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."

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."