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.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

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."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Reading an Epic after the 'Good Guys' have Won

Today Jan 3 2012 is 6th death anniversary of my mother. For me, her life is an epic.

Samuel Beckett:

“I keep watching my mother’s eyes, never so blue, so stupefied, so heartrending, eyes of an endless childhood, that of old age. Let us get there rather earlier, while there are still refusals we can make. I think these are the first eyes that I have seen. I have no wish to see any others, I have all I need for loving and weeping, I know now what is going to close, and open inside me...”

The spirit of Oscar Wilde:

Homer, there are only two tragedies in life. One is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it.
("Father Knows Worst",18th episode of the 20th season of 'The Simpsons')


Norman Mailer:

"The only thing wrong with this Army is it never lost a war."
('The Naked and the Dead')

Anthony West's aunt on Lawrence of Arabia:

“It’s the problem all heroes have to cope with—when you’ve made your gesture you’ve got the rest of your life to live.”

(Newsweek, November 4 2010)

I often read Ramayana and Mahabharata in my childhood (even today if I come across them I can't ignore them). Numerous versions of them. In Marathi.

Despite this, these days, I often feel, I know so little about them. The other day I was reading Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya's (चिंतामण विनायक वैद्य) 'Sanskrut Vangmayacha Itihas' (संस्कृत वाड;मयाचा इतिहास ), 1922.

It says: "ऋतूंची वर्णने रामयणाइतकी सुंदर दुसर्या कोठेही नाहीत...वर्षाऋतूचे वर्णन वाचीत असता आपण पावसात उभे असून पावसाच्या धारा आपल्या अंगावर पडत आहेत की काय असा भास होतो ..."

(Nowhere will you find descriptions of seasons as beautiful as in Ramayana...While reading description of rainy season one feels like we are standing in the rain and rain is falling on us.)

Pity, I have so far totally missed out on this 'shower' because I have never paid any attention to this aspect of the epic!

Another example is a scene from Mahabharata when Kunti abandons her firstborn Karna, setting him afloat in a box on a river. Very few of us read her original heart-wrenching song in Sanskrit or our native:

शिवास्ते सन्तु पन्थानो मा ते परिपन्थिनः।
आगताश्च तथा पुत्र भवन्त्यद्रोहचेतसः ।।
पातु त्वां वरुणो राजा सलिले सलिलेश्वरः।
अन्तरिक्षेऽन्तरिक्षस्थः पवनः सर्वगस्तथा ।।
पिता त्वां पातु सर्वत्र तपनस्तपतांवरः।
येन दत्तोसि मे पुत्र दिव्येन विधिना किल ।।
आदित्या वसवो रुद्राः साध्या विश्वे देवताः।
मरुतश्च सहेन्द्रेण दिशश्च सदिदीश्वराः ।।
रक्षन्तु त्वां सुराः सर्वे समेषु विषमेषु च।
वेत्स्यामि त्वांविदेशेपि कवचेनाभिसूचितम् ।।
धन्यस्ते पुत्र जनरको देवो भानुर्विभावसुः।
स्त्वां द्रक्ष्यति दिव्येन चक्षुषा वाहिनीगतम् ।।
धन्या सा प्रमदा या त्वां पुत्रत्वे कल्पयिष्यति।
यस्यास्त्वं तृषितः पुत्र स्तनं पास्यसि देवज ।।
कोनु स्वप्नस्तया दृष्टो या त्वामादित्यवर्चसम्।
दिव्यवर्मसमायुक्तं दिव्यकृण्डलभूषितम् ।।
पद्मायतविशालाक्षं पद्मताम्रदलोज्ज्वलम्।
सुललाटं सुकेशान्तं पुत्रत्वे कल्पयिष्यति ।।
धन्या द्रक्ष्यन्ति पुत्र त्वां भूमौ संसर्पमाणकम्।
अव्यक्तकलवाक्यानि वदन्तं रेणुगुण्ठितम् ।।
धन्या द्रक्ष्यन्ति पुत्र त्वां पुनर्यौवनगोचरम्।
हिमवद्वनसंभूतं सिंहं केसरिणं यथा ।।


(May all thy paths be auspicious! May no one obstruct thy way! And, O son, may all that come across thee have their hearts divested of hostility towards thee: And may that lord of waters, Varuna. protect thee in water! And may the deity that rangeth the skies completely protect thee in the sky. And may, O son, that best of those that impart heat, viz., Surya, thy father, and from whom I have obtained thee as ordained by Destiny, protect thee everywhere! And may the Adityas and the Vasus, the Rudras and the Sadhyas, the Viswadevas and the Maruts, and the cardinal points with the great Indra and the regents presiding over them, and, indeed, all the celestials, protect thee in every place! Even in foreign lands I shall be able to recognise thee by this mail of thine! Surely, thy sire, O son, the divine Surya possessed of the wealth of splendour, is blessed, for he will with his celestial sight behold thee going down the current! Blessed also is that lady who will, O thou that are begotten by a god, take thee for her son, and who will give thee suck when thou art thirsty! And what a lucky dream hath been dreamt by her that will adopt thee for her son, thee that is endued with solar splendour, and furnished with celestial mail, and adorned with celestial ear-rings, thee that hast expansive eyes resembling lotuses, a complexion bright as burnished copper or lotus leaves, a fair forehead, and hair ending in beautiful curls! O son, she that will behold thee crawl on the ground, begrimed with dust, and sweetly uttering inarticulate words, is surely blessed! And she also, O son, that will behold thee arrive at thy youthful prime like maned lion born in Himalayan forests, is surely blessed!)

For us, The Ramayana even came without any language because we were lucky to have a copy of pictorial Ramayana that was acquired by my father's father in the princely state of Aundh (औंध).

It had pictures painted by Bhavanrao Shrinivas alias Balasaheb Pandit Pant Pratinidhi (भवानराव श्रीनिवास उर्फ बाळासाहेब पंडित पंत प्रतिनिधी), ruler of Aundh, who till today is referred quite affectionately by my father as 'Maharaj'(महाराज).

I still remember every picture from it. Each of them was like a song to me. (When I occasionally see a bunch of ladies from our families, enjoying together a siesta, it recalls Hanuman-Meets-Sita-in-Ashokvan picture from the book!)

Hanuman Watches Lanka Burn, c 1911 (This picture was intriguing even then because Hanuman is not exulting after setting Ravan's Lanka on fire.)

Artist: Balasaheb Pandit Pant Pratinidhi
(for more such pictures visit 'Kamat's Potpourri' here.)

Reading/ viewing the epics or listening to them from my mother, at dinner time, the umpteenth time, was always a thrill.

Until of course we reached the end of the battles.

Now what? Battle has been won. What do 'good guys' do NOW?

There were no satisfactory answers forthcoming from my mother, my brain or the pages of the epics.

A weird feeling prevailed over me.

Why?

When I recently read Arthur Schopenhauer, I felt I understood it.

"...Every epic and dramatic poem can only represent a struggle, an effort, a fight for happiness; never enduring and complete happiness itself. It conducts its heroes through a thousand dangers and difficulties to the goal; as soon as this is reached it hastens to let the curtain fall; for now there would remain nothing for it to do but to show that the glittering goal in which the hero expected to find happiness had only disappointed him, and that after its attainment he was no better off than before..."

Artist: Barney Tobey, The New Yorker, Sept 6 1958

p.s. They win and hence they become good guys or because they are good guys, they win?