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."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vasant Sarwate's 49th Year at Lalit...खेळ चालू राहिला पाहिजे!

ROSS DOUTHAT:
"But look through these anti-establishment theatrics to the deep structures of political and economic power, and suddenly the surge of populism feels like so much sound and fury, obscuring the real story of our time. From Washington to Athens, the economic crisis is producing consolidation rather than revolution, the entrenchment of authority rather than its diffusion, and the concentration of power in the hands of the same elite that presided over the disasters in the first place."


Sumanta Banerjee 

"Whenever such accusations are made – and often proved correct – against ministers or MPs, Supreme Court or high court judges, senior bureaucrats or army g­enerals, press reporters or TV journa­lists, we are always assured by the establishment that these are a few “black sheep”! Members of these professions rush to the d­efence of their respective fraternities sometimes even whitewashing their cri­mes, but generally taking the apolo­getic ruse that they are minor “exceptions” which are being “exaggerated”. These “exceptions” are supposed to prove the rule that our state and regulatory i­nstitutions are still solid and pure enough to prop up the world’s largest demo­cracy."


I received the Lalit (ललित) Diwali 2012 issue on November 24 2012 and was greeted by Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे) cover, now drawn for  record 49th year!



It is not surprising to see the contents of it. This year, on TV at least,  has been dominated by the members of The India Against Corruption Jan Andolan (IAC), most of them now 'celebrities' in their own right.

Mr. Arvind Kejriwal is at the centre of the picture.  He is threatening his 'enemies' with his expose documents. I like depiction of Ms. Anjani Damania. standing just behind Mr. Kejriwal, but no less vocal.

But I like more the motley group facing the IAC is depicted, especially the ferocious looking dog and tongue-in-your-face kid. They represent what the well entrenched establishment really thinks of the new 'occupy movement', regardless of the thoughtful posturing by others there. They remind me of Mr. Burns of The Simpsons with a finger on 'the hounds' button.



Press is shown on the right side but probably belongs more on the left side of the picture. Media guy is shown smiling because regardless of what happens later he is going to win because the rise in his TRP.


Indian judiciary is watching all this with its eyes closed. It also seems to belong to almost another world- painted in pink and red. I also sense a kind of smugness that comes with a feeling that in the end all this will come to my backyard to decide one way or the other.


And people like us are watching all this...they seem more bemused than sad or anxious. It's as if they have come to watch a street circus show (डोंबाऱ्याचा खेळ).

This picture is in contrast with the last year's picture of Sarwate on Anna Hazare's 'occupy movement'. There was more hope there in a seemingly hopeless situation. It reminded me of India's freedom movement. There was idealism on march there. 


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



To view Sarwate's Lalit Diwali covers of the past few years, click on the respective year 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Beautiful Osmosis of Giving and Receiving- Henry Miller and Vinda Karandikar


Howard Jacobson:

"The novelist, at his swelling comic best – a Dickens or a Dostoevsky, a Cervantes or a Kafka, a Joseph Roth or a Henry Miller – goes where Hamlet dares the skull of Yorick to go, straight to my painted lady's chamber, rattling his bones and making her laugh at the terrible fate that awaits her. His comedy spares nothing and spares no one. And in the process asserts the stubbornness of life. Why would we want to read anything less?"

I first read this famous Marathi  poem of Vinda Karandikar (विंदा करंदीकर) probably in 1974. It ends thus:

"'देणाऱ्याने देत जावे, घेणाऱ्याने घेत जावे, 
घेता घेता एक दिवस देणाऱ्याचे हात घ्यावेत'"

I thought it was interesting- this dance of giving and receiving-, a bit startling but in the end straight forward. I was ready to answer any question on it in an examination.

Henry Miller on the Beautiful Osmosis of Giving and Receiving:

"...I, who have been helped so much by others, I ought to know something of the duties of the receiver. It’s so much easier to be on the giving side. To receive is much harder — one actually has to be more delicate, if I may say so. One has to help people to be more generous. By receiving from others, by letting them help you, you really aid them to become bigger, more generous, more magnanimous. You do them a service.

And then finally, no one likes to do either one or the other alone. We all try to give and take, to the best of our powers. It’s only because giving is so much associated with material things that receiving looks bad. It would be a terrible calamity for the world if we eliminated the beggar. The beggar is just as important in the scheme of things as the giver. If begging were ever eliminated God help us if there should no longer be a need to appeal to some other human being, to make him give of his riches. Of what good abundance then? Must we not become strong in order to help, rich in order to give and so on? How will these fundamental aspects of life ever change?.."

(1942, from 'The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 3: 1939-1944')

  Artist: Chon Day, The New Yorker, December 9 1950

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Missing Mr. Bal Thackeray Only As a Cartoonist

Since late afternoon of November 17 2012 all shops- including medical ones- in our area are closed. Today November 18 we could NOT even get any milk in the morning. So far water is running in our taps. But who knows? Yes, we have no choice but to mourn the death. I remember how much I suffered as a bachelor in Mumbai for 3 days after Mrs. Indira Gandhi had died. On that day no Indian radio station was ready to say: Mrs. Gandhi was dead. My cable provider on November 18 blocked all TV channels except the news ones. Great men and women are forced to be mourned alike!


"Mumbai’s communal fault lines were thoroughly exploited by Thackeray and his Sainiks, especially in the weeks after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992. As the Srikrishna Commission documents, Muslims were systematically killed in riots engineered by Sena leaders."

I do not want to say a word about Mr. Bal Thackeray as a politician but he was a good cartoonist. (Although not a great one in my books.)

I still remember his Marmik (मार्मिक) pictures. They were repetitive but funny. Funniest were of the late  Babu Jagjivan Ram's.




The cover of the late Mr. Thackeray's latest book featuring his cartoons

The only Thackeray- who played a big role in public life- I respect deeply is the late Prabodhankar Thackeray ( प्रबोधनकार ठाकरे),  one of the greatest sons of Maharashtra, indeed  India. I wish Maharashtra walked in his footsteps rather than his son's.

Wikipedia states: "Winston Churchill was an accomplished artist and took great pleasure in painting, especially after his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915. He found a haven in art to overcome the spells of depression which he suffered throughout his life."

Amartya Sen wrote in Economic & Political Weekly February 16-22, 2008:

“…Winston Churchill’s famous remark that the Bengal famine of 1943 was caused by the tendency of people there to breed like rabbits belongs to this general tradition of blaming the colonial victim. This had a profound effect in crucially delaying famine relief in that disastrous and easily preventable famine. The demands of cultural nationalism merge well with the asymmetry of power and can have quite devastating effects…”

Estimates are that between 1.5 and 4 million people died of starvation, malnutrition and disease in that famine.

Artist: Charles E. Martin, The New Yorker,  6 February 1954

I wish Mr. Churchill did only painting and not politics!

I have yet to see cartoons drawn by others on Mr. Thackeray's departure but they will find it hard to beat Mr. Tailang .


Artist: Sudhir Tailang, The Asian Age, November 18 2012

Mr. Tailang achieves so much in this picture...Mr. Thackeray's first love was a drawing board...so he departs from there and not from his throne...departing paws...not shown in colour here but perhaps red...maybe a slight hesitation before the final leap into darkness...moving...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Missing Suffering- Kunti in Srimad Bhagavatam and Monk in Haryy Bliss Cartoon

जावेद नासेर: "अंधेरा हो तो तुझको पुकारूं यारब ! उजालों में मेरी आवाज बिखर जाती है."

 "Now that I'm enlightened, I have to admit: I kind of miss the suffering."

Artist: Harry Bliss

Kunti tells Lord Krishna in Bhagavata Purana:

Give me suffering, O Lord Krishna! If you give me suffering I will be able to think of you, otherwise I may forget you.

The original Sanskrit shloka is:

विपद: सन्तु ता: शश्वत्तत्र तत्र जगद्गुरो ।
भवतो दर्शनं यत्स्यादपुनर्भवदर्शनम् ॥८॥

(I wish we would have more of those calamities, o Master of the Universe, so that we can meet You again and again, because meeting You means that we no longer see the repetition of births and death)

source: The Bhāgavata Purāṇa- Sri Krishna Stuti by Kunti (श्रीमद्भागवतपुराण कुंती कृत श्रीकृष्ण स्तुति)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

There's Nothing Sadder in this World than to Awake Diwali Morning and not be a Child!

Erma Bombeck:

"There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child."


Charles Dickens:
 
“Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Diwali hearts, and by our Diwali fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!” 


Sorry, dear old Charlie for my some deft find and replace! How dare I? Because just like Christmas hearts we have Diwali- in my case high BP- hearts and you bet we have Diwali fires and then some. (BTW-Avoid coming to Pune from 7 PM to 11 PM tonight!)


This Diwali I do have a lost friend, lost both parents of a friend,   lost parent, cousin-sister, aunts, grand-ma&pa, artists, teachers, dog, cat, bird, town...And I will shut out nothing...I can't...until of course dementia kicks in
 
Happy Diwali 2012 

Fire crackers have become so weird that if indeed some day I come across a volcano like in the picture below I will think of  it as no more than a flower pot cracker!


Artist: Charles Addams, The New Yorker, 13 June 1964 

Tribals in the picture above feel the gods are not angry.

I am not so sure about goddess Laxmi. They say Laxmi Puja Muhurat is after 6 PM today. The goddess Laxmi must be  tough and  fearless because she dare enter our homes during those hours avoiding serious injuries to her limbs, ears and lungs.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

हागला! Will we ever see India's El Caganer Diwali Figures?

Evelyn Waugh:

“Beware of seriousness: it is a form of stupidity”

CAMILLE PAGLIA:

"As respectability became the central middle-class value, censorship and repression became the norm. Victorian prudery ended the humorous sexual candor of both men and women during the agrarian era, a ribaldry chronicled from Shakespeare’s plays to the 18th-century novel."

Wikipedia:

"Jonathan Swift, an Irish satirist in the 17th century, used scatological humor in some of his pieces, including his famous essay A Modest Proposal and his rather crude poem "The Lady's Dressing Room," in which the speaker comments on the goings-on in a 17th-century woman's room, including her business in her chamber pot."


'Shit' is now as much an Indian language expression as say "aayla" (आयला) in Marathi is. I often use both 'shit' and 'aayla'- or its more intense version 'chyala' (च्यायला).

(According to Wikipedia, shit 'As a slang term, it has many meanings, including: nonsense, foolishness, something of little value or quality, trivial and usually boastful or inaccurate talk, or a contemptible person. It may also be used as an expression of annoyance, surprise, or anger, and has other usages as well.')

These days I also hear quite a bit of "haagla" (हागला) "pooped" in  Marathi conversations of young crowd. (For instance if a batsman in cricket got out in a stupid manner, he 'pooped'!)

I recently read about Catalonia's El Caganer Christmas Figures in Der Spiegel।. (Also see this.)

It says "A caganer -- or "pooper" -- is a small figurine of a person squatting down with lowered pants (or raised skirt) to answer nature's call. The original "El Caganer" is a wooden or clay figure of a peasant wearing the traditional floppy red Catalan cap with a black band ("barretina") and smoking a cigarette or a pipe."


courtesy: caganer.com and Spiegel Online

I laughed my head off and thought: Will we ever see such figures depicting India's prominent personalities? After all Samvat 2068 has been one of the most depressing for Indian nation. (watch former Chief Justice of India J S Verma's interview dated October 28 2012 here.)

I will probably never see such Indian figures but I can well imagine them...from business, politics, media, judiciary, culture, sports etc...There is so far no "thought-censorship" in India.

Btw- there is just one Indian public personality, I guess, who wouldn't mind such a 'caganer' depiction: Khushwant Singh...A true broad minded liberal...

Monday, November 05, 2012

Tell Me Only When Karnad Breaks a Table over Naipaul's Head

"VS Naipaul is tone deaf": Girish Karnad , Nov 2012


courtesy: 2006 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Wikipedia

This is so boring...an old man of 74 going at another of 80...Reminds me of Grampa Simpson's a nursing home.


To accompany this very old stuff,  here is my old post dated January 28 2008:

""New Quest" is a quarterly journal of participative inquiry into society and culture, launched by the late A.B.Shah. The journal seeks to generate a serious debate on issues ranging across the humanities and social sciences. It also encourages literary contributions in the form of original as well as translated poetry and fiction.

Its hon. editor is Dilip Chitre.

Its latest issue no. 169 July-September 2007 carried my following letter.

Letters to the Editor

Sir,

This refers to "Home truths" by V.S. Naipaul (India Today, September 10, 2007).

As exemplified by his book "India: A Wounded Civilization", Naipaul has understood many facets of our civilization quite well. But his problem, like most Western analysts of India, is that he does not read any native Indian language. That is a big handicap because India's best is expressed in its native languages.

Naipaul has clearly not read Vinoba Bhave's Marathi books. If he had, he probably would have still maintained his view of Bhave as a copycat Mahatma, but would have uttered a few nice words for Bhave as a writer. He would have realized why, along with the saint-poets, Vinoba is a rare 'best-selling' author in Marathi.

Naipaul says "(In India) literary criticism is still hardly known as an art". This is far from the truth. He should take the trouble to read Dilip Chitre's book on Tukaram ("Punha Tukaram", which is also available in English), Durga Bhagwat's commentary on the Mahabharata ("Vyas Parva”) or M.V. Dhond's criticism of B.S. Mardhekar's poetry.

Naipaul says that “Indian writers, to speak generally, seem to know only about their own families and their places of work". This may be true of R.K. Narayan or Vikram Seth but certainly not of Bhau Padhye, the original chronicler of Bombay (long before Vikram Chandra) in all its colours.

I agree with Naipaul that he is getting on. And like most old people he has nothing new to say.

Sincerely,"

The sixth episode of the The Simpsons' eighteenth season "Moe'n'a Lisa" has Jonathan Franzen fighting with Michael Chabon.

Franzen and Chabon are hysterical. They get in heated fight, Franzen breaks a table over Chabon's head, Chabon accuses him of fighting like Anne Rice...

Now imagine Karnad and Naipaul in the picture above.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Do You Suppose They Know Something We Don't Know?

PAUL GREENBERG:

 "...The oyster kingdom is gone, and what we have now are a few struggling refugees just trying to get a foothold in their old territory.
But what is fairly certain is that storms like Sandy are going to grow stronger and more frequent, and our shorelines will become more vulnerable. For the present storm, all we could do was stock up on canned goods and fill up our bathtubs. But for the storms to come, we’d better start planting a lot more oysters."

I have always wondered why our ancestors chose rat as a mount for Lord Ganesha. Read this for an interesting guesswork. I always thought because they were smart, tough and ubiquitous.


Business Week, in the wake of superstorm Sandy, wrote on October 30 2012:

"Unprecedented flooding throughout low-lying portions of New York City over the past two days undoubtedly left hundreds—if not thousands—of rats scrambling for their dear lives. According to experts, most of them likely survived. “They’re a jack of all trades when it comes to locomotion,” says Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y. “They can’t sprint, but they run well; they’re not Michael Phelps, but they’re strong swimmers; and even though they don’t have prehensile tails, they climb well. They do it all."...No one knows exactly how many rats live in New York City, but Ostfeld suspects that there are at least as many rats as humans. .."















Picture courtesy: Business Week

"The city’s population is dominated by the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), an invader from Europe, and the Black rat (Rattus rattus), which originated in Asia." 

According to Wikipedia: "The black rat originated in India and Southeast Asia, and spread to the Near East and Egypt, and then throughout the Roman Empire, reaching England as early as the 1st century. Europeans subsequently spread it throughout the world."

So in New York there are more rats of Indian origin than persons of Indian origin! And the good news is most of them have survived.

"...Ostfeld notes that rats can easily swim a couple hundred yards. In fact, he says, “one of the ways that rats have dispersed around the world is by jumping off of ships and swimming to shore—the proverbial ‘rats leaving a sinking ship’ is actually based on reality.”..."


Artist: Richard Decker, The New Yorker, 28 January 1961

As I have said before the late Mr. Decker is one of the best cartoonists I have come across. I find his art as good as some of the great literature. You may find a few his pictures on this blog.

In the cartoon above he is guessing what incoming rats are wondering as they watch some of their brethren leaving the ship.

"Do You Suppose They Know Something We Don't Know?"