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."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Unclaimed $1,456 B in Swiss Banks may soon help Indian Democracy

FT reported on February 20, 2009:

“As many as 52,000 American customers hid UBS accounts from the authorities in violation of tax laws, a US government lawsuit against the Swiss bank alleged on Thursday.

The Department of Justice filed a suit seeking to force UBS to disclose the holders of accounts with about $14.8bn in assets.

… UBS reached a landmark settlement with the US government in which the Swiss bank admitted having enabled clients to evade taxes, agreed to pay $780m in fines and turn over about 250 client names to the US…”

PRAFUL BIDWAI wrote in Frontline Feb 13, 2009:

“…Indian businessmen have stashed away billions of dollars in bank accounts abroad. According to a recent report attributed to the Swiss Banking Association, the estimated amount is an astronomical $1,456 billion, higher than the deposits from all other countries put together…”

India may not get $1,456 billion but even the fine amount of $780m looks pretty good.

Timing couldn’t be better because the impending Loksabha elections will surely deplete $1,456 billion considerably.

But spare a thought for an unknown Swiss banker handling Indian accounts. He may lose part of his bonus.

(Since 2001, Mike Luckovich has drawn a few brilliant cartoons of Osama bin Laden and his partner. Here is the latest one.)



Artist: Mike Luckovich

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

M F Husain Draws Statue of Liberty in Oscar Gown

The Asian Age of Feb 24, 2009 has printed the tribute of M F Husain to A R Rahman.

Mr. Husain has drawn Statue of Liberty tastefully, in Oscar gown, wielding Tanpura. She is displaying her considerable assets alright but not nude.

I wonder if he could have shown similar taste drawing Seeta. Read more about it here.


Artist: M F Husain, The Asian Age, February 24, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crouching Housing, Hidden Sanitation and Slum Dog Billionaire

I am happy for SDM but have always felt that good art needs no certification. Rabindranath would be Rabindranath- Dnyaneshwar ज्ञानेश्वर of Bengali-without the Nobel.

A R Rahman may be very good but Indian cinema has created many similar musical giants since Kundan Lal (K.L.)Saigal. (Wasn't he the tallest of them all?)

David Pilling has written "Can slumdogs become millionaires in India?" in FT February 18, 2009.

He says: "...Why are there no slums in China? China is better run than India, with more powerful city mayors who build basic infrastructure to support wealth-creating migrants. Indian politicians court the rural vote. Corruption corrodes infrastructure plans, though some states, such as Gujarat, are improving. China is authoritarian; when workers are no longer required, they can be shipped back to the countryside. A registration system maintains a strict distinction between urban and rural citizens. Democratic India must not go down this route. But it can learn from China by providing clean water, sewerage and basic housing...

...One critic of the film said it was “inconceivable” that a tea-boy from the slum would be allowed on to a television quiz show. Until that changes, India will only progress so far."

So what Mr. Pilling? Watching "Boot Polish"(1954) and listening to its soulful music, people of this country had tears in their eyes and great hope in their hearts and they have clung on to them since then.

And then we will have SDM-II aka SDB. It will eclipse Godfather-II.



Artist: Sudhir Tailang, The Asian Age, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Indian Pantheon: More Pillars and Assortment of Lesser Areas

Prof. P V Indiresan, Former Director Indian Institute of Technology Madras

“…it is proper for us to enquire why we built temple halls with a thousand pillars a millennium after others had mastered the design of the arch…”

Times of India, November 25, 2008:

“One in every three urban Indians lives in homes too cramped to exceed even the minimum requirements of a prison cell in the US. If that sounds shocking, check this out: In the past 50 years, both the number and proportion of Indians living in homes with a per capita space of less than 100 square feet have gone up substantially. In fact, a majority of Indians have per capita space equivalent to or less than a 10 feet x 10 feet room for their living, sleeping, cooking, washing and toilet needs.”


Artist: Sidney Harris, The New Yorker, 23 February 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest # 181

My caption:

“Remember, we are building Indian Pantheon...use many more pillars, cut down on area and insert terms like carpet area, built-up area, saleable area in the contract.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nighty Purge Campaign in Pune?

When I was growing up in Miraj, it was quite common to see middle-class men walking out in pyjamas.

This blog has already commented on a similar habit of today's Pune residents. Read it here.

Therefore, it was quite amusing to read a report in Business Line on December 14, 2008:

"Community leaders in Shanghai are trying to break up the love affair of some city residents with walking outside in their pyjamas, state media has reported.

The Rixin neighbourhood committee in the city's north-east has begun a campaign to discourage residents' longstanding habit of wearing pyjamas out of their bedrooms and on the streets, the state-run Youth Daily reported.

"We're telling people not to wear pyjamas in the street because it looks very uncivilised," community official Guo Xilin was quoted as saying.

The Shanghainese habit of wearing pyjamas in public emerged alongside China's economic reforms over the past 30 years as it became a sign of prosperity, because it meant people did not sleep in tattered old clothes.

For a still visibly large number of Shanghainese, wearing pyjamas outside has become more a way of life than a fashion statement, and to outsiders, the phenomenon is part of the city's charm.

Guo, however, called pyjama-wearers "visual pollution" and a public embarrassment to the city.

But some residents still argue wearing pyjamas is perfectly acceptable.

"Pyjamas are also a type of clothes. It's comfortable, and it's no big deal since everyone wears them outside," a retiree surnamed Ge was quoted as saying.

Rixin's pyjama purge campaign is not the first of its kind - in the 1990s Shanghai officials put up signs and ran education campaigns to tell people not to stroll around in night gowns.

The campaign's managers eventually gave up."

I wonder why there are no such campaigns in India.

Artist: Barbara Shermund, The New Yorker, 18 Apr 1936

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Greediest Generation has made Traffic Deadlier than Terrorism

Earlier I asked: “What is Deadliest at Pune. Traffic,Temple Queues or Terrorism?”

The answer still is: Traffic.

Black humour now has mushroomed on the subject. Times of India Mirror reported on Jan 1 2009: "Death has a five day week...almost". You are less likely to get killed on a Pune road on Thursdays and Sundays.

Not just that. Times of India reported on December 17, 2008: drowning,poisoning, fire, by falling, electrocution, lightning strikes, due to firearms are also deadlier than terror.

"According to the Planning Commission, the social cost of road accidents in India stands at Rs. 55,000 crore annually. This constitutes 3% of the country's GDP." (Times of India, December 12, 2008)

The cost of terrorism is certainly less than 3% of GDP.

Marathi news daily Pudhari पुढारी reported on Sunday December 08, 2008:

“Pune has 2400 (road) accidents in a year involving 450 deaths.”

Considering this stat, terrorism- even of the latest kind- is a side-show.

Shame on us! The Greediest Generation.

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN said in NYT on December 07, 2008:

“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation,” that classic about our parents and their incredible sacrifices during World War II. What I’ve been thinking about actually is this: What book will our kids write about us? “The Greediest Generation?” “The Complacent Generation?” Or maybe: “The Subprime Generation: How My Parents Bailed Themselves Out for Their Excesses by Charging It All on My Visa Card.”

Our kids should be so much more radical than they are today…”

Should be.

But I don’t see them anywhere. Most of the middle-class kids I see are highly conformists. They want to drive their own vehicle- a big one at that.

Carl Sagan has said:

“…Some of the habits of our age will doubtless be considered barbaric by later generations- perhaps for insisting that small children and even infants sleep alone instead of with their parents; or exciting nationalist passions as a means of gaining popular approval and achieving high political office; or allowing bribery and corruption as a way of life; or keeping pets; or eating animals and jailing chimpanzees; or criminalizing the use of euphoriants by adults; or allowing our children to grow up ignorant.”

India is already guilty of “…exciting nationalist passions as a means of gaining popular approval and achieving high political office; or allowing bribery and corruption as a way of life …”

If Sagan were to be alive and visit Pune now, he would have surely included “keeping public transport paralysed while encouraging more and more private vehicles on lawless roads of Pune” to his list.



‘So do you fancy staying in and getting obese or going out and getting murdered?

The Spectator 2007

My caption:

‘So do you fancy staying in and getting obese or going out and getting killed on a Pune road while driving?’

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vasant Sarwate Celebrates Birthday with a Dazzling New Book

On February 3, 2008- his 82nd birthday- a new book of Vasant Sarwate was published: "रेषालेखक वसंत सरवटे" ,संपादन: दिलीप माजगावकर / मधुकर धर्मापुरीकर, राजहंस प्रकाशन, 2009 (“Line-writer Vasant Sarwate” edited by Dileep Majgaonkar / Madhukar Dharmapurikar).

Read more about the event here.

It’s beautifully produced and attractively priced- just Rs. 125.

Suhas Palshikar in his brilliant Marathi essay for “Samaj Prabodhan Patrika April-June 2008” asked:

“गरिबांना भुक्कड सुविधा पुरवणं आपल्या लोकशाहीला कसं परवडतं?

(How can Our Democracy Afford to Provide Third-rate Services to the Poor?)

Well, Sarwate has raised and answered such questions related to Indian democracy from 1947-2009.

Most of the pictures are eternal. They just prove once again why Sarwate is arguably the greatest creative artist Marathi language produced in 20th century. (btw-His nearest competition: Laxmibai Tilak, Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar, C V Joshi, Arun Kolatkar, Acharya Atre, Master Vinayak, Kumar Gandharva (लक्ष्मीबाई टिळक, श्रीपाद कृष्ण कोल्हटकर, चि वि जोशी, अरुण कोलटकर, आचार्य अत्रे, मास्टर विनायक, कुमार गंधर्व)).

In Marathi intellectual world, there is little appreciation of visual arts, let alone that of subtle art of cartooning.

Even the title of this book is biased towards writers and blurbs on the back cover- both Vinda Karandikar विंदा करंदीकर and S P Bhagwat श्री पु भागवत disappointing with their platitudes- don't do any justice to Sarwate's talent. (I know how tender S P Bhagwat gets appreciating B S Mardhekar's बा सी मर्ढेकर poetry.)

Why don't these guys remember Ajanta or Halebidu or Jagte Raho or The Simpsons watching Sarwate's pictures?

Maybe सदानंद रेगे Sadanand Rege would have with a poem titled: "सरवटे गोंधळ घालतात- नाथांचा आणि लाथांचा!" (Here I remember his poems on Keshavsut's केशवसुत death and D G Godse's द ग गोडसे visit to Mastani's grave.)

A O Scott observes: "...I have long been of the opinion that the entire history of American popular culture — maybe even of Western civilization — amounts to little more than a long prelude to “The Simpsons.”"

Clearly a new paradigm needs to emerge in Marathi criticism to fully appreciate the art of Vasant Sarwate.

In a masterly essay on James Thurber, Paul Johnson writes: "...A score of his published cartoons are masterly, and five in the highest class in history. When I contemplate them, I sometimes feel that after a lifetime of studying and practising art, I know nothing about it..."

Surely, I know nothing about it but I hope Sarwate soon gets his own Paul Johnson.


"...I feel miserable by this arson. Our bright secular tradition has once again been blackened..err..I mean, bright secular tradition has been blackened..."

Artist: Vasant Sarwate वसंत सरवटे, 1970, First Published in Manoos माणूस Weekly

Monday, February 09, 2009

Concentrate on Fruit, Not Skeleton

Michel de Montaigne “On Cannibals” (1580)

“I am not sorry that we notice the barbarous horror of such acts, but I am heartily sorry that, judging their faults rightly, we should be so blind to our own. I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead; and in tearing by tortures and the rack a body still full of feeling, in roasting a man bit by bit, in having him bitten and mangled by dogs and swine (as we have not only read but seen within fresh memory, not among ancient enemies, but among neighbors and fellow citizens, and what is worse, on the pretext of piety and religion), than in roasting and eating him after he is dead.”

Nandan Nilekani (2008):"...leaving apart his (Narendra Modi's) Hindutva and all that triumphalism and Gujarat riots and all that, I think, in terms of what he's done on governance, it's remarkable. And I think there's a tendency to ignore that. You know, either you are for him or you are against him... Bush kind of argument. It's not that. I mean, the reforms he has done are exceptional. That's all I'm saying...."



Artist: Paul Noth, The New Yorker, February 9 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest 180

My caption:

“It was Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who taught me that for collective prosperity of our country an entrepreneur like me should learn to concentrate on the fruit and ignore the skeleton. Therefore, I am for both- the fruit and the skeleton.”

Monday, February 02, 2009

What Colour Chakra should we Pin on India's Terrorised Common Man?

TYLER E. BOUDREAU (NYT, January 26, 2009):

“THE Pentagon’s recent decision not to award the Purple Heart to veterans and soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress has caused great controversy. Historically, the medal has gone only to those who have been physically wounded on the battlefield as a result of enemy action. But with approximately one-third of veterans dealing with symptoms of combat stress or major depression, many Americans are disappointed with the Pentagon’s decision; many more are downright appalled…

…I suggest we call this medal the Black Heart. Certainly the hearts of these soldiers are black, with the terrible things they saw and did on the battlefield. Certainly the country should see these Black Hearts pinned on their chests.”

In India, many ordinary citizens suffer deep physical and mental wounds when they get caught in mindless violence of one kind or the other.

What colour chakra should we pin on their chests?



Artist: Zachary Kanin. The New Yorker, February 2 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest # 179

My caption:

Doctor: “…I was attending an international conference at the Hotel Intercontinental Grand, Mumbai on January 21. Then, I drove down to Karnataka via Belgaum to be with my smartly dressed daughter at a Mangalore pub on the evening of January 24. Finally, I was the chief-guest at a function of a Nashik Municipal Corporation school on January 26."