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."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What did Crystal Ball Fortune Teller say in 1990?

Recently from Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund company I received a promotional mailer. Its envelope carried this slogan: "Remember what life was like, in India, before 1991?”

So did Sunanda K Datta-Ray.

I just trashed the envelope but Mr. Datta-Ray was stimulated by it to write an essay that can be found here.

"...The world was less glamorous with fewer big scams. Cricket was sport, not speculation. Hinduism was religion, not politics. Recorded telephone operators’ voices didn’t sound as if they belonged to Hindi-speaking young women trying desperately hard to pretend they were Americans trying desperately hard to speak Hindi...

...People wrote letters instead of tweeting. They chatted with each other, not into machines. Indian women wore saris, not The Red Sari. Actresses hadn’t crossed the gender barrier. Bollywood didn’t pretend to be Hollywood. Bollywood stars didn’t rush to Cannes since there were no awards to collect. There are still no awards but they go to spend all that cash and flaunt their wardrobes. “Topless” wasn’t a fashion option. Newspapers served news...

...I wrote in the seventies and eighties that nuclear bombs, missions to the Moon and vehicles in space were for India, not Indians. Now, the expected 8.5 per cent growth is as much for India as for Indians … or for some Indians until Manmohan Singh redeems his promise of a “new deal for rural India” and extends it also to include the neglected urban poor..."


Artist: Steve Breen

Friday, June 25, 2010

Keshavsut's Tutari..err Vuvuzela!

Stanley Crouch: People are uncomfortable in silence because it can breed needless contemplation and may engender a floating into the deeper world of the self.

I am feasting on world-cup football.

A lot of people, including my wife, are bothered by vuvuzelas' angry-honeybees-buzzing noise.

I am little affected by their din.

I in fact seem to enjoy it.

If Keshvasut (केशवसुत) 1866-1905 had watched this worldcup, would he have written his poem 'Tutari' (तुतारी) as 'Vuvuzela' (व्हुव्हुझेला)?

"Get me a vuvuzela
I will blow it with all my strength
That will pierce all skies
with its loud long scream

Get such a vuvuzela to me"

("एक व्हुव्हुझेला द्या मज आणुनि
फुंकिन मी जी स्वप्राणाने
भेदुनि टाकिन सगळी गगनें
दीर्ध जिच्या त्या किंकाळीने
अशी व्हुव्हुझेला द्या मजलागुनी")

Long after the world cup gets lifted to the sky on July 12 2010, a Burdell will continue to play vuvuzela for me.


Artist: Richard Decker, The New Yorker, 6 Feb 1937

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Death: You were always a great friend of mine, Warren

A columnist observed on June 19 2010:

"...And the ageing Warren Anderson will eventually die a peaceful death in the Hamptons…. unlike the over twenty thousand Indians who weren’t as lucky when they gasped their last breaths in distant Bhopal twenty six years ago..."

I am not sure of that.

How little we know what happens while one is dying.

James Thurber: Even a well-ordered life can not lead anybody safely around the inevitable doom that waits in the skies...

And we are not even sure if Mr. Anderson's life is 'well-ordered'.

About justice and fair play...


Brad DeLong
- “Call those political leaders whose followers and supporters have slaughtered more than ten million of their fellow humans "members of the Ten-Million Club.”… The twentieth century has seen perhaps five people join the Ten Million Club: Adolf Hitler, Chiang Kaishek, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao have credentials that may well make them the charter members of the Thirty Million Club as well–perhaps the Fifty Million Club."

What kind of death these gentlemen got?



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

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shame on me and the media I follow: Passing of Manohar Malgonkar

Manohar Malgonkar died on June 14 2010 and I came to know about it only today June 20 2010.

Shame on me and the media I follow.

I lapped up everything he wrote for The Statesman and Deccan Herald. I vividly remember his essay describing his visit to the Badami cave temples.

Like Khushwant Singh, he was one of the finest Indian writer of English prose after 1950's.

Every time I travelled from Miraj to Bangalore by a train, I knew he was not very far until train reached Hubli.

Now any where I go he will never be too far.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lord Irwin: And now, Ms. Gauhar Jaan, I wonder if I could take a small liberty?

Gauhar Jaan (1873-1930) was a legendary singer. Probably as big as what K L Saigal was and Lata Mangeshkar today is.

Frontline June 5-18 2010 has a review of a book on her: "My Name is Gauhar Jaan!" - The Life and Times of a Musician by Vikram Sampath.

In school hisory books one comes across Lord Irwin who was Viceroy of India from 1926 to 1931.

Wikipedia informs: "Irwin's rule was marked by a period of great political turmoil. The exclusion of Indians from the Simon Commission examining the country's readiness for self-government provoked serious violence..."

Looks like among all this he found time to violate Ms. Jaan.

"...Lord Irwin, visiting Rampur, was lavishly entertained, and a part of it was a concert by Gauhar Jaan. She sang gloriously. She, however, made one inadvertent mistake. Dressed in a saree with her customary elegance, she pinned all the medals she had received from bigwigs during her illustrious career on her chest. After the concert, against all norms of civilised etiquette, Lord Irwin reached out to examine the medals. Nawab Hamid Ali was incensed. He told Gauhar later, “So you did manage to get a white man to touch your breast, didn't you?” She, due to a silly, unthinking act on her part, found herself suddenly out of favour with the nawab. Most humiliating of all was the discovery that the precious diamonds she had got as gifts from him were actually cheap imitations..."


Artist: Peter Arno, The New Yorker, March 29, 1947

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

N G Kalelkar, It was Marriage at Cana, not The Last Supper

I like essays of N G Kalelkar 1909-1989 (ना गो कालेलकर) whose Marathi book 'Bhasha: Itihas ani Bhoogol' (भाषा: इतिहास आणि भूगोल) won Sahitya Akademi award in 1967.

Year 2009-10 is the 100th birth anniversary year of Kalelkar. The June 2010 issue of Lalit (ललित) has an essay on him by Prof. Vidyagauri Tilak (विद्यागौरी टिळक) to mark the occasion.

It is said that the main character- played memorably by Satish Dubhashi (सतीश दुभाषी)- of P L Deshpande's (पु ल देशपांडे) popular play 'Ti Fulrani' (ती फुलराणी) was inspired by Kalelkar.

Sunita Deshpande (सुनीता देशपांडे), P L Deshpande's wife, has written an unusually frank- for inbred Marathi literary culture of second half of 20th century- essay on Kalelkar, throwing light on many aspects of his personal life. (After reading the essay, Kalelkar became more interesting for me.)

In one of the most impressive passages from Kalelkar's book '"bhasha ani sanskriti" (भाषा आणि संस्कृती) he says:

When a class containing Lord Byron (1788 – 1824) was asked to write an essay on the subject of the Last Supper, Byron wrote just one line- 'The water saw its Lord and blushed'...Water in Latin is feminine...etc. etc. (page 47, edition December 1982)

This moved me so much when I first read it almost 25 years ago that I memorised it and kept quoting it in my conversations.

There are a couple of problems with this.

First, it was not the Last Supper but Marriage at Cana.

And second it was not Lord Byron- then a third grade boy- who first said this.

In fact it was Richard Crashaw (c.1613-1649) who wrote:

'The conscious water saw its God, and blushed' (original in Latin: Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit)

Read an earlier related post here

I feel Kalelkar should have attributed this to Crashaw. But did he know that it was Crashaw who first wrote it?

A lot of stuff written in Marathi has gone unchallenged.


Artist: Paolo Veronese, c 1562-63

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Our Still Life!

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699–1779) is considered a master of still life.


Artist: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 'The Silver Goblet' c. 1768

And now more than 200 years after his passing...

'A century of still life'


Spectator

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Special Prayer for Bhopal's Local Court

Dilip Chitre's (दिलीप चित्रे) e-mail to me on August 6 2009:

"Dear Aniruddha,

...To compare Bhopal 1984 with Mumbai 26/11 is not wholly unproductive. Innocent citizens of Bhopal didn't know they were at war with the giant Union Carbide corporation and that both the Union and the State government had welcomed the huge plant.

I am too close to the tragedy as it mentally maimed my only son, probably made an impact on my daughter-in-law and their six months old foetus that survived the nightmare now 25 and healthy).

best,

Dilip Chitre

एक पलड़े में नपुंसकता,
एक पलड़े में पौरुष,
और ठीक तराजू के कांटे पर,
अर्ध सत्य


Artist: Alan Dunn, The New Yorker, July 21, 1962

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Where do Marriages go?

When I heard that Gores were splitting- Al and Tipper Gore separating after 40 years of marriage- my only thought was: Would they have done it if Mr. Gore had become the president of USA?

"Ellie: Our marriage wasn't going anywhere.

Val: Where do you want it to go? Where do marriages go? After a while they just lay there. That's the thing about marriages."


(Hollywood Ending, 2002)

Not all men think like Val.

DEIRDRE BAIR
says in NYT June 4 2010:"For many married 20 to 60-plus years, the decision to divorce does not mean failure and shame, but opportunity."

Indeed opportunity for a few as depicted in the picture below!


'There’s no easy way of saying this — remember how stunning you looked when we first met, darling? I’m leaving you for a similar woman.’

Courtesy: Spectator, June 2010

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Any Merit in Meritlist?

The best news to have come my way in 2010 is:

The established practice followed annually while declaring the HSC (std XII) results was discarded on Tuesday with the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education refraining from announcing the names of the aggregate toppers in the state or in each the eight divisions. (The Times of India, May 26, 2010)

I always thought the practice was vulgar display of one's so-called "merit".

Of course, our media is so perverse that Marathi news channel Starmajha (स्टार माझा) 'discovered' the topper and put her on their show.

Where has meritocracy led us?

ROSS DOUTHAT: "...This is the perverse logic of meritocracy. Once a system grows sufficiently complex, it doesn’t matter how badly our best and brightest foul things up. Every crisis increases their authority, because they seem to be the only ones who understand the system well enough to fix it.

But their fixes tend to make the system even more complex and centralized, and more vulnerable to the next national-security surprise, the next natural disaster, the next economic crisis. Which is why, despite all the populist backlash and all the promises from Washington, this isn’t the end of the “too big to fail” era. It’s the beginning..."

Artist: Rea Gardner, The New Yorker, 10 Nov 1945