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."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Caricaturing Two Exiles: Napoleon & Baji Rao II and James Gillray

सौ वाईकर भटजी:

"कायहो भावोजी, बाजीरावाचे आता नाहीना पुण्यास राज्य? बरे चांगले मेल्याचे तळपट झाले ते!...तो मोठा चांडाळ होता. वाईत आला तर पाचशे बायकांनी विहिरीत जीव दिला म्हणून मी ऐकिले आहे...आमच्या सासूबाई सांगत होत्या, त्या पुण्याच्या बायकांच्या आणि बाजीरावाच्या गोष्टी, म्हणून काय ते मला ठाऊक..."


('वाईकर भटजी'*, रामचंद्र विनायक टिकेकर / धनुर्धारी , c 1897)

[ Mrs. Vaikar-bhataji:

"Brother-in-law, there is no rule of Bajirao II in Pune now isn't it? Good he was destroyed!...He was an evil man. When he came to Wai, I heard five hundred women committed suicide in wells...My mother-in-law used to tell me stories of Pune's women and Bajirao. That's how I know..."

('Vaikar Bhataji' by Ramchandra Vinayak Tikekar aka Dhanurdhari)]

* This 19th century best-selling Marathi novel is based on 'The Vicar of Wakefield' by Oliver Goldsmith, 1766

Thomas Hodgkinson:

"For Nero’s life, as absolute ruler of the known world, was hell, haunted by twitching doubts and gibbering fears.
He was bisexual, to begin with. That was OK in ancient Rome, but when it came to sleeping with men he received rather than gave, and that was definitely uncool. (During the act itself, the sources say, Nero would ‘imitate the cries and laments of a maiden being deflowered’.) Paranoid, he killed his mother at the request of his wife. Then, a few years later, he killed that same wife, pregnant at the time, by kicking her repeatedly in the stomach. Why? She nagged him for returning late from the races. With absolute power comes absolute permissiveness. Ordinary vices pall, and the tired hand reaches, with diminishing returns, for ever stranger fruit. Moving through the catalogue of their crimes, sexual and otherwise, one is continually astonished by the sheer inventiveness of the Caesars, their desperate originality." (review of 'The Twelve Caesars' by Matthew Dennison, Spectator, June 2 2012)


..गोडसे:
"शेवटचा
पेशवा दुसरा बाजीराव हे उत्तर पेशवाईतील एक अजब व्यक्तिमत्व आहे. गुप्त सम्राट रामगुप्त, रोमन सम्राट कॅलिगुला, नीरो...अथवा महंमद तुघलक यांच्या सारखेच एका नाटकाचा विषय होण्याइतके ते लक्षवेधी आहे."

Tim Blanning

How did Napoleon do it? How did he succeed in projecting such a heroic image both to contemporaries and posterity? His wars killed well over a million Frenchmen and double that number of other Europeans and ended in total defeat, not once but twice. He condemned his adopted country to at least a century of social and economic backwardness, while his former enemies across the Channel and across the Rhine powered ahead on all fronts. In particular, his destruction of the Holy Roman Empire – arguably the most damaging own goal in European history – paved the way for German unification and the invasions of 1870, 1914 and 1940. He himself was an unprincipled opportunist, plundering both France and the rest of Europe to enrich his family and himself. Betraying the revolution that had brought him to power, he established a military dictatorship, indulging himself in a luxurious lifestyle that was a grotesque parody of the old regime.

"His debaucheries haven't lessened his effectiveness as emperor."

Artist: Edward Frascino, The New Yorker, 8 December 1997

Alas, we could say this about Baji Rao II aka Rav Baji (1775-1851), the last chief of the Maratha Confederacy- "His debaucheries haven't lessened his effectiveness as emperor."!

According to Wikipedia (and Manohar Malgonkar):

"As a Peshwa he made a deplorable overlord, a man delighted in humiliating his feudatories, seizing their estates on flimsiest of pretexts and what worse, someone imagined that their womenfolk too belonged to him".

Interestingly he has gone down in the history as one of the first high profile persons in India to get vaccinated against smallpox.

The British doctor was paid Rs. 2,000 in year 1807 for administering it!

[source: 'Peshwekalin Maharashtra' (पेशवेकालीन महाराष्ट्र) by Vasudev Krushna Bhave (वासुदेव कृष्ण भावे), 1936]

[Price of gold in 1807, according to MeasuringWorth.com, was 19.39 U.S. dollars per fine ounce; it was around $1638 on Akshay Tritiya day on April 24 2012; rise of 8348%. So in today's INR the sum is 1,68,953!]

I recently read magnificent essay 'The Rise and Fall of the Age of Miracles' by Roy Porter.

It carried the following caricature by James Gillray (1756-1815), ‘a caterpillar on the leaf of reputation’, dated 1802.

Rav Baji would have been a wonderful target of Indian James Gillray if we had one.

Wikipedia informs Gillray's 'L'Assemblée Nationale' (1804) was called "the most talented caricature that has ever appeared", partly due to its "admirable likenesses". The Prince of Wales paid a large sum of money to have it suppressed and its plate destroyed.

Baji Rao too would have either paid large sum of money- larger than The Prince of Wales- to suppress his caricature or he might have dealt with the artist the way he did with Vithoji Holkar (विठोजी होळकर).

In April 1801, Baji Rao crushed Holkar with an elephant and let his corpse remain in the street near Shaniwar Wada (शनिवारवाडा) palace in Pune for 24 hours to 'enjoy' watching it from his window.

(Source- 'Marhati Lavani', 1956 by M V Dhond; 'मर्हाटी लावणी' म.वा.धोंड)

Meanwhile, safely separated by more than two centuries, I imagine Baji Rao-2, instead of the fat lady on the throne, and his cronies in the picture below.

Artist: James Gillray, 'The Cow-Pock—or—the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!' ,1802

I would have liked to see another caricature of Baji Rao II.

As history informs, he was exiled to Bithoor -now part of Kanpur District near Kanpur city, in Uttar Pradesh- in year 1818.

Read brilliant essay "Brahmavartacha Pensioner" (ब्रह्मावर्ताचा पेन्शनर), by D G Godse (द.ग.गोडसे), now part of his book "Nangee Aslele Phulpakharu" ('नांगी असलेले फुलपाखरू') 1989, on Baji Rao's life there.

According to the essay, he was already married six times before he was exiled at the age of forty-three. Since then he married five more times. He enjoyed the pension of Rs. 66,666+ per month for thirty-three years and two months until he died at the age of seventy-six.

The most famous political exile of 19th century was Napoleon Bonaparte. He was first exiled to Elba in 1814.

This is how a 'caricaturist' saw it:

The journey of a modern hero, to the island of Elba. Print shows Napoleon I seated backwards on a donkey on the road "to Elba"; he holds a broken sword in one hand and the donkey's tail in the other while two drummers follow him playing a farewell(?) march.
courtesy: Wikipedia

P.S. Godse points out in his essay that like Napoleon, Baji Rao's "gaoler" too was a Lowe but unlike Napoleon, Baji Rao II made no effort to escape from the prison to return to his motherland. However, after reading Tim Blanning's assessment of Napoleon, at the beginning of this post, maybe Baji Rao's staying put was good for the people of Maharashtra!