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."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Do I Feel Cheated 43 Years Later in August 2012?

Martin Wolf, FT, October 2 2012

"What we are now living through is an intense, but narrow, set of innovations in one important area of technology. Does it matter? Yes. We can, after all, see that a decade or two from now every human being will have access to all of the world’s information. But the view that overall innovation is now slower than a century ago is compelling."


J G Ballard:

"The only truly alien planet is Earth."

John Horgan:

"...How can we justify costly missions in space when so many people here on earth lack adequate health care, housing, education and other necessities? Given all our terrestrial troubles, our infatuation with space seems more than ever like escapism..."

(Scientific American, August 26 2012)


If you pay attention to the dialogues of Hindi/ Marathi films from 1960's, you often hear about the prospect of man going to the moon.

I guess it started with US President John F. Kennedy's- who was quite ubiquitous even in India- speech dated May 25, 1961 :

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

After July 20, 1969, the dialogue changed to man's historic achievement..."We have gone to the moon...what next" etc.

For instance, a line in this Rajesh Khanna/Kishore Kumar/Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Anand Bakshi song from 'Aan Milo Sajna', 1970 reads:

"teri nazar to chaand taaron pe aaj hai" (your sight today is on the moon and the stars.)

courtesy: Shemaroo

Last 43 years have been a kind of letdown.

David Graeber writes in "The Baffler" No. 19

"A secret question hovers over us, a sense of disappointment, a broken promise we were given as children about what our adult world was supposed to be like. I am referring not to the standard false promises that children are always given (about how the world is fair, or how those who work hard shall be rewarded), but to a particular generational promise—given to those who were children in the fifties, sixties, seventies, or eighties—one that was never quite articulated as a promise but rather as a set of assumptions about what our adult world would be like. And since it was never quite promised, now that it has failed to come true, we’re left confused: indignant, but at the same time, embarrassed at our own indignation, ashamed we were ever so silly to believe our elders to begin with.

Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now? Even those inventions that seemed ready to emerge—like cloning or cryogenics—ended up betraying their lofty promises. What happened to them?

We are well informed of the wonders of computers, as if this is some sort of unanticipated compensation, but, in fact, we haven’t moved even computing to the point of progress that people in the fifties expected we’d have reached by now. We don’t have computers we can have an interesting conversation with, or robots that can walk our dogs or take our clothes to the Laundromat.

As someone who was eight years old at the time of the Apollo moon landing, I remember calculating that I would be thirty-nine in the magic year 2000 and wondering what the world would be like. Did I expect I would be living in such a world of wonders? Of course. Everyone did. Do I feel cheated now? It seemed unlikely that I’d live to see all the things I was reading about in science fiction, but it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t see any of them."

Artist: Mark S Fisher

What about the future as we see it today...where are we going?

ADAM FRANK:

"Short of a scientific miracle of the kind that has never occurred, our future history for millenniums will be played out on Earth and in the “near space” environment of the other seven planets, their moons and the asteroids in between. For all our flights of imagination, we have yet to absorb this reality. Like it or not, we are probably trapped in our solar system for a long, long time. We had better start coming to terms with what that means for the human future...

...The truth is we propel ourselves into space using much the same physics as the Chinese played with when they discovered what we came to call gunpowder more than 1,400 years ago. Blowing stuff up under us is just about the only way we know how to travel through the void.

But what we’ve learned in doing so brings me, as an adult and as an astrophysicist, to the hardest and most inconvenient truth of all। While our children’s children’s great-grandchildren will live with ever more powerful technology, they will also live ever more intimately with ever more billions of others in this, our corner of the cosmos. Looking back and forward, my bets are now on that same human genius, ambition and hope to rise to the occasion. We will have no other choice. There will be nowhere else to go for a very long time."

(The New York Times, 24 Jul 2012)

But why should we despair?

Taking in droplets of water, poet B S Mardhekar (बा सी मर्ढेकर) stood on the banks of the majestic Ganges in Patna, Bihar and told his God:

"असशील जेथे तिथे रहा तू,
हा इथला मज पुरे फवारा !"

(You stay where you are,
for me sprinkling here will do !)

I am content with the light reaching me from the moon and the stars.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Neil following our Rajesh is Dead

I do not remember any foreign name- other than possibly Pele, Bradman and Sobers- who became as much a household name in India as Neil Armstrong since India's independence in 1947.

As you will see below, there were two people who made India's 1969 their own. Rajesh Khanna, who was a superstar and Mr. Armstrong who reached the moon. Both are now no more.

Here is recycling my post dated July 20 2009:

For a nine year old, 1969 was: Hindi movies:Talash (particularly its promos of scantily dressed dancers in champagne glasses from page 2 of Maharashtra Times), Waris, Anjaana, Shatranj, Ansoo Ban Gaye Phool, Ek Phool Do Maali, Do Raaste and Aradhana; passing away of P K Atre and Dr. Zakir Husain; Gandhi Centenary (so many mandatory, boring cultural programs in Gandhi's memory at school).

And cricket.

India lost the Nagpur test match to New Zealand in October.

It was a national calamity. There were rumours that our cricketers were too drunk to walk on cricket field on the last day October 8. Another rumour was that M A K Pataudi, India's captain, was too busy wooing Sharmila Tagore to concentrate on his cricket.

This loss was more than redeemed by beating strong Australian side in December.

Now I understand even following events happened in the same year: India's first credit card Diners card was introduced, the first Indian-built Centaur rocket was successfully tested, Dadasaheb Phalke award was instituted. ("The Indian Millennium AD 1000-2000" by Gopa Sabharwal, 2000)

I don't remember July 20, 1969 but it changed the scene. They say: For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck.

So was India.

Moon, Apollo spacecraft and its crew- Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Michael Collins were every where.

Many forts children built in Maharashtra during Diwali festival had the theme of Apollo mission. Ganesh festival pandals exhibited moon landing scenes.

Cartoons, jokes, films, plays, literature -popular culture as a whole- started referring to the landing. Mr. Armstrong became as popular as Rajesh Khanna!

No NRI complained why Gayatri Mantra was not chanted on the moon when it was reported that Buzz Aldrin gave thanks to God by the taking of the Holy Communion on the moon.

There was a sense of urgency to dump the old practices, now that we had reached the moon.

Some experts in India predicted that faith in astrology would wane because moon, which plays such an important part in a horoscope, was now soiled by a mortal man.

Nothing like that ever happened. Astrology remains more popular in India today than ever before. For some prominent scientists(?), astrology and vastu-shastra have become branches of science!

I personally like the moon mission because it eventually gave birth to Buzz, a co-hero of Toy Story films.



Paul Krugman says:

"...Indeed, manned space flight in general has turned out to be a bust.

The key word here is "manned." Space flight has been a huge boon to mankind. It has advanced the cause of science: for example, cosmology, and with it our understanding of basic physics, has made huge strides through space-based observation. Space flight has also done a lot to improve life here on Earth, as space-based systems help us track storms, communicate with one another, even find out where we are...

...Yet almost all the payoff from space travel, scientific and practical, has come from unmanned vehicles and satellites..." (NYT, February 4, 2003)

In 2007, Gerard DeGroot wrote a book “Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

"...DeGroot came to share the view of many people today, that Apollo was a $35bn ego trip - an outrageous waste of money that should have been spent addressing problems on Earth. For him, Neil Armstrong’s “small step” on to the moon achieved nothing for mankind beyond a brief burst of media-generated euphoria..." (Clive Cookson, FT, March 9 2007)

"...In fact, it turned out the Russians were far behind the US in space expertise, a fact Kennedy only discovered in office. It was too late by then and the space monster he had unleashed began devouring money faster than any other federal programme. Kennedy might have stopped the rot, says DeGroot, but was assassinated. After that, 'the space programme became a homage to Kennedy and, as such, untouchable'

The US lunar quest was, therefore, 'an immensely expensive distraction of little scientific or culture worth', a grand futility from which the US space agency Nasa has never recovered. It is hard to disagree with this assessment.

DeGroot, a sharp and witty writer, has prepared his case assiduously, though for my taste he overstates it badly, wilfully ignoring the romance and chutzpah of what was, after all, the 20th-century's crowning human achievement..." (Robin McKie, The Observer, 3 February 2008)

"...But Dark Side of the Moon underestimates many positive aspects of Apollo. One was the psychological impetus given to the embryonic environmental movement by seeing our fragile blue-and-white planet from the moon. And Apollo gave a huge long-term boost to scientific innovation by inspiring a generation of schoolchildren to study science and technology. Their enthusiasm did not wane when the moon landings ended, and in subsequent decades many became high-tech innovators and entrepreneurs..." (Clive Cookson)



"What's happening to us, John? People will soon be going to the moon, and we don't even seem to get out of the house any more."

Artist : Richard Decker, The New Yorker, 19 April 1958

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Punishments on the Most Exorbitant Scale

George Santayana:

“The first things which a man learns to distinguish and repeat are things with a will of their own, things which resist his casual demands; and so the first sentiment with which he confronts reality is a certain animosity, which becomes cruelty toward the weak, and fear and fawning before the powerful. ... It is pathetic to observe how lowly are the motives that religion, even the highest, attributes to the deity, and from what a hard-pressed and bitter existence they have been drawn. To be given the best morsel, to be remembered, to be praised, to be obeyed blindly and punctiliously these have been thought points of honor with the gods, for which they would dispense favors and punishments on the most exorbitant scale.”


John Gray:

"In reality, the threat of barbarism comes from within civilisation itself. This is not to endorse the Romantic myth of the noble savage. " Primitive" peoples are just as prone to cruelty and folly as the rest of humankind, and human history is not - as Rousseau taught - a long decline from original innocence. The distinction between civilisation and barbarism does not mark some societies off from others. It runs through all societies and through every human being. Violence and madness are never far beneath the surface, and when they break through it is often in savagery that is sanctioned by authority."


Photo Credit: PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/GettyImages

"Nepalese men hold on to a goat during an ancient annual Hindu festival ritual in Khokana village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on August 4, 2012. In the ritual, a sacrificial female baby goat is thrown into a pond as local men in teams from localities compete to kill it, with the belief that whoever takes the prize will have a prosperous year ahead. Animal rights activists have been protesting against the cruelty of the festival despite the Nepalese government providing a small amount for the organisation of the festivities."

For more pictures in the series, visit http://www.gettyimages.in/detail/news-photo/nepalese-men-hold-on-to-a-goat-during-an-ancient-annual-news-photo/149801247

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No 1 Olympic Sport that won't get a Gold Medal

THEODORE DALRYMPLE:

"India alone values the Games at their true worth—which is to say, approaching nil. It is not that Indians are completely indifferent to sports. They are crazy about cricket, a game whose considerable subtleties are lost on all who did not grow up with it but which teaches mental flexibility as well as specific skills. But no official encouragement is necessary to promote this enthusiasm...For reasons that I am unable to fathom, for no person is less interested in sports than I, the United Nations Development Program regularly sends me updates on its efforts to promote economic and social progress through athletics. India, I am glad to say, does not believe in this nonsense." (WSJ, August 17 2012)

Business Standard, Aug 13 2012:

"The fact is that if you are a poor or hot country, you don’t do well in Olympic contests. And if you are both poor and hot, the dice are really loaded against you."

(
sounds like Jared Diamond)

I often watch Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV channels. They are much better than any of India's news channel. They often reflect what is going on in this country.

By watching them, I have developed some respect for a few MP's and the processes governing India's democracy.

One member of the Lok Sabha I love to watch is Sharad Yadav. I have always followed Mr. Yadav's career since the emergency.

In my eyes he is deeply rooted in India's soil, is incorruptible, has high integrity , is a good orator in Hindi and, most importantly, gets elected.

This is what he said, in Hindi, on August 8 2012 on the floor of the house:


courtesy: http://loksabha.nic.in/

Mr. Yadav is expressing his concern on the exploding population of India and how India is not doing anything about it.

He also spoke about similar worries for Bangladesh. Today it is the most densely populated large country in the world. I wonder if illegal migration of Bangladeshi's into Assam can ever be stopped if its population keeps growing at the current rate.

As soon as I heard this, I thought about the article in the Guardian newspaper about 150,000 unbranded condoms that were made available at London 2012 Olympic village.

courtesy: Getty and Guardian

The Guardian story mentions sex as "no 1 Olympic sport that won't get a gold medal".

Is that the reason India and Bangladesh have not won a single gold medal at the Olympics? After all their favourite sport- played without condoms by majority of their citizens- wins no medals.

Apparently, if you are poor and hot, the dice are really loaded in favour of you in that sport!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sorry Joya and Manas Barooah. Hope Your Son is Safe

JIM YARDLEY:

Like a fever, fear has spread across India this week, from big cities like Bangalore to smaller places like Mysore, a contagion fueling a message: Run. Head home. Flee. And that is what thousands of migrants from the country’s distant northeastern states are doing, jamming into train stations in an exodus challenging the Indian ideals of tolerance and diversity.

(The New York Times, August 17 2012)


Economic & Political weekly, Sept 1 2012:

"While the electronic media covered the exodus, and the crowds at the station and on the trains with much more attention than the far larger crisis in the relief camps in Assam, it quickly reverted to its “nationalist” self once officials of the government insinuated that external agencies were responsible for spreading the rumours. There was little by way of independent investigation into the source of the rumours or why migrant communities felt so vulnerable and had panicked.

The exodus of the north-eastern migrants poses difficult questions to state and society in India. It has once again punctured holes in the idea of one Indian nation; 65 years after Independence, India is far from becoming an inclusive nation state. It has once again showed up the fissures in society; decades of prejudice and discrimination have made the marginalised and the peripheral sensitive to the flimsiest of rumours. And it has also shown that in a crisis, the Indian citizen has little faith in the state’s ability to provide security; she depends instead on kinship and the safety of “home” for protection."



My wife and I lived in Assam from July 1989 for about a year continuously and then occasionally up to April 1992.

I have written about Assam a few times on this blog.

For instance this:

"Although my base was Doom Dooma, Assam, I used to travel often between Kolkata and Dibrugarh from 1989-1992. When I went to Kolkata, I often got unwell. On my return to Assam, as my pickup car took a left turn from the airport towards our way to Doom Dooma, just one long deep breath in that air used to cure me of all nagging coughs and colds."

When my wife fell very ill, my senior colleague Manas Barooah and his lovely and very beautiful wife Joya helped me nurse her. Thanks to their hospitality we ate some of the most authentic and delicious home-cooked Assamese food.

To date, both of us feel grateful to them.

Corruption was rampant in Assam but there were notable exceptions like Mr. Barooah and his friend Mr. P K Das.

Teenaged kids of a lot of my Assamese colleagues then used to study in Mumbai and Pune. Mr. Barooah's only son was then studying in Pune. When Joya and Manas came back visiting him in Pune they wondered how unescorted young girls felt safe eating ice-cream by the roadside at 11 PM.

I told them it was not a big deal. You expect that from my Maharashtra. I used to feel proud about my home state. I was not entirely safe in Assam, thanks to the terrorism of Ulfa, but my state was different. What Maharashtra does- not just thinks- today, India does tomorrow.

It was then. In last century.

Business Standard on August 17 2012:

"...assuaging recent concerns about the safety of citizens from India’s northeastern states who have migrated to other parts of the country to work should be seen as a major responsibility of governments, both at the Centre and the states.
It is important to emphasise that very few attacks on people from the northeast have been reported – some in Pune, one in Bangalore ...In fact, India’s states and its city administrations need to rework their entire attitude to migrants. Mumbai has been particularly problematic in this respect, with an angry nativist politics being given free rein...simple point is: without the freedom to move anywhere in India to work, citizenship loses much of its meaning, and without the ability to hire from the largest possible pool of labour, growth will become even more difficult to achieve. State and city governments must move from responding to migrants’ worries only when there’s a crisis, to competing as attractive destinations — by demonstrating they are safe and welcoming."

Artist: Edward Frascino, The New Yorker, 24 December 1979

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

'Professor' & 'Kanchenjungha': 50 Years Of the Same Raw Stock

Today Aug 14 2012 is the first death anniversary of Shammi Kapoor. (Read my tribute to Mr. Kapoor in August 2011 here.)

Woody Allen:

"You could argue that the Fred Astaire film is performing a greater service than the (Ingmar) Bergman film, because Bergman is dealing with a problem that you're never going to solve. Whereas Fred Astaire, you walk in off the street, and for an hour and half they're popping champagne corks and making light banter and you get refreshed, like a lemonade."


ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER in 'The World as Will and Representation', 1819:

"The close relation that music has to the true nature of all things can explain the fact that, when music suitable to any scene, action, event, or environment is played, it seems to disclose to us its most secret meaning, and appears to be the most accurate and distinct commentary on it."


Pandit Ravi Shankar when told: "You were the first film music director from India to be recognised internationally":

"I will not say so of myself. The creations of Shankar-Jaikishan in Awara and Shree 420 - ‘Awara hoon’ and ‘Mera joota hai Japani’ - were on the lips of every Russian and Chinese. ‘Awara hoon’ was a favourite number of even comrade Mao Tse Tung."


I forgot that I already had a copy of Hindi film 'Professor', 1962 and I bought it again in March 2012 and saw it after many years.

The first thing I noticed about the new VCD wrapping/jacket was that- unlike the old one- it did NOT carry the name of the director of the film- Lekh Tandon, then 33-year old. According to Wikipedia it was his first film as a director.

I thought: How unfair.

Mr. Tandon has directed his debut film stylishly. There is hardly a boring moment. Shammi Kapoor and Lalita Pawar- in Khalid Mohamed's words "the man-hating dowager who flips for Shammi Kapoor masquerading as an oldie"- have given excellent performances and also some of Kalpana's- leading lady- friends look pretty.

Shanker-Jaikishan's score is one of the best I have heard. I must have heard those songs many times as a kid and they are imprinted deep in my mind. Today, now that Mr. Kapoor is gone, when I see him singing them on the TV screen, they move me even more than they did earlier.

The film captures beauty of Darjeeling as well as Satyajit Ray did in 'Kanchenjungha', also released in 1962.

'Main Chali Main Chali',Photography: Dwarka Divecha

courtesy: Shanti Enterprises / Priya, Delhi

'Kanchenjungha', one of my favourites, is Ray's first colour film.

Andrew Robinson writes on Ray's film:

"...Film team and actors were constantly on the move around Darjeeling. In twenty-six days during October and November 1961, shooting on a ratio as low as three to one, Ray finished Kanchenjungha. He noticed that a Bombay director shooting in Darjeeling at the same time was unable to compete even one scene- so keen was he to show his stars in sunshine!..." ('Satyajit Ray/ The Inner Eye', 1989)

I had read this long ago and wondered why Mr. Robinson (or Mr. Ray) did not name either the Hindi film or its director.

When I saw 'Professor' on April 8 2012, I wondered if "professor' was indeed the 'unnamed' film. I didn't know how I was going to confirm it. I googled "Lekh Tandon Darjeeling" on April 9 and found the answer.

Mr. Tandon had told 'The Hindu':

"An interesting incident took place during the shooting. Satyajit Ray who was also shooting in Darjeeling for “Kanchenjungha” was lacking raw stock for his shooting. Coming to know about this, Shammi Kapoor immediately came to the rescue of Ray by asking me and supplying him the required raw stock. We compensated our lack of the same after it arrived for Ray's film from Kolkata. Ray was deeply touched by Shammi Kapoor's genuine gesture and I personally know of umpteen incidents where Shammi Kapoor has helped many in need without taking any credit for his generosity."

"Aye Gulbadan"

courtesy: Shanti Enterprises / Priya, Delhi

I wonder why Mr. Robinson (or Mr. Ray) is silent on this generosity of the late Mr. Shammi Kapoor. Did it happen or not?

Now, let us turn to "Bombay director shooting in Darjeeling at the same time was unable to compete even one scene- so keen was he to show his stars in sunshine!"

Is it?

This is what Mr. Tandon had to say:

"...Kalpana was photogenic but not a very good actress. Once she understood what was required of her, she delivered the goods but took a number of takes..."

So maybe it was not just for sunshine!

Kanchenjungha and Professor both have given me great joy. They still keep giving.

But if I have to choose one of them, it would be Lekh Tandon / Shammi Kapoor /Shanker-Jaikishan's 'Professor'.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tired of Sterile ODI Cricket? Try Red-Clay Wrestling & Kabaddi

Last night I saw all the bouts of Yogeshwar Dutt.

courtesy: http://www.london2012.com/athlete/dutt-yogeshwar-1084693/events/

What a spectacle! As a kid, I have wrestled a little bit in akhara of Bhanu Talim, Miraj and red-clay pit of Miraj High School.

I seldom won any bout but I enjoyed immense thrill of participation.

Wrestling is a great sport and middle-class kids should take it up. Although it's a martial sport, unlike boxing, it's politically correct and environment friendly.

Today I am recycling my old post dated 16 November 2007.

Chandrahar Patil (चंद्रहार पाटील) of Sangli became Maharashtra Kesari महाराष्ट्र केसरी last night November 15, 2007. He promptly thanked my childhood heroes Ganpat Andalkar (गणपत आंदळकर) and Maruti Mane (मारुती माने)among others. (By the way, on the same day, in another boring, predictable ODI cricket match, India beat Pakistan.)

TV program showcased halgi (हलगी, a small drum) player Raju Awale who played at the tournament including the final. It brought back memories of ever-smiling, friendly, wiry wrestler Suresh Awale (सुरेश आवळे) of Miraj who died very young in a train accident.

For the first time in my life, I watched wrestling for the title of Maharashtra Kesari live on television. What fun! Although it lasted for just over 3 minutes and took place on mat, wearing non-traditional clothing.

For few years, occasionally, I have participated in red clay wrestling. Smell of the clay still fills my nostrils. I used to get beaten quite easily. If your face is in the clay longer than your opponent's, you get more time to smell it! This all happened at the red clay wrestling ring of Bhanu Talim भानू तालीम,Miraj.

Wrestlers were as popular as cricketers. Every time Hindkesari Maruti Mane was spotted on his motorcycle at Miraj, we stopped in our tracks and looked in awe. When we went visiting our aunt Tai-mavashi ताई-मावशी at Kolhapur, we saw gentle giants of Motibag Talim मोतीबाग तालीम. They walked past aunt's house the way elephants go to a watering hole, with grace and humility, without an audible sound.

When at 1972 Munich Olympics Premnath (4th place Bantamweight) and Sudesh Kumar (4th place Flyweight) did well; they were as big heroes for me as Sunil Gavaskar and G R Viswanath who had helped us beat West Indies and England previous year.

On the other hand, North Indian wrestler Satpal was as unpopular as Ahmad Shah Abdali because he used to beat Marathi speaking wrestlers.

Kabaddi is another sport that has given me endless pleasure. I was better at it than wrestling! Even if we got 15 minutes of free time at school, we played Kabaddi.

Asian Age November 15, 2007 reports:”British in India to play kabaddi”.

I ask: When are Indians in India going to wrestle and play kabaddi?
Artist: Otto Soglow, The New Yorker, 25 February 1928

This is how Mr. Dutt emerged at the end of his bronze medal match with RI Jong Myong. Bigger and stronger.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Lions and Horses at Fence 11, Nelson's Column at London 2012

Joseph Brodsky:

… should the truth about the world exist, it’s bound to be nonhuman.


Joseph Conrad:

...even if a man has taken to flying- a great uplift, no doubt, but no great change. He doesn’t fly like an eagle; he flies like a beetle. And you must have noticed how ugly, ridiculos, and fatuous is the flight of a beetel.

At London 2012 each of the 12 obstacles used for the equestrain events pays homage to an important landmark or historical note.

At one of them, fence 11, Nelson's Column, pictured below, four bronze lions flank the base of the monument.

courtesy: http://cs.thehorse.com

I was little surprised by the choice of lions.

Wouldn't that scare off the horses?

Or will the lions get bored? And if they do, would they behave the way they do in the cartoon- one of the best I have seen- below?


Artist: Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे )

Sarwate has this to say about his cartoon:

"The picture of inanimate statues of lions on a gate springing to life and jumping at each other, presumably to relieve boredom, looking at each other and scenery around, nonstop for years and years, induces a spontaneous laughter in us. The unexpectedness of the happening tickles us at a first glance. After enjoying this momentary amusement, a second thought enters our mind and suggests a non humorous human dimension to the incident. Is it not the kind of response we human beings sometimes adopt, without much thought, and seek a change, just a change to overcome boredom and land in another situation even more boring? The lions have gone through similar experience and found to their regret that jumping has not improved the situation!"

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Shining Nothingness? Maybe. Thank You Nonetheless, Gore Vidal

Recently I read in Lapham’s Quarterly, Angela Serratore's article about Hamilton-Burr duel which took place on July 11, 1804 and killed Alexander Hamilton, America's founding father and her first treasury secretary.

Picture courtesy: Lapham’s Quarterly

I immediately remembered Gore Vidal not just for his novel "Burr: A Novel" but his combative nature.

Dueling Gore Vidal is now dead.

I love almost all the non-fiction Mr. Vidal has written. (I have still not read any of his fiction.)

How lyrical he could get...sample this:

“This is, suddenly, in the midst of the turbulent Greco-Roman world, the calm voice of Krishna. All is illusion for the enlightened. Plainly, Cavafy, himself no Arjuna, did achieve something very like that ultimate state of enlightenment where, not fooled by words, he was able to so order them as to make our common voyage, viewed from his unique angle, seem beautiful, even consoling, in its shining nothingness.”

(from foreword to “Before Time Could Change Them: The Complete Poems of Constantine P. Cavafy,”)

He could be so scathing...

“I've said that the fact that people seldom read anymore, particularly in the great Republic to the east of us. Readers are few. All these literary prizes should go to the readers: "Nobel Prize for the best reader in Milwaukee." And you know, we must honor them because they are so few. Since literature means nothing to the general public and they don't know the names, really, of any of the writers, nor would they dream of reading them... I've never been a journalist which means that I don't use opinions as facts. And this is unknown to journalists everywhere at any time; I don't do that at all.”

About America...

“Well, I say that eternity is a very long time, if it could be called time, and that the human race is just a passing fancy. We were preceded by viruses, it looks like the viruses will probably kill us all. Bacteria of some kind -- they have long, long lives, along with cockroaches, and ... I was never one to take the idea of the human race at all seriously. To me we're just another form of rather chattering monkeys. I don't believe in afterlife, but that's why I believe all the more deeply in this life, being the one thing that we can fix. And why I am in a state of continuous high blood pressure, outrage, at how badly we screw everything up in the United States, which is basically the most blessed of countries -- Native Americans to one side, -- but it was a fairly empty place for a lot of Europeans and Asians to come to -- How we could have come to this, all because of the theater of something called the Cold War and the profits they have made, the Defense industry, is a tragedy that I have lived through in my life. I have seen -- I saw the High Noon. I got out of the Army in 1946, I was in the Pacific, I remember '45 as the moment when we were the great and first global empire, and we were absolutely unbeatable: the greatest economy, and here we sit 50 years later, and look at us. All I hope is that something will happen that will change it for the better, and that is somebody who is maybe listening to us now.”

On Media...

“Put bluntly, who collects what money from whom in order to spend on what is all there is to politics, and in a serious country should be central preoccupation of the media.”

On Kennedys...

“The Kennedys were an eighteenth-century amoral couple, together for convenience…..Even now the photogenic charm of the couple at the center of so much corruption and incompetence still casts its spell.”

I don't know if it is the beginning or the end of his famous rivalries. (Norman Mailer allegedly head-butted Vidal in December 1971.)

While I love Mr. Vidal's lyricism I also have a soft-corner for head-butting since 2006 football world cup final.

Artist: Jack Ziegler, The New Yorker, Jan 1 1979