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.”
Albert Einstein: “I am content in my later years. I have kept my good humor and take neither myself nor the next person seriously.” (To P. Moos, March 30, 1950. Einstein Archives 60-587)
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: "… इ. स. 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."
Monday, November 29, 2010
While the dominant trend in recent British art has toyed with nihilism, the mass media have done the opposite. Technology has been used to manufacture meaning. The camera gives us a snapshot of events and allows us to imagine we are seeing things clearly and plainly. By turning the chaos of sensation into a series of definite images, it enables us to find meaning when it may in fact be fugitive, or even absent. The truth is that we do not know why some people commit hideous crimes, but living in this knowledge is intolerable because it leaves the world a random place. The media cater to our need for order. When the camera is used to construct an icon of evil, it is not simply giving vent to punitive fantasies, but being used to maintain meaning in our lives.
And their (India’s) media is heading for ad-backed celebrity hell faster, and more comprehensively, than ours.
When I see India's superstar TV and newsprint personalities, I never think they bring any order or meaning to my life but I always feel they are smart, wealthy, sophisticated- like Avery Jessup of 30 Rock and totally unlike me- but I don't like what they do and I can always switch off the TV.
I never thought they were so corrupt.
The best comment on this has probably come from unsung Sudhir Tailang who according to me is the best political cartoonist drawing for a national newspaper in India today. If Mr. Tailang were to focus his attention on life beyond politics he might scale even greater artistic heights.
Artist: Sudhir Tailang, The Asian Age, November 28 2010
p.s After I posted the above, I came across this "Welcome to the Matrix of the Indian state" by Siddharth Varadarajan. Please read it to assess India's Who's Who.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
David Brooks: As a novelist, Tolstoy was an unsurpassed observer. But he found that life unfulfilling. As he set out to improve the world, his ability to perceive it deteriorated. Instead of conforming his ideas to the particularities of existence, he conformed his perception of reality to his vision for the world. He preached universal love but seemed oblivious to the violence he was doing to his family.
There is hardly anything original being done in India to mark the death centenary year of Leo Tolstoy.
That does not surprise me but I was shocked to read this:
"A century ago, all of Russia mourned Leo Tolstoy's death at a backwater train station. But today the novelist and pacifist, who abhorred any form of government, is more respected in the West than his home country.
The centennial of Tolstoy's death, 100 years ago Saturday, seems to be passing virtually unnoticed in Russia..." (AFP)
But I was very impressed see this monument.
Location: Yasnaya Polyana
I bought 'War and Peace' long ago and I have yet to start reading it. I have read a lot about Tolstoy but not much by him.
Michael Dirda says: Tolstoy's main characters are all spiritual pilgrims.
A man from the land of Warkaris like me should be able to relate to them. Sure but only when he decides to take out the book from the bottom of the pile of unread books! Maybe a newspaper or TV strike will help.
Artist: Barney Tobey, The New Yorker, 20 Apr 1963
(Newspaper strike in US began on Dec 8, 1962 and lasted for 114 days. )
I was moved by A N Wilson's tribute to him: "From the first reading of War and Peace, it becomes clear that Tolstoy writes with the breadth and scope of Homer. Nowhere outside the Iliad do we find such a prodigious combination of artistic detachment from joy and suffering and yet at the same time such passionate engagement and sympathy. It is a paradoxical truth in these two European masterpieces, and Bartlett’s book gives us the sense of how both these godlike qualities, of indifference and empathy, were constantly present in Tolstoy’s soul." (FT, Nov 19 2010)
Vivian Gornick writes about Tolstoy's marriage:
"...It pained Sonya throughout her life that her only real hold on Tolstoy was sexual—neither her thoughts nor her desires kept his attention—and it pained her even more when that hold loosened. She herself never enjoyed making love, but when finally, in significant old age, he stopped coming to her, she was beside herself with shame, loss, longing. So often, throughout their years together, he had bolted, leaving her entirely alone—sometimes even when he was in the house—for days or weeks on end (her diary often reports an unspeakable loneliness). Yet she had gone on dreaming that ultimately she would have Tolstoy’s friendship and tender regard. When the sex went, and the friendship did not blossom, she grew desolate.
In the end the mixed nature of humanity itself proves the source of the great existential drama. To be mean and generous, depraved and decent, loving and murderous, not by turns but all at once—that, it seems, is the true burden of our existence. It is this humiliation that makes us rage at the heavens, this humiliation that has ever demanded of us some over-arching myth of redemption that will atone for the despair of our own self-divisions..."
In Marathi culture I have often heard people expressing satisfaction, even joy, after a person's passing, that his/her last days were spent well, perhaps in happiness.
I have never understood this focus on "last days".
Tolstoy's last days:
"...Fleeing from his home and wife of 48 years with just 50 rubles in his pocket, 82-year Tolstoy rushed from one monastery to another before catching a cold on a train and dying at a small train station in Astapovo, Lipetsk region..." (AFP)
Thursday, November 25, 2010
One of B S Mardhekar's (बा. सी. मर्ढेकर) poems: 'Mee Ek Mungi, Ha Ek Mungi' [मी एक मुंगी, हा एक मुंगी), poem 16 from 'Anakhi Kahi Kavita' (आणखी कांहीं कविता), has these lines:
'ह्या नच मुंग्या : हींच माणसे :
असेच होते गांधीजीही,
येशु क्रिस्त अन् कृष्ण कदाचित्
कालिदास अन टैकोब्राही.'
(They are not ants : they are humans :
Gandhiji was like this too
Jesus Christ and Krishna perhaps
Kalidas and Tycho Brahe too)
I have already written about this poem here.
After reading DAN BILEFSKY's article in The New York Times on November 19 2010, looking at Brahe's remains, I realised how human Brahe was!
In India, majority of Hindus are cremated and hence have no graves, and even if they had, we wouldn't allow opening of them. There would be riots even at the mention of it.
But if there were to be graves for Krishna or Gandhi, their remains wouldn't look very different from that of Brahe.
Niels Linnerup of the University of Copenhagen examines the remains of Tycho Brahe in Prague,
Pool photo by Jacob Christensen Ravn/Aarhus University, via European Pressphoto Agency courtsey: The New York Times, Published: November 19, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I haven't seen a grander sporting spectacle than the Badminton gold medal match at Guangzhou between Lee Chong Wei vs Lin Dan. Watch it on YouTube here.
It was almost surreal. It was like watching artistic gymnastics being performed on badminton court.
I must thank DD that they did not bungle this one. Never mind their commentators.
In Indian mythology, one often reads that the Gandharvas shower flowers on earth at some special moments.
Were they present in Guangzhou skies on the evening of November 21st 2010?
p.s. The answer to my rhetorical question in the title is: None. Because he probably doesn't eat wheat flour (Aata)!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
But for me, Weinberg reached an exalted status not because what he may still do in science or his Nobel prize but when I read his this line in one of the greatest pieces of prose I have read:
"...Whatever purposes may be served by rewarding the talented, I have never understood why untalented people deserve less of the world's good things than other people..."
(Five and a Half Utopias, The Atlantic, January 2000)
No ism, no right/left, no ideology, no religion, no holy text...I trust only a poet-saint or a sage to write a line of this profundity.
I hope some day a Marathi Vinda (विंदा) will write what happened when Weinberg and Dnyaneshwar (ज्ञानेश्वर) met! [may I suggest a title for the poem:'Gyanya-Weinya Chi Bhet' (ग्यान्या-व्यान्याची भेट)].
And doesn't he look the Rishi/sage part in following lovely picture?
Picture courtesy: Jeff Wilson and Scientific American, November 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Howard Jacobson: It isn't as though we have lost the capacity to laugh. Stand-up comedy is riding higher than ever. If anything there is an argument to be made that we are laughing too much. But we have created a false division between laughter and thought, between comedy and seriousness, between the exhilaration that the great novels offer when they are at their funniest, and whatever else it is we now think we want from literature.
For this Diwali, Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे) has taken us, one more time, to meet a Marathi speaking the Simpsons family. (Please find earlier Lalit (ललित ) covers by Sarwate here: 2009, 2008, 2007).
Look at the picture below. (Sorry for the poor resolution. My scanner is down.)
Meet- clockwise- Homer, Marge, Lisa, Abraham, Mona and Bart. They are 'watching' a Marathi 'comedy' program on their brand new flat panel TV.
It's called a comedy program because laughter is in its name. It's "Ha Ha Bai Express" (हाः हाः बै एक्सप्रेस) . The newspapers that are lying on the side-table claim that this show is bound to cause you stomach ache because of your wild laughing at its humour.
But don't worry, remedy is on hand. The sponsors of the program are Udaroushadhi pharmacy (उदरौषधी फार्मसी ) makers of a medicine that cures such a stomach ache. Notice Udaroushadhi's calendar, showing its full product range, hanging next to the TV.
Let us look at what the Simpsons are doing.
Homer is dumbfounded. Lisa is busy reading something. Abraham- I like him best here- is disgustingly looking at the medicine manufactured by Udaroushadhi pharmacy that is put on his palm by Mona. Mona, squatting on the floor, is gaping at the TV. Bart is in his own world. Only Marge has a faint smile on her face.
Udaroushadhi pharmacy's ad campaign is successful because the Simpsons have fallen for their product. They are administering it to poor Abraham. See one more time his face.
Notice the contrast between the energy levels and the mood in the Simpsons hall and the TV studio.
Judges of the comedy show in the studio are falling over each other laughing. What the Simpsons family doesn't know is: People in the studio want to give full 10 marks to each other and the sponsors because their respective cheques have encashed!
(double click and magnify to get a better view)
Artist: Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे ), Lalit (ललित), November-December 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Indians are very fond of dancing. Mr and Mrs. Obama witnessed, and in good measure participated in, it recently. I know a couple of young women who attend classes that teach Latin dance.
DanceSport became an official Asian Games sport at Guangzhou.
I watched Cha-cha-cha event on Nov 14. It was spectacular. I liked performances by all the pairs. The gold went to the pair of Shi Lei and Zhang Baiyu.
I wonder why Indians were totally absent at Dancesport at the 2010 Asian Games .
Have all educated young urban men and women of India have decided to devote themselves to only three things: Hindi cinema, Cricket and IT industry?
Saturday, November 13, 2010
A number of people who visit this blog ask me to write the blog in Marathi.
Well, I am sorry, I don't plan to do it in near future because my objectives are different.
This blog is not just for Marathi readers. It's for all those who appreciate a picture / a view / a scene/ a visual. It's also an attempt to take a few aspects of Marathi culture to non-Marathi speakers.
However, I have created and edited a number of pages on Marathi personalities in English Wikipedia and to my eternal delight those pages have attracted a lot of readers. As long as Wiki lives, my own immortality is guranteed...(who the xxxx was Anikulkarni?)...!
In the past, I too have appealed to those who write in Marathi to contribute to Marathi Wiki.
Let not Marathi Wiki meet the same fate of Ketkar-pedia. Read a related post here.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Sitting- A Sikh, a Muslim, a Dalit Woman,
Standing- a Black Christian (who some say is a Muslim!) and,
On the wall- a Hindu Brahmin who was a Bhagavad Gita scholar.
Only in India, only in my India...
Such scenes, however symbolic, warm the cockles of my heart. I am an absolute sucker for them. I can't remain cynical when I witness them.
November 8 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
“Don’t think, look!”
"I don't know if it is the Bengali temperament, but many of our writers seem more inclined to use their minds, rather than eyes and ears."
"मराठीत कलाविषयक लेखन, सिद्धान्तन करू पाहणारे बहुधा सहित्यसमीक्षक असतात. त्यांना साहित्याचे जसे आतून ज्ञान असते तसे ते इतर कलांचे सामान्यतः नसते. अन्य कलांचे आतून ज्ञान असणार्या समीक्षकांनी केलेले कलाविषयक लेखन कलेच्या स्वरुपावर काही वेगळा प्रकाश टाकण्याची शक्यता असते. गोडश्यांचे लेखन हे या दुसर्या प्रकारातील असल्यामुळेच
ते अभिनव ठरते. दुसरे असे की साहित्य, चित्र, शिल्प अशा अनेकविध कलांची काही विचारसूत्रांत बांधणी करू पाहणारी मोठ्या आवाक्याची समीक्षा मराठीत जवळजवळ नाहीच असे म्हटले तरी चालेल. त्यामुळे गोडश्यांचा कलामीमांसेचा हा प्रयत्न महत्वपूर्ण आहे."
["D.G. Godse Yanchi Kalamimansa" Editor; Sarojini Vaidya, Vasant Patankar (Marathi), 1997 ("द. ग. गोडसे यांची कलामीमांसा" संपादक: सरोजिनी वैद्य, वसंत पाटणकर)]
Seeing is all that we can do reliably, and that, for J G Ballard at least, was more than enough to fill a lifetime.
"Today's signature move is the head swivel. It is the age of look-then-look-away... We miss almost everything; we text while we walk. What makes a person stand out now is the ability to look and keep looking...
...A "museum intervention" is now mandatory at Yale's School of Medicine for all first-year medical students. Called Enhancing Observational Skills, the program asks students to look at and then describe paintings—not Pollocks and Picassos but Victorian pieces, with whole people in them. The aim? To improve diagnostic knack."
I have a lot of respect for Milind Bokil (मिलिंद बोकिल). Whatever little I have read written by him, I have liked it.
His essay on Vinoba Bhave (विनोबा भावे) is one of the best essays I have read in any language. It will take some talent to write a better essay than that.
Recently Anil Awchat's (अनिल अवचट) book 'Punyachi Apurvai' (पुण्याची अपूर्वाई) was published. Bokil released it in Pune (पुणे) on August 8 2010.
Lalit September 2010 has published the text of his speech made on the occasion. It runs four and half pages.
It's a personal tribute to Awchat and his contribution to Marathi literature. But if it is supposed to be about the book, I am deeply disappointed by it.
Presuming that Lalit has reproduced his speech in its entirety, Bokil doesn't mention illustrator Vasant Sarwate's (वसंत सरवटे) contribution to the book even once, although he does mention a few fellow writers.
It's hard to believe. I thought it was like going to Ajanta-Ellora and not mentioning paintings while describing your experience there!
Look at the cover of the book below. Even a cursory look by those who are familiar with Sarwate's work would know that it is his although you can't spot his name-stamp (नाममुद्रा) easily.
Following is a small passage from Bokil's speech. It's in Marathi.
Bokil talks about a new world-view given by Awchat to Marathi language for looking at life, society, environment.
(double click on the picture to get a larger view)
I am not sure about this claim. Although I have tremendously liked a lot of what Awchat has written, I don't think it's a new 'world-view' in Marathi. Awchat always had someone like S M Mate (श्री म माटे), if not one or two more, to follow.
What is shocking is Bokil doesn't mention Sarwate's contribution- although part of it is right under his nose next to Awchat's prose- in this regard.
Sarwate has given us a world-view no one in Marathi had given us before. And those who have followed him- most notably Abhimanyu Kulkarni (अभिमन्यु कुलकर्णी)- have never reached the heights, he took Marathi readers to.
He belongs where only the likes of James Thurber, Saul Steinberg or that anonymous artist who created Tom & Jerry in stone at Mamallapuram do.
I am sure Awachat- like P L Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे), Jaywant Dalvi (जयवंत दळवी ), Vinda Karandikar (विंदा करंदीकर) and many others- considers himself lucky that Sarwate agreed to draw for his book.
But this problem of hyperopia afflicting Marathi culture is pretty old.
For instance, although the late Dinanath Dalal (दीनानाथ दलाल) designed and illustrated majority of notable Marathi books for a number of years, how many times was he mentioned in their reviews?
I recently wrote about a related disorder: "In Marathi Popular Culture, a false division between Laughter and Thought". Also, see my another related post "Can We Trust an Artist to Show us the Reality?".
I am surprised and frustrated by the spread of this malady.
In Indian culture "Darshan" (view) is an important aspect of the culture. Wikipedia informs: "Darshan is...an event in consciousness—an interaction in presence between devotee and guru; or between devotee and image or sculpture, which focuses and calls out the consciousness of the devotee. In either event, a heightening of consciousness or spirituality is the intended effect." Marathi poet-saints who were allowed inside the Vitthal (विठ्ठल) temple describe the image of deity.
Vilas Sarang (विलास सारंग) has written movingly about his meeting with great W H Auden where Sarang says the whole objective was "Darshan" of Auden. (btw- This essay always brings tears to my eyes.)
Poet-saints and Sarang didn't draw what they saw because of various reasons. More importantly they didn't have someone like Sarwate to help.
But when you have Sarwate illustrating a book of your favourite author, the last thing you should do is to ignore him.
If you don't like what he has drawn, then say so. For instance, Sarwate himself has always felt that S G Joshi's (सीताराम गंगाधर जोशी) illustrations suit C V Joshi's (चिं. वि. जोशी) books better than that of his very close talented friend S D Phadnis (शि द फडणीस ).
But please try not to be indifferent to a fellow artist.
Unless of course you too are suffering from picture-blindness.
The above was written on November 9 2010. 'Lalit'(ललित) September 2011 has a 4-page review of Awchat's book by Shankar Sarda (शंकर सारडा). It does NOT even mention Sarwate's pictures! (Sept 9, 2011)
Friday, November 05, 2010
"………….a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys"
Mark Edmundson, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, has written a wonderful essay on William Blake's "London".
He says: "Looking for a compressed vision of the state of America now, I'm inclined to turn not to any of our esteemed journalist-pundits or renowned public intellectuals but in the direction of the poet William Blake, who did his work 200 years ago."
I wonder if Edmundson has stayed in any Indian metro for a few days. If he did, he would have thought about them ahead of his country.
Poem reads as follows:
London (published in Songs of Experience in 1794)
I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every Man.
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.
How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.
But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new born Infant's tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.
Professor says: "...They (people) are the victims of "mind-forg'd manacles." That is, they are imprisoned by their own mental limits and by the limits imposed upon them by others.
What does it mean, from Blake's perspective, to be mentally imprisoned? It means, among other things, that you see the world from your own private perspective. You look out for your own advantage. You pursue your own success. You hog and hoard. You've entered the state that Blake calls the state of Selfhood, which is individualist, reductive, and isolating.
You think that affirming Selfhood will get you what you want in the world—the Self is a radical pragmatist. But all the state of Selfhood does is to cut you off from the possibility of a better life. The ascendancy of Selfhood isolates you from other humans. Selfhood destroys the drive for community and solidarity. It makes you lonely, frustrated, and angry—on your face come "marks of weakness, marks of woe."..."
On the morning before Diwali 2010, when we gave a paltry sum of Rs. 50 to the cleaning lady, who cleans stair case and reception at our building, on the occassion of Diwali, she said she did not receive even Rs. 0.5 from many of our building flat holders. When she mentioned Diwali suggestively to one of the flatholders, she got a real earful in return!
"..."How the Chimney-sweepers cry / Every black'ning Church appalls." The chimney sweepers of Blake's London were children who had, for all purposes, been sold into slavery. Frequently they came from countryside families too poor to feed them. For a price, their parents presented them to owners of chimney-sweeping companies. To those mothers and fathers, it was better than seeing their children starve. It was necessary that children do this job: You had to be small and lithe to scramble up and down the chimneys and to get them cleaned out. There were accidents—children fell from roofs and down flues and ended up crippled for life. Still, the need for the sweeps was strong..."
Thankfully, India didn't have many chimneys but there are many other equally deadly objects in today's India which continue to be cruel towards children.
"...Blake suggests that if you want to understand the moral state of a country, you had better check first and see how it deals with its children. Does it treat them with loving kindness, or does it exploit them? Does it look down upon them from the perspective of the greedy and frightened Selfhood, or regard them with the generosity of the enlightened Soul? Blake's verdict on his own nation is not hard to discern. Can our own nation claim to be doing better?
Amid blazing wealth, great numbers of American children do not get enough to eat. Perhaps they are not starving, but they are hungry..."
The Times of India, October 12 2010:
"India dropped two ranks to 67th among 84 developing countries in the International Food Policy Research Institute's annual " Global Hunger Index" for 2010...
The policymakers in India, who are are still fighting over the need to have an expansive National Food Security Act, should look at the following data more closely: in 2005-06, about 44% of Indian children — below five years — were underweight, and nearly half — 48% — were stunted..."
Artist: Barney Tobey, The New Yorker, August 16 1947
Monday, November 01, 2010
Recently, I removed many "friends" from my FB. Not that I had many, either there or in real life, to begin with.
I have removed people meeting following criteria:
1. I already have a meaningful relationship with the person in real life. Facebook doesn't add any value.
2. I had a wholesome relationship with the person in the past but the time and distance have created a barrier, Facebook can't help cross.
3. I have no substantive interaction with the person even in cyber world.
4. I had sent them a friendship request based on some interaction on e-mail. I was hoping to transform those interactions into something more substantial. It didn't happen for many weeks.
5. People who sent me a friendship request because I was in their address book and they thought I was their fan. They have no interest in me whatsoever. All they want is their own promotion.
6. Relatives who are not much interested in me as a person. Or if they are, they got axed because points 1 or 3 above.
Facebook for me now is just a depository of links to what I like on WWW and collating of my interests. People say FB is the future. Maybe. But not for me.
RACHEL MARSDEN: The term friend has been linguistically inflated through social media to the point of having almost no value...Too many people seem to be grasping for ways to connect with others while rarely actually connecting in a way that has true value or significance.
Contrast this with my social life in Miraj where I spent my first 21 years of life. I seemed to know the whole town and the whole town in return seemed to know me.
Miraj was a friend where Facebook would be such a waste. Like a large open sewer that lay about 100m from our house.
Cartoonist/Illustrator: Roger Latham, The Spectator, October 2010