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, December 31, 2012

Barring Accidents, the Sun will Rise on January 1 2013


John Crowley:
 
"Meanwhile the real world then, no matter what, will be as racked with pain and insufficiency as any human world at any time. It just won’t be racked by the same old pains and insufficiencies; it will be strange. It is forever unknowably strange, its strangeness not the strangeness of fiction or of any art or any guess but absolute. That’s its nature. Of course holding the mirror up to nature is what Hamlet insisted all playing, or pretending, must do; but—as Lewis Carroll knew—the image in a mirror, however scary or amusing or enlightening, is always reversed."
 
HOWARD MANSFIELD:

"If clock time isn’t real, what is time, anyway? We don’t understand time, and we definitely don’t want to admit that our allotment is limited. We just want to get on with our day."


Homer Simpson:

“You never know when an old calendar might come in handy. Sure, it’s not 1985 now, but who knows what tomorrow will bring?”

John Gray:

"Philosophers have always tried to show that we are not like other animals, sniffing their way uncertainly through the world. Yet after all the work of Plato and Spinoza, Descartes and Bertrand Russell we have no more reason than other animals do for believing that the sun will rise tomorrow."

According to the Hindu mythology "we are in the KALI YUGA, or Iron Age a period of decline. It was preceded by the ages of gold, silver, and bronze. After the end of the KALIYUGA and a short hiatus, a new age will begin: the age of truth (KRITA YUGA), when all the wickedness, strife, and dissension of this era will be replaced by righteousness. It is understood that this age will be ushered in by Kalki, the future
incarnation or AVATAR of VISHNU, riding on a magnificent white horse."


('Encyclopedia of Hinduism' by Constance A. Jones and James D. Ryan, 2007)

I have often wondered will this new age accompanied by Kalki riding in on a magnificent white horse will happen on  January 1 of a year or on a Gudi Padwa day. Or will it happen on a random day?

I know one thing: with each passing year, I am unlikely to witness that grand event!

Or is that I am already living in KRITA YUGA but being too much of a pessimist to realise it? Or is this a 'short hiatus'?
 

 


Artist: Kemp Starrett, The New Yorker, January 13 1934

Friday, December 28, 2012

Goodbye, Mr. Tata...Btw- I Have Taken the Blue Pill!

The Economist (October 26 2006):

"In the early 1900s, when Britain ruled India, the chairman of the colony's Railway Board, Sir Frederick Upcott, was so sceptical about Tata, then a young steel company, that he declared he would “eat every pound of steel rail” that it could produce to Britain's exacting specifications. His subsequent indigestion is not recorded, even though Tata was producing hundreds of tonnes a year by 1916."


A Case for Opium Dens: Indian industry got its first tranche of capital accumulation in the 19th century when the Tatas joined hands with the Sassoons and the British to force opium onto the Chinese. The addicts in China in that period took to opium to drown their unpleasant reality in momentary dreams, while knowing in moments of cold assessment that pipe dreams could never be realised in real life. It was only when Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 that the Chinese government banned opium dens, and people accepted their closure in the expectation that they might have a chance of achieving some of their hopes..."
Arundhati Roy:
"...The Tatas, for example, run more than 100 companies in 80 countries. They are one of India’s oldest and largest private sector power companies. They own mines, gas fields, steel plants, telephone, cable TV and broadband networks, and run whole townships. They manufacture cars and trucks, own the Taj Hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a chain of bookstores, a major brand of iodised salt and the cosmetics giant Lakme. Their advertising tagline could easily be: You Can’t Live Without Us.
According to the rules of the Gush-Up Gospel, the more you have, the more you can have..."
Mr. Ratan Tata retires this month. I have nothing to say on the man. Particularly after "Radia tapes controversy". 

I felt so disappointed. I have worked in corporates for many years and I know real life is messy and real people are complicated. But that messy and that complicated? Couldn't Tata's be different?


Siddharth Varadarajan has said about the controversy (The Hindu, November 29 2010):
 
"...In the science fiction film, “The Matrix”, Morpheus tells Neo, “You're here because you know there's something wrong with the world.” The Matrix, he says, is the world that has been pulled over everyone's eyes to blind them from the truth that they are slaves. He offers Neo the choice of a blue or red pill. “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill ... and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

The Nira Radia audio archive loaded on to the Internet by Open and Outlook magazines last week is the red pill of our time. It reveals the source codes, networks, routers, viruses and malware that make up the matrix of the Indian State. The transmission of information, also known as “news”, between different nodes is vital for the system to work efficiently. The news is also the medium for reconciling conflicts between different sectors of the establishment. If you hear the recordings, you begin to understand the truth about the Wonderland that is India. No wonder there are many amongst us who would rather swallow the blue pill. For once you go in, the only way out is to keep digging. And yes, the rabbit-hole runs deep...

...We also hear in the tapes an iconic businessman, Ratan Tata, who today makes sanctimonious statements about crony capitalism and the danger of India becoming a banana republic, lobbying through his PR agent, Ms Radia, for A. Raja to be given the Telecom portfolio..."



Artist: William Steig, The New Yorker, 2 July 1960

"I didn't get where I am by begging for raises, Aniruddha, I lobbied for what I wanted." 

Look at the cartoon, as old as me, above. There  is not much to it except two things- catchy caption and, more importantly, the depiction of the boss. I can just go on looking at him for all day long. That is the hallmark of a great cartoonist like the late Mr. Steig (1907-2003)- she creates the lasting impact out of thin air by her art.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dancing Flames of Memory: Mr. Hanif Mohammad sees Sir Don Bradman Bat

LAURA BEIL:
"Memory is not so much a record of the past as a rough sketch that can be modified even by the simple act of telling the story.
For scientists, memory has been on trial for decades, and courts and public opinion are only now catching up with the verdict. It has come as little surprise to researchers that about 75 percent of DNA-based exonerations have come in cases where witnesses got it wrong"
(The New York Times, November 28 2011) 
Jennifer Senior:
"The very things that in the moment dampen our moods can later be sources of intense gratification, nostalgia, delight.
It’s a lovely magic trick of the memory, this gilding of hard times. Perhaps it’s just the necessary alchemy we need to keep the species going. "

(New York Magazine)

 The Hindu reported on December 25 2012:

"Pakistan batting great, Hanif Mohammad on Tuesday, rated Sachin Tendulkar better than the legendary Australian Sir Donald Bradman and described him as the best batsman he has seen in my life.
“I am one of those fortune people who have seen Bradman and Tendulkar bat in my lifetime and in my opinion Tendulkar is the best batsman I have seen in my life,” Hanif said on Tuesday..."

First of all,  I take this statement with any seriousness only if the observer has seen both the players playing in a test match.

If he did,  I wonder when and where Mr. Mohammad saw Sir Bradman bat in a test match.

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Mohammad  was borne on 21 December 1934.

 Wisden entry says about 'famous five' Mohammad brothers:

"Their father was a good club cricketer, their mother a regional badminton and table tennis champion. The shattering upheaval of Partition then put paid to their small and gentle world. They moved to Karachi as founder-inhabitants of Jinnah's new Muslim state."

So years 1946-1947 must have been rather hectic for  Mohammad family.

PTV Sports Official website throws some more light on the formative years of Mr. Hanif:

"...He was the third of five Sons born to Sheikh Ismail Mohammad and Amir Bee. The proud parents despite economical limitations always encouraged their sons to play cricket. After having lost two children, a son and a daughter who died very young, Hanif’s parents saw the ups and down of life very closely and the parental warmth was their main asset. Unfortunately Ismail, a hotel waiter, died suddenly in 1948 to see Wazir Mohammad, the oldest son seeking an employment in the National Bank of Pakistan to support his family...At 16 (1950), he was picked to tour England with the Pakistan Eaglets and spent fifteen days in  the Alf Gover Coaching School."

Sir Bradman was borne in 1908 and made his debut in test cricket in 1928. Because of WWII, he could not play any international cricket from 1938 until 1946.

Sadly,  Sir Bradman never toured India as a playing cricketer. "His only visit to India came in the mid fifties when he and Lady Bradman made a brief visit to Calcutta." ('Bradman and the Indian connection' by Partab Ramchand)

Sir Bradman played his last test match against England in  August 1948. His last first class match took place in 1949. Between 1946-1948, Mr. Bradman played 15 test matches against England (10) and India (5), in England (5) and Australia (10).


Therefore,   Mr. Mohammad must have seen Mr. Bradman bat in a test match either in England or Australia when he was 11-13 years old, between November 1946 to August 1948.

Considering his family's misfortunes, as stated above, I wonder who funded his travel? Did he travel with the Indian team to Australia in the winter of 1947? The late Mr. Gul Mohammad (not related to Mr. Hanif as far as I know) was part of that Indian team

And even if he saw Sir Bradman in a test match, in 1946, Bradman was 38 years old and, by many accounts,  much lesser player with fitness issues than what he was before WWII. (Does this remind you of another familiar player?)

So is he comparing apple to apple? Can one's memory be trusted when he  is a 78-year old talking about what he saw 65 or more years ago?

I react with a few people of around that age from time to time. A few of them are very intelligent and fit. But I never hear them holding forth on something that has happened that long ago with a lot of confidence.

In one of the funniest passages I have read, reminding me where I am heading, Mark Twain describes how fickle human memory could be:

"I used to remember my brother Henry walking into a fire outdoors when he was a week old. It was remarkable in me to remember a thing like that and it was still more remarkable that I should cling to the delusion for thirty years that I did remember it -- for of course it never happened; he would not have been able to walk at that age. . . . For many years I remembered helping my grandfather drinking his whiskey when I was six weeks old but I do not tell about that any more now; I am grown old and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened."

Artist: Robert J. Day, The New Yorker, March 14 1959


Mr. Day is one of very best cartoonists I have come across. You may find a few more of his pictures on this blog.

Ben Yagoda has quite rightly called Mr. Day "underrecognized New Yorker master."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Charvaka, Ambrose Bierce and the existence of Santa Claus


जी ए कुलकर्णी: 

"...त्याने प्रेमाचा व शांतीचा संदेश सांगितला, पण प्रसार झाला तो तलवारीच्या जोरावर; त्याने निरिच्छ्तेवर भर दिला, तर आता त्याच्या धर्माचा आधार आहे संपत्ती. हा तुला त्याचा विजय वाटतो, तसे पाहिले तर त्याचे सच्चे अनुयायी एखाद्या खेड्यातील वसतीपेक्षा जास्त नसतील. पण म्हणून का त्याच्या शिकवणीचे महत्व कमी होते?..." ('यात्रिक', 'पिंगळावेळ', 1977)

 ("...He gave the message of love and peace, but it spread on the strength of the sword; he insisted on austerity, and now the support of his religion is wealth. You think it's his victory, look it this way: his true followers would not exceed the population of a village. But then does it reduce the importance of his teachings ?..")

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 Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!”
Stefany Anne Golberg on Ambrose Bierce-  who for me is  one of the greatest- who died around Christmas in 1913:

" Even as a child, the passion Bierce had for the Truth outweighed his sympathy for human weakness. As a child, Bierce once asked his mother to verify the existence of Santa Claus. Of course there is a Santa Claus, his mother assured him. But Bierce was soon to discover, as all children will, the horrible reality. It was this, Bierce said years later, that cemented the deep and irreparable betrayal of his mother: “I proceeded forthwith to detest my deceiver with all my little might and main.”..."

In his inimitable 'THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY', 1906 Bierce defines Christian as:


" n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin. "

From  Indian pantheon only Cārvāka (चार्वाक) can be compared to Bierce. ("the Charvakas were
strict empiricists who believed that the only valid source of knowledge is direct perception; they believed only what could be seen by the eyes directly. They rejected even inference as a method of investigation." - 'Encyclopedia of Hinduism' by Constance A. Jones and James D. Ryan)

So Charvaka too would have asked her mom to show a Santa Claus. 




Artist: Bill Watterson

p.s.

This is how Vinda Karandikar (विंदा करंदीकर) describes Charvak in Marathi:

"सत्याचा स्वीकार। श्रद्धांचा अव्हेर,
हिंसेचा धिक्कार, । करोनिया,
मानवी जीवन। करणे सुखमय
हेच एक ध्येय। मानणारे
मानवतावादी, । उद्योगप्रवण,
असे हे दर्शन । चार्वाकाचे."

[ASHTADARSHANE, (अष्टदर्शने), 2003]