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.”
H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"
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."
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Paris and London pauperised George Orwell! The way Mumbai did to Arun Kolatkar! And who to Buddha?
श्रद्धा च नो मा व्यगमद्बहु देयं च नोऽस्त्विति । । ७३.२८ । ।
तथास्त्विति ब्रूयुः । । ७३.२९ । ।
अन्नं च नो बहु भवेदतिथींश्च लभेमहि ।
याचितारश्च नः सन्तु मा च याचिष्म कंचन । । ७३.३० । ।
[May faith not depart from us, and may we have plenty to bestow on the poor.
29. They shall answer, 'Thus let it be.'
30. (The second half of the benediction shall be, as follows), "May we have plenty of food, and may we receive guests. May others come to beg of us, and may not we be obliged to beg of any one.']
Today September 25 2011 is 7th death anniversary of Arun Kolatkar (अरुण कोलटकर), arguably the greatest Marathi poet of 20th century.
(Read about Kolatkar's first death anniversary here.)
I should like to understand what really goes on in the souls of plongeurs and tramps and Embankment sleepers. At present I do not feel that I have seen more than the fringe of poverty.
JOHANN HARI while reviewing 'THREE FAMINES / Starvation and Politics' by Thomas Keneally for The New York Times Sept 16 2011 says:
"...though Keneally almost always gives us a God’s-eye view of the famines, rather than zooming in to provide us with the individual stories of the victims. It’s odd that he actually witnessed the Ethiopian famine of the late ’80s, but chooses not to provide any sense of what it looked or sounded or smelled like. It’s an unpleasant irony to say of a book about famine that it leaves you hungry for more, but this one does."
Wish George Orwell were there! The guy above all with an acute sense of smell. Sample this: "It is a kind of duty to see and smell such places now and again, especially smell them, lest you should forget that they exist;..." ('The Road to Wigan Pier', 1937)
I recently finished reading his "Down and Out in Paris and London", 1933 for the first time.
I realised how timid and cowardly I am to experience this world, to go out on a limb.
And sadly so are most writers and artists. (Or is that since they lack the expression, they avoid the experience?)
The book reminded me of Kolatkar's Marathi poem:
"मुंबईनं भिकेस लावलं
कल्याणला गुळ खाल्ला
ज्या गावाला नाव नव्हतं
पण एक धबधबा होता
तिथं एक ब्लँकेट विकलं
अन पोटभर पाणी प्यालो
पिंपळाची पानं चघळत
तिथं तुकाराम विकला
अन वर खिमापाव खाल्ला
जेव्हा आग्रारोड सोडला
तेव्हा एक चप्पल तुटलं...
...न मागता मिळालेली
कांदाभाकर खाऊन ऊठलो
उचलून पाठीवर घेतली
मग दोन मैल विचार केला
अन परतायचं ठरवलं"
['Arun Kolatkarchya Kavita' (अरुण कोलटकरच्या कविता), 1977/2003, Page:92]
[Translated into English by Kolatkar himself
Bombay made me a beggar.
Kalyan gave me a lump of jaggery to suck.
In a small village that had a waterfall
but no name
my blanket found a buyer
and I feasted on plain ordinary water.
I arrived in Nasik with
peepul leaves between my teeth.
There I sold my Tukaram
to buy some bread and mince...
(Now follows my effort)
and ate some bread and minced meat
when I left Agra-road
then got up after eating
unasked-for bread & onion
bore the haversack on the back
after pulling it from the bottom
then thought for two miles
and decided to return]
(I like almost all poems of Kolatkar but this probably is the best for me.)
Kolatkar's imagery is as vivid as that of Orwell. His experience as authentic. His expression as incisive.
'Orwell' keeps pawning his clothes in Paris to survive. 'Kolatkar' sells first his blanket, later his Tukaram and then he starts begging.
Orwell says towards the end of the book:
"The English are a conscience-ridden race, with a strong sense of the sinfulness of poverty."
On the other hand, begging had been an accepted way of life in India. There is no sinfulness in poverty and no shame in begging. The great Buddha advised his followers to beg for food during early part of the day to get fresh stuff!
“India ’s beggary laws are a throwback to the centuries-old European vagrancy laws, which instead of addressing the socio-economic issues make the poor criminally responsible for their position.”
Orwell keeps referring to these draconian laws in his book.
Although the poem is great, I wish Kolatkar also wrote prose. Telling us about what he experienced and who he met in Mumbai.
For instance read Orwell's description of Bozo, an invalid tramp, a screever—that is, a pavement artist:
"Bozo limped slowly, with a queer crablike gait, half sideways, dragging his smashed foot behind him. He carried a stick in each hand and slung his box of colours over his shoulder. As we were crossing the bridge he stopped in one of the alcoves to rest. He fell silent for a minute or two, and to my surprise I saw that he was looking at the stars. He touched my arm and pointed to the sky with his stick.
‘Say, will you look at Aldebaran! Look at the colour. Like a—great blood orange!’
From the way he spoke he might have been an art critic in a picture gallery. I was astonished. I confessed that I did not know which Aldebaran was—indeed, I had never even noticed that the stars were of different colours. Bozo began to give me some elementary hints on astronomy, pointing out-the chief constellations. He seemed concerned at my ignorance. I said to him, surprised:
‘You seem to know a lot about stars.’
‘Not a great lot. I know a bit, though. I got two letters from the Astronomer Royal thanking me for writing about meteors. Now and again I go out at night and watch for meteors. The stars are a free show; it don’t cost anything to use your eyes.’
‘What a good idea! I should never have thought of it.’
‘Well, you got to take an interest in something. It don’t follow that because a man’s on the road he can’t think of anything but tea-and-two-slices.’
‘But isn’t it very hard to take an interest in things—things like stars—living this life?’
‘Screeving, you mean? Not necessarily. It don’t need turn you into a bloody rabbit—that is, not if you set your mind to it.’
‘It seems to have that effect on most people.’
‘Of course. Look at Paddy—a tea-swilling old moocher, only fit to scrounge for fag-ends. That’s the way most of them go. I despise them. But you don’t NEED to get like that. If you’ve got any education, it don’t matter to you if you’re on the road for the rest of your life.’
‘Well, I’ve found just the contrary,’ I said. ‘It seems to me that when you take a man’s money away he’s fit for nothing from that moment.’
‘No, not necessarily. If you set yourself to it, you can live the same life, rich or poor. You can still keep on with your books and your ideas. You just got to say to yourself, ‘I’m a free man in HERE‘‘—he tapped his forehead—‘and you’re all right.’
Bozo talked further in the same strain, and I listened with attention. He seemed a very unusual screever, and he was, moreover, the first person I had heard maintain that poverty did not matter...
...He had managed to keep his brain intact and alert, and so nothing could make him succumb to poverty. He might be ragged and cold, or even starving, but so long as he could read, think, and watch for meteors, he was, as he said, free in his own mind.
He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve. Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive. This thought cheered Bozo, I do not know why. He was a very exceptional man."
Artist: Stan Hunt, The New Yorker, 12 May 1962
Artist: Unknown, Location: Ajanta, Period: 200 BCE- 600 CE
At Miraj, this beautifully moving picture hung in our house framed on the front/door-facing wall of ground floor. I saw it a few times every day and was never tired of it. Thank you, Tata.
The Buddha had carefully avoided begging for food at his home, since this might have been seen as a continuing attachment to the world. Yashodhara sent a message complaining that in doing so he was depriving the members of his own household the opportunity to gain religious merit by feeding him--an opportunity that he was giving to everyone else. If he were really being impartial, she argued, he would visit their house as well, and thus give them too the opportunity to build their merit. The Buddha was persuaded by this argument, and came to receive alms from them. (Courtesy: carthage.edu)