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.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

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."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

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