G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marathi Anna Hazare's Hindi: Let us march against Corruption

David Ogilvy:

When Aeschines spoke, they said, “How well he speaks.” But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, “Let us march against Philip.”..."


In 1991, there were three candidates in fray to become the 9th Prime Minister of India: P. V. Narasimha Rao, Sharad Pawar, and Madhavrao Scindia.

I remember 'India Today' quoting a Congress source saying that the best Marathi speaking among them would become the Prime Minister! (All three of them spoke fluent Marathi.)

Mr. Rao won the race.

Just for the record: the late Mr. Rao has translated Marathi classic H N Apte's (ह. ना. आपटे) 'Pan Lakshat Kon Gheto' (पण लक्षात कोण घेतो) into Telugu.

People admire Anna Hazare for various things. I admire him first for speaking Hindi so effectively. The last Marathi person speaking Hindi so effectively on national stage was probably the late Pramod Mahajan.

This is not unprecedented. Read 'exploits' of another 'simpleton' Marathi, Saint Namdev (CE 1270-1350), who has been hailed by Vinoba Bhave as the first great classical writer in Hindi ('पहिला अभिजात उत्तम लेखक') here.

I wonder how effective Hindi B G Tilak and Dr B R Ambedkar, two of the most popular Marathi speaking national leaders, spoke.

The other day Mr. Hazare said: "the Prime Minister is just echoing Kapil Sibbal" in Hindi something like this: "प्राइम मिनिस्टर कपिल सिब्बल की री ओढ़ रहे है." Oh, it was so delightful!

Sharad Yadav once said in Lok Sabha that the President of India Pratibha Patil should have made her address in Hindi instead of English.

His rationale: Not some jingoism but "When Marathi people speak Hindi, it is so sweet." (My son says Mr. Yadav won't say this if he hears my Hindi!)

Read Shivaji-maharaj's likely expertise of Farsi language here. Had he got the opportunity to speak at the court of Mughal, would he have moved them with his command of Persian?

On this blog, I have already quoted Ramachandra Guha reviewing "The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity" by Amartya Sen for 'The Economic and Political Weekly':

"...All works of history must necessarily be selective; still, reading Sen’s book, a younger reader may come away thinking that, apart from the splendid aberration of Rabindranath Tagore, there were no Indian intellectuals or arguers between the age of Akbar and the age of Hindutva.

I wonder – is Sen’s neglect of what I have called the proximate argumentative tradition linked somewhat to the characteristic insularity of the Bengali intellectual? The typical “bhadralok” scholar travels a straight line between Kolkata and some point to the west: this might be London or, by way of variation, Paris or Moscow or Havana or New York.

But his interest in other parts of India is pretty nearly non-existent. In this respect his Bengali cosmopolitanism is also a Bengali parochialism.

Thus one member of the species has written that “Bengal was the site of the most profound response to the colonial encounter”, and that the province’s capital city, Calcutta, “was the crucible of Indian nationalist politics, and the home…of modern Indian liberal consciousness itself”.

Writing from neutral Bangalore, I would instead award the honour to the state of Maharashtra (as is now is).

Consider a few names: Ranade, Gokhale, Phule, Agarkar, Ambedkar.

Now consider a few more: Tarabai Shinde, V R Shinde, D D Karve, Shahu Maharaj.

If one sees “liberal consciousness” as being composed of individual rights, caste reform, and gender equality, then I think the contributions of these Marathi-speakers rate rather higher than those of their (admittedly more loquacious) Bengali counterparts..."

An 'ordinary' Marathi person, like many of the names quoted above, is once again likely to make it big on the national stage. He has begun well. He has proven that language is no barrier. Whether he succeeds or not, we shall find out in good time.