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.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

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, 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.