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.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

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."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hey, Best Actress or Nominee, What is Your Erotic Capital?


JOANNE LIPMAN, The New York Times, October 23 2009:

"The truth is, women haven’t come nearly as far as we would have predicted 25 years ago. Somewhere along the line, especially in recent years, progress for women has stalled. And attitudes have taken a giant leap backward…

… The conversation online about women, as about so many other topics, degenerated from silly and snarky to just plain ugly — and it seeped into the mainstream.

Recently, before a TV appearance, I did an Internet search on one of the interviewers so I could learn more about her — and got a full page of results about her breasts. .."


Catherine Hakim:
"The meritocratic capitalist values of the Western world invite us to admire people who exploit their human capital for personal gain. I can see no reason at all why people who exploit their erotic capital for its full value should not be equally admired."
I watched the Oscars partly on the morning of February 25 2013 and partly on the same evening.

It was OK.  I had not seen it for last couple of years.

I was quite surprised by 'bluntness' of Seth MacFarlane's song WeSaw Your Boobs”. It was funny. But it seems to have enraged a few.


picture courtesy:  Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and CBS News 

Amy Davidson says in The New Yorker:

"...“We Saw Your Boobs” was as a song-and-dance routine in which MacFarlane and some grinning guys named actresses in the audience and the movies in which their breasts were visible. That’s about it. What made it worse was that most of the movies mentioned, if not all (“Gia”), were pretty great—“Silkwood,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Monster’s Ball,” “Monster,” “The Accused,” “Iris”—and not exactly teen-exploitation pictures. The women were not showing their bodies to amuse Seth MacFarlane but, rather, to do their job..."

I completely agree with Ms. Davidson but Seth is still right and funny: We did see (some of) those- and not all of them pretty-  boobs anyway!

A few months ago, I  saw 'The Reader' (2008) starring Kate Winslet, who incidentally features longest in Mr. MacFarlane's song. 

The movie is ordinary, forgettable and stands out largely for Ms. Winslet's nudity and her sexually explicit scenes with a  mid-teenager.  So how can one say that movie is strictly NOT  a "teen-exploitation"...It reminded me of "Mera Naam Joker", 1970 and 'Summer of '42", 1971...both films, by the way, much better than 'The Reader'.

I wonder why KW was given the Academy Award for Best Actress for that film.

A book by Catherine Hakim 'Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital' was published in 2011.

Book description on Amazon.com says: 

"...Catherine Hakim's groundbreaking book reveals how erotic capital is just as influential in life as how rich, clever, educated or well-connected we are. Drawing on hard evidence, she illustrates how this potent force develops from an early age, with attractive children assumed to be intelligent, competent and good. She examines how women and men learn to exploit it throughout their lives, how it differs across cultures and how it affects all spheres of activity, from dating and mating to politics, business, film, music, the arts and sport. She also explores why erotic capital is growing in importance in today's highly sexualised culture and yet, ironically, as a 'feminine' virtue, remains sidelined. "Honey Money" is a call for us to recognize the economic and social value of erotic capital, and truly acknowledge beauty and pleasure. This will not only change the role of women in society, getting them a better deal in both public and private life - it could also revolutionize our power structures, big business, the sex industry, government, marriage, education and almost everything we do."

The author Ms. Hakim wrote in an article in 2010:

"Erotic capital goes beyond beauty to include sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation, such as face-painting, hairstyles, clothing and all the other arts of self-adornment. Most studies capture only one facet of it: photographs measure beauty or sex appeal, psychologists measure confidence and social skills, sex researchers ask about seduction skills and numbers of partners. Yet women have long excelled at such arts: that’s why they tend to be more dressed up than men at parties. They make more effort to develop the “soft skills” of charm, empathy, persuasion, deploying emotional intelligence and “emotional labour.” Indeed, the final element of erotic capital is unique to women: bearing children. In some cultures, fertility is an essential element of women’s erotic power. And even though female fertility is less important in northern Europe (where families are smaller) women’s dominant position in this market has been reinforced in recent decades by a much-lamented phenomenon: the sexualisation of culture...Like it or not, erotic capital is now as valued as economic and human capital. As Chairman Mao advised—walk on two legs."


ERIC WILSON said in The New York Times September 12, 2008:

 “No one blinked at the Marc Jacobs fashion show last week when the model Freja Beha Erichsen appeared in a sheer black top that revealed that she was wearing a nipple ring. No one blushed at the Chris Benz show when Sasha Luss and Ekat Kiseleva posed in see-through camisoles. No one seemed particularly hot or bothered that Ali Stephens’s breasts were clearly visible through her dress when she walked for Derek Lam. No one was outraged that Francisco Costa showed a transparent raincoat at Calvin Klein with nothing but a thong underneath.

Peek-a-boo was the biggest trend at the New York Fashion Week that ended on Friday,

…But nudity, like fashion, has lost much of its power to shock.

We have become so desensitized to images of naked celebrities, sex tapes and Internet pornography that designers are hard-pressed to create anything that seems really transgressive.” 

Yes, nudity might have lost its power to shock but who knows how it works on Oscar juries!



An iconic shot of the late Ms. Elizabeth Taylor splashing in the ocean, from the set of 'Suddenly, Last Summer' (1959). (Ms. Taylor received nomination  for the Academy Award for Best Actress for this role.)


© Sunset Boulevard/Corbis.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Setsuko Hara 原 節子: A Japanese Nutan नूतन... Touch of Melancholy...Sigh

Today February 23 2013 is 22nd Death Anniversary of Nutan

After seeing a Setsuko Hara film, the novelist Endo Shusaku wrote "We would sigh or let out a great breath from the depths of our hearts, for what we felt was precisely this: Can it be possible that there is such a woman in this world?"

In year 2012, I saw two Japanese films  'Late Spring', 1949 and 'Tokyo Story', 1954. Both masterpieces by Yasujiro Ozu, both starring Setsuko Hara.

Watching them was like reading G A Kulkarni's (जी ए कुलकर्णी) 'Kairi' ( कैरी)  one more time. Such tenderness, such lyricality, such beauty, such simplicity and yet very little sentimentality...While I have known GA's story for more than thirty years, where was 'Tokyo Story'?

I am glad I did not 'meet' Ms. Hara at a more impressionable age unlike Ms. Nutan. If I had, I would have madly fallen in love with her, would have lost the sleep for a few days.

Ms. Hara's partnership with  Mr. Ozu reminds me of Nutan's partnership with Bimal Roy.



Setsuko Hara, in Yasujiro Ozu's masterpiece 'Tokyo Story'

Photograph courtesy: the distributor of the film or  the publisher of the film.




In Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anari, 1959

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Ms. Hara foreswore the acting profession in 1963 and became a Greta Garbo-like figure. Nutan never did anything like that but she too remained an enigma for me.

They both- June borne- look stunning on B&W screen. While they are there, I look at nothing else. I also notice  a touch of melancholy that goes with an incredible amount of beauty. 

That's what makes them special.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Once In 200 Years: Lizzy Bennet Sultry, Full-lipped, Tanned Hottie


Brooke Allen:

"For no filmed version of an Austen novel is really satisfactory: Of all 19th-century novelists, she dwells the least on the physical surfaces that are the essence of the cinematic art." 


Howard Jacobson:

"If we declare ourselves, as readers, to be on the side of life, the question has to be asked what sort of life we are on the side of. Life governed by the rules of respectability and fear? Life rounded at the edges with all the horror turned away from? Life seen whole and steadily with all the breakages and shaking taken out? I don't mean to set up false dichotomies. I would never say of those great writers whose work clearly falls outside the category of non-redemptive, even anathematising black-heartedness I am championing that they make us "feel good". Jane Austen's vision is a fraction from being a despairing one, her final chapters are dispensations of kindness, like the fifth acts of Shakespeare's comedies, in which we are spared bleakness by a hair's breadth, though we feel its presence all around."

The world is celebrating 200th birth anniversary of  'Pride and Prejudice', a novel by Jane Austen.

As is always true of most of such celebrations in the West, there is a lot of passion and there is a lot of commerce.

The New York Times on February 13 2013 gives us a glimpse of the way the covers of Austen's book have changed over the years. View it here.

It is such a delight but also made me wonder if I had seen anything like this in Marathi. I haven't.

Janine Barchas says in the article:

"Let’s just be honest about our superficiality. Even when it comes to the high-­minded business of literature, people do judge books by their covers. Perhaps that’s why Amazon produces glossy mock “covers” for its disembodied e-books, to be inspected and decided upon alongside the traditional print offerings.
Book covers may be especially important when it comes to the classics. After all, many of us have a general sense of, if not a thorough familiarity with, the contents within. Perhaps more than anything else, these covers show what matters to prospective buyers. Two centuries of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” are particularly revealing about the novel’s broad and sustained popular reach..."

In Marathi we can surely do such a study for a lot of saint-poet literature.  


courtesy:  Marvel's 'Pride and Prejudice'

"In 2009, Marvel tried to turn young women into comic book readers by issuing “Pride and Prejudice” as a graphic novel. The cover art plays down — even disguises — the book’s sexy interior. On the outside, a primly presented Keira Knightley look-alike, drawn by Sonny Liew, graces a spoof of Seventeen magazine. Inside, the illustrator Hugo Petrus characterizes Lizzy Bennet as a sultry, full-lipped, tanned hottie."

I wonder if Amar Chitra Katha has any plans to create a comic book based on P & P. If they do, which Indian hottie will it be? Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

India To Become Shining City Upon a Hill. Again!

Harsh Mander, The Hindu, March 9 2013:

"Depleting water tables and a shift from farming for food to cash crops have transformed thriving villages into wastelands...The Indian countryside has become, transformed into this wasteland of near-terminal despair and increasingly impossible survival, by new technologies, forced integration with globalised markets, and an uncaring state. For a sector which employs 51 per cent workers, contributes 14 per cent of GDP, the state invests as little as five per cent of total public expenditures. No wonder that tens of thousands of farmers each year drink pesticide or hang themselves; and millions of the young flee,  when they can, wherever they can."

D D Kosambi:
"The subtle mystic philosophies, torturous religions, ornate literature, monuments teeming with intricate sculpture and delicate music of India all derive from the same historical process that produced the famished apathy of the villager, senseless opportunism and termite greed of the ‘cultured’ strata, sullen, uncoordinated discontent among the workers, general demoralization, misery, squalor and degrading superstition. The one is the result of the other, one is the expression of the other…it is necessary to understand that history is not a sequence of haphazard events but is made by human beings in the satisfaction of daily needs."

John Kay in Financial Times, November 20 2012:
"...Reports of his tax policies suggest that Shah Jahan may have appropriated as much as 40 per cent of what we now call gross domestic product to support a lifestyle of exceptional ostentation and self-indulgence. He was overthrown by his son, who was exasperated by his father’s penchant for monumental building, anxious to maximise his own share of the loot and concerned by the scale of the levies on the population. But it was all too late. The Mogul empire was in irretrievable decline.
The activities of Shah Jahan epitomise rent-seeking – the accumulation of a fortune not by creating wealth through serving customers better but by the appropriation of such wealth after it has already been created by other people. Both are routes to personal enrichment and the tension between them has been a dominant theme of economic history..."

Henry Miller:
"To most men the past is never yesterday, or five minutes ago, but distant, misty epochs some of which are glorious and others abominable, Each one reconstructs the past according to his temperament and experience. We read history to corroborate our own views, not to learn what scholars think to be true. About the future there is as little agreement as bout the past, I’ve noticed. We stand in relation to the past very much like the cow in the meadow — endlessly chewing the cud. It is not something finished and done with, as we sometimes fondly imagine, but something alive, constantly changing, and perpetually with us. But the future too is with us perpetually, and alive and constantly changing."

Anirudh Deshpande, EPW, February 16 2013:
"The persistence of an unjust society based on profit, class, caste, race and patriarchy highlights the need to study history, because of its abiding ideological importance. The history of society will remain a history of ideological contest despite the end of ideology proclaimed by globalisation."

रा भा पाटणकर :

"शिवाजीने रयतेच्या भल्यासाठी केलेल्या गोष्टी सर्वश्रुत आहेत. पण तरीही तेथील सामान्य रयत सुखात होती असे म्हणता येणार  नाही ."

(पृष्ठ 56, 'अपूर्ण  क्रांती',  1999)

William Dalrymple (WD)  wrote an essay on India for New Statesman on Oct 11 2012. Read it here

For most part, it is a severe indictment of today's India and makes sad reading. 

However, towards the end the essay stunningly turns around:

"In the longer view of history, India has only recently come to be seen as a poor country. As early as Roman times there was a dramatic drain of western gold to India; during the reign of Nero, the Pandyan kings even sent an embassy to Rome to discuss the latter’s balance of payments problems. A thousand years later it was India’s extraordinary wealth that drew in the merchant adventurers of the East India Company. They came to India not as part of some Tudor aid project, but instead as part of a desperate effort to cash in on the riches of the Mughal empire, then one of the two wealthiest polities in the world. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Mughal city of Lahore is revealed to Adam after the Fall as a future wonder of God’s creation: by the 17th century, Lahore had grown richer than Constantinople, and with its two million inhabitants it dwarfed London and Paris combined. It was, in terms of rapid growth, prosperity and opportunities, the Gurgaon of its day.

What eastern Europeans are to modern Brit­ain – economic migrants in search of a better life – the Jacobeans were to Mughal India. It was only after the arrival of the various colonial powers that India came to be perceived as poor. What is happening today is merely India’s slow return to its natural place at the forefront of the world economy. History is on its side."

It feels good to read all this but I really wonder if this all is true.

Is India slowly returning to its natural place at the forefront of the world economy? Is history indeed on its side


In recent months, I have kept reading and re-reading  a wonderful, small book in Marathi  'Maharashtrachi Kulkatha' (महाराष्ट्राची कुळकथा), 2011- 'the ancestral-story of Maharashtra'-   by Dr. Madhukar Keshav Dhavalikar (मधुकर केशव ढवळीकर) . It's just 148 pages long and attractively priced at INR 140. It has no index and some minor errors have crept in.

Although the book's primary focus is Maharashtra it often talks about the whole of India. To my delight, the book is richly illustrated.

Although Dr. Dhavaliker respects D D Kosambi a lot, my reading of the book suggests that he very much is his own man.

The book is based entirely on the archeological evidence and treats any other evidence- such as found in literature and art- with suspicion.

Dr. Dhavalikar argues that India's economic prosperity started around 600 BC and  lasted up to 4th century CE. The decline started right after that.

On page 145, MKD says:

"... गुप्तकालीन आणि गुप्तोत्तर काळात जे संस्कृत आणि प्राकृत  वाङ्गमय मोठया प्रमाणावर  निर्माण झाले, त्यात आपल्या प्राचीन  नगरांच्या वैभवाची राजे-रजवाड्यांची जी  रंजक वर्णने आहेत,  त्यांवरून सर्व काही  आलबेल  होते अशी आपली गोड समजूत आहे. परंतु प्रत्यक्ष परिस्थिती खूपच  वेगळी होती.  कारण पुरात्ततत्त्वीय पुरावा या उलट आहे आणि त्यावर आपण विश्वास ठेवला पाहिजे. वारंवार पडणारे दुष्काळ हे भारताच्या आर्थिक अवनतीचे कारण आहे.  जोवर आपण त्यांवर मात करू शकत नाही, तोवर परिस्थितीत फारशी सुधारणा होणे शक्य नाही..."

(...engaging descriptions of the wealth of our old cities and kings and their palaces that is contained in the great amount of Sanskrit and Prakrit literature which was created during Gupta and post-Gupta period make us feel that everything was alright. But the actual reality was very different. That is because of the evidence that is found in archeology and we should trust it. Frequent droughts are the reason of India's economic decline and unless we overcome it, the conditions can never improve...)   


In today's India, most of the Indians live in 'economic decline' as most of them always  have since 4th century CE.

Even the existence of Ajanta caves does not prove economic prosperity.

"...आर्थिक स्थिती खालावलेली असताना अजिंठ्यासारख्या भव्य वास्तूंची  निर्मिती  कशी शक्य  याचे आश्चर्य   वाटणे साहजिकच आहे.  परंतु हा प्रकार भारतात पुढेही चालू राहिला..."

(...in the economic downturn the creation of a majestic structure like the Ajanta Caves may surprise. But such things kept happening in India even later...)


Dr. Dhavalikar ends the book on a sombre note as far as Maharashtra is concerned:

"...आजही एक मुंबईचे डोळे दिपवणारे  वैभव सोडले, तर महाराष्ट्राची काय  स्थिती आहे हे  सांगणे नको."

(...even today if eye-popping wealth of Mumbai is left alone, there is no point telling about the condition of Maharashtra.)

'Maharashtrachi Kulkatha' really excavates a live human- as in the picture below- rather than just  fossils!



Artist: Charles "Chas" Addams (1912-1988), The New Yorker, August 23 1941

(Mr. Addams was one of the greatest artists of  20th century. The picture is a testimony to that. I have seen a lot of humour around the subject of archeology but had never seen such an orthogonal thinking- bringing out our ancestor alive- as seen here. Look at the faces of all four of them!)
 
But after reading MKD's book I wonder where does the optimism of WD come from?

It surely doesn't come from the study of India's archeology. It can't come from India's current largely disastrous ecological situation.

Therefore, is he lacing his history with feel-goodness because he wants to pitch his books to the young English specking economically better-off Indians?


Or will the rest of the world fall apart so badly that India will 'once again'  become 'shining city upon a hill'? 


WD told The Times of India on December 7 2012:

"While we've seen wonderful long-form journalism, the only other guy really writing narrative non-fiction is Ramachandra Guha. He's working brilliantly with modern political history but despite universities chock-a-block with brilliant historians here, none of them seems to be writing for a general audience. There's no Indian equivalent of say, Simon Schama. Where are the Indian versions of Niall Ferguson, Linda Colley or Maya Jassanof? Meanwhile though, it`s lovely to have the field to myself. I've no complaints."

I wonder how WD makes such a claim that 'the only other guy' is Ramachandra Guha.

Is he familiar with history writing for general audience in Indian languages? Has he heard of the Marathi book or its author I have mentioned in this post? Does he know that Vishwas Patil's (विश्वास पाटील) - and of a few others before him- Marathi books on historical subjects have sold probably as much as some of his and Guha's? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Repeat- Any Resemblance to Shri L K Advani is the Purest Coicidence

Arundhati Roy writes for The Hindu on February 11 2013:

"...On the 13th of December 2001 five armed men drove through the gates of the Parliament House in a white Ambassador fitted out with an Improvised Explosive Device. When they were challenged they jumped out of the car and opened fire. They killed eight security personnel and a gardener. In the gun battle that followed, all five attackers were killed. In one of the many versions of confessions he made in police custody, Afzal Guru identified the men as Mohammed, Rana, Raja, Hamza and Haider. That’s all we know about them even today. L.K. Advani, the then Home Minister, said they ‘looked like Pakistanis.’.."

This is so funny..."looking like Pakistanis"? Mr. Advani has always been funny. Whenever he comes on TV or I see his picture, I always remember his depiction by R K Laxman....wearing a crown and a prong trishul...

I could not stop laughing when I first saw Mr. Laxman's this cartoon making fun of Mr. Advani's autobigraphy:


Artist: R K Laxman, The Times of India,  March 27 2008

Mr. Advani was borne in Karachi, now in Pakistan. Does he look like a Pakistani?

But more importantly should India's Union Home Minister, no less, make such a statement in public? Wouldn't it bias the investigation?

How do Mr. Dilip Kumar, Mr. Raj Kapoor and Mr. Dev Anand look like? For me, they all look like from 'North of the Vindhyas'! Sort of Pakistanis!


Artist: Peter Arno, The New Yorker, January 16 1937

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Can We See As Far As Sampati?


Indians have learned the hard way about the generosity of vultures, because in the 1990s they started unwittingly to kill off 40 million of them with a veterinarian's painkiller called diclofenac (given to working animals to reduce joint pain so as to make them work longer). Juniper details the chain of unforeseen consequences. Not only did the loss of the birds' sanitary service give rise to a mountain of cattle carcasses, it also triggered a vast increase in the dog population which, in turn, caused 40 million more dog bites and 47,000 additional deaths from rabies. The total bill for losing the nation's spiralling flock of avian scavengers has been calculated at $34 billion..."

I have never been able to forget one sight from the period 1988-1989.

My work-colleague and I were walking down the then considerably leafy Gangapur Road (गंगापूर रस्ता) in Nashik (नाशिक)  towards Someshwar (सोमेश्वर) around 7 am.

There in the middle of the road we saw a big wake (a group of vultures) feasting on an animal carcass. We both were taken aback, a bit scared. We stood and watched the scene for a while and moved on reluctantly.

Later we reached our destination and took in the pristine beauty of river Godavari (गोदावरी) but I couldn't take my mind off the earlier awesome sight for many weeks after that.

Vultures while feasting look like humans.

It's a great testimony to rootedness of our epics that Ramayana has two distinguished vultures- Jatayu and Sampati but  NO eagle or peacock! Why isn't vulture India's national bird?

It's claimed in Wikipedia that "the spot where a wounded Jatayu was found by Lord Rama is on the outskirts of the Taaked village in Nashik District."

I have no doubt about the claim because I met his descendants as narrated above in Nashik city only!



'Ravana Mortally Wounds Jatayu' 

Artist: Bhavanrao Shrinivas alias Balasaheb Pandit Pant Pratinidhi (भवानराव श्रीनिवास उर्फ बाळासाहेब पंडित पंत प्रतिनिधी), ruler of Aundh

(for more such pictures visit 'Kamat's Potpourri' here.)

After Jatayu dies, as Rama cremates him ritually, he mourns Jatayu's death in very moving terms:

"या गतिः यज्ञ शीलानाम् आहित अग्नेः च या गतिः |
अ पर आवर्तिनाम् या च या च भूमि प्रदायिनाम् || ३-६८-२९
मया त्वम् समनुज्ञातो गच्छ लोकान् अनुत्तमान् |
गृध्र राज महा सत्त्व संस्कृतः च मया व्रज || ३-६८-३०

एवम् उक्त्वा चिताम् दीप्ताम् आरोप्य पतगेश्वरम् |ददाह रामो धर्मात्मा स्व बन्धुम् इव दुःखितः || ३-६८-३१"

("Oh, greatly mighty king of eagles, by me cremated ritually and by me aptly consented to, you depart to the unexcelled heavenly worlds... you depart to those worlds that are destined for the virtuosos of Vedic-rituals, and to those worlds that are destined for the practisers of ascesis amid Five-Ritual-fires, and to those that are destined for un-retreating combatants, and to those worlds that destined for the donors of lands..." So said Rama to the departed Jataayu. [3-68-29, 30]
On saying that way, that ethical-souled Rama mounted that lord of birds onto the pyre and he sorrowfully incinerated that eagle in a flaring fire of pyre, as he would do in respect of his own deceased relative.  [3-68-31]

from Valmiki Ramayana)


In Pune urban, I haven't cited a single vulture since 1999.

The word vulture (गिधाडे) creates strong negative vibes in Marathi. They became even stronger for me after Vijay Tendulkar's (विजय तेंडुलकर) popular play 'Gidhade' came out.

If Tendulkar had known what Mr. Cocker has said in the quote at the top, he would have thought twice before naming his controversial play.




 'Sampati Points Towards Lanka'

 Artist: Bhavanrao Shrinivas alias Balasaheb Pandit Pant Pratinidhi (भवानराव श्रीनिवास उर्फ बाळासाहेब पंडित पंत प्रतिनिधी), ruler of Aundh

I have always been intrigued by this picture since my childhood.

In the gathering shown,  there are stalwarts like Hanuman, Jambavant, Angada and others but Sampati is shown sitting at the head of the conference table!

Sampati tells the gathering where Sita is. He informs them, sitting there, he can see Sita who is 100 Yojans away from there.

"इह स्थः अहम् प्रपश्यामि रावणम् जानकीम् तथा |
अस्माकम् अपि सौपर्णम् दिव्यम् चक्षुर् बलम् तथा || ४-५८-३१

तस्मात् आहार वीर्येण निसर्गेण च वानराः |आयोजन शतात् साग्रात् वयम् पश्याम नित्यशः || ४-५८-३२"

(Staying here I am clearly seeing Ravana and like that Janaki... even for us eagles, our sight and power will be excellent like that of Garuda, the Divine Eagle... [4-58-31]
Thereby, oh, vanara-s, dietetically and congenitally we eagles can always see till the end of hundred yojana-s, comprehensively... [4-58-32]

from Valmiki Ramayana)


(Although they are classified in the same family Accipitridaevultures are NOT descendants of eagles. That is like giving all the credit for the existence of vultures to the eagles!)

What kind of vision have we humans got? How far can we see?


While writing this post I re-read Arun Kolatkar's (अरुण कोलटकर) long poem 'Dron' (द्रोण), 2002. It describes an imaginary victory feast given by Rama in Lanka after his conquest.

The poem is brilliant and funny. ( I especially like the part where monkeys wonder why human females' breasts- unlike their own females'- are so large!)

Page 16 has following:

"...त्या पार्टीला
सगळ्या वानरांना तर आमंत्रण
म्हणजे होतंच अर्थात,

अगदी आवर्जून,
कारण रामाच्या विजयात सिंहाचा वाटा
त्यांचाच तर होता..."

( ...To that party
all monkeys had invitation
of course they had,

it was made sure
because lion's share in Rama's victory
was their only...")

I wonder why vultures, bears and squirrels were not invited. Didn't they too contribute to the successful military campaign?

Remember that Rama above- at least in death-  has treated Jatayu like his own relative. Have they already forgotten Jatayu's elder brother Sampati?

Mr. Cocker, Indians forgot the generosity of vultures long time ago. As you say, we are now learning it the hard way.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

TᴚUTH about Saul Steinberg's UID!

Bob Mankoff:

"When Steinberg did the cartoon of the two men duelling in the mouth of a giant alligator, and the one with the assortment of question marks, in the early sixties, his cartoons became equal parts philosophy and art, and no part mirth.

And, truthfully, if this evolution in Steinberg’s style hadn’t happened, there wouldn’t be a five-hundred-and-ninety-one-page tome about him.

But I must admit that I’m a big fan of his early cartoons..."

Vasant Sarwate's (वसंत सरवटे) is very fond of the late Saul Steinberg's cartoons, particularly his later ones

In his book 'Vyangkala- Chitrakala', 2005 ('व्यंगकला - चित्रकला'), he says this about Saul Steinberg's  cartoon above:

"चित्र पाहताक्षणीच आपल्याला यातली गफलत ध्यानात येवून गंमत वाटते. मागाहून अधिक विचार केल्यावर त्यातला खोल अर्थ कळायला लागतो. जगात निर्भेळ सत्याचा आग्रह धरण्यात अर्थ नाही; तसे संपूर्णपणे सत्य कुठेही मिळणे अशक्य आहे व परिस्थिती आपण स्वीकारल्याखेरीज इलाज नाही. असा काहीसा विचार हे चित्र सुचवते."

(The moment we see the picture we are amused by realizing error in it. Later when one thinks one starts to get the deeper meaning to it. There is no point demanding the absolute truth in this world; that kind of truth is impossible to attain anywhere and there is no remedy other than accepting the reality. The picture suggests such kind of thoughts.)

So what was the truth (or TUTH?) about the life of the cartoonist himself? His unique identification  UID?

Deirdre Bair tries to answer it in 'Saul Steinberg: A Biography'.


What do some of the reviews say?

JANET MASLIN, The New York Times, December 13 2012:

"The overly protective Saul Steinberg Foundation did Steinberg a huge disservice by forcing Ms. Bair to paraphrase documents and denying her the right to reprint more than a smattering of his art.

Those obstacles might not have been wholly insurmountable, but Ms. Bair does a flat job of paraphrasing, and she displays scant critical insight into the many tics, motifs and obsessions that run throughout Steinberg’s work. She also fails to convey any sense of the vaunted Steinberg charisma — although, as she says in an afterword, interviewees would typically smile at his memory and say something like, “What a wonderful man he was, and oh, how I miss him!” The wonderful man is absent from “Saul Steinberg.” In his place is a cranky, abrasive misanthrope who somehow made himself popular with many big droppable names."

 'cranky, abrasive misanthrope'? So did he  look like this?



courtesy: The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 A Saul Steinberg drawing that was published in The New Yorker in 1954

 DEBORAH SOLOMON says about the book:

"...Who was Saul Steinberg? His acquaintances thought of him as an elegant dandy who seemed catlike in his refinement. In his prime, he lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, dined out most every night and held forth at dinner parties with piquant erudition and wit. But behind the thick glasses and mandarin mask lay a haunted figure, a fearful man who visited indignities upon himself and those around him. As Bair reveals, his love life was a string of infidelities, and crabbiness was his default mood...

...By then he had met Hedda Sterne, an abstract painter and fellow Romanian émigré who valued books and reading as much as he did. Together, they practiced speaking English and declared a moratorium on their native Romanian, “a language of beggars and policemen,” as Steinberg scoffed. They married in 1944, at City Hall in Manhattan. Just a few weeks later, they were entertaining a pregnant friend when Sterne looked out from the kitchen into an adjoining room and was startled to see her husband passionately kissing their guest. “In a way, sex was his life,” Sterne later said. “He deprived himself of true union because he was not ever in love.”..."

(The New York Times, November 21 2012)


JONATHAN LOPEZ says in WSJ, November 30 2012:

" He pursued affairs and even propositioned the teenage daughters of acquaintances, for which he was reprimanded by outraged parents. On one occasion, according to Ms. Bair, he invited a friend's 19-year-old daughter—a girl he had known since she was in diapers—to spend a weekend in the Hamptons in order, he said, to enjoy some time in the country. Drawing upon her interview with the girl—now an adult—Ms. Bair informs us that "in the middle of the night, she woke up, 'petrified with fear,' to find him in her bed. He embraced her, but she 'froze and wouldn't budge,' until he eventually 'just sort of gave up and went to his own bed.'"

In the quote at the top of this post, I quote Mr. Mankoff. Here is an example of  "his early cartoons...the early funny ones"

I call it UID - Aadhaar cartoon.