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."

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sophoclean Tragedy of Ramu, Romantic Natyachhatakar's Son

Gregory Hemingway to Ernest Hemingway:

“When it’s all added up, papa, it will be: he wrote a few good stories, had a novel and fresh approach to reality and he destroyed five persons – Hadley, Pauline, Marty [Gellhorn], Patrick, and possibly myself. Which do you think is the most important, your self-centred shit, the stories or the people?”

Bill Bryson:

"In a sense William Shakespeare's greatest achievement in life wasn't writing Hamlet or the sonnets but just surviving his first year."


JOHN STAUFFER:

"What is more courageous, militancy or a middle-class life? Fleeing for freedom or remaining loyal to a family?"


I really like writings of Natyachhatakar Diwakar (नाट्यछटाकार दिवाकर) who was inspired by Robert Browning's dramatic monologues.

I have liked him since I was in primary school. Later, I discovered that I was in excellent company. Vijay Tendulkar (विजय तेंडुलकर), Sadanand Rege (सदानंद रेगे), Durga Bhagwat (दुर्गा भागवत), Madhav Julian (माधव जूलियन) too were his big fans.

(Similar to his poems on likes of Keshavsut केशवसुत, D G Godse द ग गोडसे and a few others, Rege has written a very moving poem on Diwakar.)

In March 2010, at a book exhibition held during "akhil bharatiya marathi sahitya sammelan" (अखिल भारतीय मराठी साहित्य संमेलन), I acquired 'Samagra Diwakar' (समग्र दिवाकर) edited by Sarojini Vaidya (सरोजिनी वैद्य), 1996.

Reading it I learnt Diwakar lost his three out of four kids and wife during his rather short life: 1889-1931. (His only surviving daughter died within eight months of his death at the age of sixteen!)

Diwakar's only son, Ramchandra, lost his mother at the age of just three and he himself died at the age of eight. It means Diwakar was his only parent for almost five years.

And this is what Diwakar wrote in his diary when Ramchandra died:

"...son Ramu since birth was sickly and weak. But his luck was wretched! Only his mother, until her death, might have embraced him and cuddled him. But I - his father- don't remember if, in his entire life of eight years, I ever embraced him. Let alone kissing with affection etc..."

(an entry in Diwakar's diary dated Feb 27 1922; page no 413-414 ibid)

("...चिरंजीव रामू हा जन्मापासूनचा रोगी व अशक्त. पण बिचार्याचे दैव मोठे खडतर. आई मरेपर्यंत तिने काय त्याला जवळ घेतला असेल किंवा कुरवाळले असेल इतकेच. पण मला - त्याच्या बापाला- काही आठवत नाही की त्याच्या आठ वर्षाँच्या आयुष्यात, एकदा तरी मी त्याला जवळ घेतला आहे असे! मग प्रेमाने मुके वगैरे घेण्याच्या गोष्टी तर दूरच!...")

Will I - 'lucky bastard' who constantly got his mother's deep affection until he turned 46- ever begin to understand the pain of that sickly kid Ramu who lost his mother at the age of three and was ignored by his learned and 'ultra sensitive' father for the rest of his life?

Ramu's (and his sisters' and mother's) tragedy, in my eyes, dwarfs his father's entire literature.

Romantic Robert Browning won't do to help describe it. Shakespeare or, even better, Sophocles has to be summoned because it is he who supposed to have said "that to never have been born may be the greatest boon of all."

Ramu, very likely, would agree.

Would Diwakar have been a lesser man if he remained 'ordinary' by dedicating his limited resources towards cuddling kids, appreciating his wife's cooking, being grateful to his larger family's support in looking after him and his kids after his wife's death instead of pursuing higher arts?

Didn't he like kids? If he didn't, why did he produce them? (His wife died in child birth.)

If Ram Ganesh Gadkari (राम गणेश गडकरी)- who was Diwakar's friend- were to write a tragedy based on Diwakar's life, where the protagonist is addicted to books and intellectual pursuits instead of liquor, it would have been more tear-jerking than his celebrated play 'Ekach Pyala' (एकच प्याला) that describes how addiction to booze eventually destroys a happy family.

What are the forces that drive artists like Diwakar?

Was Diwakar following the tradition of 'romantics' from England?

Ben Downing argues reviewing a recent biography of Byron, Shelley and their circle (YOUNG ROMANTICS / The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation By Daisy Hay) that the women and children in their lives too suffered mightily.

"...But if you do read “Young Romantics,” be prepared to come away outraged and depressed. The real calamities here aren’t so much the early deaths of Shelley and Byron as those of their dependents.

Shelley’s abandoned first wife committed suicide, and all but one of the four children he had with his second wife, Mary, died young. Claire Clairmont, meanwhile, had the daughter she’d conceived with Byron imperiously stripped from her by the poet, who, quickly tiring of the girl, stuffed her in a convent, where she too soon died. There was also a baby of mysterious parentage, registered as Elena Shelley, who survived only 18 months. In short, the two poets left the Italian peninsula, along with a few spots in England, strewn with dead relations. While they cannot entirely be blamed, it’s hard not to conclude that their callousness, selfishness, impulsiveness and bullying demand for “free love” were ruinous to those around them (though in truth only Shelley idealized his lusts, the cynical Byron merely pouncing where he could).

This is hardly a fresh observation, of course, but it is powerfully reinforced by “Young Romantics,” which brings home to a rare degree just how destructive were the poets’ experiments in unfettered living. Even Leigh Hunt, a far more consistently kind and decent chap than Byron or Shelley, made his wife miserable by maintaining an uncomfortably close relationship with her sister and blithely failing to provide for his large brood.

Not that Hay harps on any of this. To her great credit, she never lapses into censoriousness, approaching all her characters, men and women alike, with just the right blend of detachment and sympathy. Yet by concentrating so steadily on their relationships, she inevitably draws attention to the imbalances and (as Clairmont insisted) cruelties within them. Her book winds up being as much a study of domestic arrogance as an exploration of friendship..."

(The New York Times, Sunday Book Review, July 1 2010)

Diwakar is not alone.

If I consider the 'romantics' writing in Marathi in first half of 20th century, the picture on their domestic front is not pretty.

So the dilemma I face is this: Do I still like as well as respect Diwakar?

Ms, Hokinson (1893–1949), who tragically died in a plane accident, is one of the great cartoonists I have come across.
She is one of a kind. I find no words to describe my pleasure when I see some of her pictures. Following is one such.
Is she quizzing us or amusing? Our technology may have gone far beyond the longplay records that are there in the picture but will we ever overgrow the feelings expressed there?


Artist: Helen E. Hokinson, The New Yorker, January 17 1948