मेघदूत: "नीचैर्गच्छत्युपरि च दशा चक्रनेमिक्रमेण"

समर्थ शिष्या अक्का : "स्वामीच्या कृपाप्रसादे हे सर्व नश्वर आहे असे समजले. पण या नश्वरात तमाशा बहुत आहे."

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.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”

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);...”

सदानंद रेगे:
"... पण तुकारामाची गाथा ज्या धुंदीनं आजपर्यंत वाचली जात होती ती धुंदी माझ्याकडे नाहीय. ती मला येऊच शकत नाही याचं कारण स्वभावतःच मी नास्तिक आहे."
".. त्यामुळं आपण त्या दारिद्र्याच्या अनुभवापलीकडे जाऊच शकत नाही. तुम्ही जर अलीकडची सगळी पुस्तके पाहिलीत...तर त्यांच्यामध्ये त्याच्याखेरीज दुसरं काही नाहीच आहे. म्हणजे माणसांच्या नात्यानात्यांतील जी सूक्ष्मता आहे ती क्वचित चितारलेली तुम्हाला दिसेल. कारण हा जो अनुभव आहे... आपले जे अनुभव आहेत ते ढोबळ प्रकारचे आहेत....."

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."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Will 2012 Be As Lame As 2011?

John Crowley:

"Where Orwell’s ('1984') imagined world is shabby and cheap and nasty, and Huxley’s ('Brave New World') brightly colored and silly, Zamyatin’s (‘We’) is filled with an unsettling radiant joy, right through to its terrible ending. It has what Milan Kundera perceived in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot: “the comical absence of the comical.” Instead of perspicacity and authority, which in the predicting of the future are fatuous, there is beauty and strangeness, the qualities of art, which sees clearly and predicts nothing, at least on purpose. These are the qualities of all the greatest fictional representations of the future, books that, after the initial shock they carry has faded, can reappear not as tales about our shared future nor salutary warnings for the present they were written in but simply as works of disinterested passion, no more (and no less) a realistic rendering of this world or any world now or to come than is The Tempest or The Four Zoas.

Time, W. H. Auden said, is intolerant and forgetful, but “worships language and forgives/Everyone by whom it lives.” Time will leave my new and no doubt baselessly optimistic Totalitopia behind; it was being left behind even as I wrote it down. As a prediction it might bewilder or bore, but as a work of art in language—if it were as easy to turn it into a work of art as it was to think it up—it might survive its vicissitudes in the turbulence of time and emerge sometime downstream as a valuable inheritance from the past, all its inadequate dreams and fears washed away. Meanwhile the real world then, no matter what, will be as racked with pain and insufficiency as any human world at any time. It just won’t be racked by the same old pains and insufficiencies; it will be strange. It is forever unknowably strange, its strangeness not the strangeness of fiction or of any art or any guess but absolute. That’s its nature. Of course holding the mirror up to nature is what Hamlet insisted all playing, or pretending, must do; but—as Lewis Carroll knew—the image in a mirror, scary or amusing or enlightening, is always reversed.

I find cartoonist Zachary Kanin, in his trade, is of the best in the world today.

See one of my favourite cartoons by him here.

See Mr. Kanin's '2012 FORECAST' here. Every picture there is a gem.

Here are the two I liked most:

(notice: tag of "breaking news", sun, earth...)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Wish for Stray Dogs this Christmas

Charles Dickens:

“Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!”


...Dehumanization — representing people to be lesser, non¬human creatures, as when police officers label crimes against criminals as “N.H.I.” (“No Humans Involved”), or when Muammar el-Qaddafi calls his critics “stray dogs” — isn’t just shabby rhetoric. Dehumanization is a mind-set, as Smith writes, that “decommissions” our “moral inhibitions” about mistreating fellow human beings. Encased in law and custom, this psychological process has often licensed slavery, genocide and countless other cruelties.

(review of 'Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others' by David Livingstone Smith, NYT, March 4 2011)

Jenny Diski:

“All the animals I knew in the early years of my life were stuffed.”

I like stray dogs. Most times. Each has a distinct personality and if you care to spend some time, their lives are miserable but interesting.

Almost every morning, a stray bitch waits for me to feed her biscuits as I return home from my walk. If she isn't there, I miss something.

I still remember the late morning in 1970's when, as I got ready to go to school that opened at 12:10 PM, I was informed by friends that our favourite stray 'Vakadmani' (वाकडमानी) was dead, poisoned by municipal staff.

I went and saw her foaming at mouth, slightly bloated body. I was devastated and remained so for a number of days. I would not feel that bad again until Shreedhar Joglekar-sir's (श्रीधर जोगळेकर) death a few years later. As I filed past Joglekar Sir's body in c 1978, Vakadmani was on my mind.

I almost never feel proud of what I have done in my life but one thing I feel good about is I never threw stones at strays and chameleons when it was fashionable among kids in Miraj.

But the strays have certainly become a bit of menace for many people in Pune and elsewhere in India.

I never venture out of my house on foot in dark because of strays.

The Times of India reported on Dec 23 2011:

"Mumbai: Despite taking steps to curb the stray dog menace in the city, there seems to be a steady increase in the instances of dog bites...

... in a decade's time, the dog bite cases have mounted from 53,051 to 77,484 in 2010..."

I hope we find a way for strays and humans to coexist without biting and killing.

Artist: Dana Summers, December 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mario Miranda: Of Margao's Stinking Fish and Distortions Suiting the Mood of Feverish Anarchy

Mario Miranda:"I’m a keen observer of people. They are generally doing something they should not be doing.”

Oh, isn't it the story of all of us: generally doing something we should not be doing?

Wikipedia claims MM considered Ronald Searle (b 1920) his mentor.

Matt J's classy blog dedicated to Mr. Searle's art says:

"a Searle picture is certainly unmistakeable. The human figures are bird-like – stork legs, beaky noses, and pop-eyes that are often shifty or bewildered – their distortions and wispy lines suiting the mood of feverish anarchy. They are drawings whose skill is perhaps concealed in a feeling of rapidity, an impression that they were quickly set down."

Mr. Searle himself has been influenced by great Saul Steinberg (who isn't?).

Look at the following classic:

'Homage au Steinberg'

on the left is Saul Steinberg on a pedestal, standing like Napoleon Bonaparte, and on the right a figure with "bird-like – stork legs, beaky noses, and pop-eyes"!

Do you see figures that are "bird-like – stork legs, beaky noses, and pop-eyes" in MM's picture above?

Book based on Mr. Miranda's diary of year 1951 has been just published: 'THE LIFE OF MARIO: 1951', Author: Mario de Miranda, Editor: Gerard da Cunha.

It has this wonderful picture:

Notice those cats- tails up- chasing the stench!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The only Indian sportsperson Chinese will fear in London 2012 is Saina Nehwal

Just like Cricket, I have played only gulli Badminton. But I find the sport exhilarating.

I keep following it on NEO Sports. In 2011, I must have seen all the BWF World Superseries tournaments.

I know it has been an indifferent year for India's Saina Nehwal.

But on the afternoon of Dec 18, 2011, for me, Saina made up for all that. On her way to the final, she had beaten Wang Xin and Tine Baun with some fuel to spare.

Sure she lost to the final match to Wang Yihan, a true champion herself, 18-21, 21-13, 21-13, but the way she played the match tells me what she is made up of.

When the camera focussed on Saina's face from the other side of the net and closed in on her face, her eyes- probably like Mahabharata's Arjuna-or even better, like a tigress from Nallamala forest- told me how determined she was to win it.

And she almost did the way first game went.

In 2012 London Olympics, China will most likely top the medals table. India will get by with a couple of medals of any colour.

In sports, China probably never considers India as their competition. But the only Indian sportsperson Chinese will fear in London 2012 is Saina Nehwal. They know she can beat the best of them in their sport on their turf.

Picture courtesy: http://www.bwfbadminton.org

Sunday, December 18, 2011

India's Lingering Love Affair with Correction Fluid

Gilbert Adair:

For centuries the pen remained the supreme guarantor of legal, contractual, epistolary and literary authenticity. Then, during the last century, this role was gradually reassigned to the more “objective” typewriter. In fact, so central was the typewriter to the pursuit of literary Truth that there came a time when, for most American novelists, you simply weren’t a writer unless you had one.

Jonah Lehrer:

In 1916, T. S. Eliot wrote to a friend about his recent experiments with composing poetry on the typewriter. The machine “makes for lucidity,” he said, “but I am not sure that it encourages subtlety.” A few years later, Eliot presented Ezra Pound with a first draft of “The Waste Land.” Some of it had been composed on the typewriter.

Great Friedrich Nietzsche used a typewriter.

Andrew Sulliavn wrote on June 15, 2008:

"Many of those terse aphorisms and impenetrable reveries were banged out on an 1882 Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. And a friend of his at the time noticed a change in the German philosopher’s style as soon as he moved from longhand to type. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote. Nietzsche replied: “You are right. Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”.."

Artist: John M Price, The New Yorker, 9 March 1940

It's Nietzsche who said: God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

Cartoon caption could read: Good Lord! I have killed you!

Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times September 1, 2011:

"...The factories that make the machines may be going silent, but India's typewriter culture remains defiantly alive, fighting on bravely against that omnipresent upstart, the computer...

...India's lingering love affair with correction fluid and carbon paper befits a country that often seems caught in two centuries, where high-tech companies and an ambitious space program coexist with human-powered rickshaws and feudal village life...

...Typing was all but compulsory for any woman who wanted a job, said Geeta Meshran, 53, who banged away for 22 years in the Mumbai government's typing pool. Efficiency wasn't always paramount there. "I often worked as slowly as possible, so I wouldn't have to retype the page," she said...

..."Typewriters were a real symbol of Indian life. Just consider how many laws and birth certificates came from its keys," said Abhishek Jain, who at age 13 set a world record in 1991 typing 117 words a minute on a Godrej manual...

..."The computer is lifeless, but there's a sheer joy in manual typing," said Jain, the record-holder. "It's a kind of music..."

As stated above, was typing all but compulsory for any woman who wanted a job?

I say not just a job but also a marriage.

Artist: Vasant Sarwate वसंत सरवटे

(Source- “Khada Maraycha Jhala Tar….!”, Mauj Prakashan, 1963)

Original caption in Marathi: "कॉलेजमध्ये नांव घातलंस म्हणतेस? यंदाहि कुठं जमलं नाही वाटतं.." (“You say you have enrolled in a college? Couldn’t arrange the marriage this year too eh...”)

Enrollment in a college could be replaced with enrollment in a typing class- English and Marathi both!

India's lingering love affair with correction fluid?

The Times Of India on Sept 2 2011:

"Whitener inhaling addiction on the rise among minors: Somnath Deshkar TNN

Pune: Fourteen-year-old Manish (name changed) stabbed his father with a kitchen knife recently and was sent to juvenile custody. What makes this stray case of juvenile crime all the more complicated is that Manish is addicted to sniffing whitener, a cheaper and potentially dangerous way to get high.
According to experts, there are close to 8,000 children in the city who are addicted to substances such as whitener, ink remover, thinner, shoe polish and vulcanising solution..."

To be honest, I like smells of whitener, ink remover, thinner, shoe polish, vulcanising solution, petrol, benzene...But I didn't know I could get high on them.

(When I joined a chemical MNC in 1984, the whole plant 'reeked' of benzene, I never complained!)

Can part of Nietzsche's genius (or madness) be explained by correction fluid?!

"I see you have a degree in shorthand."

Artist: Johnny Hart (1931 – 2007)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Did Mario de Miranda ever get to sit in the Bulb?

Whenever I got a chance, I read "The Illustrated Weekly of India" in 1970's as a schoolboy. My father either got them from where he worked or from 'raddi' (रद्दी) at M/s Chougule grocery store at Miraj (मिरज).

I still remember its coverage of India's victorious cricket tour of England in 1971. Raju Bharatan wrote the story that had some luscious pictures of England's green-top wickets where English fast bowler John Price knocked out stumps of a couple of India's batsmen and Eknath Solkar (एकनाथ सोलकर) took some breathtaking catches at forward shortleg.

I knew Khushwant Singh was TIWI's editor in 1970's but I never read his column then. However, I always stopped by and gazed at Mario's illustration on the "Editor's Page"...a pile of books, a bottle of scotch, and a girlie magazine...It was so funny and yet intriguing...

I never sought them but I kept coming across Mr. Mario's pictures. When they were big and complex, I read them like a matrix- first by rows -left to right and then by columns- top to bottom. I didn't want to miss out any detail. It was like reading the frontpage of a newspaper.

I never considered him a great cartoonist like Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे), Abu Abraham and R K Laxman- his contemporaries- but he never failed to make me smile.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

English 'Ralph Darnell' is NOT scarce. Marathi 'Plaseecha Ranasangram' of D B Mokashi is!

Curtis White:

"We know that the major players are positioning themselves for a very uncertain future, but there are really only two major players, Amazon and Google. Everyone else is trying to figure out the best way to go bankrupt or to become something else, not publishers, God knows, but “content providers” for whatever word vessels the future will offer. From their point of view, the book was just a “platform” that had its day but it’s done now, and so what?" (October 21 2011)

Mike Dash:

"For me, it’s the history that exists beyond the margins and the textbooks and what we normally consider to be history"

(FiveBooks Interviews, December 7 2011)

Once in six months or so I visit 'Varada Prakashan' (वरदा प्रकाशन) in Pune to buy books.

Last time I was there, in August 2011, one of the books I bought was:

"Plaseecha Ranasangram" Author: Colonel Meadows Taylor, Narrator Di Ba Mokashi, August 1974 ("प्लासीचा रणसंग्राम", लेखक: कर्नल मेडोज टेलर, निवेदक: दि बा मोकाशी)

The book is based on 'Ralph Darnell' by Meadows Taylor, 1865.

Mr. Taylor became very famous for his book 'Confessions of a Thug', 1839. The book became a best seller in 19th century Britain. (More on it at the end of this post.)

That book was translated into Marathi as 'Thagachee Jabanee' (ठगाची जबानी ) by Prof Va Shi Apte (वा शि आपटे ). It made waves even in Marathi, running into two editions. Mokashi mentions in his preface how he as a kid enjoyed reading it.

I did not know who Colonel Meadows Taylor was but I have always liked whatever DBM has written. 'Plaseecha Ranasangram' was no exception.

Among other things, the book informs us the extent to which the British empire was built on deception in this country...Robert Clive constantly reminding me of Tony Blair.

On the back cover of Marathi book, publisher says:

"...मूळ कादंबरी 'राल्फ डार्नेल' अत्यंत दुर्मिळ आहे ..."

(...The original book 'Ralph Darnell' is very scarce...)

Not really.

Thanks to the internet- Google Books, Archive.org- 'Ralph Darnell' is not scarce any more. But what is scarce is Mokashi's Marathi book!

I wonder whether Varada Prakashan will reprint it once the current print of 1995 is sold out.

I was looking for six volumes of Rajaram shastri Bhagwat's (राजरामशास्त्री भागवत) literature edited by Durga Bhagwat (दुर्गा भागवत) published by Varada. Mr. Bhave told me how it took decades for them to sell out the last edition of R Bhagwat's literature and that it was very unlikely that he would publish them again.

The late D B Mokashi is one of the best Marathi writers of 20th century and many of his books are not available in bookshops and almost none of them is availabe in softcopy format.

I have already argued here that Marathi and the other Indian languages need Google books far more than the English and others.

My conviction is now even stronger.

from : Confessions of a Thug


Mike Dash, the author of 'Thug' 2005, quoted at the top of this post, says this about 'Confessions of a Thug' by Meadows Taylor:

"...These early accounts influenced the way in which Thuggee was perceived, both in India and elsewhere. They were expanded on in a hugely successful contemporary novel entitled Confessions of a Thug written by Meadows Taylor, a British officer based in Hyderabad. Taylor turned his own experiences of the anti-Thug campaign into what was widely acclaimed as the greatest ‘chiller’ of its day, and his protagonist (a murderer named Ameer Ali, whose ‘confession’ was based on the deposition of a real Thug) was more ruthless, more successful and more free from the pangs of conscience than even the killers whose confessions had peppered the first historical accounts. Ali’s ‘guiltless confessions of multiple murder’ were – a reviewer in the Literary Gazette declared – ‘enough to freeze the blood in our veins’, and Taylor himself was flattered to hear that the young Queen Victoria herself was so impatient to read his final chapters that she could not wait for the pages to be bound, asking that the running sheets to be sent directly to her as they came off the press..."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Dev Anand mightn't Agree but there is More Sunshine in the Fall of a Leaf

George Orwell:

"Like every other writer, Shakespeare will be forgotten sooner or later..."

('Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool', 1947)

Dev Anand in 1999:

"When Pakistan was formed, we laughed at that time — Lahore and Bombay are one, how can this be — but it happened.

So who knows, as long as there are humans in this world, miracles are possible.”

Mohan Churiwala, Mr. Anand's closest associate:

"He hugged Nanda and wept inconsolably

After a special screening of Hum Dono (Rangeen), Nanda, a recluse, went to meet him at his office.When the door opened, she looked at him said “Devsaab, pehchana?” Devsaab came towards her, hugged her and started weeping. Nanda left in a few minutes and asked me outside, “Why did he get so emotional?” Later, she told me that they were meeting each other after 48 years, after 1963. Tears kept flowing down his cheeks even after Nanda had left." (The Times of India, December 18 2011)

A. O. SCOTT wrote on November 18 2011 in The New York Times:

"...But there is also something about cinema’s essentially modern character that makes it vulnerable to fears of obsolescence. The camera has an uncanny ability to capture the world as it is, to seize events as they happen, and also to conjure visions of the future. But by the time the image reaches the eyes of the viewer, it belongs to the past, taking on the status of something retrieved. As for those bold projections of what is to come, they have a habit of looking quaint as soon as they arrive.
Nostalgia, in other words, is built into moviegoing, which is why moviegoing itself has been, almost from the beginning, the object of nostalgia..."

If so I wonder why Mr. Dev Anand never liked to talk about past or even remember it. After all his art is deeply rooted in nostalgia!

I have really enjoyed and still enjoy watching some of his films:

Tere Mere Sapne (1971), Johny Mera Naam (1970), Jewel Thief (1967), Guide (1965), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Hum Dono (1961), Bombai Ka Baboo (1960), Kala Bazar (1960), Kalapani (1958), Nau Do Gyarah (1956), Paying Guest (1956), C.I.D. (1956), Taxi Driver (1954) and above all Baazi (1951). (Think of it, 'just' 14 films.)

Like ‘Godfather’ or ‘Casablanca’ or 'Jagte Raho', I can watch a part of 'Baazi' every day.

Seldom in the history of Hindi films more talent came together to make a film than this Navketan venture:

Directed by Guru Dutt
Produced by Dev Anand
Written by Balraj Sahni (screenplay, story, dialogue)
Lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi
Starring Dev Anand, Geeta Bali
Music by S. D. Burman
Sung by Geeta Dutt

Bhaichand Patel writes in The Asian Age, Dec 4 2011:

"...Balraj Sahni, a classmate of Chetan in Lahore, was roped in to write the script, plagiarised from the Hollywood film Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. Geeta Bali was to play one of the two lead female roles. The other went to someone fresh out of college, Kalpana Kartik (real name Mona Singha) who was related to Chetan’s wife. She later became Mrs Dev Anand. One of Baazi’s strongest attractions was its catchy music composed by S.D. Burman and sung beautifully by Geeta Roy, soon to become Mrs Guru Dutt. Neither of these two marriages worked, but let us not go into that!
Baazi’s story centres on a seedy gambling club and one of its patrons, played by Dev Anand. It was a dark film made in the film noir style borrowed largely from Warner Brothers’ productions starring, most times, Humphrey Bogart. This short-lived trend in our cinema had begun earlier with Gyan Mukherjee’s Sangram, with Ashok Kumar playing a gangster, and continued with films like Jaal, Aar Paar and CID..."

But for me his finest performance was on TV- his interview on “Rendezvous with Simi Garewal”. I was deeply moved the way he described his relationship with his mother and the hurt caused by her death before he came to Bombay. I thought in a way he never got over his loss. He still missed his mother and he probably never found the real love.

The last Dev Anand starred or directed film I watched was Des Pardes (1978). So for me, even before his death, he had been a memory for almost 33 years.

I don't know what Mr. Anand thought of immortality. But about him, there was a lot of talk about positive thinking, living in the present, fitness regime, frugal eating, company of young people, health checkups in London, working in one's 80's etc.

Considering all this, he would be disappointed with number 88.

I guess he would also agree with Woody Allen's views expressed in : "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying." or "Rather than live on in the hearts and minds of my fellow man, I’d prefer to live on in my apartment.”

In Mr. Anand's case: "in my Bandra penthouse".

For immortality, American futurist Ray Kurzweil proposes not resurrecting the body but instead shedding it altogether and uploading minds into cyberspace. Had the technology been available, I wonder Mr. Anand would have signed up for the program?

I also wonder what he would have thought of John Gray's views on such efforts:

"Freezing our bodies or uploading our minds into a supercomputer will not deliver us from ourselves. Wars and revolutions will disturb our frozen remains, while death will stalk us in cyberspace – also a realm of mortal conflict. Science enlarges what humans can do. It cannot reprieve them from being what they are."

I would like to remember Mr. Anand as a guy who portrayed many enjoyable moments of what we are.

Following cartoon of Sudhir Tailang has appeared in The Asian Age on Dec 5 2011.

I like Mr. Tailang's imagination but I just hope Mr. Anand is making a film from 1950's or 1960's or 1970's. It will be that much better if he gets his younger brother Vijay / Goldie to direct it and he goes in front of the camera. If not, it will be a film made in heaven to be shown in hell as a punishment!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Where did Primal Couple of Paradise go to Stool?

I read Nicholas Lezard's review of "A Pocket Philosophical Dictionary" by Voltaire, translated by John Fletcher in Guardian, November 15 2011.

It says:

"...In the essay with the marvellous title "All Is Good" he cites a Syrian creation myth which tells how the primal couple, dwelling in Paradise, decide to eat cake instead of ambrosia and, suddenly needing to "go to the stool" (this is an earthy book) are directed by an angel to a tiny planet which is "the privy for the entire universe". "They went there and never came back," writes Voltaire, "and since then the world has been the way it is.""

On that not-so-tiny-planet, where exactly did they go?

No prizes for guessing...20 00 N, 77 00 E...region now called India.

The Times of India had this on October 2 2011:

"With India accounting for 58 per cent of all open defecations in the world, the government on Sunday sought active involvement of all parties concerned including women panchayat representatives to sensitise the people in creating awareness about public hygiene.

"On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, I would like to mention one such case which is a shame on all of us. No other country in the world where about 60 per cent women have to go to the field for open defecation," rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said in a function organised by the Hunger Project..."

The Telegrpah of Calcutta reported on Nov 14 2011:

"Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today described India as the “dirtiest and filthiest” country in the world where people with mobile phones go out to answer the “call of nature”...

...“Today, if you go to many parts of India, you have women with a mobile phone going out to answer the call of nature. I mean it is paradoxical,” the minister, who also holds charge of sanitation, said at an event here.

"You have a mobile phone and you don't have a toilet. When you have a toilet, you don't use the toilet... (but) use it as a godown."...”

I understand the minister's frustration but I don't understand when he says it is "paradoxical".

Does he mean one should not use mobile while defecating or if one owns a mobile one should not defecate in open?

Has there been a study why people, especially in rural India, prefer to defecate in open even when they have access to a toilet? Is it because it probably requires less water? Why do 60% Indian women go to the field for defecation?

I asked my wife if she had a view. She said: Maybe they want to get away from their oppressive life for a short time.

Courtesy: Photograph: Garry Weaser for the Guardian

Guardian Books Blog says:

"...No writer owned the arena of toilet reading more than Henry Miller. He read truly great books on the lavatory, and maintained that some, Ulysses for instance, could not be fully appreciated elsewhere. The environment was one that enriched substantial works – extracted their flavour, as he put it – while lesser books and magazines suffered. He singled out Atlantic Monthly.

Miller went so far as to recommend toilets for individual authors. To enjoy Rabelais, he advised a plain country toilet, "a little outhouse in the corn patch, with a crescent sliver of light coming through the door". Better still, he said, take a friend along, to sit with you for half an hour of minor bliss..."

Do some of 'those' Indians seek 'minor bliss' when they defecate in open by choice?

As a kid, I have done it a few times. And I feel, there is some merit in 'minor bliss' theory!