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: "… 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."
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
George Orwell on Uncle Tom's Cabin:
"...an unintentionally ludicrous book, full of preposterous melodramatic incidents . . . [but] also deeply moving and essentially true."
Drew Gilpin Faust:
As we enter into the sesquicentennial celebration of the Civil War, Harriet Beecher Stowe's achievement reminds us that we must remember more than battles and statesmen if we are to understand the causes, the conflict and its aftermath. But swords and statesmen and armies and governments and writers and preachers all played their complex and interdependent parts in what Reynolds calls the "Battle for America." DuBois, Margaret Mitchell, D.W. Griffiths, and Henry James, not to mention Lee, Grant, and Lincoln, would likely be surprised to learn that the twenty-first century could imagine that the battle over race and power, not to mention culture and values, was really all about Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Rajmohan Gandhi on his comparative historical study, ‘A Tale of Two Revolts: India 1857 and the American Civil War', 2009:
"I was lucky too to find a live link between the two events in the person of William Howard Russell and to run into unforgettable characters like Abraham Lincoln, Marx, Tolstoy, Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Vidyasagar, Jotiba Phule, Sayyid Ahmed Khan, Allan Octavian Hume, Lakshmi of Jhansi, Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow and Harriet Beecher Stowe of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. With characters like the above, it was difficult to go wrong."
I have still not read 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' (UTC) but, like a lot of 'should-be-read' books, I have read a lot about it.
UTC was published in March 1852. Within a year, the book had sold 300,000 copies in America, and over a million in Britain. Surely it must have reached Indian shores by 1853. (Btw- distribution of this 19th century bestseller in India, its reception, its illustrations, quality of printing etc are all fascinating aspects, about which I sadly know nothing.)
Andrew Delbanco reviews a book on UTC in The New York Times June 24, 2011:
"The case for it as a literary work of depth and nuance is dubious. Yet it belongs to the very short list of American books (including, say, “The Other America” by Michael Harrington and “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson) that helped create or consolidate a reform movement — in Stowe’s case, the most consequential reform movement in our history."
Young slave girl Eliza of the book finds freedom for herself and her boy by by fleeing to Canada. According to Rajmohan Gandhi, "Eliza's joy seems identical to the relief that Muktabai, the Mang girl, expressed half a world away at about the same time", in Maharashtra.
Why does it seem identical?
Muktabai (मुक्ताबाई) a Dalit girl of fourteen studying in one of Jotiba Phule's school wrote a forceful essay on Maharashtra's Mahars in 1855 in Marathi:
"Formerly we were buried alive in the foundations of buildings. We were not allowed to pass by the talimkhana (school). If any man was found to do so, his head was cut off playfully. We were not allowed to read and write...God has bestowed on us the rule of the British and our grievances are redressed. Nobody harasses us now. Nobody hangs us. Nobody buries us alive...We can now...put on cloth around our body..." (from Dhananjay Keer's 'Phooley').
(It's hugely uplifting that such sentiments were expressed for the first time in the Indian subcontinent (or the world?), by a Dalit girl of fourteen, so far back 156 years ago, in my mother tongue!
Take a bow, Marathi. Also read this post on glory of Marathi.
Was it a case of: What Maharashtra thinks today, India- or indeed the world- thinks tomorrow?)
Muktabai never probably read UTC because I don't know if it was then (or ever) translated in Marathi. I don't know if Mahatma Phule read it or not but most likely did. However, a few of his Brahmin fellow citizens surely did.
V K Rajwade (विश्वनाथ काशिनाथ राजवाडे) [July 12 1863 - Dec 31 1926] was one of them.
In one of the best essays written in Marathi, 'Kadambari' (कादंबरी), Rajwade mentions the book:
"पस्तीस चाळीस वर्षापूर्वी अमेरिकेत गुलांमाना बंधमुक्त करण्याबद्दल लढाई झाली . तिचें रहस्य व महिमा मिसेस स्टौकृत अंकल टॉम नांवाच्या कादंबरीने प्रसिद्ध केला ."
(Thirty-five forty years ago, to free slaves in America, a battle took place. Its secret and greatness were publicized by Mrs Stowe written novel called 'Uncle Tom')
(year around 1900)
He concludes the essay, with these deeply moving words, summarising what a good novel and novelist do or should do:
"लहान मुलांना पशुपक्ष्यांच्या गोष्टी सांगून त्यांच्या मनात युक्ति व साहस ह्यांचे बीजारोपण करील ;स्त्रीजनांना संसारसुखाची गुरुकिल्ली पटवील; तरुणांना राष्ट्रीय महत्वाकांक्षेचे रहस्य कळवील; आणि वृद्धांना आयुष्याच्या इतिकर्तव्यतेचे दिग्दर्शन करील; आणि इतकेहि करून ते कसे व केंव्हां केले हें कोणाला समजून देणार नाही. अशी ह्या मयासुराची करणी आहे. युधिष्ठिराप्रमाणे ती ज्या लोकांना लाभली ते लोक धन्य होत!"
(By narrating stories of animals and birds to children, it will plant the seeds of adventure and skill; convince women folk on the key to happiness in married life; convey secrets of national aspiration to the youth; guide elders to achieve contented life and by doing all this will not let any of them realise how and when it was done. This is the work of this Mayasura. Those who like Yudhishthira have received it are really great!)
(from Rajwade Collected Essays (राजवाडे लेखसंग्रह), editor: Tarkateerth Lakshman-shastri Joshi (संपादक: तर्कतीर्थ लक्ष्मणशास्त्री जोशी), Sahitya Akademi, 1958)
Like Andrew Delbanco above, I don't think Rajwade rated UTC very highly as a novel: 'a literary work of depth and nuance'.
But it's a bit sad that he mentions the book only in relation to the American Civil War.
Didn't he see any need of an Indian UTC considering what we just read in Muktabai's essay? And more so because Rajwade showed some signs of being a Marxist Historian, anticipating D D Kosambi (दामोदर धर्मानंद कोसांबी).
Rajwade mayn't have seen any need but Kolhatkar, a fellow Brahmin of the same sub-caste, did.
While reviewing very popular novel of Hari Narayan Apte's (हरि नारायण आपटे) [1864–1919] 'Pan Lakshat Kon Gheto' (पण लक्षात कोण घेतो?)-published in 1890- he said:
"रा. आपट्यांनी स्त्रियांच्या दुःखाची कहाणी सांगितली आहे तशी मागासलेल्या जातीच्या दुःखाची सांगितल्यास ती मिसेस स्टौच्या 'टॉम काकाची कोठडी' या कादंबरीच्या खालोखाल क्रांतिकारक होईल अशी खात्री वाटते. "
(Mr. Apte has told the story of misery of women, if a similar story can be told of misery of the backward castes it is certain that it would be revolutionary next only to Uncle Tom's Cabin.)
[This is quoted from Keshav Meshram (केशव तानाजी मेश्राम), a prominent Dalit writer's book "Shabdavrat" (शब्दव्रत)].
Sadly for Kolhatkar and all of us, there would be no 'revolutionary-next-only-to-UTC' Marathi novel in his life time. There would be no literary evidence of upper caste Marathi person's capacity to enter into the subjectivity of Dalit people.
There sure was a lot of non-fiction from Jyotirao Phule and others, including upper caste Maharashtrians, but no fiction of UTC's class.
If there were to be one, who knows, social reforms in Maharashtra and India, would have been shaped differently.
'Eliza, cradles a child in her arms'
Artist: Hammatt Billings Courtesy: Illustrating Uncle Tom's Cabin
What a beautiful picture! I liked the stylish dog as much as Eliza and her kid.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of UTC: "There is no arguing with pictures and everybody is impressed with them. . ."
Saturday, June 25, 2011
"(India's) Opposition leaders have compared the hardline response to the state of emergency implemented in the 1970s under former prime minister Indira Gandhi."
The Times of India, July 4 2011:
"...It’s not just mullahs and mahants—(Asghar Ali) Engineer says that even the progressives have failed the country. As a young member of the club in Mumbai of the 1960s and ’70s, he would actively participate in their meetings and befriended Urdu writers like Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi and K A Abbas. “But I lost faith in them in June 1975—this was when, after Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency, Jafri, Bedi, Abbas, Krishan Chander and a few others actually supported it in a letter to The Times of India,” he claims..."
36 years ago today The Emergency was declared in India.
The Emergency (25 June 1975 – 21 March 1977) hasn't gone away.
Rightly or wrongly, Anna Hazare's recent movement evoked images of Jayaprakash Narayan of early 1970's.
When I remember The Emergency days, I remember the song- 'Hum Honge Kaamyaab'.
It is a Hindi version of 'WE SHALL OVERCOME'.
(होंगे कामयाब होंगे कामयाब
हम होंगे कामयाब एक दिन
हो हो हो मन मे है विश्वास
पुरा है विश्वास हम होंगे कामयाब एक दिन॥धृ॥)
Abby McGanney Nolan says about 'WE SHALL OVERCOME':
"Powered by its straightforward melody and generous procession of verses, "We Shall Overcome" has covered a lot of ground. Developing out of a Southern spiritual called "I'll Be All Right" into an international anthem of perseverance, the song has proved to be a potent unifying force for people in trying circumstances..."
(The Washington Post, March 3 2010)
Sadly, I became familiar with 'Hum Honge Kaamyaab' during "The Emergency" as it played on state controlled All India Radio's Sangli station, almost every day!
For a long time I thought it was a propaganda song created by Mrs. Indira Gandhi's spin-doctors! It made me sick.
It sounded like Garuda Purana.
(The second section of this Purana deals with issues connected with death, particularly funeral rites and the metaphysics of reincarnation. Portions of the Garuda Purana are used by some Hindus as funeral liturgy. Indeed, some consider it unlucky to read this text except during funerals.)
I always thought: No wonder the cult film "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro" shows Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani, in the end, going to the gallows to the tune of 'Hum Honge Kaamyaab'.
Even today, when I hear the song, I am reminded of one of the darkest chapters of independent India.
See the picture below.
There the vote is being taken to deplore Benito Mussolini. It's 15:1 against him. (For some reason, in American art, these days I feel, Mussolini is made more fun of than Hitler...Perhaps to counterweight 'The Great Dictator'.)
An open vote on Mrs. Gandhi, taken among leading Marathi intellectuals, during the Emergency, would have been 15:1, in favour of her, because most of them were either silent or crawling in front of her.
The lone opposing vote would have been of the likes of Durga Bhagwat (दुर्गा भागवत) .
Artist: Helen E. Hokinson, The New Yorker, Sept 28 1935
Paul A. Rahe:
In our time, the scholar, the writer, and the artist may not be parasites dependent on aristocratic patrons, but that does not mean they are truly free. The desire for applause tends to inspire servility in anyone subject to it—and it is a short step from flattering one's public to flattering monsters who wield influence and power.
(The Chronicle Review, March 15 2011)
Monday, June 20, 2011
('Business Line', February 27 2011)
FT, July 14 2011:
"Pigs at front line in China inflation battle:
I see so many pigs in our neighbourhood that they keep appearing on this blog often.
Occasionally, I watch them closely. If they were cleaner, I would have probably fondled them.
Recently, I learnt that pigs are far more intelligent than dogs.
Now Carl Sagan's prediction seems more and more likely:
"...Some of the habits of our age will doubtless be considered barbaric by later generations-...or keeping pets; or eating animals and jailing chimpanzees;..."
(“The Dragon in My Garage” from “The Demon-Haunted World” 1996)
And I see not just pigs, but many other species.
In October 2010, I saw an injured donkey limping around for two days, trying to graze on the weeds that grow near road dividers. Third day it was lying dead on the side. And I remembered the story of Saint Eknath (एकनाथ) giving water to a donkey in distress.
Shame on me, I haven't learnt a thing from him.
Pune's roads at the end of rather heavy monsoon 2010 are easily in much better shape than any year since 1999. But as I write early monsoon of 2011 is challenging my contention.
Very soon, I am sure, they will need help. A lot of it.
Kristen Hinman says in The Atlantic:
"How pig manure can pave our streets—and a path to cleaner energy...Enter the executives at Innoventor, a design-build firm based in St. Louis, who, with the help of almost $1 million from the Environmental Protection Agency, have created a contraption that recycles pig waste for road-paving and roofing products. The technology, which Innoventor believes has billion-dollar potential, eliminates the need for manure lagoons and could reduce reliance on fossil fuels...
...The technology passed a milestone in April, when a 300-foot stretch of test pavement went down on a busy Missouri road near a Six Flags amusement park. Lux is confident the road will hold up; he says the binder had to pass more than a dozen lab tests before transportation officials would use it. And no, he doesn’t expect drivers to raise an eyebrow. “I was out there twice on my hands and knees, putting my nose to the pavement,” he swore to me. “The road does not smell.”"
What would pig think about this? "If a Swine could Talk, we could not Understand Him!"
I see in real life arrangements similar to the picture below very often. I enjoy them.
Artist: Carl Rose, The New Yorker, 27 May 1933
But I have yet to see a jenny suckling her baby. Does she envy sow's "happy, happy" motherhood?
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
should the truth about the world exist, it’s bound to be nonhuman.
Scientists searching for extra-terrestrial life ponder anxiously whether mankind is alone in the universe. They would be better occupied trying to communicate with the dwindling numbers of their animal kin.
Baruch de Spinoza:
“the rational quest of what is useful to us teaches us the necessity of associating ourselves with our fellow men, but not with beasts, or things, whose nature is different from our own.”
"It’s a common belief that we have some moral progress, some social progress, some political progress. But looking at the twentieth century it seems that it was the cruelest century of them all. It’s unbelievable what people did to other people and what we still do to animals. We’ve actually built concentration camps for cows and chickens who live only to be killed and it structures their entire lives."
David Foster Wallace:
"It’s seems to me that there’s no better example of why corporate interests and economic logic need to be balanced with laws and restrictions on corporate behavior than the fact not only that so many animals are killed, but that they are made to live lives where none of their instincts get to be acted out, where every waking moment of their lives is suffering and torture, all so that meat can be produced for fifty cents less per pound. To me it’s a monstrosity."
Well, there are two kinds of people who follow the bulls, as they say in Spanish. There are those people who follow because they love the bullfighters, and there is a very small minority who are interested in the bulls, and I was always most interested in the bulls.
On June 8 2011, two elephants entered Mysore by mistake.
A lot has been written and shown about the incident.
A common theme to emerge: crowds aggravated things...The police, which had a tough time controlling the crowd, resorted to a lathi-charge to keep the crowd at bay... The elephants would have been caught faster but for the crowd frenzy and the delay in procuring tranqulisers...
courtesy: Deccan Herald
A similar incident happened some time during 1922-1927 in Moulmein, in lower Burma about which George Orwell- who was posted as Assistant Superintendent in the British Imperial Police- has written a famous essay: “Shooting an Elephant”.
“…That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes…
...But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing – no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at…”
And then he goes on to shoot the elephant.
"When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay."
(A Fallen Jumbo in a public square in South Pune, picture courtesy: Pudhari पुढारी June 15 2011)
There are doubts whether Orwell himself actually shot the elephant.
Luckily no one was shot in Mysore. But how terrorised those two elephants must have felt as crowds chased them, honking, pelting stones?
I have seen that terrorised state in the eyes of stray dogs, unsure run of chameleons, pigs running for their lives as their owners chase them to grab them to send them on one last trip, and the movement of the snake- I had to kill in our apartment- as it tried to escape, a couple of years ago. Read a related post here.
Orwell's essay is the pride of English language but I have a question: Eightyfive years later, where is the elephant's version of it?
B.C. by Artist: Johnny Hart "Seeing the world from a dog's point of view"
Friday, June 10, 2011
"...It was so important that she should understand something of what his life in this country had been; that she should grasp the nature of the loneliness that he wanted her to nullify. And it was so devilishly difficult to explain. It is devilish to suffer from a pain that is all but nameless. Blessed are they who are stricken only with classifiable diseases! Blessed are the poor, the sick, the crossed in love, for at least other people know what is the matter with them and will listen to their belly-achings with sympathy. But who that has not suffered it
understands the pain of exile?"
"Now mostly living in New York, (Orhan) Pamuk is perhaps more prey than ever to an exile's sadness, as he finds himself removed from his youth not just by time but space. In response, he has taken to memorializing every last linden tree and halwa seller of his hometown, and to constructing a literal, physical museum of memories that he is planning to take around the world as an exhibition."
Rama had been exiled to the forest and Sita was insisting that she would accompany him. Rama tried to tell her that life in a forest would be hard. In the course of the argument, when Rama came up with a strong argument, Sita replied: “In every Ramayana I know, Sita accompanies Rama to the forest. How can you then say no to me?” This is a fascinating example of the intertextuality that unites India.
They say M F Husain was a great artist.
Maybe he was but my mind is clouded with his depiction of Hindu deities. Read related posts here and here. And, more importantly, his pictures don't move me.
But I liked his celebration of A R Rahman's winning of Academy Award. See it here.
I always kind of understood his pain because I too feel exiled living away from Miraj, after our family left it around 1986. Since then I have not been able to call any place I have lived- "My place" (माझे गाव).
Walter de la Mare:
No, No, Why further should we roam
Since every road man Journeys by,
Ends on a hillside far from Home
Under an alien sky
I didn't want to say anything on his passing but was moved by Sudhir Tailang's cartoon-tribute to him. Mr. Tailang has drawn a masterpiece, worthy of the late artist.
Artist: Sudhir Tailang, courtesy: The Asian Age, June 10 2011
This picture reminded me of another cartoon by creators of Chintoo after passing of P L Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे): Chintoo (चिंटू ) standing at window is looking at a rather hurriedly departing figure of Pu La and a few of Pu La's books are lying near him.
If I had held back a tear or two, that picture gave me an excuse.
Until now there are no tears in my eyes after seeing Mr. Tailang's picture but I feel sad that Mr. Husain had to live and die in exile.
Has he taken a visual museum of memories of India wherever he has gone?
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
"The power of a pocket...
For women have no pockets. Why? The question takes us into the murkier depths of the sex war as well as the arcana of sartorial history...
The record shows that the absence of pockets was a huge disadvantage to females and one reason why male superiority was so steadfastly maintained..."
(The Spectator, June 4 2011)
I was taken aback when a few years ago my wife Anju asked me if I had ever noticed that heroines in Hindi films seldom wore footwear while singing a duet (song) outdoor.
Be it in on farms, in jungle, on rubble, in snow, through fire, on glass, in water, on boulder, in rain...
Since then I have always paid attention to the feet of dancing dames and found, to my horror, that Anju is almost always right.
Another thing we often notice- while watching Hindi film songs- is, even in severe cold, those Indian dames don't wear clothes covering their entire body while men wear suits and even headgear!
"palako.n ke piichhe se kyaa tumane kah Daalaa phir se to faramaanaa" (पलकों के पीछे से क्या तुमने कह डाला फिर से तो फ़रमाना) is one of the best songs I have heard.
[Film: Talaash (1969) Music Director: S D Burman, Lyricist: Majrooh, Singers: Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar]
Notice, how, even in snow, Sharmila Tagore is walking barefoot while Rajendra Kumar is wearing nice shoes. Also, notice the difference in the kind of clothes they are wearing.
There is a line in the song:
...दुनिया ना देखे धड़के मेरा मन रस्ता सजन मेरा छोड़ो
तन थरथराए उँगली हमारी देखो पिया न मरोड़ो...
तन थरथराए? Body trembles?...Lack of footwear, Ma'am.
Surely Two Species: One from cold Mars, One from boiling Venus
Friday, June 03, 2011
Exhibition of Dinanath Dalal's (दीनानाथ दलाल), 1916-1971, art was inaugurated on May 30 2011- Dalal's 95th birth anniversary- at Pune.
S D Phadnis (शि द फडणीस) said on the occasion that Dalal built a bridge over the divide between sensibility of an ordinary man and the art of painting.
For instance, look below at the picture Phadnis and others are looking at. It is artist's imagination of Shivaji's court. I don't know how accurate it is historically but I always thought Shivaji's court looked like that!
courtesy: Pudhari (पुढारी), May 31 2011
(The lady in the forefront is Suman Kalyanpur सुमन कल्याणपुर .)
(p.s. We attended a family function on June 26 2011 at a community hall- 'Gokul'- in Pune. One of its wall had a replica of this very painting of Dalal. It made my day!)
The person whose pictures I most watched as a kid was Dalal, followed by Bhaiyyasaheb Omkar (भैय्यासाहेब ओंकार), Raghuvir Mulgaonkar (रघुवीर मुळगावकर)...and many anonymous artists, including those who painted the front wall of famous marriage-halls of Miraj with various figures like Jay and Vijay, the gatekeepers of Vishnu.
Dalal gave lacs of Marathi people like me a "vision" to imagine a historical or mythical event. Or simply a beautiful picture to enjoy.
I had already seen dozens of Dalal's pictures before I even learnt his name! I also remember how respectfully his name was always mentioned at our home by our father. (Not many from Marathi art world- not certainly Mulgaonkar- can claim that honour!)
Dalal's influence on the pictures that I see all around in Maharashtra persists to this day. But he is hardly mentioned in 'popular' Marathi media.
Another artist my father respected a lot, Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे), has written an essay- '...dhyas matra abhijat chitrakalecha!' (...ध्यास मात्र अभिजात चित्रकलेचा!) on Dalal. Find it in his book 'Sahapravasi' (सहप्रवासी), 2005.
No one writing in Marathi could have done more justice to Dalal's talent than Sarwate. [It's likely D G Godse's द. ग. गोडसे essay on Dalal- 'The Genius from an Enchanted land'- is equally good but I haven't still read it.]
Sarwate says we can't imagine the popularity Dalal attained in Maharashtra during 1940-1970. Only Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) did it earlier decades...There was probably no prominent Marathi writer whose at least one book's cover was not created by Dalal...His depiction of women became a form of poetry...He can be compared only to C. K. Nayudu and Bal Gandharva (बालगंधर्व).
(Pause a little to appreciate how Maharashtra embraced whole heartedly non-Marathi artist Raja Ravi Varma. It was no big deal in India of those days. Although many of them didn't understand Marathi fully, Bal Gandharva was as much loved by a lot of Gujaratis, Parsees and North Kannadigas as Maharashtrians.)
Sarwate dwells on many fascinating aspects of Dalal's art but the last three paragraphs of his essay are most moving:
"...it can be deduced from his writings that despite huge popular and commercial success Dalal wasn't very happy internally...he wanted to pursue only classical art by giving up commercial art entirely...he couldn't quite do it but because of this burning desire his commercial art undoubtedly was touched by class...And it is a great fortune of Marathi literature and art."
Dalal has left behind a large body of creative output.
This is from Marathi best-selling book 'Raja Shivchhatrapati' (राजा शिवछत्रपति ) by Babasaheb Purandare (बाबासाहेब पुरंदरे).
I remember how devastated I felt when- reading it first time in c 1970- I came across the picture at the end of the book.
Did Shivaji-maharaj too die just like so many of them did in our Miraj neighbourhood? I couldn't quite get over the grief for many days. I still recall the pain when I see it....Dalal's picture, not Purandare's words, had created that mood.
George Orwell has said: "Many children begin to know his characters by sight before they can even read, for on the whole Dickens was lucky in his illustrators."
So was Purandare!
See the picture just below this paragraph. On this blog, I have appreciated beauty of many women- from my mother to Leela Naidu, from Nutan to Ingrid Bergman, from Mohenjo-daro dancing girl to a beauty from Kanheri caves. ...but I have no words to describe Dalal's HER.
Artist: Dinanath Dalal, Courtesy: Jyotsna Prakashan (ज्योत्स्ना प्रकाशन)