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.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

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, May 26, 2012

Death of Dreams: Of Arthur Miller's Salesman and G A Kulkarni's Madhukaka

The Economist magazine commenting on pioneer of self-help books Samuel Smiles:

“………But, like other self-help gurus, Smiles probably affected behaviour less than self-perceptions. He set out to tell people that morality and hard work were needed for success. What his readers took from his writing was the reassuring notion that their success must have been the result of morality and hard work” (April 22 2004)

J. M. Tyree:

What vexed Miller were the stories Americans have told themselves about the power of positive thinking, the instant money and spiritual purity that are sure to follow from unfettered entrepreneurship, the decency of the profit motive, the goodness of the national past, and, when all else fails, the possibility of escape and reinvention in the West. This land is your land: Henry David Thoreau crosses uneasily with Norman Rockwell; the tenets of Ayn Rand crash into the gospel of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon reads strangely in parallel with the Bill of Rights; Huckleberry Finn lights out for the territory but never becomes the Marlboro Man, exactly. Above all, Miller responded to a culture that cherished a sanctimonious and noxiously sentimental vision of family life as a beacon of health and wealth.


ALGIS VALIUNAS:

The most famous suicide in American theater is that of Willy Loman, in Death of a Salesman (1949). Exhausted by years on the road, his mind going, Willy is suitably beaten down by heartless business forces, so that his killing himself is at once supremely pitiable and supremely noble: He fakes a car accident so his widow and sons can collect the $20,000 insurance payout. Willy's wife admonishes her sons, who despise their father's doddering and weakness and failure, "But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid." Miller's attention is fixed on larger concerns than the fate of one man. For him, the universal tragedy of American life is the fundamental capitalist insistence that business is business. That's exactly what Willy's boss says as he's firing him; Willy agrees reflexively, but then goes on to qualify and plead. The truth is incontestable nevertheless: If you can't make a killing you get murdered.


Although my father (and my mother) struggled more than Willy, from Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' 1949, to support us, unlike Elia Kazan, the play’s first director, Willy was NOT our father in one important aspect.

Selling was an alien profession to us then. You could be a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a barber, a mason, a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, a milkman, a shopkeeper, a clerk, an accountant, a maid, a priest, an engine driver, a bus conductor, a soldier, a farmer...but selling...what was that?

Willy says in Act Two:

"And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ’Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?"

Now, I can't identify my father with this. However, my father then being a young, popular college teacher, I can relate him to "remembered and loved and helped by so many different people".

I can also easily relate to the interplay between Willy and his sons and among the two brothers- Biff and Happy. Tim Lott chooses the play for his 5 best books "on brothers"- love and rivalry among siblings with these words: "Death of a Salesman is more about the relationship between fathers and sons than brothers, but the motif of maimed brother relationships runs in all directions."

It's easier to identify my mother with Linda. She, like Linda in Act Two, could have easily said- and probably did- this to my father: "Why must everyone conquer the world? You're well liked, and the boys love you..."

(BTW-Eerily Willy's act of suicide for the family reminds one of farmers' suicides in India.)

LEE SIEGEL has written a great essay 'Death of a Salesman's Dreams' on the revival of 'Salesman' on Broadway in NYT on May 2 2012.

"Certainly few middle-class people, or at least anyone from any “middle class” that Loman would recognize, are among the audiences attending this production. What was once a middle-class entertainment has become a luxury item. Tickets for the original run, in 1949, cost between $1.80 and $4.80; tickets for the 2012 run range from $111 to $840. After adjusting for inflation, that’s a 10-fold increase, well beyond the reach of today’s putative Willy Lomans."

Isn't this true of even latter-day Hindi plays featuring Naseeruddin Shah? Does Mr. Shah make an effort to stage his plays where they can reach beyond English-NDTV-watching audience?

"Not only have the industries that employed the salespeople, factory workers, middle managers and others in the plentiful, humbler realms of mid-20th-century capitalism begun to dry up, but today’s capitalists no longer share Willy’s belief that he could attain dignity through his work. "

Do young Indians believe that they "could attain dignity through their work"?

"In 1949, Willy’s desperate cry — “the competition is maddening!” — must have chilled theatergoers for whom competition still had a mostly positive connotation. In 2012, a fight to the death for shrinking opportunities in so many realms of life renders the idea of fair competition an anachronism. It is a sign of the times that sitcoms, in which trivial, everyday conflicts are comfortably resolved into neighborly harmony, are giving way to the Darwinian armageddons of reality TV. It is as if the middle class were being forced to watch the gladiatorial spectacle of its own destruction."
In India, haven't nepotism and crony capitalism consumed the concept of fair competition and opportunities?

"Even what’s left of the middle class disdains a middle-class life. Everyone, rich, poor and in between, wants infinite pleasure and fabulous riches."

How true of middle-class Indians...If they have one house, they want one more...They have a car, they want really a big second one...Soon they will send their kids to US, UK, Australia starting Class VIII...

"Mr. Miller’s outrage at a capitalist system he wanted to humanize has become our cynical adaptation to a capitalist system we pride ourselves on knowing how to manipulate. For Mr. Miller, Willy’s middle-class dreams put the system that betrayed them to shame. In our current context, Willy’s dreams of love, dignity and community through modest work make him a deluded loser."
Yes, any one who does not follow their path is a deluded loser. Linda by saying- Why must everyone conquer the world?- is a loser.

"Perhaps there is a simple, unlovely reason “Death of a Salesman” has become such a beloved institution. Instead of humbling its audience through the shock of recognition, the play now confers upon the people who can afford to see it a feeling of superiority — itself a fragile illusion."

Do they watch the play to draw comfort that they are not 'losers' like Willy; that they are 'successful'; that since they are not falling apart like Willy, they are smarter than him?
Do they watch even Marathi 'Natasamrat' (नटसम्राट) to feel superior to the old, hapless Belvalkar (बेलवलकर) couple in there?

Do they watch '
Ekach Pyala' (एकच प्याला) to draw the comfort that they will never turn Sudhakar (सुधाकर) because unlike him they drink only expensive wine and scotch?

Do they watch '
Sakharam Binder' (सखाराम बाइंडर) to conclude that they will never be sexually frustrated or feel castrated like him because they can buy little blue pill?

I hope not.

Artist: George Booth, The New Yorker, 2 December 1972

However, on the whole, "Death of a Salesman" endures because, for me, it is more about what happens in a family rather than it's about Willy's dreams.

The play brings to my mind a classy short story 'Ghar' (घर) by G A Kulkarni (जी ए कुलकर्णी) from the collection "PinglaVel", 1977 (पिंगळावेळ).

I had written to G A about how I liked the story 'Ghar' and he replied saying his fans seldom mentioned that story although he had 'soft corner' for it. This is his letter:

G A Kulkarni letter in Marathi dated 16 Feb 1983- right click to open in another window to magnify and read ( I had compared GA to Marathi saint-poets in my letter to him. I- and GA himself more than me- knew I was exaggerating but now I think it was baloney. No Marathi writer since the death of the last great, Samarth Ramdas समर्थ रामदास in 1681, is any where close to them.)

'Ghar' is the story of middle-class (Brahmin?) Madhukaka (मधुकाका), his wife Mai (माई) and their children Ramesh, Shantaram and Malati.

Now in his retirement, Madhukaka has built a house for the first time in his life and is planning to move into it...housewarming is coming up...he also has plans for his young children...

Will he move into his new house?...Do his children agree with his plans for them?...What happens to his dreams?...Is that family still together at the end of the story?...

The story ends on a sombre note:

"पण त्या कोर्या पांढर्या भिंतींनी मात्र त्यांच्या भोवती घर होण्याचे सराईत नाटक सुरु केले."

(But those blank, white walls started smoothly playacting home around them.)

Epigraph of 'Pingla Vel' is the following quote of August Strindberg:

"Shallow people demand variety – but I have been writing the same story throughout my life, every time trying to cut nearer the aching nerve".

It is no coincidence that G A chose Strindberg who, like a fellow Swede Ingmar Bergman, was a purveyor of domestic hell!

Willy and Madhukaka are great tragic figures but what moves me most is the magnanimousness shown by their wives Linda Loman and Mai(Janaki). They probably never told their husbands how they really felt.


Artist: Charles Addams, The New Yorker, November 14 1942

Linda and Mai are my heroes. I see a lot of my mother in them.

p.s.

It's also no coincidence that I chose a picture by the creator of "The Addams Family" to conclude the post.

ANDREW STARK writes of that famous family:

"It is worth pausing to contemplate what the Addamses' world is really like, beyond its fantastical and droll qualities. In our ordinary world, we don't routinely inflict physical violence on one another, and of course when we do somebody gets hurt. The reverse is the case for the Addamses. They are always meting out wonderfully horrendous acts of physical mayhem: beckoning unwitting drivers to launch their vehicles into the paths of onrushing moving vans, tying each other to homemade racks, bricking guests up behind walls, larding soups with poison. And yet somehow nobody dies, nobody gets dismembered, nobody writhes in agony, nobody's hair even gets mussed.

In short, the Addamses aim to hurt with delicious malevolence, but the physical damage ends up being invisible or, to put it another way, nonexistent. Emotionally, the dynamic is reversed. The Addamses are loving and caring to one another, convivial and concerned as friends; they wouldn't dream of hurting anyone's feelings..." (WSJ, March 12 2010)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sudhir Tailang Is Making Shankar New!

Ezra Pound: Make It New

Walt Whitman: “Do I repeat myself? Very well then, I repeat myself.”

André Gide: “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

John Barth:

"And originality—“making it new”—has many forms. The mainspring of Somadeva’s (सोमदेव) epical eleventh-century Sanskrit tale-cycle, Kátha sarit ságara कथा सरित सागर, or “Ocean of the Streams of Story” (longer than Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey combined), is the goddess Parvati’s request that her consort Siva, as her reward for a particularly divine session of love-making, tell her a story that no one has ever heard before or will ever hear again. In fact, however, the multi-volume “Great Tale” that her lord comes up with includes whole cycles of earlier tales, such as the centuries-old Panchatantra पंचतंत्र (“Five Principles”) and the Vetalapanchavimsati वेतालपञ्चविंशति (“Twenty-five Tales of a Vampire”). And Siva’s tale is overheard by one of the house-servants, who repeats it to his wife, who repeats it to Parvati, who is so incensed by the violation of her for-my-ears-only contract that many consequences follow—including, fortunately, the Great Tale’s transcription and its passage down the ages to us."

I have already written a post on the NCERT cartoon issue.

Cartoonist Sudhir Tailang has been agitated over this. His agitation is understandable because this issue was preceded by Mamata Banerjee cartoon issue.

I have already hailed Mr. Tailang as the best political cartoonist in India today.

And here is another example why.

If you have still not seen Shankar's NCERT cartoon, you can see it here.

Now watch following cartoon by Mr. Tailang.

Although I on an average see more than a funny picture almost every day, seldom I laugh out loud. Especially when I am alone.

This picture made me laugh really loud when I was alone. I did not expect the artist to go out on this limb.

This is Mr. Tailang's tribute to the late Mr. Shankar. The only major difference between the two pictures is the presence / absence of people of India. For some reason, Mr. Tailang's picture doesn't have them.

I see a design even there.

Politicians were accessible then. Now they aren't.

Taya Zinkin, (1918-2003) a prominent English journalist and author writes

“I watched Nehru who had been so accessible even after his country became independent, become increasingly isolated, until one day in Amritsar, an old man who only wanted to touch his feet and receive darshan was nearly killed by a lathi and was carried away by the police in mufti. I watched the slow erosion power works on those who enjoy it and slowly, one by one, I lost my old friends in politics. Constructive criticism, at first welcome, soon grew sour compared with the sycophancy of those who had axes to grind and beds to feather. Power corrupts because it isolates and because in the modern world there is no room for the traditional fool of Shakespearian days.”

(“Sahibs Who Loved India” Ed. Khushwant Singh)

Therefore you now have no one watching them when they are whipping India's 'snail' economy unlike then when they were creating India's constitution!

Remember, Dr. Manmohan Singh is NOT whipping Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. He is about whip the snail. (Even that looks cruel to me now!)


Artist: Sudhir Tailang, The Asian Age, May 17 2012

(My Asian Age issue dated May 17 was delivered on May 18. Lucky me, I did NOT miss it! AA is worth most times because of Mr. Tailang's cartoon alone.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cartoon Or A Powder Keg?

Kancha Ilaiah:

"...After Ambedkar joined Nehru’s Cabinet, he was also seen as one who compromised himself for power. After he resigned from the Cabinet in 1953, and after he embraced Buddhism three years later, his image and status transformed quite dramatically. And after the Mandal movement of 1990, Ambedkar’s stature assumed messianic proportions. The present Ambedkar is not a negotiator with Nehru or Gandhi. Rather, as a messiah of the large army of the oppressed people of this country, he’s quite different from Gandhi and Nehru...

...What Mr Yadav and Mr Palshikar refuse to recognise is that Ambedkar was not just a writer of Indian Constitution, not just a nationalist leader, and not just a theoretician, but he was a prophetic figure who revived Buddhism that was driven out of India by a whole range of social forces over a period of several centuries. Thus, in every Buddha Vihar today he sits along with Buddha.
The icon of the oppressed community cannot be compared with a god or goddess of the oppressors. Nor can the protest against the Ambedkar cartoon be seen at par with the Hindutva protest against the Goddess Saraswati cartoon drawn by M.F. Hussain...

...Shankar Pillai’s cartoons were friendly jokes for the upper-caste English-educated elite of the post-Independence ruling class, but certainly not for the dalit/Other backward Classes/adivasi population..."


(The Asian Age, May 22 2012)



Another political cartoon, this time drawn by great K Shankar Pillai (1902-1989) in 1940's, is in the news.

Once again for wrong reasons. BTW- When this is being discussed on TV or radio, hardly any one mentions Shankar's name!

Many years ago, my father had acquired a commemorative volume of Shankar's pictures. I must have spent hours browsing it over many days. I still remember a few pictures from that.

The one I remember most is:

Shankar riding a donkey/pony a la Don Quixote, loaded with his 'weaponry', is leaving cartooning for good and politicians of all hue are bidding goodbye to him with mixed feelings. I think the caption was something like "parting...but not without sorrow". It was wonderful...moving.

It was this picture:



I remember many pictures on the subject of: "After Nehru Who?" from that book. His affection for Nehru was very apparent.

Should Shankar's political cartoon have been used in a school text?

My Answer: NO. It was an error of judgement.

Why?

1> My son has just given exam for Class 12 and he tells me how all subjects are taught without any nuances in his school. He feels the controversial picture would have been found offending by a few of his classmates. He doesn't think his teachers could have been to able to 'explain' it.

In such an environment, a political cartoon can become a powder keg.

2> India's widespread 'visual' illiteracy. There are a number of posts on the subject on this blog. Most notably this one.

When people send me an occasional comment on the posts from this blog, they seldom mention the picture and this blog is above all about pictures, visuals!

After reading Prof. Suhas Palshikar's (सुहास पळशीकर) brilliant essay in Samaj Prabodhan Patrika April-June 2008 (समाज प्रबोधन पत्रिका), I wrote this post and informed Prof. Palshikar about it. He responded immediately with very encouraging words but did NOT say anything on John Tenniel's brilliant moving cartoon there! Maybe he was very busy.

So people are either indifferent to a visual or go ballistic looking at one.

I can go on ad nauseam!

Therefore, unless we improve this literacy, we shouldn't use political cartoons in texts.

3> There is no exact word for cartoon in Marathi. It's called either 'vyangchitra' (व्यंगचित्र) or 'hasyachitra'(हास्यचित्र). Both these words are slight misnomers. Every time Marathi people see a cartoon they think they need to laugh at the drawn personalities or a scene. Most don't think there is any other purpose to a cartoon.

4> Although the cartoon was first published in the late 1940's, it was 'reissued' c 2006 and is being 'seen' today in 2012. Remember, no one objected to this cartoon before it came in NCERT text.

However a political cartoon works strictly in a context.

A year after independence, Indians might be in a 'hurry' to see it being turned into the Republic and Shankar is showing that eagerness by depicting crowd in the cartoon containing ordinary men, women and children of the newly independent nation.

However, in 2012, we appreciate, in words of Pranab Mukherjee, "how Ambedkar oversaw the writing of one of the world's lengthiest constitutions" in record low time.

Context has clearly changed. Are India's 17-year old's mature enough or trained enough to look at a picture in their text along with its full historical context?

A lot of things transpired between the Congress and Dr. B R Ambedkar after the cartoon was published.

For instance, N. Ram writes:

"He (Dr. Ambedkar) was emphatically opposed to Gandhism and to the Congress ideology, although on some social issues he shared common points with Jawaharlal Nehru – who badly let down his Minister of Law on the Hindu Code Bill in the early 1950s...Dr Ambedkar can be considered as a founder of non-Congressism and anti-Congressism in Indian politics..."

(Frontline, January 15 2010)

Ex-Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Ms. Mayawati:

“…In fact, the Congress played a very dirty game with Dr Ambedkar when its leaders tried to foil the election of Dr Ambedkar to the Constituent Assembly by giving away a part of Bengal (that had elected Dr Ambedkar) to Pakistan. By doing so, Dr Ambedkar would have ended up as member of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. However, when Dr Ambedkar apprised the British of this gameplan, they (British) asked the Congress to include Dr Ambedkar in the Indian Constituent Assembly and finally the Congress had to agree…”

(The Asian Age, April 15, 2008)

If this is so- and I condemn even the slightest violence committed in this regard- isn't it offensive for followers of Dr. Ambedkar to see him being 'driven'- even in jest- by J L Nehru, and that too as a part of a nation-wide textbook? (If you see the cartoon carefully, you will notice that Nehru is about to whip the snail and NOT Dr. Ambedkar. But interpretations may vary.)

Perhaps great Shankar himself wouldn't have drawn this cartoon in 1950's considering above and his own perceived closeness to India's first Prime Minister.

p.s.

This is what I read on June 15 2012:

"...Arjun Dev (ex-Professor of History in the NCERT) felt that it was a pity that much of the discussion that had taken place had, in fact, prevented a rational and objective discussion on the usefulness of this particular textbook as suitable educational material. He wondered whether the preponderance of cartoons in a textbook as ‘aids' really helped promote interest in the subject and make for a better critical comprehension.

“This particular textbook suffers from ‘overkill', with many cartoons making little sense in the absence of any reference to the context in which they were drawn. There are no dates anywhere, which would in some cases be of some use in even ‘understanding' a cartoon, even finding in it something ‘funny' or humorous. There is a cartoon on page 7 of the book in which Nehru has two faces, one facing a group of persons in dhotis and kurtas sitting on the ground shouting Vande Mataram and the other facing a group of ‘decently' clothed and ‘educated'-looking persons, most of them sitting properly in chairs playing musical instruments and singing Jana Gana Mana with a few standing behind them (the one standing resembles Maulana Azad and the one sitting, Ambedkar). The text tells the reader: ‘Here is Nehru trying to balance between different visions and ideologies. Can you identify what these different groups stand for?' Can you?” Arjun Dev asked..."

(T.K. RAJALAKSHMI, 'Chorus of unreason', Frontline, Jun. 02-15, 2012)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Saadat Hasan Manto @100 is Still Working to Make Our Age Bearable

Today May 11 2012 is 100th Birth Anniversary of Saadat Hasan Manto, one of the greatest South Asian writers of 20th century.

Saadat Hassan Manto:

“IF you are not familiar with the age in which we live, read my stories. If you cannot endure my stories, it means that this age is unbearable.”

I knew very little about Saadat Hassan Manto until 2012. Since then I have bought books- both Hindi and English- that contain most of his short stories.

Those stories are some of the best I have read.

For instance, Manto is as good as the best Marathi has to offer- writer like G A Kulkarni (जी ए कुलकर्णी)- in this genre.

I have seen a couple of Marathi translations of his work but wonder why Manto is not as popular or not as much read by Marathi speaking people as he should be. They should claim Manto their own because many of Manto's stories are based in Mumbai and Pune!

His shadows of Bombay life- darker and more intriguing than the one sees in Chetan Anand's 'Taxi Driver', 1954- were later claimed and celebrated by others, most notably Bhau Padhye (भाऊ पाध्ये) in Marathi.

It is also surprising considering that there are so many ardent fans, among native Marathi speakers, of Gulzar and Amrita Pritam: for my taste, both ordinary writers compared to Manto.

I probably know one reason why Manto is treated thus: His most popular stories evoke and define the Partition, one of the greatest human tragedies since the start of the history and the fact that he migrated to Pakistan after 1947.

The Partition is almost a taboo with most middle-class Indians. They don't want to know any more about it than what has been told- very little- to them in school texts.

One of his popular stories is “Toba Tek Singh”.

Anatol Lieven writes about it:

"The signature story is a masterpiece of allegory with touches of surrealism. It’s also a very powerful human story. Toba Tek Singh is the story of a lunatic asylum from British days in India, which after partition ends up on the Pakistani side of the border. In this lunatic asylum there is this Sikh called Bishan Singh from the village of Toba Tek Singh. His family flee to India and he’s left behind in Pakistan. A few years after partition – this is where you can see Manto’s deep regret about partition and where his anger and despair comes in – the decision is made that the Hindu and Sikh lunatics and the Muslims lunatics also have to be partitioned and that the Hindu and Sikh lunatics have to be sent to India. He refuses to go because he realises that he is going to be separated forever from his beloved Toba Tek Singh. When they try to drag him he throws himself on to the ground and the authorities leave him there for the night. In the morning, the implication is that he’s dead, with his body straddling the border between India and Pakistan."

No one tells us what exactly we lost in the Partition better than Manto.

But personally I like his stories that portray man-woman relationships better. A few of them are sensuous, real turn-ons. They remind me of love stories from ancient Indian literature in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali etc.

courtesy: Rajkamal Prakashan

Monday, May 07, 2012

Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत: First Decade of Her Absence

दुर्गा भागवत: "मला जगण्याचं सुख वाटतं बघ."

(Durga Bhagwat: "I am happy living.")

Today May 7 2012 is 10th death anniversary of Durga Bhagwat (दुर्गा भागवत).

I have not thought of anything new to write on her but just remembering her.

Again, as is typical of Marathi, most of the writing on her is hagiographic but she too had, as always is the case, her faults. Some of them glaring.

Ms. Bhagwat must wait for more rounded biography.

There are at least a dozen posts on this blog referring to her. They can be reached by clicking here.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Supermoon and Supertoon

The phenomenon, called supermoon, this year coincides with 'Buddha Purnima' on May 6 2012.

Such a moon always brings my attention back to super cartoon by one of the greatest.

"Maynard, I do think that just this once you should come out and see the moon!"

I wonder what Maynard is doing.

Watching IPL or his favourite sitcom? Is he capable of enjoying the moon? I mean his eyesight is not a problem because if he comes out the moon will be in his face. Did he ever enjoy looking at the moon? Does he like to watch the moon more on National Geographic than the one in his backyard?

Artist: Charles Addams, The New Yorker, 25 July 1983

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Scream! By Edvard Munch, Keshavsut & Nick Ut

Nigel Fountain:

"AK47 codifies avtomat (automatic), the designer's name, Kalashnikov, and the year of its invention, 1947, deep in cold war permafrost. The rifle was not to be the fastest, most accurate, most lethal, but there would be 70m of them, and growing, because it was to be the rifle that could be dropped from heights, buried in mud, filled with sand, submerged and reassembled in minutes, and still reliably transform human beings into screams, blood and pulp."

(Guardian, July 28, 2007)


It was widely reported in April 2012 that Edvard Munch’s “The Scream" would go under hammer on May 2 2012. It would go on to fetch $119.9 million, the highest price paid for a work of art at auction.

Peter Aspden says:

"...“The Scream” is one of the most disturbing images to come out of the history of modern art. It depicts a moment of psychic calamity, of shattered nerves. Munch intended, when he first created the image in 1893, to record “the modern life of the soul”; and what a fraught, anxiety-ridden vision it was. For decades his distorted vision was regarded as an eccentric by-way of expressionism, laden with Nordic gloom and unnecessary cosmic pessimism.

Yet here we are, the world’s hyper-rich leading art collectors seemingly poised to make “The Scream” one of the most valuable artistic images ever created. A vision from the haunted dusk of the 19th century has found its moment more than 100 years later. Munch has hit the mainstream. We are finally strong enough to stomach his scream. Someone, somewhere in the world is busy planning to pop this icon of human disintegration above the fireplace, at enormous cost. We are, it seems, past the age of water lilies and sunflowers. The swirling chaos and vacant expression evident in Munch’s most famous work has become a touchstone for our troubled times..."


Artist: Edvard Munch, "The Scream", 1895
©Munch Museum

“I was walking along the road with two Friends /
the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red /
And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood /
Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black /
Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire /
My Friends walked on – I remained behind /
– shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.”

"The Scream" always brings two things to my mind.

First is a famous Marathi poem called 'Tutari' (तुतारी)- the one I fell in love with as a kid after reading its first five lines- by Keshvasut (केशवसुत):

"एक तुतारी द्या मज आणुनि
फुंकिन मी जी स्वप्राणाने
भेदुनि टाकिन सगळी गगनें
दीर्ध जिच्या त्या किंकाळीने
अशी तुतारी द्या मजलागुनी"

("Get me a trumpet
that I will blow with all my strength
Will pierce all skies
with its loud long scream

Get such a trumpet to me"

Btw- How much, if any, was Keshavsut (1866-1905) paid for this poem? INR 1.199?

And the second: the screams of Kim Phúc and her siblings on June 8, 1972:

Phan Thị Kim Phúc (aged 9; middle left) running down a road near Trảng Bàng, Vietnam, after a napalm bomb was dropped on the village of Trảng Bàng by a plane of the Vietnam Air Force. The village was suspected by United States Army forces of being a Viet Cong stronghold. Kim Phúc survived by tearing off her burning clothes.

Also pictured is her older brother Phan Thanh Tam (aged 12; far left), younger brother Phan Thanh Phuoc (aged 5; background left, looking back), and younger cousins Ho Van Bo and Ho Thi Ting (boy and girl, respectively; middle right).


Photo Artist: Nick Ut, courtesy: AP and Wikipedia

Edvard Munch talks about "The Sky turned a bloody red".

What colour was the sky over Trảng Bàng on that June day almost 40 years ago?...The colour of napalm?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Of Zohra and Achla: अभीभी जोहरा-जबी और जवान...

Louis-Ferdinand Céline:

"I had tried to lose myself. I hadn't wanted to be face to face with my own life any time, but everywhere I kept finding it. I was always coming back to myself. My wanderings were over. No more knocking about for me...The world had closed in...We had come to the end! Like at the carnival! It's not enough to be sad; there ought to be some way to start the music up again and go looking for more sadness...But not for me...We may not admit it, but what we really want is to have our youth back again..."

('Journey to the end of the night', 1932)


ज़ोहरा सैगल:

"
ज़िंदगी का कुछ पता नहीं. कब क्या हो जाए."

"we really want is to have our youth back again"...most of us aren't as lucky as Yayati (ययाति)...but we somehow want it back...youth...जवानी...तारुण्य...but better if we felt young at any age..."Just now I am young"..."अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ"...

One of the most memorable moments for me, on TV, has been watching Zohra Sehgal's rendition of Hafeez Jalandhari's (हफ़ीज़ जालंधरी) 'Abhi To Main Jawan Hoon'(अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ) at the request of program host Khushwant Singh.

The way her eyes on wrinkled face twinkled, the way she gestured, especially with hands, and the way Mr. Singh received it...Was the interview just an excuse to get her to sing the song?...Like arranging a concert just for the finale with Raag Bhairavi...It was surreal...


Photo courtesy: The Hindu

There is another lovely story associated with this song.

People used to ask the late P L Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे) if the character of Kakaji (काकाजी) from his very popular play 'Tujhe Ahe Tujapashi', 1957 (तुझें आहे तुजपाशीं)was based on the real life figure of Ramubhaiya Date (रामुभैया दाते).

Pu La used to answer: "Kakaji in the play keeps saying 'I am still young' ('अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ') but here (in case of Mr. Date) the childhood (शैशव) itself is still not over!"

The same could be safely said of Ms. Sehgal the way she winked at the camera in a recent TV interview.

Irrespective of what else she has done, the fact that she choreographed Guru Dutt's Baazi (1951) and the dream sequence song in Raj Kapoor's 'Awaara' (1951) tells us about her abundant talent.

She turned 100 on April 27 2012!

Ms. Sehgal told BBC, Hindi in 2009: "चेतन आनद और राजकपूर को मैं कभी नहीं भुला सकी." (I could never forget Chetan Anand and Raj Kapoor.)

Many of Mr. Anand's films features Ms. Achala Sachdev (अचला सचदेव) (b. 1920), a beauty with a distinct voice until she started doing roles of weeping widows.

Ms. Sachdev, at the centre, in Chetan Anand's 'Heer Raanjha', 1970

Of course, Ms. Sachdev will be most remembered for featuring in a wonderful song: 'Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen' (एह मेरी जोहरा-जबी) from Yash Chopra's 'Waqt', 1965.

In April 2012, Indian media- both electronic and print- celebrated 100th birthday of much-decorated Padma Vibhushan Ms. Sehgal while Ms. Sachdev died, largely forgotten, in a Pune hospital on April 29 2012.

Zohra and Achla, they both will always be my darlings!

एह मेरी जोहरा-जबी, तुझे मालुम नही
तू अभी तक है हसी और मै जवान
तुझपे कुर्बान मेरी जान मेरी जान
एह मेरी जोहरा-जबी

ये शोखिया ये बचपन,
जो तुझ मे है कही नही
दिलो को जीतने का फेन, जो तुझ मे है कही नही
मै तेरी
मै तेरी आंखो मे पा गया दो जहा
एह मेरी जोहरा-जबी

तू मीठे बोल जान-ए-मन,
जो मुस्कुराके बोल दे
तो धध्कानो मे आज भी,
शराबी रंग घोल दे
ओह सनम
ओह सनम मै तेरा आशिक-ए-जाविदा

एह मेरी जोहरा-जबी

(lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi)

अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ (3)
हवा भी ख़ुशगवार है, गुलों पे भी निखार है
तरन्नुमें हज़ार हैं, बहार पुरबहार है
कहाँ चला है साक़िया, इधर तो लौट इधर तो आ
अरे, यह देखता है क्या? उठा सुबू, सुबू उठा
सुबू उठा, पयाला भर पयाला भर के दे इधर
चमन की सिम्त कर नज़र, समा तो देख बेख़बर
वो काली-काली बदलियाँ , उफ़क़ पे हो गई अयाँ
वो इक हजूम-ए-मैकशाँ, है सू-ए-मैकदा रवाँ
ये क्या गुमाँ है बदगुमाँ, समझ न मुझको नातवाँ
ख़याल-ए-ज़ोह्द अभी कहाँ? अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ (3)

इबादतों का ज़िक्र है, निजात की भी फ़िक्र है
जनून है सबाब का, ख़याल है अज़ाब का
मगर सुनो तो शेख़ जी, अजीब शय हैं आप भी
भला शबाब-ओ-आशिक़ी, अलग हुए भी हैं कभी
हसीन जलवारेज़ हो, अदाएं फ़ितनाख़ेज़ हो
हवाएं इत्रबेज़ हों, तो शौक़ क्यूँ न तेज़ हो?
निगारहा-ए-फ़ितनागर , कोई इधर कोई उधर
उभारते हो ऐश पर, तो क्या करे कोई बशर
चलो जी क़िस्सा मुख़्तसर, तुम्हारा नुक़्ता-ए-नज़र
दरुस्त है तो हो मगर, अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ (3)

न ग़म कशोद-ओ-बस्त का, बुलंद का न पस्त का
न बूद का न हस्त का, न वादा-ए-अलस्त का (2)
उम्मीद और यास गुम, हवास गुम क़यास गुम
नज़र से आस-पास गुम, हमां बजुज़ गिलास गुम
न मय में कुछ कमी रहे, कदा से हमदमी रहे
निशस्त ये जमी रहे, यही हमा-हमीं रहे
वो राग छेड़ मुतरिबा (2), तरवफ़िज़ा आलमरुबा
असर सदा-ए-साज़ का, जिग़र में आग दे लगा (3)
हर इक लब पे हो सदा, न हाथ रोक साक़िया
पिलाए जा पिलाए जा, पिलाए जा पिलाए जा

अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ (3)

ये ग़श्त कोहसार की, ये सैर जू-ए-वार की
ये बुलबुलों के चहचहे, ये गुलरुख़ों के क़हक़हे
किसी से मेल हो गया, तो रंज-ओ-फ़िक्र खो गया
कभी जो वक़्त सो गया, ये हँस गया वो रो गया
ये इश्क़ की कहानियाँ, ये रस भरी जवानियाँ
उधर से महरबानियाँ, इधर से लन्तरानियाँ
ये आस्मान ये ज़मीं (2), नज़्ज़राहा-ए-दिलनशीं
उने हयात आफ़रीं, भला मैं छोड़ दूँ यहीं
है मौत इस क़दर बरीं, मुझे न आएगा यक़ीं
नहीं-नहीं अभी नहीं, नहीं-नहीं अभी नहीं

अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ (3)

(courtesy: BBC Hindi)