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, April 30, 2009

Say No to Arun Bhatia because he calls Pune “Poona”!

Niall Ferguson:

“…Without the British Empire, there would be no Calcutta; no Bombay; no Madras. Indians may rename them as many times as they like, but they remain cities founded and built by the British…”

“Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World”, 2003)


On a TV program that was telecast on Marathi news channel IBN-Lokmat on April 21, 2009, Arun Bhatia, a candidate for Pune Loksabha seat, was heckled by studio audience because he called the city of Pune by its old and legitimate name: Poona.

And on the same day I read following in NYT:

“Name Not on Our List? Change It, China Says:

… The bureau’s computers, however, are programmed to read only 32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters, according to a 2006 government report. The result is that Miss Ma and at least some of the 60 million other Chinese with obscure characters in their names cannot get new cards — unless they change their names to something more common…”

Chinese government wants people to change their names to suit the national database!

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar observes in The Times of India (April 19, 2009):

“…The Indian economy grew fast in the last five years, but remained far behind China’s. India’s big population makes its GDP look big, but also means it has the largest number of poor people, infant deaths, maternal deaths in childbirth, and highest child malnutrition in the world. India cannot end Maoist violence in 160 of its 600 districts or insurrections in Kashmir and the North-East. The Indian state looks weak and incompetent even as the Chinese state looks strong and competent…

… India scarcely matters. It is still a country that instinctively seeks aid and foreign concessions. On the international scene, it is a taker, not a giver. China, however is now a giver. In the proposed expansion of the IMF’s lending, China has offered to supply $40 billion, against $100 billion from Japan and possibly the US. India does not figure in this giver’s list — it would rather be a receiver.
Even as China gets hyphenated with the US, India is getting re-hyphenated with Pakistan via Islamic militancy…”

The last word belongs to अशोक शहाणे Ashok Shahane:


["मुंबई नगरी बड़ी बांका" 1997] ( नपेक्षा, 2005)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Changes at Lakshmi Temple on Wall Street

Wiki informs: "Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand."

Well poet B S Mardhekar didn't know this. Or chose to ignore it. And hence he compared the god to an ostrich in following lines:

"राव, सांगतां देव कुणाला,
शहाजोग जो शहामृगासम;
..."

[बा. सी. मर्ढेकर, # 43, "मर्ढेकरांची कविता" B S Mardhekar, "Mardhekar's Poetry", 1959]

If god doesn't behave like ostrich, maybe her worshippers...



Artist: Robert Leighton, The New Yorker,April 27 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #190

My caption:

"They are changing the carrier of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity and wealth. Remember it always symbolizes her worshippers."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pipe Down? Think Again. Your Leg, if not Life, Depends on it.

A few weeks ago, I started feeding crows on the balcony of my house and since then I have got a glimpse of their complex society.

No wonder crows are believed to represent our ancestors. (btw-I hope my mother is among those who visit me every day!)

They say the sound of vehicle horns scare the crows away. Even here they are like me!

I was amused to read in FT (April 7, 2009) Amy Kazmin’s article “Engineer makes big noise”:

“In India, one of the most used components of any motor vehicle is the horn. Drivers navigating livestock, pedestrians, animal-drawn carts and motor vehicles lean heavily on their horns to express frustration, if not to clear a path. Trucks are emblazoned with the slogan “horn please”.

Responsible for much of India’s distinctive road noise is Roots Industries, a small private company that is also the country’s biggest hornmaker…

…Throughout most of 2008, Roots ran three shifts a day, six days a week, turning out 400,000 horns a month for its home market and for export…”

Amy Kazmin should also have said- Horn is used in lieu of break.

These days my only hope while walking or driving on Pune roads is: Let vehicle driver be kind enough to honk.

Because I don’t expect him

to drive on the right side of the road,
follow traffic signals and speed-limits,
show courtesy to elders and children,
use unadulterated fuel,
have vehicle certified for pollution laws,
possess third-party insurance policy and driving licence,
keep safe distance between two vehicles,
carry no more than certified number of passengers,
showing hand or lamp directional signals while driving,
park vehicle responsibly,
use reverse horn sparingly



Artist: Frank Modell, The New Yorker, March 22 1958

Monday, April 20, 2009

RTO Pune Collaborates in Great Voodoo Experiment

The Times of India reported on April 8, 2009:

“PUNE: City police commissioner Satyapal Singh on Tuesday lambasted the Regional Transport Office (RTO) over its process of issuing driving licences, saying the organisation was doling out "licences to kill".

Speaking to mediapersons at a press conference here, Singh said, "The RTO issues driving licences. But these are not driving licences, they are licences to kill. About 80 per cent of these licences are issued through agents. Due to this, the rate of fatal accidents is high in the city."

Singh alleged that over 12,000 autorickshaws and about 550 private luxury buses in the city were plying without proper permits. "The police cannot take action against these operators. That power lies with the RTO," he said.

Singh said that barely 150 of the 700 private buses in the city had permits. "The others ply on temporary permits, which is not permitted. Some 12,000 autorickshaws in the city are plying without permits. These rickshaws should be scrapped," he advised…”



Artist: Drew Dernavich, The New Yorker, April 20 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #189

My caption:

“...Voodoo is that easy. Now you do it, lying down to begin with. In this experiment, you represent the spirit of Pune. For every pin you stick in yourself, Regional Transport Office, Pune will issue one licence."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How would Shivaji Raje Bhosle react to this?

Marathi film "Mee Shivaji Raje Bhosle Boltoy!" (मी शिवाजी राजे भोसले बोलतोय!) is supposed to be doing well at the box office.

I have not seen it. But I have a fair idea what it is about.

For Asian Age (April 13 2009), Dippy Vankani reported:

"The anti-corruption unit of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) says that it is the Maharashtrians, who are sub-letting the maximum number of flats that they get in Central government colonies in Mumbai. This is because these people have another home in Mumbai, but still take a government flat for the extra income from rent..."

I wonder if the sequel of MSRBB will rationalize this. It may.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Piano as an Aquarium Bar

The Times of India (April 10, 2009) has reported passing away of Shakti Samanta without mentioning "An Evening in Paris"(1967).

This was like omitting "Hamlet" from Shakespeare's obituary!

The music of "An Evening in Paris" was composed by Shankar Jaikishan.

Shankar Jaikishan and R D Burman were arguably the most prolific users of piano in Hindi cinema. (It was R D who composed one of the greatest piano songs of Hindi cinema: "pyaar diwaanaa hotaa hai, mastaanaa hotaa hain
har khushee se, har gam se, begaanaa hotaa hain" for Shakti Samanta's Kati Patang [1970] )

I just love piano: its look- majestic like an elephant- and its sound.

Piano was embraced by Indian film industry in 1930’s. Keshavrao Bhole केशवराव भोळे at Prabhat प्रभात was the first to use instruments such as the piano, the Hawaiian guitar and the violin in his compositions.

I have seen a lot of pianos in Hindi films but little of them in real life.

There are so many hummable Hindi film songs where a hero or a heroine is banging away at the piano (to be precise: pretending to do so as almost none of them knew/knows how to play it), onlookers are standing or moving around with a glass in their hands, the story is galloping forward.

Recall Brahmachari (1968):

“Dil Ke Jharoke Mein Tujko Bithakar
Yadoon Ko Teri Maein Dulhan Banakar
Rakhoonga Maein Dil Ke Paas
Mat Ho Meri Jaan Udaas,
Dil Ke Jharoke...”


Piano has always seemed a lot of real estate for me because I have lived largely in small houses. Therefore, I have always wondered: What else can it be put to use?

Here is an idea: aquarium-cum-bar.


Artist: P. C. Vey, The New Yorker, April 13 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #188

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Obama Seeks Manmohan Singh’s Advice on Paul Kroogman

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2008:

“The Leader of Opposition, Shri L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM…” (The Times of India)

Business Standard:

"USA's President Barack Obama: He (Manmohan Singh) has been doing a wonderful job in guiding India even prior to being the Prime Minister along the path of extraordinary economic growth. That is a marvel, I think, for all of the world," the US President remarked, apparently referring to Singh's pioneering role in India's economic liberalisation..." (April 4, 2009)

Evan Thomas writes:

Paul Krugman has emerged as Obama's toughest liberal critic. He's deeply skeptical of the bank bailout and pessimistic about the economy…

…, he has been critical, if not hostile, to the Obama White House.
In his twice-a-week column and his blog, Conscience of a Liberal, he criticizes the Obamaites for trying to prop up a financial system that he regards as essentially a dead man walking. In conversation, he portrays Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other top officials as, in effect, tools of Wall Street…

… says Krugman, "the White House has done very little by way of serious outreach. I've never met Obama. He pronounced my name wrong"—when, at a press conference, the president, with a slight note of irritation in his voice, invited Krugman (pronounced with an "oo," not an "uh" sound) to offer a better plan for fixing the banking system…” (Newsweek April 06, 2009)


“Dr. Singh, before we talk about Pakistan, I want your advice as a well respected economist. Is Paul Kroogman a nikamma (useless) economist?”

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Spell of the House-Breaker may not always Work

Vedas are interesting, lively books. Here is an example.

RIG- VEDA Book vii. Hymn 55. VASTOSPATI AND INDRA:

THE SPELL OF THE HOUSE-BREAKER

[The hymn appears to be made up of three unconnected pieces. The first verse is addressed to Vastospati, the guardian god of the house. Verses 2-4 are addressed by the spirits of Indra's worshippers to one of Yama's dogs who would prevent there entering the home of the pious dead. Sarama, the hound of Indra, was the mother of the two spotted watch-dogs of Yama. Verses 5-8 form a sleep song. It was recited by thieves and house-breakers to put people to sleep.]

5. Sleep mother, let the father sleep, sleep dog , and master of the house.
Let all the kinsmen sleep, sleep all the people who are round about.

6. The man who sits, the man who walks, and whosoever looks on us,
Of these we closely shut the eyes, even as we closely shut this house.

7. The Bull who hath a thousand horns, who rises up from out the sea
By him the strong and mighty one we lull and make the people sleep.

8. The women sleeping in the court, lying with- out, or stretched on beds,
The matrons with their odorous sweets 1 these, one and all, we lull to sleep

('THE RIG- VEDA and VEDIC RELIGION WITH READINGS FROM THE VEDAS' BY A. C. CLAYTON

Author of The Paraiyan (Madras Government Museum Bulletin), Gangai's Pilgrimage, T-he Tamil Bible Dictionary, etc.
CHRISTIAN LITERATURE SOCIETY FOR INDIA, LONDON AND MADRAS, 1913)


Artist: Charles Barsotti, The New Yorker, 6 April 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #187

My caption:

“Oh, My god! He is either Greek or Roman. 'The Spell of the House-Breaker' recited in Sanskrit has not lulled him to sleep.”

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Battle of the Shivling: Bringing Down the Pride of Sovereignty to the Level of Petty Life

In India, nepotism and dynasties are thriving like never before.

Maharashtra will see many sons, daughters, nephews of the high and the mighty contesting the Lok Sabha elections. Many will emerge triumphant.

If people are wise, why do they elect them?

Walter Bagehot, 19th-century editor of The Economist, has the answer:

“… people like to see a family on the throne because it brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life”.

Here is an example of that.

Business Standard March 28, 2009 has reviewed “MADHAVRAO SCINDIA: A LIFE Author: Vir Sanghvi and Namita Bhandare.

“…The Scindia shivling is a flawless emerald, the size of an egg. Legend has it that Mahadji Scindia would wear it under his turban when the Gwalior army went off to battle because it always brought good luck and victory.

That was many decades ago but since then it has always been part of the puja ritual performed by every reigning maharaja and maharani. The monetary value of the emerald is, of course, incalculable, but to the Scindias the emerald has always been a symbol of the family’s good fortune...

[A]s relations between the Rajmata and her son plummeted, the emerald became the focus of a new battle. Suddenly, Vijayaraje decided that she wanted it back. After all, it had been part of her puja when her husband had been alive.

No, said Madhavi Raje. It was her duty as Maharani of Gwalior to worship the shivling to bring good fortune to the Scindias and for the protection of her husband. In any case, the puja was made auspicious only when it was done by a married woman.

The stand-off persisted till Vijayaraje demonstrated that she was not only a Rajmata, she was also a politician.

Fine, she said, if that was Madhavi Raje’s attitude, then she would embark on a fast unto death. She would break the fast only when the emerald was handed over.

A worried Madhavrao decided that a fast unto death by the Rajmata would evoke [sic] too much public attention and embarrass the Scindias.

“Just give her the shivling,” he pleaded with his wife. “Do it for my peace of mind.” Reluctantly, Madhavi Raje complied, perhaps in the hope that it would eventually be returned to her or to her son as an inherent part of the family’s legacy. But after the Rajmata’s death, the shivling was taken into posession by Usha Raje, Madhavrao’s elder sister. Madhavi Raje says Madhavrao did ask Usha Raje to return the emerald. “Maybe if she had returned it, my husband would have been alive today,” she rues.”



Artist: R K Laxman, The Times of India, 11 September 2006



Artist: Everett Opie, The New Yorker, July 23, 1960