मेघदूत: "नीचैर्गच्छत्युपरि च दशा चक्रनेमिक्रमेण"

समर्थ शिष्या अक्का : "स्वामीच्या कृपाप्रसादे हे सर्व नश्वर आहे असे समजले. पण या नश्वरात तमाशा बहुत आहे."

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.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”

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);...”

सदानंद रेगे:
"... पण तुकारामाची गाथा ज्या धुंदीनं आजपर्यंत वाचली जात होती ती धुंदी माझ्याकडे नाहीय. ती मला येऊच शकत नाही याचं कारण स्वभावतःच मी नास्तिक आहे."
".. त्यामुळं आपण त्या दारिद्र्याच्या अनुभवापलीकडे जाऊच शकत नाही. तुम्ही जर अलीकडची सगळी पुस्तके पाहिलीत...तर त्यांच्यामध्ये त्याच्याखेरीज दुसरं काही नाहीच आहे. म्हणजे माणसांच्या नात्यानात्यांतील जी सूक्ष्मता आहे ती क्वचित चितारलेली तुम्हाला दिसेल. कारण हा जो अनुभव आहे... आपले जे अनुभव आहेत ते ढोबळ प्रकारचे आहेत....."

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, July 31, 2009

Never Found in Translation that is Lost in the Neglect of One's Own Heritage

Government of Maharashtra plans to erect 300-feet high statue of Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea, facing the Marine Drive, in south Mumbai.

Never mind neglect of existing world-class monuments in Mumbai itself: cave temples of Jogeshwari and Mandapeshwar, not to mention sorry state of countless forts and other historical places in Maharashtra.

Read more on this in the essay published by Frontline July 31, 2009 here.

I came across this beautiful line from Thana Gazette (written by a Brit?) in the said essay: “Kanheri is the only rock-cut monastery in western India that has the feeling of having been, and of being ready again to be, a pleasant and popular dwelling place."

...Sir, you may check in because your room is ready...For last hundreds of years!

If we inherit a place like this, shouldn't we be leaving one behind? Isn't that in our contract with our grandchildren?

Remember, the Jogeshwari caves, the Brahminical caves belonging to A.D. 520-550, are the first rock-cut cave temples built by Hindus in the country.

But we are happy chanting: Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai!!! (Say with pride we are Hindus)

When people don't preserve their own glorious heritage, how can we expect them to import great books from other cultures?

Recently on Guardian's website, I found "The top 100 books of all time"
I have not read majority of them but I wondered how many of them have been translated in Marathi.

For someone like me, translation was important because most books from the list, I read first time, were in Marathi. For example, I have read a number of Stefan Zweig's books in Marathi because my father Gopal Dutt Kulkarni गोपाळ दत्त कुलकर्णी had translated them from English.

Translation of great books in a language enriches it. In Marathi, Sane-guruji साने-गुरुजी, who himself translated many books from foreign and other Indian languages, sought such enrichment.

Read a related post that appeared on this blog earlier.

As per my knowledge only following books from the top 100 have been translated in Marathi.

I will be happy to correct this list. ('?????' denotes it probably exists.)

1> Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark, (1805-1875), Fairy Tales and Stories (I have read in Marathi first)

2> Jane Austen, England, (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice ?????

3> Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Spain, (1547-1616), Don Quixote, (I have read in Marathi first)

4> Anton P Chekhov, Russia, (1860-1904), Selected Stories

5> Charles Dickens, England, (1812-1870), Great Expectations ?????

6> Ernest Hemingway, United States, (1899-1961), The Old Man and the Sea

7> Henrik Ibsen, Norway (1828-1906), A Doll's House

8> Kalidasa, India, (c. 400), The Recognition of Sakuntala, (Read in Marathi)

9> Mahabharata, India, (c 500 BC), (Read in Marathi)

10> Edgar Allan Poe, United States, (1809-1849), The Complete Tales ?????

11-13> William Shakespeare, England, (1564-1616), Hamlet; King Lear; Othello

14> Jonathan Swift, Ireland, (1667-1745), Gulliver's Travels, (Read in Marathi)

15> Thousand and One Nights, India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt, (700-1500) (Read abridged version in Marathi)

16> Valmiki, India, (c 300 BC), Ramayana, (Read in Marathi)

Just 16 out of 100? Not even passing marks!

And for criminal neglect of our heritage as depicted in the picture below? Negative marks!

Seepage and water stagnation at the Jogeshwari caves

(picture courtesy: Frontline, July 31 2009)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Haunting Beauty of Leela Naidu. And my mother.

"माधुर्यामुळे सतत ऐकावेसे वाटते पण उत्कटतेमुळे असह्य वाटते, असे तुझे संगीत! तुला मृत व्यक्तीला जिवंत करता येत नसेल, पण मृत दिवस मात्र तू पुन्हा जिवंत केलेस!"

(आँर्फियस, "पिंगळा वेळ", जी ए कुलकर्णी, १९७७)

"wished to be heard constantly for sweetness but unbearable because of intensity, such is your music! You mayn't raise the dead, but you brought to life the dead days!"

(Orpheus, "Pingala Vel", G A Kulkarni, 1977)

This blog is turning out to be an obit page.

But it can't be helped. Ms. Naidu of Anuradha(1960) was so dear.

Earlier when Leela Naidu sang:

"haye re wo din kyon naa aaye
jaa jaa ke rrutu, laut aaye

zil-mil wo taaren, kahaa gaye saare
man-baati jale, bujh jaaye
haye re wo din ...

sunee meree beenaa, sangit binaa
sapanon kee maalaa murazaaye
haye re wo din..."...

Leela Naidu, Balraj Sahni, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Ravi Shankar, Lata Mangeshkar, Shailendra, Nasir Hussain, Jaywant Pathare at their best...it was surreal.

Since January 2006 when I hear it, I remember my mother.

My mother, Jyoti G. Kulkarni nee Shakuntala V. Bhate (1937-2006), 1957

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pune's Bamanhari Bhaskar Chandavarkar is Dead

In 1980's, I watched Ghashiram Kotwal घाशीराम कोतवाल thrice. Once at NCPA, Mumbai and twice at Kalidas Kalamandir, Nashik.

I was addicted to Kotwal's music.

I bought its music album (a double cassette) that I still have it. I could recite most of its songs. I can manage a couple of them even today.

"श्रीगणराय नर्तन करी, आम्ही पुण्याचे बामण हरी..."

On July 14 2009, I said on this blog:

"I always thought Nilu Phule नीळू फुले would have been a much better नाना फडणवीस (Nana Fadnavis)- a historical character tormented by his often losing struggle with sexuality- than मोहन आगाशे (Mohan Agashe) in विजय तेंडुलकर Vijay Tendulkar's Ghashiram Kotwal).

It might have given an opportunity to 'Kotwal' to become a dark comedy instead of just great entertainment."

Well, it was a great entertainment largely because of its music director Bhaskar Chandavarkar and choreographer Krishnadeo Mulgund. Both are now dead.

Kotwal belongs to them. Thank you, Sir.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where is India's Naji al-Ali?

"...शब्द म्हणजे निव्वळ तोंडचा वारा; त्यांना रक्त नाही की मांस नाही, पण एखाद्या प्रेषिताचे आत्मसमर्पण मनावर सतत आदळत राहिले तर त्याच्या रक्ताची अमर नक्षत्रे होतात, त्याच्या शब्दांत विश्वाचे हुंकार ऐकू येतात... "

(यात्रिक, "पिंगळा वेळ", जी ए कुलकर्णी, १९७७)

["...Words are only wind from the mouth; they have neither blood nor flesh, but if a messiah's sacrifice keeps banging against mind then his words turn into immortal constellations, in his words we hear consenting-grunts of the universe..."]

(Yatrik, "Pingla Vel", G A Kulkarni, 1977)

I am greatly fond of many Indian cartoonists.

I feel Vasant Sarwate is one of the greatest creative talent to come out of Maharashtra in 20th century.

We also have/had Abu Abraham, R K Laxman, Ravi Shankar, Sudhir Tailang, O. V. Vijayan, Bal Thackeray, K. Shankar Pillai...

But we in India surely never had any one like visionary Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali.

I saw his cartoons on July 11 2009 for the first time in my life. And it was like watching Pablo Picasso's Guernica.

In the West, people ask: Where is the Dickens, the Steinbeck for our era? I ask: Where is Naji al-Ali of India?

In 1987, al-Ali was shot in the head in London. He was not even 50 years old.

Michel Faber has reviewed a book on al-Ali-"A Child in Palestine : The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali"- for Guardian July 11, 2009.

Faber says about this picture: "...the pen stands upright, its nib doubling as a candle flame. It's a potently simple image, yet complex: the dripping wax suggests sorrowful tears; the pen's upright balance is perilously unsupported, like the Palestinian state itself; yet the backdrop of night sky, with its foully obscured moon, seems to reference the Amnesty International catchphrase about it being better to light a candle than curse the darkness..."

A child in the picture is figure of Hanthala/ Handala, the barefoot child who silently watches all the evils perpetrated in the Middle East.

What do we call a child who silently watches all the evils perpetrated in India? Has she been conceived yet? Will she look like Balkrishna from picture here?

"...Hanthala became phenomenally popular in the Arab world, spawning a Garfield-like industry of coffee mugs, T-shirts, keyrings, and so on. But instead of a spoilt fat cat, here was a ragged witness to atrocity and political betrayal."

I have put together a collage of al-Ali's caption-less pictures sourced from here. I didn't understand a few of them because they carry Arabic script in the captions.

(click on the picture above to get a larger view)

Each of them is a gem. As Faber puts it: "awesomely sad and tender images"

What if Hanthala turned around and locked eyes with us? The thought is scary. I am not ready for it.

Why was Naji al-Ali (and Hanthala) killed?

"...Reportedly, he'd recently been warned by the PLO to "correct" his attitude to Yasser Arafat - a warning to which he responded by lampooning Arafat once more..."

A variation by me on G A Kulkarni's words quoted at the top:

"...चित्र म्हणजे निव्वळ हातचा वारा; त्यांना रक्त नाही की मांस नाही, पण एखाद्या चित्रकाराचे आत्मसमर्पण मनावर सतत आदळत राहिले तर त्याच्या रक्ताची अमर नक्षत्रे होतात, त्याच्या चित्रांत विश्वाचे हुंकार ऐकू येतात... "

("...Pictures are only wind from the hand; they have neither blood nor flesh, but if an artist's sacrifice keeps banging against mind then his pictures turn into immortal constellations, in his pictures we hear rumbles of the universe...")

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On an Eclipse Day, You can see Jayadratha's Flying Head!

On July 22nd, I went at 6:30 AM on my balcony to see what another solar eclipse meant. It was cloudy and raining. No sun alright but the sky looked weirdly dark. Birds and dogs were curiously quiet.

Slaying of Jayadratha in Mahabharata always puzzled me as a child. What did Lord Krishna do to block the sun?

We know the famous line from Bible:'And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.'

Here god was creating darkness.

"...Then Krishna otherwise called Hari, possessed of ascetic powers, that lord of all ascetics, having taken recourse to Yoga, created that darkness."

I admire the creativity of writers of Mahabharata.

How cleverly they embedded one of the most important celestial event in an animal's life on earth in their immortal tale!

When Arjuna decapitated Jayadratha with an arrow, the sky would have looked weird and animals quiet. What a setting for an unfolding epic tragedy.

"...During that terrible carnage resembling the slaughter of creatures at the end of the Yuga, in that deadly and fierce battle from which few could escape with life, the earth became drenched with gore and the earthy dust that had arisen disappeared in consequence of the showers of blood that fell and the swift currents of wind that blew over the field. So deep was that rain of blood that the wheels of cars sank to their naves..."

(The Mahabharata, Book 7: Drona Parva, Jayadratha-Vadha Parva)

(btw- I don't get to read such graphic violence in Marathi translation of Mahabharata!)

Yesterday we had to turn to TV for a glimpse of the eclipse. I didn't like it.

Should I have gone to a place where I could watch it in the sky?

Therefore I admire the New Yorkers in Alan Dunn's picture below. They prefer the real thing to The Hayden Planetarium.

Artist: Alan Dunn, The New Yorker, July 7 1945

Monday, July 20, 2009

Imitating Rajesh Khanna, we walked with Neil and Buzz!

For a nine year old, 1969 was: Hindi movies:Talash (particularly its promos of scantily dressed dancers in champagne glasses from page 2 of Maharashtra Times), Waris, Anjaana, Shatranj, Ansoo Ban Gaye Phool, Ek Phool Do Maali, Do Raaste and Aradhana; passing away of P K Atre and Dr. Zakir Husain; Gandhi Centenary (so many mandatory, boring cultural programs in Gandhi's memory at school).

And cricket.

India lost the Nagpur test match to New Zealand in October.

It was a national calamity. There were rumours that our cricketers were too drunk to walk on cricket field on the last day October 8. Another rumour was that M A K Pataudi, India's captain, was too busy wooing Sharmila Tagore to concentrate on his cricket.

This loss was more than redeemed by beating strong Australian side in December.

Now I understand even following events happened in the same year: India's first credit card Diners card was introduced, the first Indian-built Centaur rocket was successfully tested, Dadasaheb Phalke award was instituted. ("The Indian Millennium AD 1000-2000" by Gopa Sabharwal, 2000)

I don't remember July 20, 1969 but it changed the scene. They say: For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck.

So was India.

Moon, Apollo spacecraft and its crew- Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Michael Collins were every where.

Many forts children built in Maharashtra during Diwali festival had the theme of Apollo mission. Ganesh festival pandals exhibited moon landing scenes.

Cartoons, jokes, films, plays, literature -popular culture as a whole- started referring to the landing. Mr. Armstrong became as popular as Rajesh Khanna!

No NRI complained why Gayatri Mantra was not chanted on the moon when it was reported that Buzz Aldrin gave thanks to God by the taking of the Holy Communion on the moon.

There was a sense of urgency to dump the old practices, now that we had reached the moon.

Some experts in India predicted that faith in astrology would wane because moon, which plays such an important part in a horoscope, was now soiled by a mortal man.

Nothing like that ever happened. Astrology remains more popular in India today than ever before. For some prominent scientists(?), astrology and vastu-shastra have become branches of science!

I personally like the moon mission because it eventually gave birth to Buzz, a co-hero of Toy Story films.

Paul Krugman says:

"...Indeed, manned space flight in general has turned out to be a bust.

The key word here is "manned." Space flight has been a huge boon to mankind. It has advanced the cause of science: for example, cosmology, and with it our understanding of basic physics, has made huge strides through space-based observation. Space flight has also done a lot to improve life here on Earth, as space-based systems help us track storms, communicate with one another, even find out where we are...

...Yet almost all the payoff from space travel, scientific and practical, has come from unmanned vehicles and satellites..." (NYT, February 4, 2003)

In 2007, Gerard DeGroot wrote a book “Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

"...DeGroot came to share the view of many people today, that Apollo was a $35bn ego trip - an outrageous waste of money that should have been spent addressing problems on Earth. For him, Neil Armstrong’s “small step” on to the moon achieved nothing for mankind beyond a brief burst of media-generated euphoria..." (Clive Cookson, FT, March 9 2007)

"...In fact, it turned out the Russians were far behind the US in space expertise, a fact Kennedy only discovered in office. It was too late by then and the space monster he had unleashed began devouring money faster than any other federal programme. Kennedy might have stopped the rot, says DeGroot, but was assassinated. After that, 'the space programme became a homage to Kennedy and, as such, untouchable'

The US lunar quest was, therefore, 'an immensely expensive distraction of little scientific or culture worth', a grand futility from which the US space agency Nasa has never recovered. It is hard to disagree with this assessment.

DeGroot, a sharp and witty writer, has prepared his case assiduously, though for my taste he overstates it badly, wilfully ignoring the romance and chutzpah of what was, after all, the 20th-century's crowning human achievement..." (Robin McKie, The Observer, 3 February 2008)

"...But Dark Side of the Moon underestimates many positive aspects of Apollo. One was the psychological impetus given to the embryonic environmental movement by seeing our fragile blue-and-white planet from the moon. And Apollo gave a huge long-term boost to scientific innovation by inspiring a generation of schoolchildren to study science and technology. Their enthusiasm did not wane when the moon landings ended, and in subsequent decades many became high-tech innovators and entrepreneurs..." (Clive Cookson)

"What's happening to us, John? People will soon be going to the moon, and we don't even seem to get out of the house any more."

Artist : Richard Decker, The New Yorker, 19 April 1958

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why should Luckier Zoozoos be Angry and Ashamed?

Joe Leahy says in FT June 25, 2009

“A study funded by the Asian Development Bank found that, by early last year, India had 50 billionaires who together controlled wealth equivalent to 20 per cent of gross domestic product and, reportedly, 80 per cent of stock market capitalisation… Per capita income is about $1,000 (€715, £625), but many in its population of 1.1bn scrape by on much less...

…“This concentration of wealth and influence could be a hidden time bomb under India’s social fabric,” warned the report….”

If indeed it is 'hidden time bomb under India’s social fabric', it has been there for centuries!

From "The Mughal World" by Abraham Eraly, 2007

"...At the height of Mughal splendour under Shah Jahan (reign 1628-1658), over a quarter of the gross national product of the empire was appropriated by just 655 individuals, while the bulk of the 120-odd million people of India lived on a dead level of poverty."

Drawing on Indivar Kamtekar‘s work, SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR wrote on 60th anniversary of Bengal Famine :

“…Above all, the business class flourished. The war (WWII) required unprecedented quantities of every sort of manufacture. Lack of shipping constrained competition from imports. The price of cloth rose five-fold before the colonial state imposed price controls: its top priority was to encourage production, not worry about janata cloth. Business fortunes were made, and new giants like Telco and Hindustan Motors emerged in this period. Tax evasion was widespread and not seriously checked by the authorities. Indeed, some businessmen defended tax evasion as “patriotic” non-cooperation with the Raj!…

Kamtekar says, “In a situation where franchise was based on property and education, they (the rural poor) were not on the provincial voters’ lists. Although many died on the streets of Calcutta, none actually belonged to the city. City dwellers were safe, covered by various food schemes: it was the rural poor who came to the city to die. For all their misery, they remained marginal (to the political scene). The dead were not articulate actors in the theatres of modern politics. The Great Calcutta Killing of 1946, when 5000 people were slaughtered, threatened the Bengali bhadralok, and a furore followed. But the children of the Bengali Renaissance were unharmed by the Bengal Famine...

The Great Bengal Famine was a colossal human tragedy, but, cynically, no cause for political panic. Those who died could not even be counted properly, because they counted for so little.”

This is a harsh indictment of the class that led our independence movement. It suggests that it was no accident that Mahatma Gandhi was also a personal friend of G D Birla.

According to the Direct Taxes Enquiry Committee of 1958-59, not a single Indian was convicted of tax evasion in the decade after Independence. The situation has not improved since. ”

(The Times of India, AUGUST 20, 2003)

Recently, I read about Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”:

“…Harrington argued that Americans should be angry and ashamed to live in a rich society in which so many remained poor. “The fate of the poor,” he concluded, “hangs upon the decision of the better-off. If this anger and shame are not forthcoming, someone can write a book about the other America a generation from now and it will be the same or worse.”…”

(Maurice Isserman, NYT, June 21 2009)

Americans should learn from Indians. Most of us have never felt ashamed.

Why don’t the poor in India rise in 'revolt' or have never 'revolted'? I have no clue.

Perhaps they are inspired by Saint Namdev संत नामदेव.

Namdev tells his god- Vitthal विठ्ठल-who is wealthy:

"Nama says at your home gold & money and at our home your name."

"नामा म्हणे तुमचे घरीं सोनें दाम। आमुचे घरीं तुमचे नाम।।"

courtesy: Vodafone Zoozoo campaign

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nilu Binder is Dead

I lived in Mumbai continuously only from mid-1983 to mid-1987 but I got lucky.

I watched नीळू फुले (Nilu Phule) and लालन सारंग (Lalan Sarang) perform सखाराम बाइंडर/ बाईंडर (Sakharam Binder) at साहित्य संघ ,गिरगाव (Sahitya Sangh,Girgaum) from the first or the second row.

I have yet to see a better performance than that on either Indian stage or Indian cinema's silver screen.

I understand he felt emotionally exhausted after every performance of Binder. Why not? I felt devastated watching him just once.

I always thought Nilu Phule would have been a much better नाना फडणवीस (Nana Fadnavis)- a historical character tormented by his often losing struggle with sexuality- than मोहन आगाशे (Mohan Agashe) in विजय तेंडुलकर Vijay Tendulkar's घाशीराम कोतवाल (Ghashiram Kotwal).
It might have given an opportunity to 'Kotwal' to become a dark comedy instead of just great entertainment.

Cinema, unlike theatre, is predominantly director's medium. Unfortunately, for Mr. Phule and us, Marathi cinema did not have great, and not just good, directors while he was active. (How many great directors Marathi has produced anyway?)

He still gave memorable performances in movies like पिंजरा (Pinjara), सोंगाड्या (Songadya), थापाड्या (Thapadya), सामना (Samana), सिंहासन (Simhasan), लक्ष्मी (Laxmi).

My favourite is चोरीचा मामला (Choricha Mamala), brilliantly acted by Phule in the company of another brilliant but under appreciated actor: ललिता पवार (Lalita Pawar).

He always had something interesting to say. I wish he wrote.

He was an atheist like तुकाराम Tukaram: "आहे ऐसा देव वदवावी वाणी । नाही ऐसा मनीं अनुभवावा ।"

कमलाकर सारंग Kamlakar Sarang, talented director of Sakharam Binder, has written passionately about Phule in his autobiographical book बाइंडरचे दिवस (baaindarache diwas),1984.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Supreme Court of India, How about Blowing from Guns?

The Times of India reported on July 7, 2009:

"Hanging by the neck till death would continue to be the mode of execution of condemned prisoners, Supreme Court (of India) said on Monday refusing to entertain a PIL seeking replacement of the ‘cruel and painful’ method with the ‘lethal injection’, a method practised in the US.

"How do you know that hanging causes pain? And how do you know that injecting the condemned prisoner with a lethal drug would not cause pain?" asked a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam..."

The court is right. We don't know.

But can we trust the judgment of very learned Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779–1859)?

Elphinstone did not hesitate to order the (Brahmin) ringleaders (of a plot to murder all the Europeans in Pune) to be blown from guns, observing that this method of execution ‘contains two valuable elements of capital punishment; it is painless to the criminal and terrible to the beholder’.”

(Philip Mason. “Men Who Ruled India”)

If we do, the following picture requires a small correction. Instead of tying the convict to the stump, he needs to be put in the barrel.

You still don't need additional staff!

And does the executioner have a sense of humour like Daulatrao Shinde दौलतराव शिंदे (1779 – 1827), the king of Gwalior state?

He ordered execution of his own commander-in-chief Narayanrao Baxi नारायणराव बक्षी by launching him into the sky, with the help of explosives attached to his body, to make a pun: "बक्षीचा पक्षी केला" ("Made bird of Bakshi")! (source: Marhati Lavani by M V Dhond, 1956 मर्हाटी लावणी, म. वा. धोंड)

After reading Mountstuart Elphinstone, I feel Daulatrao was a kind man. He could have chosen to crush Bakshi by elephant, the way Baji Rao II chose to deal with Vithoji Holkar विठोजी होळकर in April 1801, and let Holkar's corpse remain in the street near his palace for 24 hours so that he could enjoy watching it from window.

'Due to staff cutbacks...'

The Spectator

Friday, July 10, 2009

Amitabh Bachchan, We Just Fall Apart

Mr. Bachchan, 66, is unwell.

His blog has these beautiful lines from his father's Madhushala:

बनी रहें अंगूर लताएँ जिनसे मिलती है हाला,
बनी रहे वह मिटटी जिससे बनता है मधु का प्याला,
बनी रहे वह मदिर पिपासा तृप्त न जो होना जाने,
बनें रहें ये पीने वाले, बनी रहे यह मधुशाला।।

On July 8 2009, he writes there:

“…I was due to travel out tonight but a small problem has arisen. I developed a pain in the stomach much like the one I got last birthday. And it happened just when I was getting set to leave from London. So I travelled home in order that I may be in a climate that understands my condition, rather than stay back in alien country and subject myself to a medical from those that are unaware of my history. I drove straight to my doctor on arrival late last night and after some external physical examinations was subjected to CT scans this morning. The results do not show anything, but the trouble exists, albeit in a much smaller scale than the last time. Some more tests have been advised tomorrow. I have therefore postponed my travel until there is a fix on the problem and a possible line of treatment. I would not want to get moving again and land up in unknown territory and end up in hospital. Its disturbing to be in such state. Frustrating that despite extreme care a repetition of this problem keeps occurring…”

It makes sad reading.

Note: “Frustrating that despite extreme care a repetition of this problem keeps occurring.”


Dr. Atul Gawande has tried to answer it in the New Yorker April 30, 2007:

“…The idea that living things shut down and not just wear down has received substantial support in the past decade…

Today, the average life span in developed countries is almost eighty years. If human life spans depend on our genetics, then medicine has got the upper hand. We are, in a way, freaks living well beyond our appointed time. So when we study aging what we are trying to understand is not so much a natural process as an unnatural one. Inheritance has surprisingly little influence on longevity…

If our genes explain less than we imagined, the wear-and-tear model may explain more than we knew…

Nonetheless, as the defects in a complex system increase, the time comes when just one more defect is enough to impair the whole, resulting in the condition known as frailty. It happens to power plants, cars, and large organizations. And it happens to us: eventually, one too many joints are damaged, one too many arteries calcify. There are no more backups. We wear down until we can’t wear down anymore…

I spoke to Felix Silverstone, who for twenty-four years was the senior geriatrician at the Parker Jewish Institute, in New York, and has published more than a hundred studies on aging. There is, he said, “no single, common cellular mechanism to the aging process.” Our bodies accumulate lipofuscin and oxygen free-radical damage and random DNA mutations and numerous other microcellular problems. The process is gradual and unrelenting. “We just fall apart,” he said…”


बनी रहे यह मधुशाला...It will perhaps

बनें रहें ये पीने वाले....Never

‘Never bite old people, son, they all taste of statins.’

The Spectator, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Indian Men: The Bliss of Losing the Self

Disclaimer- I very much belong to this species.

V S Naipaul: “The outer world matters only in so far as it affects the inner. It is the Indian way of experiencing…”

Sudhir Kakar: “We Indians use the outside reality to preserve the continuity of the self amidst an ever changing flux of outer events and things. Men do not, therefore, actively explore the world; rather, they are defined by it. It is this negative way of perceiving that goes with ‘meditation’, the striving after the infinite, the bliss of losing the self; it also goes with karma and the complex organization of Indian life.”

(“India: A Wounded Civilization” by V.S. Naipaul, 1977)

Naipaul on Mahatma Gandhi:

(Double click on the picture to get a larger view)

Ashok Shahane on the journey of Saint Namdev संत नामदेव (c.1270-c. 1350 CE) from Maharashtra to Punjab, contrasting him with Marco Polo, al beruni, Ibn Battuta .

अशोक शहाणे Ashok Shahane (नपेक्षा, Napeksha 2005)

(Namdev however was not self-effacing at probably the most important event in his life: Sant Dnyāneshwar ज्ञानेश्वर taking to salvation (Samadhi) in 1296 CE. It's only because of him we know so much about it.)

‘Prabodhankar’ Thackeray on our habit of not documenting, contrasting it strongly with the British habit, practised by men like James Grant Duff:

"रंगो बापूजी" , केशव सीताराम ठाकरे ऊर्फ प्रबोधनकार ठाकरे, 1948
(“Rango Bapuji” by Prabodhankar Thackeray)

Nothing surprises me since I learnt this:

SN 1054 (Crab Supernova) was a supernova that was widely seen on earth in the year 1054. It was recorded by Chinese and Arab astronomers as being bright enough to see in daylight for 23 days and was visible in the night sky for 653 days, outshining the most brilliant stars in the heavens.

Dr. Jayant Narlikar in his book “The Scientific Edge” (Penguin Books India 2003) has a chapter titled “The Search for records of the Sighting of the Crab Supernova”. It describes Herculean efforts put in by his team to locate any record of this grand celestial event in Indian historical records, including popular literature. Sadly, they failed.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Nothing Found Against Gays Even at the Bottom of an Ocean!

The Hindu:

“In a landmark judgment, the Delhi High Court on Thursday struck down the provision of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalised consensual sexual acts of adults in private, holding that it violated the fundamental right of life and liberty and the right to equality as guaranteed in the Constitution.

Gays present in the court room hailed the judgment and greeted one another with hugs.”

(July 3, 2009)

Artist: Michael Crawford, The New Yorker, July 6 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #199

My caption:

Judge:“Hey fanatic, I knew you wouldn’t find anything in nature against gays even if you scraped the bottom of an ocean. On the contrary, it's likely you saw some fish displaying homosexual behavior.”

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sanskrit, That’s Why You is Dead

My 15-year-old son enjoys learning Sanskrit. I too liked it at his age.

In school, I read and reread a story- there exist a couple of variations on this- of Kalidasa.

It ran something like this:

“A poor Brahmin enters Dhara- the capital town of King Bhoja- where Kalidasa lived. He aspires to visit the court of King Bhoja and earn a prize on demonstration of his knowledge of Sanskrit.

It’s an early winter morning. He sees a young woman drawing rangawali in front of Kalidasa's house. Poor Brahmin thinks she is not adequately protected against the winter chill and asks her- in Sanskrit- if she is not afraid of getting harmed by the cold.

She answers that she is not being hurt by the cold but by the faulty grammar of the poor Brahmin.”

Then I thought- very smart. Now I say: What hubris!!!

In Sanskrit, the exchange in Dhara reads as follows:

अपि शीतं ते बाधती इति
सा अवदात
ना तथा बाधते शीतं
यथा बाधती बाधते

api shiitaM te baadhati iti
saa avadat
na tathaa baadhate shiitaM
yathaa baadhati baadhate”

[api shiitaM te baadhati iti= does cold bother (trouble) you?

saa avadat = she said

na tathaa baadhate shiitam = no, cold doesn't bother (trouble) me in that manner

yathaa baadhati baadhate = just like the word 'baadhati' bothers (troubles)

baadhati is incorrect usage and the correct usage is baadhate ]

Over the years, I have heard native speakers of Marathi teasing native speakers of Kannada when they speak Marathi. Even some big names in Marathi literature have fallen prey to this temptation in their writings.

It's so vulgar.

When I lived in Kolkata, Bengalis encouraged my wife and me to speak Bengali without any fear.

And finally English. It's as flexible as a Chinese gymnast.

Michael Skapinker writes in FT June 15, 2009:

“…But in their study “Was/were variation: A perspective from London”, Jenny Cheshire and Sue Fox of Queen Mary, University of London, write that those who say “you was” have history on their side. “You was” is hundreds of years old.It has been used in many parts of the English-speaking world…

… But there is no single standard of correct grammar. “You were” would be as much of a howler in some (non-Bangladeshi) parts of east London as “you was” would be in this newspaper…

… In his book, The Fight for English, David Crystal says: “The only languages that do not change are dead ones.”…”

Why didn’t Sanskrit change? Are today’s Indo-European languages, that are native to India, changing fast enough to survive the onslaught of Hindi?

Look at the picture below...She is concerned about his grammar...Is he talking dirty in Sanskrit?

Artist: Zachary Kanin, The New Yorker, May 25 2009

For more pictures of Zachary Kanin, click here.