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."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hockey World Cup and a Tale of Two SSC Exams

Gol Maal(1979) is my favourite film. I must have seen it several times.

It's directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who was a very interesting person.

Here is how he conceived his film "Anand" (1971): Mukherjee loved Raj Kapoor so much that he was morbidly afraid thinking of Raj Kapoor's death some day. The film is an effort to capture those feelings. Raj Kapoor is played by Rajesh Khanna and Hrishikesh Mukherjee is played by Amitabh Bachchan.

This is one of the most creative idea I have heard for a Hindi film.

'Gol Maal' (and Chhoti Si Baat, 1975), really captured the mood of people like me in the 1970's, early 1980's: bell-bottoms trousers...long hair...a belief that a revolution was round the corner and anger would get us there...good education...no jobs ('the best' job going was that of a clerk at a nationalised bank)...phone was something one saw only in movie...middleclass pretty girls- flaunting nonzero size figures- who got married before they turned even 21...and field hockey as popular as cricket.

A hockey match at Mumbai, between India-Pakistan, plays a major role in the film. It gives birth to the twin brother named 'Lakshmanprasad' of our hero 'Ramprasad'.

Asian Age Feb 15 2010: '“Yaar aaj Govinda aur Ashok Kumar bhi hote to mazaa aa jata.” This famous line from the movie Golmaal in 1979 — when actor Amol Palekar feigns sickness to watch a hockey match — depicts the frenzy that once surrounded the national game.'

India won 1975 hockey world cup that was played between March 1 - March 15 at Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was supposed to be in the thick of my S S C examination.

Earlier in 1973, I almost died hearing running commentary of India's final against Holland when they gave up their 2-0 lead and lost the cup.

Today, I remember the world cup more vividly than the exam! I heard running commentary of every India match on All India Radio and was panic stricken in the last ten minutes of the final between Indian-Pakistan played on March 15, should India repeated their earlier folly.

They didn't!

Inspired by efforts of Ajitpal Singh (captain), Leslie Fernandes, Ashok Dewan, Michael Kindo, Surjeet Singh, Aslam Sher Khan, Virender Singh, Onkar Singh, Mohinder Singh, V. J. Philips, Harcharan Singh, Shivaji Pawar, Ashok Kumar, B. P. Govinda, H. J. S. Chimni, B. P. Kalaiah and riding luck, I topped my school and the town in the SSC exam.

Who knew it would be India's last such triumph for decades to come?

Boys, this year my son appears for his S S C exam! Will you do it for him?

"Australian Jamie Dwyer, pictured below, is considered as the most lethal striker in world hockey, but there is something even this 30-year Australian cannot do — win every game 10-0 for coach Ric Charlesworth." (The Asian Age, Feb 23 2010)

Mr. Charlesworth, once we routinely used to!


Picture Courtesy: Getty Images

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shriram Lagoo, 'Mughal period' was NEVER as bad as 'Bajirao-II period'

Woody Allen:

"As a filmmaker, I'm not interested in 9/11 - it's too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: He kills me, I kill him, only with different cosmetics and different castings. So in 2001, some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. Political questions, if you go back thousands of years, are ephemeral - not important. History is the same thing over and over again”


The Times of India spoke to Shriram Lagoo about Pune German Bakery blast on Feb 18 2010.

Mr. Lagoo said:"...It is the worse than the 'Mughal period' now...".

In Marathi 'Mughal period' translates as मोगलाई 'moglai'.

I wonder if Dr. Lagoo has read M V Dhond's (म वा धोंड) "Marhati Lavani" (मर्हाटी लावणी) or Vasudevshastri Khare's (वासुदेवशास्त्री खरे) books: multi-volume "aitihaasik lekhasangrah" (ऐतिहासिक लेखसंग्रह) or "nana phadanvees yanche charitra" (नाना फडनवीस यांचे चरित्र).

If he had, he would say: It may be as bad 'Mughal period' but it is CERTAINLY not as bad as 'Bajirao-II period'.

Bajirao-II period should be the benchmark for a low in social and political life of Pune.

When I read Khare's books, it's hard to believe that it all happened in this city not too long ago. No wonder Jyotirao Phule (ज्योतीराव फुले) preferred British over Brahmins.

At least today we don't pay "Santosh Patti" (pleasure tax)because Congress-NCP are in power!

(Peshwa Bajirao-II infamous for his life dedicated to debauchery imposed a tax called "Santosh Patti" on Pune after his accession under the presumption that people were happy to have him as their king!)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rajnikant, Homa has to do. Elixir to Push Back Expiry Still Away

Clive Cookson wrote:

"...One of the biggest puzzles in biology – how and why living cells age – has been solved by an international team based at Newcastle University, in north-east England. The answer is complex, and will not produce an elixir of eternal life in the foreseeable future..." (FT, February 15 2010)

The Times of India reported on Feb 18 2010:

"Call it the Nagavalli effect or, in other words, the fear of death. Superstar Rajnikant has turned to God for solace, following the death of his close friend and Kannada actor Vishnuvardhan.

Rajnikant, still struggling to come to terms with Vishnuvardhan's death, recently conducted the Maha Mrutyunjaya homa (to ward off death) and visited several shrines in and around Mysore to counter the negative energy and evil forces..."

Artist: Colin Wheeler, Spectator

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Waiting for Marathi's Joseph Conrad. Atleast another Vijay Tendulkar.

Until recently we had Vijay Tendulkar (विजय तेंडुलकर) who created 'Ghashiram Kotwal' (घाशीराम कोतवाल) in 1972 to show what havoc totalitarianism wreaks on civil society and how the government of the day creates and encourages such forces for self preservation.

(btw- Nana Phadanvis (नाना फडणवीस) 1742-1800 'the government of the day' in 'Ghashiram', adjusted for inflation, was probably as wealthy as the richest politician of Maharashtra today.)

Since 1993, terrorism has joined totalitarianism in Maharashtra.

Where do we stand today?

Loksatta, February 12 2010:

"...Today if a Marathi speaker goes to any other part of India, he would feel embarrassed. Other Indians get a picture of Maharashtra where only rowdyism, bullyism, gangsterism, terrorism and uncontrolled land-grabbing is going on. Earlier the images that were evoked when the word 'Bihar' was pronounced are now evoked by the word 'Maharashtra'..."

(लोकसत्ता: "...आज देशाच्या कोणत्याही भागात कुणीही मराठी माणूस गेला तरी त्याला अतिशय संकोच वाटावा, अशी स्थिती आहे. महाराष्ट्रात फक्त राडेबाजी, दादागिरी, खंडणीबाजी, दहशतबाजी आणि बेसुमार भूखंडबाजी चालू आहे असेच चित्र अन्य भारतीयांना दिसते. पूर्वी ‘बिहार’ हा शब्द उच्चारला तरी ज्या प्रतिमा डोळ्यासमोर येत, तशा आता ‘महाराष्ट्र’ हे नाव उच्चारले तरी येतात...")

Is this all reflected in Marathi literature?

Sure, there have been few attempts but nothing is even close to 'Ghashiram Kotwal' let alone Conrad's writings. (G A Kulkarni जी. ए. कुलकर्णी 1923-1987 was inspired by Conrad. But he didn't write any 'political' stuff.)

In English?

John Gray:

"...It is no accident that nothing approaching a great political novel appeared in the last decades of the 20th century...It is a telling fact about the closing decades of the 20th century that the closest approximation to a notable political novel was probably The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Conrad is our contemporary because, almost alone among 19th- and 20th-century novelists, he writes of the realities in which we live. At bottom, we know the dilemmas we face are not wholly soluble; but we prefer not to dwell on that. In order to avoid ethnic and religious enmities interacting with the rising scarcity of oil, water and other necessities, we need a worldwide programme of restraint and conservation; but such a programme is difficult to imagine at the best of times, and impossible while crucial regions of the world are at war. The realistic prospect is that the most we can do is stave off disaster - a task that demands stoicism and fortitude, not the utopian imagination. Which other novelist can school us so well in these forgotten virtues?

Conrad's greatness is that, by an art of enchantment, he brings us back to our actual life...

...It falls to a novelist without much faith in the power of reason to enlighten us how to live reasonably in these circumstances..."


'Waiting for Twin Bodies'

February 15 2010; Location: Outside of Morgue of Sassoon Hospital, Pune

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Could Toyota Learn from Sarah Palin?

I am always appalled the way native Marathi speakers mock and tease Marathi spoken by non-natives. It's vulgar.

The Times of India reported on 1 February 2010:

"..."Just because one can write, read and speak Marathi does not entitle him to local jobs...For getting jobs in Mumbai, one has to be a Marathi by birth. Just knowledge of reading and writing the language will not do," Raj Thackeray said at a party meeting at Shanmukhanandaq hall in Matunga area.

Raj also criticised party members for distributing Marathi alphabet books to north Indian taxi drivers last week.

"Think over the type of protest you were undertaking. Who told you to teach them Marathi," Raj said..."

So now we are not even amused. We frown (and attempt to lynch?) if you speak Marathi despite being not borne in Maharashtra!

However I must admit that I was shocked to see the efforts of Toyota president Akio Toyoda speaking English at a press conference on Feb 5 2010.

He said: "Believe me, Toyota’s car is safety. But we will try to increase our product better.”

I agree with David Pilling when he says:

"...It would normally be unforgivable to mock someone’s difficulties in English. But the fact that Mr Toyoda, who earned an MBA in the US, had not been drilled in a word-perfect English apology says much about Toyota’s sub-quality response to its recall crisis. In Japan, the apology, like ikebana and haiku, is an art form. Yet as recently as last Friday, when the Toyota chief made his tangled mea culpa, the company was still failing to address the concerns of its customers, 70 per cent of whom live outside Japan..." (FT, Feb 10 2010)

Recently Sarah Palin, a Presidential hopeful, who had been shown reading notes from her hand at a question and answers session, was mocked in US.

But I guess Ms. Palin did better than Akio Toyoda.


Artist: Mike Luckovich

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shelley Shailendra. Which are Our Sweetest Songs?

According to Shailendra (1923-1966):

"sweetest songs are those that we sing in sad voice"

"hain sabase madhur wo geet jinhen, ham dard ke sur men gaate hain,
ham dard ke sur men gaate hain;
jab had se guzar jaati hai khushi, aansoo bhi chhalak te aate hain,
aansoo bhi chhalak te aate hain;
hain sab se madhur wo geet..."

(Patita, 1953, music: Shankar Jaikishan शंकर-जयकिशन)

According to Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822):

"We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."

Notice Shelley died even yonger than Shailendra.

Their songs remain sweet as ever.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Stefan Zweig. Who? The One Who Missed 'The World of Yesterday'

(p.s. After this post was published, I received a call from Vasant Sarwate [वसंत सरवटे] on Feb 11 2010. He told me that he has read almost all books of Zweig. He also informed that V S Khandekar [वि स खांडेकर] has translated 'The World of Yesterday' into Marathi)

Many, if not most, important books and authors, Indian and foreign, have NOT been translated in Marathi. (Read a related post here.)

Therefore, it is not surprising that, today, most Marathi speakers don't know anything about Stefan Zweig. It wasn't always so. At one point, he was popular among adult Marathi readers

Our household was an exception where kids knew Zweig.

From our early childhood, we knew him and Erich Maria Remarque more than Henry James and Charles Dickens because my father was busy translating some of Zweig's work into Marathi.

One of the titles is 'bhannaat' (1970) भन्नाट, translation of 'Amok'(1922).

I was captivated by my father's translations.

Durga Bhagwat mentions Zweig in her autobiographical 'Aispais Gappa: Durgabainshi' by Pratibha Ranade, 1998 (ऐसपैस गप्पा : दुर्गाबाईंशी, लेखक प्रतिभा रानडे).

Durgabai explains why Zweig committed suicide in 1942: passing of a world he cherished and missed.

I too have figured out a 'Why'? More I read Antony Beevor's masterpieces on World War II, more I say why not.

I didn't know that Zweig had left a long suicide note. In the form of a book: 'The World of Yesterday'

Nicholas Lezard reviews it for The Guardian December 5, 2009.

I found it very moving.

"...His art was always self-effacing, or certainly not self-revelatory; all you could have confidently told about him from reading his work is that he was obviously thoughtful, highly observant, and humane...

...and his world, as the Habsburg empire crumbles and the serene confidence and prosperity of central Europe turns to barbarism and despair, he has produced a document which, however well you think you know the story, is essential to our understanding of history...

...His picture of prewar Paris will have you almost in tears for a lost world...

...This is, in short, a book that should be read by anyone who is even slightly interested in the creative imagination and the intellectual life, the brute force of history upon individual lives..."

I should read it.

Will I ever get to read a book on India or Maharashtra we have lost since I left Miraj in 1981? I miss Miraj the way the ladies in the beautiful picture below are missing men in the woods!

Will, some day in future, I miss that world so much that I think of a suicide? After all my father's father's brother (read more on this here) and my father's mother's brother have committed suicides.


Artist: Adolf Dehn, The New Yorker, June 15 1935

p.s. The name of the cartoonist is Adolf (meaning noble, and wolf; in sequence).

"The use of Adolf as a given name has drastically declined following the regime of Nazi Germany and its Führer, Adolf Hitler, and it has since been a widely avoided name for newborn boys due to its negative association with Hitler." (Wikipedia)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Sarpa Satra: Made in India. Practised in Americas, Germany, Russia...

'Sarpa Satra',2003 is an English poem of Arun Kolatkar (अरुण कोलटकर). It has been beautifully produced in the form of a book by Ashok Shahane (अशोक शहाणे) for PRAS PRAKASHAN.

The poem is based on an episode where a sacrifice was performed by King Janamejaya with the object of annihilating the Nagas, or the Snake People.

The late Irawati Karve (इरावती कर्वे) in her book “Yuganta” (Marathi,1969 / English,1974) calls this pogrom of Naga people Hitlerian.

(Ms. Karve completed her Ph D in Anthropology from Berlin in 1930. I haven't read anything she has written, if any, about her days in Weimar Republic. Did she have any inkling that Third Reich was just three years away!

by the way- the news of 'Bajaj Auto' to stop manufacturing scooters' brought to my mind how Ms. Karve was supposedly one of the first women in Pune to drive a scooter. Reportedly onlookers looked at her in awe.)

In her words: “…. The need for expansion explains the burning of the forests, but the question still remains: Why was it burned so mercilessly?...

The land was usurped after a massacre, a massacre which is praised as a valorous deed. This was because the victims were not Kshatriyas or their Aryan subjects. All the high sounding morality of the Kshatriya code was limited to their own group...

There were rules which applied to all animals, but apparently no rules applied to all human beings. If you spared an animal today you could always kill it tomorrow. But if you spared a human being- even to make a slave out of him-he would in course of time acquires certain rights. There was indeed great danger in sparing the lives of those who owned the land. Krishna and Arjuna, therefore, must have felt the necessity of completely wiping out the enemy...

In the burning of Khandava no rules of conduct seem to have been observed. The sole aim was the acquisition of the land and the liquidation of the Nagas. But the cruel objective was defeated.

Just as Hitler found it impossible to wipe out a whole people, so did the Pandavas. All they gained through this cruelty were the curses of hundreds of victims and three generation of enmity. The only man deliberately spared was Maya, the asura. In gratitude he built the famous palace- Mayasabha……Mayasabha was not only ill-omened; it was even more insubstantial than the city in which it was built. Born in violence, its dazzling demonic splendour turned out be fleeting dream”

The poet Kolatkar gives expressions to these poignant words of an anthropologist.

Charles C. Mann has written a book -'1491'- on the Americas before the Europeans began their formal invasion in 1492.

KEVIN BAKER says in a review (NYT, October 9, 2005):

"...What emerges is an epic story, with a subtly altered tragedy at its heart. For all the European depredations in the Americas, the work of conquest was largely accomplished for them by their microbes, even before the white men arrived in any great numbers. The diseases brought along by the very first unwitting Spanish conquistadors, and probably by English fishermen working the New England coast, very likely triggered one of the greatest catastrophes in human history. Before the 16th century, there may have been as many as 90 million to 112 million people living in the Americas - people who could be as different from each other "as Turks and Swedes," but who had cumulatively developed an incredible range of natural environments, from seeding the Amazon Basin with fruit trees to terracing the mountains of Peru. (Even the term "New World" may be a misnomer; it is possible that the world's first city was in South America.)

Then, disaster. According to some estimates, as much as 95 percent of the Indians may have died almost immediately on contact with various European diseases, particularly smallpox. That would have amounted to about one-fifth of the world's total population at the time, a level of destruction unequaled before or since..."

Kolatkar's poem ends as follows:

"And the fire that Parashara produced
for the destruction
of rakshasas

still rages, they say,
in the great forest beyond
the Himalayas

where the great sage tried
to dispose of it
when he stopped the sacrifice

at the urgings of Poulastya;
and there, to this day,
they say, it continues to consume

rakshasas
rocks
trees"


Death to Stalin: "You were always a great friend of mine, Joseph"

Artist: Herbert Block, Washington Post (1909-2001)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

When will Google Feature Vasant Sarwate Doodle?

Today, February 3 2010, Google has on its homepage featured Norman Rockwell Doodle on the artist's 116th birth anniversary.

(Wiki: Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be abstract shapes.)

I have loved Rockwell's work as long as I remember. Even when I did not know that it was his!

I was moved by Google's act. I thought it was a great way to honor the artist's memory and his work. (Will Indian corporates do this someday? So elegantly and matter-of-factly?)

Today also is another great artist Vasant Sarwate's (वसंत सरवटे) 83rd birthday.

I hope on some future February 3rd, Google will discover Sarwate and feature his Doodle.

If they want an artist similar to Rockwell, I recommend S D Phadnis (शि द फडणीस), Sarwate's close friend.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Could G A Kulkarni be more like J D Salinger?

I have not read J D Salinger but I plan to read him some day. However I read G A Kulkarni जी ए कुलकर्णी every month.

Some excellent articles have appeared on Salinger after his death.

JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN writes:

"THE national bereavement over the death of J. D. Salinger provided a strangely public moment in the career of a writer who’d become best known, in recent years, for his reclusiveness. There are other American writers famous for shunning the public eye — Thomas Pynchon leaps to mind — but Mr. Salinger’s seclusion was unique. By the end of his life, he may have become better known for his solitude than for his imagination.

In a way, nothing succeeds like invisibility. In America, we revere artists who won’t do the thing they’re famous for...

...The more steadfastly they refuse us, the more infuriatingly desirable they become..." (NYT Feb 1 2010)

That's how I thought G A Kulkarni became more desirable.

For a long time, GA refused permission to reprint his books once the first edition was sold out! Avoided meeting the then celebrities of Maharashtra. Used a rubber stamp of his signature instead of signing letters etc.

He simply didn't give a damn. I loved him also for that.

And then I saw in print his voluminous correspondence with many people in Maharashtra.

I was disappointed.

I always felt that instead of pouring his heart in writing and playing psychotherapist to the likes of Sunita Deshpande सुनीता देशपांडे, he could have written more books or painted.

He had so much to say...

On appreciation of arts. Perhaps a translation of his own stories in Kannada. On sights, sounds and smells (he was so good at smells) of Dharwad-Hubli. Where to savour the best south Indian snacks in Belgaum (here I remember his friend Jaywant Dalvi's जयवंत दळवी brilliant essay on eating out in Mumbai), beauty of two sisters Kannada-Marathi...