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.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

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."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sorry Joya and Manas Barooah. Hope Your Son is Safe


Like a fever, fear has spread across India this week, from big cities like Bangalore to smaller places like Mysore, a contagion fueling a message: Run. Head home. Flee. And that is what thousands of migrants from the country’s distant northeastern states are doing, jamming into train stations in an exodus challenging the Indian ideals of tolerance and diversity.

(The New York Times, August 17 2012)

Economic & Political weekly, Sept 1 2012:

"While the electronic media covered the exodus, and the crowds at the station and on the trains with much more attention than the far larger crisis in the relief camps in Assam, it quickly reverted to its “nationalist” self once officials of the government insinuated that external agencies were responsible for spreading the rumours. There was little by way of independent investigation into the source of the rumours or why migrant communities felt so vulnerable and had panicked.

The exodus of the north-eastern migrants poses difficult questions to state and society in India. It has once again punctured holes in the idea of one Indian nation; 65 years after Independence, India is far from becoming an inclusive nation state. It has once again showed up the fissures in society; decades of prejudice and discrimination have made the marginalised and the peripheral sensitive to the flimsiest of rumours. And it has also shown that in a crisis, the Indian citizen has little faith in the state’s ability to provide security; she depends instead on kinship and the safety of “home” for protection."

My wife and I lived in Assam from July 1989 for about a year continuously and then occasionally up to April 1992.

I have written about Assam a few times on this blog.

For instance this:

"Although my base was Doom Dooma, Assam, I used to travel often between Kolkata and Dibrugarh from 1989-1992. When I went to Kolkata, I often got unwell. On my return to Assam, as my pickup car took a left turn from the airport towards our way to Doom Dooma, just one long deep breath in that air used to cure me of all nagging coughs and colds."

When my wife fell very ill, my senior colleague Manas Barooah and his lovely and very beautiful wife Joya helped me nurse her. Thanks to their hospitality we ate some of the most authentic and delicious home-cooked Assamese food.

To date, both of us feel grateful to them.

Corruption was rampant in Assam but there were notable exceptions like Mr. Barooah and his friend Mr. P K Das.

Teenaged kids of a lot of my Assamese colleagues then used to study in Mumbai and Pune. Mr. Barooah's only son was then studying in Pune. When Joya and Manas came back visiting him in Pune they wondered how unescorted young girls felt safe eating ice-cream by the roadside at 11 PM.

I told them it was not a big deal. You expect that from my Maharashtra. I used to feel proud about my home state. I was not entirely safe in Assam, thanks to the terrorism of Ulfa, but my state was different. What Maharashtra does- not just thinks- today, India does tomorrow.

It was then. In last century.

Business Standard on August 17 2012:

"...assuaging recent concerns about the safety of citizens from India’s northeastern states who have migrated to other parts of the country to work should be seen as a major responsibility of governments, both at the Centre and the states.
It is important to emphasise that very few attacks on people from the northeast have been reported – some in Pune, one in Bangalore ...In fact, India’s states and its city administrations need to rework their entire attitude to migrants. Mumbai has been particularly problematic in this respect, with an angry nativist politics being given free rein...simple point is: without the freedom to move anywhere in India to work, citizenship loses much of its meaning, and without the ability to hire from the largest possible pool of labour, growth will become even more difficult to achieve. State and city governments must move from responding to migrants’ worries only when there’s a crisis, to competing as attractive destinations — by demonstrating they are safe and welcoming."

Artist: Edward Frascino, The New Yorker, 24 December 1979