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 27, 2011

In Praise of Hunter-gatherer Kakaji / of Pu La's 'Tujhe Ahe Tujapashi'

Holly Brubach:

Bogart’s appeal was and remains completely adult — so adult that it’s hard to believe he was ever young. If men who take responsibility are hard to come by in films these days, it’s because they’re hard to come by, period, in an era when being a kid for life is the ultimate achievement, and “adult” as it pertains to film is just a euphemism for pornography.

(Feb 4 2011, WSJ)

I must have read P L Deshpande's (पु ल देशपांडे) 'Tujhe Ahe Tujapashi', 1957 (तुझें आहे तुजपाशीं) dozens of times. Once I knew all its dialogues by heart.

My favourite character from the play is that of Kakaji (काकाजी).

Read the following set of dialogues from the play:

"काकाजी: जाऊ द्या यार. जंगलात तर दोनच वेळा. दिवस आणि रात्र. भूक लागली की जेवायची वेळ आणि थकलो की झोपायची.

आचार्य : म्हणजे मी समजत होतो , की हा वाडा चोवीसच वर्षे मागे आहे. पण नाही , अगदी आदिमानवाच्याच काळात आहे. जंगलात राहणार्या आदिमानवानं त्यानंतर काही प्रगति केल्याचं ह्या वाड्याच्या कानावर आलेलं दिसत नाही.

काकाजी: कुणाला ठाऊक काय केलंय ते? प्रगति की अधोगति !"

(Kakaji: Let it be friend. In jungle there are just two times. When hungry it's eating time and when tired sleeping one.

Acharya: I was thinking this house was behind the times by twenty-four years. But no, it's in prehistorical period. Looks like it has not heard any progress the primitive man has made since.

Kakakji: Wonder what is it? Progress or degeneration!)

Now this must be one of the most scathing attacks, in 20th century Marathi literature, on the concept of progress, by one of the most popular and main-stream artists and not by an 'outsider' like Bhau Padhye (भाऊ पाध्ये)

Kakaji seems to be praising the life of a hunter-gatherer.

Jared Diamond concurs:

"… Thus with the advent of agriculture and elite became better off, but most people became worse off. Instead of swallowing the progressivist party line that we chose agriculture because it was good for us, we must ask how we got trapped by it despite its pitfalls...

...Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we're still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it's unclear whether we can solve it...
"
("The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race," Discover Magazine, May 1987, pp. 64-66.)

And on Kakaji's question of progress or degeneration, John Gray says:

"...Today liberal humanism has the pervasive power that was once possessed by revealed religion. Humanists like to think they have a rational view of the world; but their core belief in progress is a superstition, further from the truth about the human animal than any of the world’s religions.

Outside of science, progress is simply a myth."

('Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals', 2002)

People asked Pu La if the character of Kakaji was based on the real life figure of Ramubhaiya Date (रामुभैया दाते).

Pu La answered them in 'Gangot' (गणगोत): "Kakaji in the play keeps saying 'I am still young' ('अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ') but here (in case of Mr. Date) the childhood (शैशव ) itself is not over yet."

Today I am enthralled by 'adult' appeal of Humphrey Bogart and Balraj Sahni, the guys who always took responsibility, often beyond our expectations. It's hard to believe if they were ever young.

Kakaji too takes responsibility. A lot of it. Staying unmarried himself, he raises the two kids of his brother after he and his wife pass away.

But unlike Bogarat and Sahani, Kakaji is young forever, perhaps a kid for life. A loveable hunter-gatherer.


Kakaji on the left and Acharya on the right.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Good Bye, Anant Pai, thank you and btw- Why did you tone down?

Creator of the Amar Chitra Katha, Anant Pai passed away on February 24, 2011.

As a tribute to him, I am recycling my old post.

I was a voracious reader in my childhood. For recreation, I read only Marathi until I was almost 12 or 13. Magazine “Chandoba” (“Chandamama” in Hindi) was one of my favourite. We did not buy it every month because my father did not like it much. Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) was borne in 1967 but I could lay my hands on it much later.

I thought I liked only stories from “Chandoba” but realized later that I also liked accompanying pictures. Pictures of curvaceous women. I also read a lot of Indian mythology that of course has quite a bit of sex.

Recently ACK completed 40 years of its very successful existence-400 titles, 86 million copies sold.

Mr. Pai, ACK’s creator, admitted to The Times of India (June 29 2007) that imagery of early ACK issues was quite sexy. He said:”…….. our major influences were the sculptures of Ajanta, Ellora…..We may have been a bit over influenced by it….But forget the first 25 titles or so, we have toned it down.”

Pratap Mulick pioneering illustrator of ACK died recently. I hope he never regretted his following picture of Matsyakanya or Vasavadatta or Satyavati or Shakuntala or who ever she is...Even today she makes my knees go wobbly!

Why regret Mr. Pai? I wish to thank you and Mr. Pratap Mulick, particularly for first 25 titles, and to anonymous illustrators of “Chandoba” for giving me pleasure.

You saved me from porn.


Artist: Pratap Mulick
Artist: Robert Weber, The New Yorker, 9 Feb 1998

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

50 years later: Vijay Anand's "Apni to har aah ik toofan hai"

Today is 7th death anniversary of Vijay Anand.

Alyssa Rosenberg:

In a world where we have more options in entertainment in general and the movies in particular, why do we continue to need Humphrey Bogart? Rick never figured out why Ilsa ended up in his bar in Casablanca. But why isn't really the important part: All that matters is that she's there.


(The Atlantic, Feb 1 2011)

My eternal regret, expressed on this blog from time to time- for instance here, has been the neglect of Hindi cinema as an art form by the giants of art criticism writing in Marathi.

The critics I often quote M V Dhond (म वा धोंड), D G Godse (द ग गोडसे), Vilas Sarang (विलास सारंग) have scarcely written a line on the subject. [Ashok Shahane (अशोक शहाणे) who also belongs to that league is an exception.]

I have already expressed my deep displeasure about G A Kulkarni's (जी. ए. कुलकर्णी) comments on Shailendra here.

P L Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे ) wrote about Bal Gandharva (बालगंधर्व), doyens of Hindustani classical music such as Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Mallikarjun Mansur, Vasantrao Deshpande (वसंतराव देशपांडे) among others. But probably not a line on Hindi films and their music!

What a loss. Of ours! And sadly theirs even more!

(This lacuna is similar to this blog's silence on the fascinating world of video games where my son spends considerable amount of time every week.)

btw- Author N S Phadke (ना सी फडके), whose opinion as an art critic mattered a lot once upon a time in Maharashtra, seemingly to even Bal Gandharva, has written perceptively and without any condescension about Hindi film music. And there is Bhau Padhye (भाऊ पाध्ये) for whom Hindi films were as integral to our lives as Tukaram (तुकाराम).

There are a few Marathi books- a couple of them like 'GeetYatri' (गीतयात्री) by Madhav Moholkar (माधव मोहोळकर) very good- on the appreciation of music in Hindi films.

These books dwell upon various aspects of the music such as classical ragas that are deployed by the composer, singers, use of different musical instruments, lyrics, personal lives of the people associated etc but seldom on visual qualities of a song.

I have already argued that the majority of Hindi film songs of the past are worth only listening.

But not all. Some of them need to be appreciated with all our faculties and then some.

Like his fellow artists Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Raj Khosla, and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Vijay Anand was an absolute master of song picturisation in Hindi films.

For instance-

Aankho mein kyaa jee rupahalaa baadal (Nau Do Gyarah,1957),

Hothon mein aisi baat (Jewel Thief, 1967),

O mere raja (Johnny Mera Naam, 1970)
...

The best one for me is "Apni To Har Aah Ek Toofan Hai" for "Kala Bazar", 1960.
(Music- Sachin Dev Burman, Sung by Mohammad Rafi, Lyrics-Shailendra.)

There are four of them in the song- Dev Anand (DA), Waheeda Rehman (WR), WR's father (played by ?) and WR's mother (played by Mumtaz Begum).

I have travelled a lot by long distance trains in India.

When you embark on a long journey with a group of strangers, it is always mildly exciting. For a next day or two, you are likely to open many aspects of your life- sleeping habits, eating habits, personal hygiene...- to them.

You maybe even called upon to tolerate their intruding questions and honour requests such as exchange of berths.

Therefore, in this case, I am quite impressed that WR's mother doesn't mind occupying upper berth. She doesn't request this handsome young man to exchange his lower berth with hers. (Is it because in that case he would be at the same level as WR?)

In any case if you have many such questions about the song situation, go to the quote at the top of this post: All that matters is that Ilsa is in Rick's bar in Casablanca..



Look at the picture above. WR is looking at her father. He is looking at his wife. She is looking at him. DA is looking at WR. What great fun!


Has she ever looked more divine than this? No wonder Imran Khan considers her the most beautiful woman in the world.

And finally the words of great Shailendra.

They are simple. But their impact on me is no less that of a very good poem and we all know how hard it is to write one.

Poet asks: "ये भी मुशकिल है तो क्या आसान है?"

Answer- Reading it here:

अपनी तो हर आह इक तूफ़ान है
क्या करे वो जान कर अंजान है -
ऊपर वाल जान कर अंजान है

अपनी तो हर आह इक तूफ़ान है
ऊपर वाल जानकर अंजान है
अपनी तो हर आह इक तूफ़ान है

अब तो हँसके अपनी भी क़िस्मत को चमका दे
कानों में कुछ कह दे जो इस दिल को बहला दे
ये भी मुशकिल है तो क्या आसान है
ऊपर वाल जान कर अन्जान है ...

सर पे मेरे तू जो अपना हाथ ही रख दे
फिर तो भटके राही को मिल जायेंगे रस्ते
दिल की बस्ती बिन तेरे वीरान है
ऊपर वाल जानकर अन्जान है ...

दिल ही तो है इस ने शायद भूल भी की है
ज़िंदगी है भूल कर ही राह मिलती है
माफ़ कर बन्दा भी इक इन्सान है
ऊपर वाल जान कर अंजान है
अपनी तो हर आह इक तूफ़ान है

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is Forward Short Leg an Entry Level Position?

Saad Bin Jung:

"...Today when cricket is no longer the same cricket as was played by the likes of Don Bradman and Vijay Manjrekar, the bowlers need all the assistance possible.

Surely after reading this, you will accept that benefit of doubt to the batsman must be changed to benefit of doubt to the bowler..."
(The Asian Age, Feb 15 2011)

I am in desperate minority in today's middle-class India. I have zero interest in ODI Cricket world cup starting today. (Luckily at my home my wife doesn't much like cricket and my son is more fond of football and test cricket.)

This is such a far cry from 1983 where at IIT-Madras, I couldn't gather courage to watch final moments of India's famous victory over mighty WI on TV. I had to go out of common-room and stand on the balcony in front of my room, on the third floor of hostel BRAHMAPUTRA- (one of the best places I ever lived), waiting with bated breath, for the climax.

For me, Test Cricket becomes fascinating sport because of bouncers/ short-pitch bowling and forward short leg.

If you are not wearing protective equipment- and for most of part of cricket history you didn't- you could die facing the former or fielding at the latter.

Although the likes of legendary Eknath Solkar (एकनाथ सोलकर) and Brian Close made forward short leg their own piece of real estate, most times rookies are asked to field there.


The Wizard of Id, created by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart.

(open the picture in another browser window to enhance it.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I can't help: 'हलो हलो' ला हलकट उत्तर

Telemarketers continue to bother me, after all that National Do Not Call Registry.

Therefore, I now have lost the patience and any pretense of civility.

Earlier, I used to reason with these pesky callers. Now, I am just rude. I bang the phone or plain lie or even abuse.

When I behave like this, are they reminded of:

"त्रुटित जीवनीं सुटी कल्पना,
ट्रिंग ट्रिंग जैसा खोटा नंबर
सलग जमेना एक भावना,
'हलो हलो' ला हलकट उत्तर."

Last two lines read:

“feelings are not aligned,
‘hello, hello’ is answered by an abuse.”

[B S Mardhekar (बा. सी. मर्ढेकर), poem number 28, “Mardhekaranchi Kavita” (“मर्ढेकरांची कविता”) , 1959]


Artist: Raymond Thayer, The New Yorker, 21 May 1932

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Three Wise Men on Egypt

Events in Egypt have given a field day to the cartoonists around the world.

I now have seen tens of cartoons on the subject. Most of them very funny.

But these are the three I liked most. They told me a lot while poking me in the rib.

I salute their creators.

The first one is about Mr. Mubarak's plans to continue in the office:


Artist: Steve Breen

The pun on The Nile...De nial!

(For my most favourite picture of Mr. Breen, click here.)

The second one is about the role of US in supporting despots around the world and the eternal conflict that is at the heart of America's foreign policy: Uncle Sam Vs. The Statue of Liberty.

Artist: R J Matson

And the thrid one is closest to my heart.

It reminded me of my hometown Miraj (मिरज). This is how the ordinary people of that town treated old structures that had fallen into disuse. And that is largely true of the rest of India.

These people help me understand how Mubarak's of the world turn into P B Shelley's 'Ozymandias':

“ My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”



Artist: Amr Okasha, Egyptian political cartoonist

Friday, February 11, 2011

जी.ए.,तुझ्या रुपकांप्रमाणे जर जग बदलत जाऊ लागले...

Author G A Kulkarni (जी ए कुलकर्णी) was very fond of metaphors/ allegories.

Quite a few of his stories are allegorical- an extended metaphor wherein a story illustrates an important attribute of the subject.

A character is his short story says:

"अरे, निर्बुद्ध, जड जगाविषयी बदलती रुपके करत राहण्यापेक्षा तुझ्या रुपकांप्रमाणे जर जग बदलत जाऊ लागले तर तुला तरी जास्त काय हवे सांग."

("...hey, instead of creating changing metaphors for stupid, gross world, if the world started changing to suit your metaphors, tell me what more you want.")

['Pinglavel' (पिंगळावेळ) 1977]

Another one:

"छट, असली हजार माणसांनी आपल्या अर्ध्या सोंडी खुपसलेली, हजार जणांनी ढुंगण पुसलेली मलिन चिंध्यांसारखी वाक्यं मी कधीच वापरत नाही ! मला शब्द हवेत नव्या नाण्यांसारखे कलदार, मला वाक्य हवं ते सुरीच्या नव्या धारेसारख स्वच्छ, जिवंत."

("...ditch it, I never use sentences pierced by half trunks of thousands of humans, like rags which have been used to wipe asses by thousands! I want words jaunty like new coins, I want a sentence like an edge of newly sharpened knife- spotless, alive.")

['Ramalkhuna' (रमलखुणा), 1975]

Just count the number of metaphors in the quote above!

Eric Felten says in WSJ February 7 2011:

"Metaphor is crucial to the way the brain works. Is it also dangerous?

...Metaphor works, most obviously, when we recognize a similarity between two different things. It is a matter of "pattern recognition," which may be more important in the working of the brain than logic. "Early human thought proceeded by metaphor," according to Nobel Prize-winning neurobiologist Gerald Edelman. And this imprecise sort of figurative thinking is "a major source of imagination and creativity in adult life."...

...For Aristotle, a command of metaphor was "the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances." The psych-lab linguists can pump the primes all they like, but the proper use of figurative language may well remain an art rather than a science."

"Early human thought proceeded by metaphor...a major source of imagination and creativity in adult life..."?

GA would have been glad to know!


Artist: William Steig, The New Yorker, 12 September 1931

(Almost eighty years later, Mr. Steig is as funny as he always was.)

p.s. This is one metaphor- 'old rusty gate'- that one day I'll be eligible for!

Monday, February 07, 2011

A Great Comet, in my face

Kent Brockman: "Today, Springfield will experience a rare total eclipse of the sun. A solar eclipse is like a woman breast-feeding in a restaurant. It's free, it's beautiful, but under no circumstances should you look at it..."

(The Simpsons, Season 20, Episode 13: "Gone Maggie Gone")

This winter the moon shone so brightly in the morning sky that I just couldn't ignore it.

Even if I don't see it, the moon always plays on my mind.

During the childhood, we often sat outside our house and talked about the moon as if she was our neighbour. Not just that as if she was sitting next to us...(I was so sure she kept a pet rabbit).

But today I don't think the moon plays any significant role in my son's life. I don't know if he even notices it.

It was our mother who often asked us to look at the skies with naked eyes and take in the beauty...Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Comets...

Talking of comets, I distinctly remember how one day before the daybreak she woke us up to show either of these two great comets: Kohoutek (1973) or West (1975-76).

I was a bit scared by the beauty in the sky- kind of Maynard from the picture below if he acted on his wife's advice and went out- because the comet was almost in my face.


Artist: Charles Addams, The New Yorker, 25 July 1983

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Can Black Magic Making Jobs be Bangalored?

(Today Vasant Sarwate वसंत सरवटे one of the chief inspirations for this blog and who has appeared here dozens of times turns 84.

Happy birthday, Sir.

Compel us to look at ourselves...
Removing the glasses (blindfolds?)...
आम्हास आम्ही पुन्हा पहावे काढूनि चष्मा डोळ्यावरचा...

One more time.)


The Times of India dated February 2 2011:

"B S Yeddyyurappa, Karnataka Chief Minister:

There is a conspiracy to eliminate me through black magic."

Indian Express August 18, 2007 reported:

“…the (Indian) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh revealed how the BJP had tried to invoke divine forces not just to unseat him, but to kill him.

“They (BJP) didn’t even believe I would last as the PM and some leaders even did havans that I should die on a certain day,” said Manmohan Singh in an interview to India Today three months ago but published today…”

(More than 3 years later, BJP is trying to unseat him using other means!)

On November 20, 2007, The Hindu reported:

“The former (Karnataka) Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa on Monday charged the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his sons with resorting to “black magic” to finish him off.

“I am facing a threat to my life. I know the places where they did pujas under black magic. I will write to the Home Department on Tuesday complaining against the black magic of Mr. Gowda and his sons. They will be responsible if anything happens to my life,” he said.

He said he would also write a public document in this regard.”

I wonder if this "public document" has come in public domain after more than 3 years.

I have seen this all in corporate world.

Then, 1989-92, I worked for a major multi-national company in Eastern India. Wife of its Managing Director firmly believed that her husband was the target of Bhanamati, black magic and related stuff.

And who was doing it?

None other than his own sister!

Mantrik used to often visit them and objects like bones (animal or human?) were hung at different places to counter the magic.


Artist: Charles Addams, The New Yorker, 21 Apr 1956

My caption: "Honey, Stop wasting your time here. Pack Your needles. You have a plum job waiting in Bangalore."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Why, why no David Hume, Vinda?

Simon Blackburn, July 2013:

"...I admire a great many of his (David Hume's) doctrines. The other, perhaps more personal, is that I very much admire and love him as a man. He lived an admirable life and a warm, generous spirit breathes through all his writings. I find that very attractive..."

Amartya Sen, Dec 14 2011:

"David Hume was born three hundred years ago, in 1711. The world has changed radically since his time, and yet many of his ideas and admonitions remain deeply relevant, though rather neglected, in the contemporary world. These Humean insights include the central role of information and knowledge for adequate ethical scrutiny, and the importance of reasoning without disowning the pertinence of powerful sentiments. They also include such practical concerns as our responsibilities to those who are located far away from us elsewhere on the globe, or in the future. 

 
Hume's influence on the nature and reach of modern thinking has been monumental. From epistemology to practical reason, from aesthetics to religion, from political economy to philosophy, from social and cultural studies to history and historiography, the intellectual world was transformed by the enlightening power of his mind. In his own time, Hume’s ideas encountered considerable resistance from more orthodox thinkers. One result of this was his being rejected for philosophy chairs first at Edinburgh University and then at the University of Glasgow. Yet the influence of Hume’s ideas has grown steadily and powerfully over time. Indeed, as Nicholas Phillipson remarks in his insightful biography David Hume: The Philosopher as Historian: “David Hume’s reputation has never been higher.”..."


I have already rued the fact that the late Vinda Karandikar (विंदा करंदीकर) didn't choose David Hume as one of the eight philosophers he chose to showcase in his book ‘ASHTADARSHANE’ (अष्टदर्शने), 2003.

More I read about Hume, more strongly the feeling grows.

John Gray writes:

"...(Immanuel) Kant wrote that David Hume aroused him from dogmatic slumber. He was certainly shaken by the great eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher’s profound scepticism. Traditional metaphysicians claimed to demonstrate the existence of God, the freedom of the will and the immortality of the soul. In Hume’s view, we cannot even know that the external world really exists. Indeed we do not even know that we ourselves exist, since all we find when we look within is a bundle of sensations. Hume concluded that, knowing nothing, we must follow the ancient Greek Sceptics, and rely on nature and habit to guide our lives..."

('Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals', 2002)

And if I still wanted one more reason for the loss, here is one.

The Economist dated Jan 27 2011:

"...If Mr Miller had included the sunny and admirable David Hume and some other less troubled souls in his portraits, his gallery of philosophers could have been brighter overall..."


Artist: Henry Martin, The New Yorker, 5 November 1979

My caption:

Present- Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Charvak (Missing: David Hume and also George Santayana)