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."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jhansi Ki Rani: Of Godse and Goya

Today November 19 2011 is 176th birth anniversary of Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi


The Telegraph, UK, April 14 2012:

"George Washington has been named as the greatest foe ever faced by the British...The one woman on the list was Rani of Jhansi, who fought British forces in nineteenth century India..."

Kathryn Harrison:


We don’t need narratives that rationalize human experience so much as those that enlarge it with the breath of mystery. For as long as we look to heroes for inspiration, to leaders whose vision lifts them above our limited perspective, who cherish their values above their earthly lives, the story of Joan of Arc will remain one we remember, and celebrate.


Mark Twain on Joan of Arc:

“I studied that girl, Joan of Arc, for 12 years, and it never seemed to me that the artists and the writers gave us a true picture of her. They drew a picture of a peasant. . . . But they always missed the face — the divine soul, the pure character...All the rules fail in this girl’s case. In the world’s history she stands alone — quite alone."

No, Mr. Twain. She does NOT stand alone. India's Rani Lakshmi Bai stands shoulder to shoulder with her.


Artist: Unknown to me

(Does the strapped kid look 12 years old?)

Jhansi's Rani has always been around since I was a kid.

Be it B R Tambe's (भा. रा. तांबे) moving poem:

'रे हिंदबांधवा, थांब या स्थळी । अश्रु दोन ढाळी ॥
ती पराक्रमाची ज्योत मावळे । इथे झांशीवाली ॥'

or Pratibha Ranade's (प्रतिभा रानडे) sensitive and scholarly portrayal 'Zashichi Rani Laxmibai' (झांशीची राणी लक्ष्मीबाई), June 2003 .

But I have always felt a touch of sadness around her. It was never like seeing pictures of Shivaji and his lieutenants.

After I read Godse Bhataji aka Vishnubhat Godse (गोडसे भटजी / विष्णुभट गोडसे)'s classic 'Maza pravas' (माझा प्रवास), 1883, the feeling became even darker because Godse's description of the empire's cruelty inflicted on Jhansi, after its fall, is heart wrenching. (Read a related post on this here.)

Godse's description of his meetings with the Rani are also very vivid and moving.

This is how Godse describes the Rani's escape with her 12-year old son tied to her back:

"बाईसाहेब स्वतः पांढरे घोड्यावर स्वार जाहाली. घोडा तो सुमार अडीच हजार रुपये किमतीचा खंदा होता. त्याजवर आपण बसून आंगावर पायजमा वगैरे सर्वपुरुष पोषाग होताच. टाकीण बूट घातले होते व सर्वांगास तारांचे कवच घातले होते, बराबर अर्ध एक पैसा सुद्धा घेतला नव्हता. फक्त रुप्याचा पेला पदरी बांधून ठेविला होता. कम्बरेस ज्यम्बा वगैरे हतेरे होती. खाकेत तलवार लाविली होती आणि रेसिमकाठी धोतरानी पाठीसी बारा वर्षाचा मुलगा दत्तक घेतलेला बांधून जय शंकर शब्द करून किल्ल्या खाली स्वारी उतरली..."



Artist: Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)

COURTESY: INSTITUTO CERVANTES, NEW DELHI and Frontline Oct. 07, 2011

"YSON TAN FIERAS": In his portrayal of women caught in conflict, Goya shows women as victims of invaders, and also as guerilla fighters. Here, a woman guerilla fighter who has tied her child around her shoulders while fighting....Much like Lakshmibai.

She is Goya's Jhansi Ki Rani!