Thus one member of the species has written that “Bengal was the site of the most profound response to the colonial encounter”, and that the province’s capital city, Calcutta, “was the crucible of Indian nationalist politics, and the home…of modern Indian liberal consciousness itself”.

Writing from neutral Bangalore, I would instead award the honour to the state of Maharashtra (as is now is).

Consider a few names: Ranade, Gokhale, Phule, Agarkar, Ambedkar.

Now consider a few more: Tarabai Shinde, V R Shinde, D D Karve, Shahu Maharaj.

If one sees “liberal consciousness” as being composed of individual rights, caste reform, and gender equality, then I think the contributions of these Marathi-speakers rate rather higher than those of their (admittedly more loquacious) Bengali counterparts..."

Have such loquacious Bengalis gathered in the picture below?

(By the way, there is no mention of Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram in Sen's book while Kabir is mentioned more than ten times!)


Artist: Robert Kraus, The New Yorker, 5 March 1955

Friday, December 25, 2009

पण म्हणून का त्याच्या शिकवणीचे महत्व कमी होते?

G A Kulkarni:

"...He gave the message of love and peace, but it spread on the strength of the sword; he insisted on austerity, and now the support of his religion is wealth. You think it's his victory, look it this way: his true followers would not exceed the population of a village. But then does it reduce the importance of his teachings ?...

('Yatrik', 'Pinglavel' 1977). It's an allegory of Cervantes's 'Don Quixote'.

(जी ए कुलकर्णी: "...त्याने प्रेमाचा व शांतीचा संदेश सांगितला, पण प्रसार झाला तो तलवारीच्या जोरावर; त्याने निरिच्छ्तेवर भर दिला, तर आता त्याच्या धर्माचा आधार आहे संपत्ती. हा तुला त्याचा विजय वाटतो, तसे पाहिले तर त्याचे सच्चे अनुयायी एखाद्या खेड्यातील वसतीपेक्षा जास्त नसतील. पण म्हणून का त्याच्या शिकवणीचे महत्व कमी होते?..."

'यात्रिक', 'पिंगळावेळ', 1977)

Charles Dickens:

"…………a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys" ('A Christmas Carol' 1843)


FREEDOM FROM WANT

Artist: Norman Rockwell, 1943

(Rockwell fussed over this cover a long time before he completed it. He was very concerned that it would convey overabundance instead of freedom from want.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Inflation Hurts Literature Some More

In last few years I have across articles like "If Odysseus Had GPS" where the author claims that if today's technology were to be available in the past, some of the world's great literature would not be borne. Or an essay "Call Me, Ishmael" that fantasises "...every thorny literary problem solved by modern technology..."

For me, it's complete baloney for technology doesn't solve any of our basic problems. It just packages them differently.

John Gray: "Today the good life means making full use of science and technology - without succumbing to the illusion that they can make us free, reasonable, or even sane. It means seeking peace - without hoping for a world without war. It means cherishing freedom - in the knowledge that it is an interval between anarchy and tyranny...

...At present we think of science and technology as means of mastering the world. But the self that struggles to master the world is only a shimmer on the surface of things. The new technologies that are springing up around us seem to be inventions that serve our ends, when they and we are moves in a game that has no end."

So if technology doesn't affect great literature, does inflation?

B V (Mama) Warerkar:"...all the money with the public is exhausted and, the little that is left with a few, is of no value because of the shortage of things..." (Dhule, 1944, Presidential address of Marathi Sahitya Sammelan)

(भा वि (मामा) वरेरकर : "...जनते जवळचा पैसा संपला आहे आणि ज्याकडे थोडाफार शिल्लक आहे, तो वस्तुंच्या दुर्मिळतेमुळे कुचकामी ठरला आहे..." धुळे, १९४४ च्या मराठी साहित्य संमेलनाचे अध्यक्षीय भाषण )

Pune will host 83rd Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in 2010. I wonder if the presidential address will contain a thought on inflation.

The title of one of my previous posts read :"Inflation Hurts Literature too! तानी मावशीचे दोन आणे". Read it here.

It was posted on Dec 27 2007.

In two years time, inflation has wreaked havoc in India.

Business Line reported on Dec 13 2009:

"If you had paid Rs 500 at the beginning of the year 2009 for a kg of a dozen items in your grocery basket such as atta, rice, sugar and various dals, do you know how much it would cost you now? You would have to shell out at least 35 per cent more – or Rs 675 – for the same products, going by prevailing prices at major modern retail outlets..."

Tani-mavashi's love remains undiminished but her 12 paise (two-anna)...

Poor in India spend most of their money on food.

The question I am asking is: Did we give our maid 35% raise this year?

The answer is NO.

Are we finding an excuse like the couple in the picture below?


Artist: Perry Barlow, The New Yorker, 12 July 1946

Monday, December 21, 2009

100 Years After Pandit A M T Jackson, a good Topivalla

December 21, 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the collector of Nashik, A M T Jackson, of the Indian Civil Service, by Anant Kanhere (अनंत कान्हेरे), using a revolver sent by V D Savarkar (वि दा सावरकर) from England, at Vijayanand theatre where he had gone to watch famous Marathi play Sangeet Sharada (संगीत शारदा) by G B Deval (गो. ब. देवल). Jackson was first shot in the back and then in the front. He died on the spot.

I have yet to read a detailed history of that episode.

Y D Phadke (य दि फडके) has a chapter dedicated to it in his book 'Shodh Savarkarancha', 1984 ('शोध सावरकरांचा').

There I learnt Jackson was shot just before the play started, Bal Gandharva (बालगंधर्व) and Nanasaheb Joglekar (नानासाहेब जोगळेकर) were actors in it.

I have not read the feelings of Bal Gandharva or Nanasaheb Joglekar about this horrific incident. Or the reaction of the paying public. I wonder if they got their ticket money back if the performance was cancelled! And even if they did, I am sure, many must be deeply disappointed that, thanks to Kanhere, they missed the show. I would have been for sure.

Kanhere and his two colleagues paid twelve annas each for the ticket.

Book also says that Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj (राजर्षी शाहू महाराज), ruler of Kolhapur, had warned the British government in 1906 about the possibility of extreme violence because of the views of Brahmins from the districts of Kolhapur, Belgao, Nashik and Pune.

But Phadke's book doesn't have much information on the scholarship or life of Jackson.

Following is the account of the case that is available on the website of Bombay High Court:

"...Unlike other English district officers, he (Jackson) was sympathetic towards Indian aspirations, was a student of Sanskrit, and generally was popular as a man of learning and culture.

It was his interest in Indian history and culture, which induced him to attend the performance of a Marathi drama at Nasik. During an interval in the performance, a young Brahmin student of Aurangabad, named Anant Kanhere, stepped forward, drew out a pistol and shot Mr. Jackson through the heart at point blank range.

The murder created a great deal of sensation in Nasik, Poona and Bombay; and it even created consternation in the ranks of Indian Nationalists, because of Jackson's reputation as a very sympathetic and popular district officer.

Many Indians could not understand why such a good man ("good Topivalla ", as such Englishmen were called in those days) was singled out for such a dastardly murder. But it seems that there was a school of extremists at the time, who believed perversely that, these "good Topivallas" were really more dangerous than officers of the type of Dyer and O'Dwyer, for instance; for, it is the good popular government officials who reconcile Indians to foreign rule..."

Don't be appalled by this pervert logic. A lot more nonsense goes around in India of hundred years later.

The journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay‎ wrote: "The Society records its deep sense of grief for death of one of its most learned members,AMT Jackson, ICS."

"In an interesting essay in the Empire Review for September 1907, Mr. A M T Jackson has shown how the traditional Hindu Kingship- the political ideal which the genius of warrior Sivaji sought to revive and which the intriguing spirit of Brahman Peshwas effectually shattered..." (from 'The people of India' By Herbert Risley, William Crooke)

Was it just a coincidence that he was killed by a Brahmin?

Bimanbehari Majumdar: "...Jackson was a learned Indologist. He contributed many interesting papers on Indian history and culture and was popularly known as Pandit Jackson..." (Militant nationalism in India and its socio-religious background, 1897-1917)

Sir John Cumming: "...the late Mr. A M T Jackson drew out attention to 'the attractive power of Hindu civilization, which has enabled it to assimilate and absorb into itself every Foreign invader except the Moslem and European..." ('Revealing India's Past')

(Savarkar of 1909 and M A Jinnah of later years would have agreed with Jackson's views on lack of assimilation of Muslims. It also shows how Europeans had now transcended 'White Mughals' phase. It was the phase, documented most notably by William Dalrymple, in which they tried to assimilate.)

On Google Books I found following books by A M T Jackson:

"Folk Lore Notes: Vol. II - Konkan‎

Folk lore notes: Compiled from materials collected by the late A. M. T. Jackson. R. E. Enthoven, Volume 1

Folklore notes from Gujarat and the Konkan‎

Folklore of Gujarat‎

Folklore Notes V2: Konkan (1915)"


I remember to have read Durga Bhagwat (दुर्गा भागवत) writing that the chase of Jackson's valuable library was entrusted to the Royal Asiatic Society, Mumbai.

I don't know what family Jackson left behind. Wife, kids, parents?

In Frontline dated Sep. 12-25, 2009, A.R. VENKATACHALAPATHY has written about the assassination of Robert William Escourt Ashe on June 17, 1911.

I was most moved by this family photo of Ashe's.



PICTURE FROM THE ASHE FAMILY ALBUM/

COURTESY ROBERT ASHE and Frontline

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gandhi and Tiger Woods: Animal Passion on the day Father Died?

Most Marathi newspapers, quite rightly, don't give a damn to Golf. Not even to Golf WAGS or Golf widows. (I wonder why they care about Tennis as much as they do.)

But even they couldn't resist this.

On December 14 2009, English newspapers reported: One of Tiger Woods's alleged mistresses says the superstar golfer was in bed with her the night his father, Earl, died on May 3, 2006.

I didn't know that Mr. Woods has been compared to Mahatma Gandhi.

Robert Wright said in Slate, July 24, 2000:

"...Earl Woods, pressed to justify his belief that his son could have greater humanitarian influence than Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, or the Buddha, explained that Tiger "has a larger forum than any of them. Because he's playing a sport that's international."...

...It is not crazy to suggest that Tiger Woods' discipline and unity of purpose—year-to-year, day-to-day, second-to-second—has been matched by only a few people, including Gandhi. Of course, the two men's goals differ. Gandhi was devoted to human understanding and world peace. Tiger is devoted to being the best ball-whacker ever. But give him time. Maybe he'll branch out."

Maybe he'll branch out. Maybe he will help solve Kashmir problem.

But today, if the allegations are true, a 'sorry' episode in Gandhi's life, and not human understanding or world peace, have brought them together.

Here is how Gandhi describes it in his autobiography or 'The Story of my experiments with truth' (1927):

"...It was 10.30 or 11 p.m. I was giving the massage. My uncle offered to relieve me. I was glad and went straight to the bed-room.

My wife, poor thing, was fast asleep. But how could she sleep when I was there? I woke her up. In five or six minutes, however, the servant knocked at the door. I started with alarm. "Get up," he said, "Father is very ill." I knew of course that he was very ill, and so I guessed what "very ill" meant at that moment. I sprang out of bed.

"What is the matter ? Do tell me !" "Father is no more." So all was over ! I had but to wring my hands. I felt deeply ashamed and miserable. I ran to my father"s room. I saw that, if animal passion had not blinded me, I should have been spared the torture of separation from my father during his last moments. I should have been massaging him, and he would have died in my arms. But now it was my uncle who had had this privilege...

...The shame, to which I have referred in a foregoing chapter, was this shame of my carnal desire even at the critical hour of my father"s death, which demanded wakeful service. It is a a blot I have never been able to efface or forget, and I have always thought that, although my devotion to my parents knew no bounds and I would have given up anything for it, yet it was weighed and found unpardonably wanting becuase my mind was at the same moment in the grip of lust.

I have therefore always regarded myself as a lustful, though a faithful, husband. It took me long to get free from the shackles of lust, and I had to pass through many ordeals before I could overcome it..."

Gandhi was a 'lustful, though a faithful, husband'. And Tiger?

James Surowiecki says in The New Yoker December 21, 2009:

"...In other words, Woods has been presented as the embodiment of bourgeois virtues: dedication, hard work, single-mindedness...

For millions of people—many of them, to be sure, affluent middle-aged white guys—Woods embodied an approach not just to golf but to life..."

Maybe this 'embodiment of bourgeois virtues such as dedication, hard work, single-mindedness' just slept in the wrong apartment. One more time...


Artist: P C Vey, The New Yorker, March 2008

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dilip Chitre, We'll always have Tukaram

Ashok Shahane: "Dilip Purushottam Chitre had to incarnate to tell even the poets here that Tukaram was a poet to the bone." [Napeksha, 2005]

(अशोक शहाणे: "तुकाराम हाडाचा कवी होता हे इथल्या कवींनाच सांगण्यासाठीसुद्धा दिलीप पुरुषोत्तम चित्रे अवतरावे लागले." (नपेक्षा))

It's hard to believe this but it is true. It's similar to explaining 20th century playwrights that Shakespeare was a playwright to the bone!

Chitre chooses this poem of Tukaram for the last section "Farewell to Being" (असण्याचा निरोप) in his book "Punha Tukaram" (पुन्हा तुकाराम).

सकळ ही माझी बोळवण करा ।
परतोनि घरा जावें तुह्मीं ॥1॥

कर्मधर्में तुह्मां असावें कल्याण ।
घ्या माझें वचन आशीर्वाद ॥ध्रु।॥

वाढवूनि दिलों एकाचिये हातीं ।
सकळ निश्चिंती जाली तेथें ॥2॥

आतां मज जाणें प्राणेश्वरासवें ।
माझिया भावें अनुसरलों ॥3॥

वाढवितां लोभ होइऩल उसीर ।
अवघींच स्थिर करा ठायीं ॥4॥

धर्म अर्थ काम जाला एके ठायीं ।
मेळविला जिंहीं हाता हात ॥5॥

तुका ह्मणे आतां जाली हे चि भेटी ।
उरल्या त्या गोष्टी बोलावया ॥6॥


I wonder if anyone else in the world has ever said such moving farewell words. Nice try Humphrey Bogart though.

(They remind me of my last meeting with my mother. I could never say it but 'Aai, We'll always have Miraj'.)

Following picture of great Saul Steinberg has appeared on this blog before. There I imagined that it depicted how Namdev (नामदेव) created the myth of Lord Vitthal.

Here I see: D P Chitre painting the image of his great forebear Tukaram, complete with a horn in his mouth, for anyone who could read either Marathi, English or German, and Tukaram in turn places a wreath on Chitre's head for a job well done!


Artist: Saul Steinberg, The New Yorker, Jan 6 1962

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dilip Chitre's Bhopal Gas Tragedy

How much does the brute force of history change the quality of an artist's output?

How much role did the famines of first half of 17th century play in Tukaram's life to make him what he became? How much did the tragedy of Bhopal affect Chitre, the artist?

Chitre's e-mail to me on August 6 2009:

"Dear Aniruddha,

...To compare Bhopal 1984 with Mumbai 26/11 is not wholly unproductive. Innocent citizens of Bhopal didn't know they were at war with the giant Union Carbide corporation and that both the Union and the State government had welcomed the huge plant.

I am too close to the tragedy as it mentally maimed my only son, probably made an impact on my daughter-in-law and their six months old foetus that survived the nightmare now 25 and healthy).

best,

Dilip Chitre

My mail, after his (last?) surgery, to which he was responding:

Dear Shri. Chitre,

Hope you have now fully recovered.

Sorry for this intrusion but here is a post on my blog, comparing Bhopal Gas Tragedy and Mumbai Attacks, I wanted to share with you.

http://searchingforlaugh.blogspot.com/2009/08/idea-of-justice-warren-anderson.html

best,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dilip Chitre: Marathi speaking Leonardo da Vinci?

George Orwell on Mark Twain: "But most people who have studied his work have come away with a feeling that he might have done something more." (Mark Twain -- The Licensed Jester)

Chitre helped organise an event to observe the first death anniversary of Arun Kolatkar (अरुण कोलटकर) in September 2005.

I attended it.

It was an informal gathering, almost the exact opposite of the one I described earlier: Vinda Karandikar's book release function.

It was chaotic. A lot more younger people. Mobile phones kept ringing loudly the whole evening.

Number of people spoke on Kolatkar. Fighting back tears, I too piled on.

Maybe Kolatkar would have liked it that way! Chitre certainly seemed to enjoy!

There I saw a short-film made by Chitre on Kolatkar. It was made when Kolatkar was terminally ill.

Later I read someone complaining that Chitre didn't write something 'great' on Kolatkar when he died. He couldn't have. His creative juices had already oozed out in the form of the film.

Kolatkar will probably be remembered as a better poet than Chitre. I don't know why but I thought Chitre wanted to be a lot more than just a poet.

Sometimes I thought he was not entirely happy being just Tukaram's great follower. He wanted to be in Tukaram's league! Perhaps Marathi speaking Leonardo da Vinci?

He may not have succeeded but what an ambition! In Robert Browning's words:

"...He would not discount life, as fools do here,
Paid by instalment.
He ventured neck or nothing-heaven's success
Found, or earth's failure:.."

Chitre seemed to have almost given up writing poetry for a long time while Kolatkar sought new horizons with a masterly work like Bhijaki Vahi (भिजकी वही) in his final years. (Kolatkar himself was creatively very ambitious. He wanted to be a figure like Bob Dylan and learnt to play Pakhavaj in later years of his life.)

I thought they two were like Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray. You take your pick.

In the passing of this duo, Marathi culture has seen the fall of two citadels. Our rugged landscape is poorer for it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dilip Chitre and A Theory of Poetry

In September 2005, I wrote to Dilip Chitre:

"I recently came across "The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry" by Harold Bloom which you may well know about.

In this Bloom has likened the modern poet to Satan in Milton's 'Paradise Lost'.

Just as Satan fought to assert his individuality by defying the perfection of God, so must the modern poet engage in an Oedipal struggle to define himself in relation to Shakespeare, Dante and other masters.

The effort is ultimately futile because no poet can hope to approach, let alone surpass, the perfection of such forebears. Modern poets are all essentially tragic figures, latecomers.

Bloom's "strong poets" accept the perfection of their predecessors and yet strive to transcend it through various subterfuges, including a subtle misreading of the predecessors' work; only by so doing can modern poets break free of the stultifying influence of the past.

...I realized how well you have explained this in relation to Marathi literature. Surely Keshvsut, Balkavi are probably not even "latecomers" vis-a-vis Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar. And we struggle to define even Mardhekar and Kolatkar - "latecomers" or not even that?..."

Chitre replied:

"Several years ago (1970), I wrote a monograph on Milton for a Gujarati series of books---Parichay Pustakavali.

I interpreted Milton's epic there in relation with Milton's sympathy and support for Oliver Cromwell, suggesting him that Milton's Satan was a puritan republican rising against the very idea of monarchy.

Your letter reminded me of that.

Thank you for your generous words for my introduction to Punha Tukaram..."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dilip Chitre's Ardh Satya

Ardh Satya (1983) is a very good movie based on Shree Da Panwalkar's (श्री दा पानवलकर) story from the collection "Surya" (सूर्य).

(When I read the story, I thought the movie was better although the equation is not as uneven as that of the two versions of 'The Godfather', one by Mario Puzo and the other by Francis Ford Coppola.

Panwalkar wrote a book- 'Shooting' (शूटिंग) based on his experience with the making of the movie. I didn't much like this book. I expected the book to be more intense but I guess it reflects the essential chaos of making a Hindi film rather than what the final product conveys to us inside a theatre.

On the other hand, I have read elsewhere how Om Puri broke down and sobbed uncontrollably shooting a scene with Smita Patil. Ms. Patil pressed his hand to console him etc...)

Chitre has left an indelible stamp on the movie with his poem 'Ardh Satya'. It sets up the movie nicely.

एक पलड़े में नपुंसकता,
एक पलड़े में पौरुष,
और ठीक तराजू के कांटे पर,
अर्ध सत्य

Quality of these words reminds me of Shailendra and Sahir.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Evening of September 3 2003- Dilip Chitre followed by Vinda Karandikar

In September 2003, Dilip Chitre organized the release of VINDA KARANDIKAR’s (विंदा करंदीकर) the then latest book of poems -‘ASHTADARSHANE’ (अष्टदर्शने)- at ‘The Pathfinder’, Pune.

I was lucky to attend the event. It was like a Jazz concert.

Chitre's e-mail invitation said: "...This event is open to the public on a first-come-first-served basis and there are NO SEAT RESERVATIONS for the invited guests..." (Chitre was probably the most technology-savvy Indian artist of his generation. More on this in future posts.)

I sat in the first row. No one asked me to move.

Chitre made a small but moving speech where he compared Vinda to Sant Eknath(संत एकनाथ).

I though how appropriate considering Eknath's:

"जगाचिये नेत्री दिसे तो संसारी, परी तो अंतरी स्फटिक शुद्ध" ("In the world's eyes he looks ordinary married man but inside he is crystal pure.")

That was followed by reading by Vinda of his selected ‘reflective’ poems. The poem based on imaginary meeting of Tukaram and Shakespeare was among them. (Go to the end of this post to read it in Marathi in full.)

After the event I congratulated Chitre on the wonderful event. He just shrugged.

[The only jarring note in the entire function came from Dr. Sadanand More सदानंद मोरे, highly respected scholar of Tukaram, who presided over the function.More trashed British philosophers saying they were deservedly not included by Vinda.

It was unnecessary.

According to Schopenhauer, "There is more to be learned from each page of David Hume than from the collected philosophical works of Hegel, Herbart, and Schleiermacher taken together." (source- Wikipedia)]

Albert Einstein wrote that he was inspired by Hume's positivism when formulating his Special Theory of Relativity. (source- Wikipedia)

Immanuel Kant wrote that David Hume aroused him from dogmatic slumber. (source- "Stray Dogs" by John Gray)

Schopenhauer, Hegel, Kant are among Vinda's chosen eight while Hume is not.)

Returning to Chitre on Vinda, what he didn't say in the speech but said on his blog, on Vinda's 90th birthday:

"...August 23 is the birthday of Vinda alias Govind Vinayak Karandikar. Today he is exactly ninety years old. I spoke with him a little while ago on the phone as he is one of my many 'Gurus' in poetry as well as in life. I reviewed his second collection of Marathi poems in 1954 when I hadn't yet graduated from high school. My review was published by the then leading Marathi cultural weekly Mouj.

Vinda was so excited by my appreciation of his poetry that he wrote me a postcard using every millimetre of its scant space and invited me to see him in person at his residence in Mahim, a suburb of Mumbai. In the event we met, he a person twenty-one years older than me, and I just deciding that poetry and the fine arts were my true vocation. I took admission in the Ramnarain Ruia College in Matunga, Mumbai where he had recently joined as a lecturer in English.

For my B.A. I chose English Literature as my major subject. Vinda taught us English prosody for our Honours degree. He came from the Konkan coast of Maharashtra and his English accent was influenced by his Marathi dialect. Students who came from English medium schools made fun of him for his quaint English accent and his whimsical style of teaching. But they also held him in awe partly because his grasp of prosody and partly because of his booming voice that went far beyond the classroom.

As a reader of poetry from a platform---whether in Marathi or in English---Vinda is unique. He is a performer who browbeats his audience with a thundering and sometimes melodramatic voice. Quite theatrical, he injures his own tender and delicately nuanced phrases and lines with an aggressive pitch and volume. However, he is loved by Marathi audiences and readers, and when he recently won the Jnanpith Award the whole of Maharashtra was ecstatic.

A.K. Ramanujan, Ramesh Sarkar, and Vilas Sarang have translated some of his poems into English; as have I, and Arun Kolatkar, though Kolatkar's translations cannot, unfortunately, be traced.

I wish him a long life. He would be able to use it well. He has donated the amounts received as literary awards to ngos and individuals doing social work. The longer he lives, the longer they all will be able to work in the public interest!"

विंदा करंदीकर:

तुकोबांच्या भेटी शेक्सपिअर आला ।।
तो झाला सोहळा। दुकानात.
जाहली दोघांची उराउरी भेट
उरातलें थेट उरामध्ये
तुका म्हणे "विल्या। तुझे कर्म थोर;
अवघाचि संसार उभा केला।।"
शेक्सपीअर म्हणे एक ते राहिले;
तुका जे पाहिले विटेवरी."
तुका म्हणे, "बाबा ते त्वां बरे केले,
त्याने तडे गेले। संसाराला;
विठठ्ल अट्टल, त्याची रीत न्यारी
माझी पाटी कोरी लिहोनिया."
शेक्सपीअर म्हणे तुझ्या शब्दामुळे
मातीत खेळले शब्दातीत
तुका म्हणे गड्या वृथा शब्दपीट
प्रत्येकाची वाट वेगळाली
वेगळिये वाटे वेगळिये काटे;
काट्यासंगे भेटे पुन्हा तोच.
ऐक ऐक वाजे घंटा ही मंदिरी।
कजागीण घरी वाट पाहे."
दोघे निघोनिया गेले दोन दिशां
कवतिक आकाशा आवरेना

Thursday, December 10, 2009

दिलीप चित्र्या, भेंचोद, तू खेचलस मला तुकारामाच्या दलदलीत

One of the best books ever written in any Indian language is "Punha Tukaram" (पुन्हा तुकाराम) by Dilip Purushottam Chitre (दिलीप पुरुषोत्तम चित्रे), 1990.

After reading it, I was hooked onto by Marathi poet-saints. There would be no escape from it since. I realised what I had missed in my earlier years.

And therefore I say: "Dilip Chitrya, sister-fucker, you dragged me into Tukaram's quagmire." ("दिलीप चित्र्या, भेंचोद, तू खेचलस मला तुकारामाच्या दलदलीत.")

Don't be appalled by the profanity.

I am just paraphrasing what Chitre himself famously wrote in the first line of a poem at the age of seventeen:

"Tukaram vanya, sister-fucker, you dragged me into quagmire of Marathi language." (तुकाराम वाण्या, भेंचोद, तू खेचलंस मला मराठी भाषेच्या दलदलीत.)

For an ordinary man like me Tukaram was up there. Chitre let me climb over his shoulders and allowed me to have a good look at him.

Thank you, Chitre-sir. The view(दर्शन) will last for the rest of my life.

For other posts, from this blog, on Chitre, who passed away on December 10 2009, click here.

I have had number of interactions with Chitre. Less in person, more in cyberspace. More on them later.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

घुमट मशिदी मनोहर

For last few Monday nights, I have watched, on National Geographic Channel, six-part series 'Apocalypse: The Second World War'.

It's gruesome.

If there was any pride left in me at being borne a human instead of a cockroach, it's now purged. (I say a roach and not a spider. Why? Read here)

No wonder Stefan Zweig committed suicide.

Has all of Europe learnt the right lessons from the war?

Switzerland voters recently approved a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets on Muslim places of worship.

So technically, the Swiss can't have The Taj Mahal!

PETER STAMM wrote on Dec 5 2009 NYT:

"...We Swiss sacrificed our good standing as a multicultural and open-minded society to ban the construction of minarets that no one intends to build in order to defend ourselves against an Islam that has never existed in Switzerland..."

Some Swiss think minarets look like missiles.

Instead of Jaundiced eye, we should now say Swiss eye!


Although to our eternal shame, we Indians brought down the Babri Mosque in 1992, I am happy to note that no rabid Hindu fundamentalist has asked for something as crazy as a ban on the construction of minarets.

A lot of things are, these days, said and done to minorities, in the name of Shivaji, who was one of the most tolerant and cultured ruler the world has known. The capital of his kingdom was Fort Raigad and the temple of Jagdishwar is located there.

D G Godse writes: "Builders of Jagdishwar temple on Raigad did not feel shy of employing Islamic architecture in its construction..." ('shakti soushthav', 1972)

(द ग गोडसे: "रायगडावरचे जगदीश्वराचे मंदिरसुद्धा थाटघाटात यावनी दर्ग्याच्या घराण्याचे दिसते ते मंदिराला दर्ग्याचा घाट देण्यास, मंदिर बंधणारांना त्या काळी कोणताही संकोच वाटला नाही म्हणून..." 'शक्ति सौष्ठव', १९७२)


Jagdishwar Temple, Fort Raigad

The Taj (completed c1653) and Jagdishwar temple were built around the same time. In a letter to D G Godse, I asked him: "When Shivaji visited Agra in 1666, he most likely saw The Taj. If he did, what did he likely think of it?".

Godse felt The Taj and Raigad were very beautiful in their own way. A sensitive person like Shivaji would have appreciated the beauty of both.

For me, mosques and minarets were never eyesores. On the other hand, perhaps like Samarth Ramdas (समर्थ रामदास), I have found "domes, mosques pleasing" (घुमट मशिदी मनोहर).

My native Miraj had plenty of them.

In winter, at dawn, I liked azan (the Islamic call to prayer) as much as early morning devotional singing (काकड आरती) that was done in the nearby Vithoba temple or Bhakti-sangeet that my mother tuned into or the sound of train whistle that proved the Doppler effect.

Much before I saw the Taj, as a 13-year old when I saw Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur, I was awestruck.


Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Pu Shi Rege, a Yaksha, Leads Upward and On

Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे) spoke very warmly about him in November 2009 when he visited us.

Ashok Shahane says: "...imposed dejection has not touched his poems." [Napeksha, 2005] (अशोक शहाणे: "...बळजबरीने लादल्या गेलेल्या निराशेचा ह्यांच्या कवितेला स्पर्शही झालेला नाही." [नपेक्षा])

I am talking about Pu Shi Rege (पु शि रेगे) whose birth centenary falls next year.

(btw- Year 2009-10 is rich with centenaries. Watch this space for my favourites Baburao Arnalkar बाबूराव अर्नाळकर, N G Kalelkar ना गो कालेलकर & D K Bedekar दि के बेडेकर to make maiden and Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत & Setu Madhavrao Pagadi सेतु माधवराव पगडी to make one more appearance on this blog.)

I have just finished reading, for the first time, his novella 'Matruka' (मातृका),1978.

I found it quite good, certainly the part that takes place in India i.e. first 39 of 70 chapters spanning 80 of 136 pages.

I wish I read it in my adolescence. Very sensuous. In any case, for me: a cigar is never just a cigar!

Vilas Sarang (विलास सारंग) has written an excellent but not very favourable review of it in two essays that are included in his book: 'aksharaanchaa shram kelaa', 2000 (अक्षरांचा श्रम केला). (Sarang has helped me a lot in my quest to access literature. Some of it has already appeared on this blog earlier. More will come later.)

Rege's dedication reads:

"Das Ewig-Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan."
Goethe, Faust II

Thanks to Google, I now know the meaning:

"Eternal womanhood
Leads upward and on."

D G Godse (द ग गोडसे) wrote an essay on Pu Shi Rege after his death: '...Ek Yaksha' (...एक यक्ष), included in his book 'Nangi Asalele Phulpapharu' (नांगी असलेले फुलपाखरू), 1989. (Read more about Godse's book here.)

Godse and Rege worked together on the team that produced Marathi magazine Chhand (छंद) which was dedicated to the subject of arts. Like most Marathi magazines, it died long ago.

Going by Godse's description of how a typical issue of Chhand was produced, it must have been exhilarating stuff...reminding us of what John Maynard Keynes has said: "...nothing mattered except states of mind... timeless, passionate states of contemplation...one's prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge. Of these, love came a long way first...We were among the last of the Utopians...we repudiated all versions of original sin...”

Godse thought Rege was a Yaksha who inhabited the earth for a few years before he went back to his abode...to once again return to the earth.

"...ते एक यक्ष आहेत. यक्ष गंधर्वांची सवेंदनक्षमता अशी सूक्ष्म असते असे म्हणतात. बांध्याने स्थूल पण तेवढेच चपळ. आकाराने ठस-ठोम्बस तेवढेच सूक्ष्म... आणि सालस, भाबडे तेवढेच मिश्किल. लेण्यांतून तथागतांच्या अथवा देवाधिदेवांच्या भोवताली असलेल्या गर्दीतून हळूच डोकवाणारे. कधी आकाशातून पुष्पवृष्टी करणारे, कधी कमलनाल तर कधी चवरी धरलेले, कधी मृदंग घुमाविणारे तर कधी वीणा छेडणारे. कधी भीक्कूंच्या मेळाव्यात तर कधी शिवगणांच्या गर्दीत. असे हरकामी आणि बहुरूपी. स्वछंदी आणि अनंतफंदी! लेणी पाहताना सहसा त्यांच्याकडे कोणाचे लक्ष जात नाही, पण जवळ जाऊन न्याहाळले तर त्यांचे अनोखे मिश्किल व्यक्तिमत्व चटकन मनात भरते.

आज वाटते, याच यक्ष-गन्धर्व-विद्याधरांतला एक काही वर्षे आमच्यात राहून परत आपल्या लेण्यात गेला...कधी काळी पुन्हा परत येण्याकरिता."



Although, I have embedded this beautiful image of a Yaksha here, I wish I did better.

Godse's essay talks about the portrait he did of Rege. The portrait apparently hung very proudly in Rege's house for a number of years. I don't know if I will ever get to see it.

'Matruka''s back-cover carries Rege's photo. The image reinforces Godse's contention of his resemblance to Yaksha but I wish it carried Godse's portrait instead.

Do we love our artists enough?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

B S Mardhekar is Now 100

Had he lived, B S Mardhekar (बा. सी. मर्ढेकर) would have turned 100 on Dec 1, 2009.

(btw- Year 2009-10 is rich with centenaries. Watch this space for my favourites Baburao Arnalkar बाबूराव अर्नाळकर, N G Kalelkar ना गो कालेलकर & D K Bedekar दि के बेडेकर to make maiden and Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत & Setu Madhavrao Pagadi सेतु माधवराव पगडी to make one more appearance on this blog.)

Mardhekar has been this blog's favourite.

See previous entries on him here.

My love for him has diminished slightly in last few years.

It's largely because of the late M V Dhond (म वा धोंड).

Although Dhond has done more than any other to interpret Mardhekar for us, he rated him far lower than the Marathi saint poets. On phone with me, Dhond was almost dismissive of Mardhekar when I spoke reverently about him.

W H Auden and T S Eliot, Mardhekar's idols, were great poets of 20th century. He too was a very good poet but greatness certainly eluded him.

I am not complaining though. I am happy with his 'shadja'(षड्ज) that is lower but smiling.

अस्थाईवर पुन्हा परतलों,
चुकून गेला पहा अंतरा;
ढिल्या गळ्यावर षड्ज बांधणें
अतां खालचा परंतु हंसरा.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Godse Bhataji's Day-Night Game of Cricket at Jhansi in 1858!

Wikipedia informs: "The British brought cricket to India in the early 1700s, with the first cricket match being played in 1721. In 1848, the Parsi community in Bombay formed the Oriental Cricket Club, the first cricket club to be established by Indians. After slow beginnings, the Europeans eventually invited the Parsis to play a match in 1877..."

In 1827c, Godse Bhataji aka Vishnubhat Godse (गोडसे भटजी / विष्णुभट गोडसे) was borne in a poor Brahmin family in Varsai (वरसई), which is now in district of Raigad, Maharashtra. His book 'Maza pravas' (माझा प्रवास), published in 1883, is a first travelogue in Marathi.

It remains one of the best Marathi books that have been published in last one twenty-five years.

In March 1858, Godse was in Jhansi. There he saw first hand the battle between the forces of British and Rani Lakshmibai, ruler of Jhansi.

I wonder if anyone knows if and when Godse saw a game of cricket. Or indeed participated in one. Or did he just hear about it? Was the colour of the ball red in those days?

He refers to cricket as 'chenduphalii' (चेंडुफळी) in following passage that describes exchange of shells on the third day of the battle.

"...दिवसा सूर्याचे तेजामुळे गोळे दिसत नसत. या मुळे लोक फार ख़राब होत असत. रात्रौ स्पष्ट चेंडुफळीचे खेलाप्रो। ते लाल दिसत..."

("...during the day because of Sun's brightness shells couldn't be seen. Many people used to suffer because of that. In the night, they looked distinctly, like in a game of cricket, red...")

Looks like it was a day-night cricket match!

Appealing against the bad light or against the unfairness of the British Raj was as hopeless as in the picture below.

Eventually Jhansi fell. British forces plundered it. Godse's description of the Empire's cruelty is heartwrenching.


Artist: Mike Williams, June 1 1977, Punch Magazine

Caption reads: 'We'd like to appeal against the light.'

Please visit http://www.punchcartoons.com for more fun.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Batman in Marathi: Wagle. Nikhil Wagle.

I miss Marathi version of Phantom: Vetal वेताळ. Read more about it here.

I don't think Batman has ever has been translated in Marathi. Not that lovingly anyway.

If I were to attempt it, I would translate 'Batman' in Marathi as 'Wagle'; in Devanagari: 'वागळे'.

Mr.Bal Thackeray's newspaper 'Saamna' derisively called Nikhil Wagle, the editor of a Marathi news-channel IBN-Lokmat आयबीएन-लोकमत , 'vatwaghaLe' (वटवाघळे).

It's a pun on Wagle's name. In Marathi, 'vatwaghaLe' means bats. It becomes a taunt because in popular Marathi culture bats don't get much respect.

Now they should.

I don't like majority of Indian electronic media and print media. I particularly dislike journalism of Wagle's boss: Rajdeep Sardesai and Times Now's Arnab Goswami. (I often imagine how Jon Stewart would have handled these two if he were in India.)

But I admire the courage of Nikhil Wagle. It reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagrahis.

By saying this, perhaps I am thrusting too much of greatness on him. However, like the protagonist of R K Narayan's "The Guide", he deserves it in the end.

(By the way, taking financial risks, Wagle has published some excellent Marathi books.)

Wagle is brave. Like Raju-the-guide. Like Batman.

But I don't understand why IBN-Lokmat's tagline reads "चला, जग जिंकूया!!!" ("Come, let us conquer the world!!!".) What has journalism even to remotely do with 'conquering of the world'?

(Even a publication like 'The Economist' would go for a tagline like: "Come, let US conquer the world!!!")!

But now that I find Batman-like quality in Wagle, maybe the tagline makes sense. He really wants to conquer the world.



Artist: Danny Shanahan, The New Yorker, June 12 1995

My caption:

"I do love you, but I love you as a Shiv Sena fighter."

Monday, November 23, 2009

And my son has watched a lot of Sanjay Raut, Shirish Parkar, Abu Azmi, Vinayak Mete...

विनोबा भावे Vinoba Bhave:

"सबंध ज्ञानेश्वरीमध्ये तुम्हाला एकही कठोर शब्द सापडणार नाही...आमच्या साहित्याच्या उगमस्थानी इतके मार्दव आहे ही फार मोठी आनंदाची गोष्ट आहे..."

"You will not find a single hard word in the entire Dnyaneshwari...such tenderness lies at the beginning of our literature is a matter of great happiness..."

(विनोबा सारस्वत "Vinoba Saraswat" edited by राम शेवाळकर Ram Shewalkar 1987)

My 15 year old son and I watched, on Nov 20 2009, the violence that took place in IBN-Lokmat's, Mumbai studio and its aftermath.

On Nov 21, he put up his worst ever behaviour with his mother.

Was it just a coincidence?

Roger Scruton says:

"...It has been known for 20 or more years that television induces mental disorders, such as enhanced aggression, shortened attention span and reduced ability to communicate, and that these disorders involve an even greater social cost than the obesity and lethargy that are TV’s normal physical side-effects. Research by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Robert Kubey has shown that television is also addictive, setting up pathways to pleasure that demand constant reinforcement. As a threat to the nation’s health, it stands far higher than alcohol, drugs or tobacco, and the worry is that it may be too late to do anything about it, since the addiction is all but universal...

...When children are distracted by a flickering screen from the earliest age and never encouraged to explore the real world, they will not develop the capacity to communicate with other humans, or to cope with the stresses of real encounters. They will take the short way out, which is not the way of communication but of aggression...

...But that is not how television is used. It is a constant flickering presence that competes for attention with all the necessary goings-on of everyday life. Over the years, as its impact has stalled, it has had recourse to ever more vulgar colours, ever grosser language and ever more mesmerising facial close-ups..."

Authors of Superfreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner argue:

"...Our claim is that children who grew up watching a lot of TV, even the most innocuous family- friendly shows, were more likely to engage in crime when they got older..."

My son is not very familiar with Dnyaneshwari but has watched not just "the most innocuous family-friendly shows" but a lot of Sanjay Raut, Shirish Parkar, Abu Azmi, Vinayak Mete...


'Sorry about the language when I came home last night, Mum — it was just the drink talking.'

courtesy: Spectator

Was it the drink talking or TV?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sachin Tendulkar is the Greatest Sportsman ever NOW!

Friedrich Nietzsche: "We mine the past for myths to buttress our present."

Michael Crichton: "Because the past is the only alternative to the corporate present."

Margaret Visser: “Gratitude is always a matter of paying attention, of deliberately beholding and appreciating the other.”


ROD LIDDLE:

"This is the generation (born between 1955 and 1985), which has bequeathed to the world reality television, the cult of the celebrity, first-person confessional journalism and the mass hysterical emoting at the funerals of people they have never met, let alone known. I suppose, if we were to grope for a reason, we might say that it was the first generation for a very long time which lived without the depredations of war and thus the prospect of imminent death; which threw off the notion of a higher authority than itself and was schooled in the art of self-expression rather than the acquisition of knowledge."

In Indian context, we could say: it was the first generation for a very long time which lived without the fear of hunger and thus the prospect of death by starvation.

The past week belonged to media frenzy on completion of twenty years by Sachin Tendulkar in international cricket. (I still vividly remember his first day.)

They say Sachin Tendulkar is very humble despite being the richest cricketer in the history of the game.

Maybe he is.

But humility is not just about how you treat your servants, the words you choose or your body language.

It is also about how you show respect for the absent, for the past.

Last week news television (led by The Times of India's and Times NOW's Boria Majumdar) showed no respect to the absent or the past.

Michael Crichton sums up neatly:

"...Jennifer had no interest in the past; she was one of the new generation that understood that gripping television was NOW, events happening NOW, a flow of images in a perpetual unending electronic present. Context by its very nature required something more than NOW, and her interest did not go beyond NOW. Nor, she thought, did anyone else's. The past was dead and gone. Who cared what you ate yesterday? What you did yesterday? What was immediate and compelling was NOW.

And television at its best was NOW..."

(Airframe, 1996)

When anchor after anchor kept telling Tendulkar how he was the greatest of them all, I never heard Tendulkar saying that perhaps Don Bradman, Garry Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar, Wasim Akram or Kapil Dev and a few more were greater cricketers than him.

...that Dhyan Chand and Viswanathan Anand were the greatest sportsmen India produced.

...that since his debut in November 1989, India has not won either an ODI world-cup or a tournament like Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket.

...that India has still not beaten Australia and South Africa, in a test series, on their own turfs, and although India beat West Indies in a Test series on his watch, he was not part of that squad. (He was a member of the Test teams that beat Pakistan-first time in history of Indian cricket- and England on their own soils.)

...that back then there were no helmets and fancy protective gears and/or batsmen played on uncovered wickets and/or bowlers followed back-foot no-ball rule.

...that since there were no ODI's earlier, the interviewer should compare another cricket player's first-class record against his own first-class record. Also please note that Jack Hobbs was cricket's most prolific batsman because, in 29 years, he scored 61,237 first-class runs and 197 centuries.

...that his predecessors found motivation to compete fiercely and risk their lives (remember Nari Contractor or Jimmy Amarnath or neighbour Eknath Solkar at forward-short-leg without helmet?) even though there was hardly any money to be made by playing.

He should have said any/all of this even if he didn't mean it.

Instead his expressions reminded me of the late Om Prakash from a scene in 'Chupke Chupke'(1975) where Dharmendra praises him, comparing him to 'naya dulha' Amitabh Bachchan.

I understand that Tendulkar doesn't have a gift of gab like Sunil Gavaskar but he surely could have tried.

Read here how Gary Lineker appreciates Diego Maradona.

Read here how Michael Atherton bids farewell to Muttiah Muralitharan.

Read Sunil Gavaskar's book "Idols".

Read Garry Kasparov's series of books "My Great Predecessors".

Listen to Kumar Gandharva's tribute to Bal Gandharva: "Mala umajalele Bal Gandharva".

Graham Greene on how he compares with the past masters:

"Well, there is no such thing as success. The priest can't hope to become a saint- or else it's an illusory dream which vanishes with time; the writer can't hope to write a book equal those of Tolstoy, Dickens or Balzac. He might have dared to believe in the possibility at the outset, but his books always carry a flaw somewhere."

('The Other Man: Conversations with Graham Greene', Marie-Francoise Allain,1981)


‘Own up, Narcissus, you’re responsible for this graffiti, aren’t you?’

Courtesy: Spectator

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why did Marathi speaking two Girishes take Oaths in Sanskrit?

"...ज्ञानेश्वरापास्नं तुकरामापर्यन्तचा काळ म्हणजे मराठीनं ऐसपैस पसरलेले पाय. आता ही भाषा जवळ जवळ काहीही पेलायला तयार झाली होती..."

अशोक शहाणे Ashok Shahane (नपेक्षा, Napeksha 2005)

("...In the period from Dnyaneshwar (1275-1296) to Tukaram (? -c1650) Marathi comfortably spread its legs. Now this language was ready to bear almost anything...")

Sheldon Pollock, EPW, 26th July 2008:

"...Sanskrit, for D D Kosambi, was a language that had lost all contact with the sensuous world of “real life” in ancient India (some lives being apparently more real than others); it was purely an instrument of elite power and “legitimisation” of power...

...As for the Sanskrit poets themselves, their work “necessarily” carried the stamp of parasitism and decay. This prohibited them from ever addressing “major problems of the individual spirit” or of humanity at large, and it condemned their works and biographies to near oblivion..."

Despite this, on November 10 2009, Girish Bapat & Girish Mahajan, two newly elected Maharashtra lawmakers, whose mother tongue is presumably Marathi, unlike that of Abu Azmi, chose to take their oaths of office in Sanskrit even when it was objected to-initially at least-by pro-tem speaker Ganpatrao Deshmukh. (Times of India)

Why?

Reviewing "THE HINDUS/ An Alternative History" by Wendy Doniger, PANKAJ MISHRA says:

"...In fact, most Indians in the 18th century knew no Sanskrit, the language exclusive to Brahmins. For centuries, they remained unaware of the hymns of the four Vedas or the idealist monism of the Upanishads that the German Romantics, American Transcendentalists and other early Indophiles solemnly supposed to be the very essence of Indian civilization...

...In “privileging” Sanskrit over local languages, she writes, they created what has proved to be an enduring impression of a “unified Hinduism.” And they found keen collaborators among upper-caste Indian scholars and translators. This British-Brahmin version of Hinduism — one of the many invented traditions born around the world in the 18th and 19th centuries — has continued to find many takers among semi-Westernized Hindus suffering from an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the apparently more successful and organized religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam..."

Meanwhile, how is Marathi doing?

विनोबा भावे:

"...आपल्याकडे मराठीत जी भाषा रूढ झाली आहे ती अगदी प्रखर, हाणून पाडणारी, मारक, बोचक, दाहक, अशी आहे. आणि हे सर्व सुमारे ७0-८० वर्षातले अलीकडचे जे मराठी साहित्य आहे त्यामध्ये दिसून येते...जसा एखादा काचेचा पेला जमिनीवर आपटला म्हणजे त्याचे तुकडे तुकडे होतात. त्याप्रमाणे महाराष्ट्रामध्ये कोणत्याही प्रश्नाचे तुकडेच होतात. इथे शाबूद प्रश्न राहतच नाही...शब्दामध्येच सर्व असलेनसलेले भाव ओतून पराक्रमाच्या क्षेत्रामध्ये आम्ही फिके पडत चाललो आहोत..." (c 1950)

(विनोबा सारस्वत "Vinoba Saraswat" edited by राम शेवाळकर Ram Shewalkar 1987)


(Vinoba Bhave: "...the Marathi language that is established amongst us is strong, biting, knocking over, killing, hot and this is all reflected in the Marathi literature of last 70-80 years...the way a glass tumbler falls and breaks into splinters, any issue in Maharashtra splits into pieces. No issue remains intact here...By pouring all our feelings in only words, we are fading in the field of bravery...")

I wonder what Vinoba would have felt had he heard fanatics and rabble-rouser of Maharashtra in year 2009.


‘Of course, I use foul language. What other language is there?’

Courtesy: Spectator

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Fall of the Wall:Camus, with help from Kafka and Molière

I don't remember what I was doing when I first heard the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. I was familiar with the wall largely because of reading of John le Carré's classic "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"(1963).

Some people say 'the fall' restored the light in Eastern Europe.

Did it?

I always felt Václav Havel was a poster boy for anti-communist brigade.

Therefore, I was surprised to read him saying:

"...It lies in human nature that where you experience your first laughs, you also remember the age kindly. Older people experienced their first joys in that time, and it shapes their remembrance today. There are objective grounds for this nostalgia because the communists cared for the individual from birth to death, something that has gone missing today..." (Newsweek, October 9, 2009)

Gerard DeGroot says:

"...In Eastern Europe, the people wanted communism's fairness but also capitalism's riches. The incongruity of those desires eventually eroded communist regimes but has since produced ironies worthy of Tolstoy. Freedom did not bring justice...

...When light was restored, East Europeans emerged not as heroes but as flawed human beings. They are indeed just like everyone else.

As Poland's Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski once warned, one gang of robbers replaced another.

"Free elections," Constantine Pleshakov concludes, "do not necessarily lead to more freedom. . . . The free market can impoverish a nation as effectively as central planning." How true.

Today, the Czech Republic is a leading producer of pornography, while Sofia and Gdansk market themselves as destinations for stag weekends. Half a million Poles live in Britain, causing the British jokingly (and not so jokingly) to complain that they should take their work ethic and go home. That's not quite the simple beauty that starry-eyed romantics in the West envisioned in 1989..." (November 1, 2009)

Did Rambo Ronald Reagan's speech on June 12, 1987:"Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" bring down the wall?

Gerard DeGroot again:

"...The real story, minus the comic book hero, is more complicated -- and interesting. Reagan still plays a role, but as diplomat, not Rambo. His contribution came in accommodation; his willingness to talk to Gorbachev gave the Soviet leader the confidence to break molds. Gorbachev, furthermore, did not tear down the wall; he merely suggested that change would be tolerated.

The events themselves were played out by a cast of thousands in Budapest, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw and Bucharest. There was no script; this was an improvisational drama conceived by Camus, with help from Kafka and Molière. The Soviet Union came to the realization that its empire was no longer affordable. Like other imperial powers, it cut and ran, leaving colonial subjects to sort things out for themselves. Chaos naturally resulted.

...Events were shaped by "the logic of human messiness." The regimes in Eastern Europe were destroyed not by monolithic force, but by myriad human beings reacting impulsively to the freedom of possibility. Watching from afar, we saw what seemed like neat little dominoes falling. In fact, what happened was as capricious, and messy, as a tornado.

Chance played a huge part..."


Artist: Robert Weber, The New Yorker, Nov 27 1989

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Do Most Soldiers Just Want to Get Home in One Piece?

Erich Maria Remarque in “All Quiet On The Western Front":

“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”

George Orwell in "Homage to Catalonia":

"One of the most horrible features of war is that the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting."

Arundhati Roy:

"...Sometimes the most rabid people calling for war, calling for Pakistan to be nuked, etc, are those who live far away, who will not have to suffer the consequences of what they're saying. You see it all the time in the Letters columns of magazines and newspapers..."

Recently in India, 10th anniversary of the Kargil war was observed. Many 'celebrated' India's 'victory' there.

On September 1, 2009, the world observed 70th anniversary of the start of the World War II.

The Greatest Generation is a term often used by Americans to describe the generation who grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II.

While reviewing "D-Day: The Battle for Normandy" by Antony Beevor, Dominic Sandbrook says:

"...Despite all the patriotic American nonsense about the "greatest generation", Beevor shows that there were remarkably few heroes. There were rarely "more than a handful of men prepared to take risks and attack," he says; most men just wanted to get home in one piece and "somebody else to play the role of hero". Surveys showed that if a few broke ranks and fled, the rest would follow; in most engagements, as many as half never fired a shot..."

(The Observer, Sunday 31 May 2009 )

JONATHAN SUMPTION on "Finest Years" by Max Hastings:

"...Max Hastings’ views about the British army in the second world war are well known, and are pungently repeated here. Its ranks were filled with ‘many men willing to do their duty, but few who sought to become heroes.’ Its leaders, with a handful of exceptions, were risk-averse blockheads, devoid of imagination or initiative..."

(Spectator, September 16, 2009)

Back home, consider the third battle of Panipat that was fought on January 14, 1761.

Many high-profile commanders of Maratha army just wanted to get home in one piece and somebody else to play the role of hero.

What about India's battles since 1947? Are they tales of only courage and bravery?

For me, Haqeeqat(1964) remains the only authentic war tale told by the Hindi cinema since 1947.


Artist: Pat Oliphant

For more pictures of Pat Oliphant click here

Monday, November 02, 2009

So oft in cultural wars, the disputants rail on in utter ignorance

John Godfrey Saxe's (1816-1887) poem on the famous Indian parable "The Blindmen and the Elephant" concludes like his:

"...And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!"

In 21st century Maharashtra, I see all around, men of Hindustan, first disputing loud and long, and then fighting 'theologic' and cultural wars, railing on in utter ignorance.

Vasant Sarwate's वसंत सरवटे cover of Lalit Diwali 2009 ललित दिवाळी is based on world famous M. C. Escher's woodcut print "Sky and Water I", first printed in June 1938.

The original print is reproduced at the end of my commentary and Sarwate's picture is embedded at the bottom of the post.

Wielding a sketch pen in one hand and a sword in the other, the artists in Sarwate's picture are ready to slit each other's throat to make their own perception prevail.

In fact, the sketch pens in their hands, which look more like spears than drawing instruments, seem so ferocious that they remind me of a chilling scene from Batman (1989) when the joker proves the adage "the pen is truly mightier than the sword"!

Killer weapons in their hands make a poignant comment on the current intolerant environment towards art (and artistic freedom) and history in Maharashtra.

No wonder Shiv Visvanathan observes: "Three great modernised societies in India — Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat — are deep in the throes of rightist groups who use bans as a way of sustaining politics."

(Some people say Bal Thackeray and Raj Thackeray are artists first and then politicos. I wonder if the two artists in the picture are them because both claim to understand "Marathi culture" better than the other.)

Have the artists from Sarwate's picture seen the "elephant"?

Commenting on his own picture Escher said: "In the horizontal center strip there are birds and fish equivalent to each other. We associate flying with sky, and so for each of the black birds the sky in which it is flying is formed by the four white fish which encircle it. Similarly swimming makes us think of water, and therefore the four black birds that surround a fish become the water in which it swims."

This print has been used in physics, geology, chemistry, and in psychology for the study of visual perception.

GILBERT ADAIR: "...M. C. Escher, the Dutch-born graphic artist whose images of endlessly diminishing birds, fish and lizards, the tiniest of them bunched up at the edges of the picture frame, constitute a remarkable approximation of the counter- intuitive results obtained by adding up an infinite series of fractions (e.g. 1+1/2+1/4+ 1/8+1/16 … equals not infinity but 2)..."

I guess it's the first time it has been used in a cartoon.

To appreciate full esthetic value of 'Sky and Water I', see a short film by National Film Board of Canada on youtube here.


Artist: M. C. Escher, "Sky and Water I", 1938


Artist: Vasant Sarwate, Lalit Diwali 2009 ललित दिवाळी

(notice Sarwate's use of colours instead of Escher's B & W, warrior on the left is made of curves and one of the right of straight lines, only top three rows have fish-water/bird-air...)

Click on the respective years to see Sarwate's covers of Lalit Diwali 2008 and 2007.

Friday, October 30, 2009

You are Not-out, David Shepherd

Watching a good cricket test match is like reading a good novel. Many actors and situations.

One such actor was the late David Shepherd.

I enjoyed watching David Shepherd as much I did watching players.

I remember a test match in Melbourne, Australia in December 1999.

It was Brett Lee's debut test.

Peter Roebuck wrote: "This was a day to remember, a day on which Brett Lee made a startling first appearance in his country's colors and Sachin Tendulkar stood alone at the crease defying formidable odds with courage and skill.

It was a glorious confrontation between old and new, mighty and promising, an expression of the great gifts of the game, the brilliance of batsmanship, the excitement of pace and the powers needed to reach the gods. Meanwhile, a superb leg-spinner (Shane Warne) also bowled with artistry and cunning as he pursued his own landmark. It wasn't a day to have stayed in bed. There haven't been many better...

...When Tendulkar reached his 100, the entire crowd rose in acclamation. His dismissal, caught on the boundary, brought the crowd to its feet a second time.
It had been the perfect day. The visiting champion had scored a century. And a new fast bowler had arrived on the scene."

That was India's first innings.

In second innings, his back against the wall, Tendulkar was playing Shane Warne beautifully but a touch nervously.

In the end Warne prevailed by getting him out LBW.

David Shepherd was the umpire. He had watched the confrontation of the two masters from the close and probably made the correct decision in the end.

While Shepherd enjoyed two masters at work, I enjoyed three!



picture courtesy: Dylan Martinez/Reuters