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."

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)