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."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Grotesque Looking Gangs of India: Vasant Sarwate Lalit Diwali 2011

William Butler Yeats:

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
('The Second Coming')

This is what historian Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade (विश्वनाथ काशिनाथ राजवाडे) said almost a century ago:

"तात्पर्य, हिंदुस्थानांत होऊन गेलेली सर्व सरकारे मूठभर अल्पसंख्यांकांची आहेत व ह्या मूठभर अल्पसंख्यांकांचे सरकार त्यांच्याच सारख्या इतर मूठभर परंतु समबल किंवा वरचढबल अल्पसंख्यांक सरकारच्या ऊर्फ टोळीच्या हातून नाश पावते. त्यात गावकर्यांचा हात शपथेला सुद्धा नसतो."

(In summary, all the governments of Hindusthan have been of handful minorities and these administrations of handful minorities are destroyed by equally or more powerful minority governments or gangs. The people don't play their hand even for taking oath.)

['Maharashtra va Uttarkokanachee vasahat' (महाराष्ट्र व उत्तरकोंकणची वसाहत) from 'The Mahikavati Bakhar' (महिकावतीची बखर), 1924]

The first word that entered my mind when I saw Vasant Sarwate's (वसंत सरवटे) picture below was 'gangs' (टोळ्या) mentioned in Rajwade quote.

Gangs of corrupt politicians, crooked bureaucrats, robber baron businessmen, bakelite celebrities, crony capitalists, fundamentalists of all hue, terrorists, cacophonic media...

Rajwade wrote the quoted lines when India was not free.

Democracy was supposed to change that. The group in white attire carrying a flag in Sarwate's picture on the right reminds me of that hope, that promise, that 'tryst with destiny'.

UK's Financial Times is not a Left Wing paper.

Edward Luce is their Washington bureau chief. Earlier he was their South Asia Bureau Chief based at New Delhi. He is the author of 'In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India' (2006).

He writes about American democracy in November 2011:

"A driver is stuck in a jam in Washington. A man knocks on his window: “Terrorists have kidnapped Congress, and they’re asking for $100m otherwise they’ll burn them with gasoline,” the man says. “We’re going from car to car to get donations.” What are people giving on average, asks the driver? “Oh, about a gallon,” comes the reply.

Mischievous though it is, the joke received a good reception when it was recently circulated to an email list of Washington insiders – a group of retired diplomats and academics. It is difficult to imagine Bob Hope delivering such a gag. In today’s climate, no amount of contempt seems too much for the country’s once highly trusted democratic institutions."

And one can argue that Indian democracy is in worse shape than American. No amount of contempt seems too much for the country’s once highly trusted democratic institutions.

As venerable Martin Wolf (of FT again) says: As inequality rises, the sense that we are equal as citizens weakens. In the end, democracy is sold to the highest bidder. That has happened often before in the history of republics.

Another thing that came to my mind on seeing Sarwate's cover was a famous song from Raj Kapoor's 'Awaara' (1951)- 'Mujhko chahiye bahar'...Its imaginary hell represented by flames and grotesque statues and a desperate cry of Manna Dey- voice of pathos seeking hope- 'Mujhko ye narak na chahiye; mujhko phool, mujhko geet, mujhko preet chahiye...Mujhko chahiye bahar'.

I still remember how disturbed I felt watching the sequence first time on big screen in 1970's. I needed some balm which came with serene 'ghar aaya mera pardesi'.

Director: Raj Kapoor; Cinematography: Radhu Karmakar; Art Direction: M.R. Achrekar; Set Decoration: K. Damodar

Artist: Vasant Sarwate, Lalit (ललित), November-December 2011

(I see one light violet colour face wearing bindi/pendant. I feel it represents a gang of bakelite celebrities.)

Sarwate himself says about the picture that, while drawing it, his own cover of Sahitya Academy Award winning collection of poems of Mangesh Padgaonkar's (मंगेश पाडगांवकर) 'Salam' (सलाम),1980- salute- was on his mind.

I know 'Salam'. I have heard Padgaonkar reciting it from the stage of Balgandharva Natyagraha (बालगंधर्व नाटय़गृह) in Miraj (मिरज). I liked it OK.

But when my overwhelming feeling is of deep fear, almost terror, only when I recover from it slightly, I may raise my hand in salute (salam), for survival!

Click on the respective year to see Sarwate's past covers of Lalit Diwali 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

click on the above to get a larger view of part of Rajwade's original article

['Rajwade Lekhsangrah' (राजवाडे लेखसंग्रह) editor: Tarkateerth Lakshman-shastri Joshi (संपादक: तर्कतीर्थ लक्ष्मणशास्त्री जोशी), 1958]