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: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

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.