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 21, 2012

Why Dnyaneshwar Would Shudder at Diogenes's Gesture!

Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, 'Freedom at Midnight', 1975, page- 378:

"On both sides of the border a man's sexual organ became, in the truest sense, his staff of life."

Wikipedia says:

"In Western culture, the finger (as in giving someone the finger or the bird), also known as the middle finger or flipping someone off, is an obscene hand gesture, often meaning the phrases "fuck off" ("screw off"), "fuck you" ("screw you") or "up yours". It is performed by showing the back of a closed fist that has only the middle finger extended upwards..."

New Trump building West side shore, in shape of obscene gesture

Artist: Tom Hachtman, The New Yorker, 20 Sept 1999

Now, it is not just Western culture alone anymore! In following pictures of the finger giving or flipping the bird, two out of three are Indians.

Anthropologist "watching" Desmond Morris- who once was a best seller writer even in India- says of the gesture: "It's one of the most ancient insult gestures known. The middle finger is the penis and the curled fingers on either side are the testicles. By doing it, you are offering someone a phallic gesture. It is saying, 'This is a phallus' that you're offering to people, which is a very primeval display.".

Why is it also called "flipping the bird?"

Stuart Jeffries writes in The Guardian, Feb 22 2012: "The charmingly unreliable Urban Dictionary argues that "flipping the bird" is "the process of taking a bird, normally a pigeon, and turning it upside down in an effort to see its genitalia"".

One of the UK's best known body language experts Robert Phipps says:

"The cultural difference in this is that flipping the bird over in US is like the V sign over here, It's telling you to eff off. They don't have any other gesture like that. Over here it's become quite accepted and doesn't carry the same meaning. Most people under the age of 50 don't find it offensive. It didn't even exist in this country until about 30 years ago."

Does "finger" gesture exist even today in non-metro India? I am not sure.

In Miraj (मिरज), where I grew up, I heard probably some of the foulest Marathi (मराठी) spoken ever.

[I have travelled all over India and lived in the East and the South and I wonder if any spoken Indian language gets as vulgar as Marathi does at times in Western Maharashtra!

But remember what Vinoba Bhave (विनोबा भावे) has said: "सबंध ज्ञानेश्वरीमध्ये तुम्हाला एकही कठोर शब्द सापडणार नाही...आमच्या साहित्याच्या उगमस्थानी इतके मार्दव आहे ही फार मोठी आनंदाची गोष्ट आहे..."

("You will not find a single hard word in the entire Dnyaneshwari...such tenderness lies at the beginning of our literature is a matter of great happiness...")]

My young friend and fellow Mirajite Nikhil Bellarykar (निखिल बेल्लारीकर) has recommended me following book. Its title is "Vulgar Sayings and expressions in the Marathi language" ("मराठी भाषेतील असभ्य म्हणी आणि वाक्प्रचार") by A D Marathe (अ द मराठे).

I may buy it but I wonder if it has anything I already don't know!

In Miraj I also saw a few lewd gestures often. The popular ones were:

1) Close all the fingers of right hand together, hold one's right wrist with left hand, hold the right arm parallel over the ground, swing the right hand up and down.

It sure said: "This is a phallus".

2) Extend the middle finger of the right hand, don't close the other fingers, hold the right arm perpendicular to the ground and then move the right arm in horizontal movement.

Once again it said for sure "This is a phallus".

Note that the 2) above is different from "showing the back of a closed fist that has only the middle finger extended upwards".

Stuart Jeffries: "In Gestures: Their Origins and Distribution, anthropologist Desmond Morris and colleagues argue that the digitus infamis or digitus impudicus (infamous or indecent finger) is mentioned several times in ancient Roman literature...Before that, in Athens in the fourth century BC, Diogenes the Cynic told visitors what he thought about the orator Demosthenes by extending his finger and saying: "This is the great demagogue." ...As early as 1886, a baseball pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters was photographed giving it to a member of the rival New York Giants..."

So even Diogenes gave the finger.

Virat Kohli, India's newly crowned ODI Cricket Vice-Captain in January 2012

Mr. Narendra Mohan, son of the then Mumbai Congress chief Mr. Kripashankar Singh in February 2012
courtesy: The Times of India

Adele shows her displeasure at the Brit awards by giving the finger to 'the suits' in Feb 2012
Photograph courtesy: Yui Mok/PA and Guardian, UK

Indian Field Hockey player S V Sunil, who scored unforgettable peach of a goal against Pakistan in Azlan Shah Cup May/June 2012, was reprimanded but escaped a ban for showing his middle finger to spectators after scoring the match-winner.