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."

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!