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, May 29, 2009

Severed Heads: Govind Pant Bundela, V Prabhakaran and near miss Nguyen Van Thieu

p.s After I published following post on May 29 2009, this was in the papers on June 25 2009:

"Despite pledges to protect South Vietnam, former US President Richard Nixon privately vowed to "cut off the head" of its leader-Nguyen Van Thieu-unless he backed peace with the Communist North, tapes released on Tuesday showed..."

One more fan of severed head.


Post that was published on May 29, 2009:

William Faulkner: “The past is not dead; it is not even past.”

The Sri Lankan military has released pictures of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran which it says prove conclusively that he is dead.

Those parental-guidance-suggested pictures are insufferable.

M.R. Narayan Swamy says:

“…The Indian Army once intercepted a wireless message from him (Velupillai Prabhakaran ) asking a colleague to kill two rival Tamils and deliver their severed heads to him…”

(“How a guerrilla chief grew drunk on blood”, Asian Age, May 20, 2009)

‘Severed-heads’ have always been with us. They brought another sorry episode from history to my mind.

In December 1760, Atai Khan, working on the orders of Ahmad Shah Abdali severed the head of sixty-plus years old Govind Ballal Kher aka Govind Pant Bundela, a Subedar of Maratha, and sent it to his boss- Abdali.

Abdali 'presented’ it to the head of Maratha army, Sadashivrao Bhau. This act surely dented the morale of Maratha army badly. On January 14, 1761, it was trounced in the third battle of Panipat, a sort of Vietnam of Maratha empire.

On May 19, 2009, the Sri Lankan military was adjusting the corpse for cameras to photograph the head that looked severely damaged, if not almost severed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Atheism: Tukaram, Simone Weil, India's Ministers

On May 22 2009, six ministers out of twenty in India's latest central cabinet did not take oath in the name of God .

They are in excellent company.

तुकाराम Tukaram (1608-1650):

"आहे ऐसा देव वदवावी वाणी । नाही ऐसा मनीं अनुभवावा ।" (4205)

Forgive my translation:

"say in speech god exists, experience in mind he doesn't."

Simone Weil (1909-1943):

"An atheist may be simply one whose faith and love are concentrated on the impersonal aspects of God.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What did Mamata Banerjee Burn Down?

Humour always was an integral part of Indian elections.

Even when the Congress party was sweeping election after election in Southern Maharashtra, as a school/college boy, I was entertained by graffitis, songs, handbills, posters and slogans.

Cow-dung (more of buffalo actually) was thrown at the rival's posters and graffitis. It was considered the ultimate humiliation , next only to the loss in election.

Jan Sangh candidate usually lost his deposit and his posters/graffitis collected a lot of dung in every election but the party showed more tenacity than what it shows today. Its leaders were incorruptible. They reached every middle-class home (In Pune, I haven't met a single BJP candidate of my constituency in last 10 years). Even Congress leaders in power that included giants like Vasantdada Patil वसंतदादा पाटील were very accessible to ordinary people. There was a good fight on display.

When Bapusaheb Jamdar (of Congress?) lost an election, people shouted: "पैसा पसरला, बापू घसरला." ("Money was spread but Bapu slipped over it.")

Of late in Pune, there have been almost no posters, no songs, no graffitis during elections.

Therefore, I was thrilled to see following graffiti.

In the picture, instead of a factory, I see oversized egos of Prakash Karat, stock-market-bhad-me-jay A.B. Bardhan, D Raja and other sundry communists like Mohammed Salim.


Anti-industry: CPI(M) graffiti in Nandigram features Mamata

Artist: Anon

Picture Courtesy: Sandipan Chatterjee, Outlook, May 18 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lalu, Mulayam, Paswan, Amar, Deve On All Fours

A G Noorani writes in Frontline May 22, 2009:

“…Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru wrote on February 20, 1941. He added: “Those in high authority in India and in England think now that Congress have dealt a mortal blow to the very spirit of democracy in India, a view with which I am not wholly in disagreement. Indeed, I may say that my criticism against the Congress during the years during which it was in power was that it was building up its strength as a party dictatorship. It was not interested in other matters or in developing a true democratic spirit. It was intolerant of criticism and difference of opinion. It alienated large sections of people. The applause and the shouting of the so-called masses went to the head of the Congressmen…. If the rest of the country has got to suffer, it must pay the penalty for its lack of courage… ”



Artist: Leo Cullum, The New Yorker, May 25 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #194

My caption:

“Lalu, Mulayam, Paswan, Amar, Deve- who ever you are- I appreciate your efforts to prove your loyalty to Soniaji. Particularly, your this posture has been historically very appealing to the Congress honchos. But the answer is still NO.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Manmohan Now Needs No Refresher Course in Getting Puppeteered


Artist: Victoria Roberts, The New Yorker, May 18 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest 193

My caption:

Sonia: “Manmohan, remove those strings. You are already trained for my act and now you don’t need any refresher course in getting puppeteered by outsiders."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Water Saw Her Lord and Blushed: Dnyaneshwar and Richard Crashaw

Dnyaneshwari ज्ञानेश्वरी(c 1290) is the first great book written in a modern European or an Indo-Aryan language.

Dante’s “Divine Comedy” (c 1308-1321), Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” (1380-1400), Sarala Dasa’s “Mahabharat” in Oriya (second half of the 15th century), Madhava Kandali’s “Ramayana” in Assamese (14th century), Tulsidas’s Ramacharitamanas in Hindi (1574-1577) all came later.

Dnyaneshwar ज्ञानेश्वर (1275-1296) writes:

"आणि गंगा शंभुचां माथां। संकोचली जेवि पार्था।
तेवि मान्यपदे सर्वथा। लाजनें जें॥" (16-203)

It describes the feelings of river Ganga as she landed on Lord Shiva's head on her way to the earth from heaven. She first felt very shy and then she blushed.

Cana is best known as the place where, according to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus performed his first public miracle, the turning of a large quantity of water into wine at a wedding feast.

Richard Crashaw(c.1613-1649), English poet, describes it thus:

"The conscious water saw its God, and blushed (original in Latin: Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit)."







'Ganga' in Bengali, Art by S S Havaldar

courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha
 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Even in Throwing Shoes We Indians Only Imitate

I have lost the count of number of shoes that were thrown at various public figures in India over last several weeks.

My 15-year-old son recently observed: Even in this we are copycats.

Wardrobes of India’s glamorous ramp-walkers began to malfunctions only after Janet Jackson incident.

The most popular programs on Marathi TV are often where young singers, even school-going kids, sing old Marathi songs, just imitating the original singers.

Muzaffar Ali (The Times of India, May 3, 2009):

“…The West invaded India with technology and ideas through multinationals and their hidden persuaders, the advertising agencies. With this came a new form of entertainment — the movies. Hollywood began to make inroads in the metros and small-town India and Bollywood emerged as a hybrid product — aping the West but with one eye on mofussil audiences. In the process, we created one of the world’s largest markets for the Hindi film product. This became more and more formidable, more monolithic, typecast, formula-based and predictable. It promoted obscurantism, violence, vulgarity, vengeance and ultimately, a male-dominated one-dimensional and over-the-top form of celluloid expression…

… First, we need to universalize ourselves. We need to find our roots.”



Artist: Jack Ziegler, The New Yorker, May 11 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #192

My caption:

“Has a guest on his show kissed Jay Leno on the lips or had a wardrobe malfunction?”
(A question that was asked on India’s talk show)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Feel like Going Back to School

As I have said earlier the late P L Deshpande, wrote about other entertainers- Bal Gandharva (legendary large-hearted Marathi stage artist), masters of Hindustani classical such as Kumar Gandharva; Bhimsen Joshi; Mallikarjun Mansur; Vasantrao Deshpande among others. But he never wrote about Hindi films and their music.

What a loss. Of Pu La and his fans!

Looks like NCERT has learnt from this.

Outlook magazine April 27 2009 reports:

"...The ncert is now trying to bring in mainstream Indian films with political and social themes to enable students to have a wider understanding of political history and emerging socio-economic scenarios...

...Of the nine chapters in the class XII political science text book, eight have a movie suggestion. The 1973 Garam Hawa is featured in the chapter on ‘Challenges of Nation Building’. The Balraj Sahni-starrer Haqeeqat (1964) based on the 1962 Sino-Indian war, which portrays the struggle of a small group of Indian soldiers, is part of ‘India’s External Relations’. The Amitabh Bachchan-blockbuster Zanjeer that depicts the struggle of an innocent police officer against the system is included in ‘Challenges of Restoration of the System’...

...The Om Puri and Naseeruddin-starrer Aakrosh, a powerful tale of exploitation and miscarriage of justice, and the Satyajit Ray classic Pather Panchali, a portrait of life rich in experience, but lived amid poverty, are under ‘Politics of Planned Development’..."

Students indeed should learn how bad any war is and I think there is no better place to start the process than watching Haqeeqat. Similarly, Aakrosh (1980) will tell them more about fairness of Indian judicial system than any thing else...

Many aspects of good Hindi cinema are highly under appreciated.

अशोक शहाणे Ashok Shahane writes



(नपेक्षा, Napeksha 2005)



Aakrosh 1980

Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine Flu: Harbinger of New Cosmic Cycle?

Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay in their book "What We Leave Behind":

"Industrial civilization is incompatible with life. It is systematically destroying life on this planet, undercutting its very basis. This culture is, to put it bluntly, murdering the earth. Unless it's stopped -- whether we intentionally stop it or the natural world does, through ecological collapse or other means -- it will kill every living being. We need to stop it."

Wikipedia: “Varaha is the third Avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, in the form of a Boar…The avatar symbolizes the resurrection of the Earth from a pralaya (deluge) and the establishment of a new kalpa (cosmic cycle)…”


Artist: Farley Katz, The New Yorker, April 27 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #191

My caption:

“...Now I know...you are no ordinary piglets but the third Avatar of Lord Vishnu. I understand once you reach the earth, you will spread a flu pandemic and usher in a new cosmic cycle.”