मेघदूत: "नीचैर्गच्छत्युपरि च दशा चक्रनेमिक्रमेण"

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);...”

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."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

C V Joshi's Bheema Shaligram, Plague in Pune, Swine Flu


"...the Black Death felled at least 30 percent of those it inflicted, whereas a modern plague in India that struck Bombay in 1904, before the advent of antibiotics, killed only 3 percent of its victims..."
(The NYT, August 29 2011)

I recently read 'Rahat-gaadagan' by C V Joshi (1892-1963) ('रहाट-गाडगं', चिं. वि. जोशी).

Marathiworld.com describes it as a collection of Joshi's humorous articles. It's anything but that.

It's a novel written wryly, perhaps inspired by Laxmibai Tilak's 'Smriti Chitre' (लक्ष्मीबाई टिळक, स्मृतिचित्रे).

R K Narayan almost certainly never read or met C V Joshi.

Or did he? I find a lot of similarity between their humour.

Narayan's first novel, Swami and Friends, was published in 1935. By then, C V Joshi's main character- Chimanrao- was well established in Marathi.

Although, 'Rahat-gaadagan' was first published in 1955, it describes the first decade of 20th century.

It is a story of Bheema Shaligram nee Ainapure (borne c1889, married c1899, motherhood c1902, widowed and head shaved c1904, death ?), a Brahmin woman, who now is running her own mess (dining hall). The story is in her own words.

I really enjoyed the book. It easily is one of the best Marathi books I have read.

It also is a social history of the period- Narmada-river with crocodiles, Gujarat, Mumbai, Pune, trains, trams, the misery of Indian women, Marathi musical theatre...and dreaded plague.

Unlike R K Narayan, C V Joshi shuns sex completely.

An example: Bheema's husband performs roles of female characters in a theatre company. A lot of people, including his close family, make fun of him for that. Bheema herself doesn't like it. She might be even suspicious of his virility, particularly because her family was cheated into this marriage.

And yet Joshi completely omits any reference to consummation of their marriage and makes Bheema pregnant in due course!

The swine-flu epidemic that has visited Pune in the summer of 2009 makes the book even more interesting and eerie.

Below I have given three small passages from the book and their translations.

"Like each year plague epidemic had started in Pune. I had completed five years of my stay in Pune and every year plague began after Diwali and continued until Maha Shivratri. First you heard of a rat dying, and then you came to know -in either Bhavani Peth or Magalwar- some woman or man dying of plague..."

"..an acquaintance contracting plague and then the news of his/her death next day arrived. 'Daily-count' would start with four-five infected and three-four died to gallop to two hundred infected and one seventy-five died. There used to be instances when the entire family would contract plague and, since no one survived it, their valuables would be looted by the neighbours.
Almost all the educated people used to go and stay in the huts built on the grounds of Chaturshringi; but we, from old Tapkeer Galli and Phadke's Bol, were not quitters. Our priest Tamanna Charya used to laugh at the people who got scared of plague and ran into the jungle. He would say: Pune's deity, Kasba's Ganpati, was protector of Kasba, old Tapkeer Galli and Phadke Bol and hence his carriage- rat- would never cause any harm to its owner's favourite children

"My father-in-law's friend Marutirao came to our house without wearing a headgear. My husband was lying in bed and my brother-in-law was sitting nearby doing accounts of the school and private tuitions. Without taking a seat, Marutirao said: "Vasu-Bandu today I am in deep trouble. My brother-in-law came from Koregaon yesterday carrying plague infection and has just died. It requires minimum of eight people to carry him (to cremation ground); but who will volunteer to carry the one who has died of plague! If you both come, it will be a great help to us."

Just substitute the word 'plague' with 'H1N1'...So much has changed in Pune in last hundred years and yet so much is the same!

Will more vicious H1N1 become annual fixture on Pune winter calendar i.e. from Diwali until Maha Shivratri?

Bheema-aajee Shaligram nee Bheema Ainapure (भीमा-आजी शाळिग्राम, भीमा ऐनापुरे) busy with her job much later in her life (c 1950's).
Artist: S G Joshi सीताराम गंगाधर जोशी

(Vasant Sarwate has done a moving appreciation of unsung S G Joshi's art in his book "Parakee Chalan", 1989. The picture above is from the same essay.)


mannab said...

I have been reading your posts with deep interest. Your this recent post on Chi.Vi.Joshi's Bheema Shaligram, Pune's Plague, Swine flu is superb.No doubt,senior Punekars may have recalled their memories of Plague. I may wish to translate this post in Marathi with your kind permission and send to some well known periodical mentioning your reference.Please reply and confirm. Warm Regards.
Mangesh Nabar

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Thanks Mangesh for your kind words.

You have my standing permission.

Anonymous said...

your post on CV and The artist SG was perfect.
About SG I had tried to invite attention to the point
that an illustration has to be something more than skillful drawing and must harmonise with the author which Sg does very well with CV .
I was happy that you have made that point.

Vasant Sarwate by e-mail on Sept 30 2009