मेघदूत: "नीचैर्गच्छत्युपरि च दशा चक्रनेमिक्रमेण"

समर्थ शिष्या अक्का : "स्वामीच्या कृपाप्रसादे हे सर्व नश्वर आहे असे समजले. पण या नश्वरात तमाशा बहुत आहे."

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.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”

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);...”

सदानंद रेगे:
"... पण तुकारामाची गाथा ज्या धुंदीनं आजपर्यंत वाचली जात होती ती धुंदी माझ्याकडे नाहीय. ती मला येऊच शकत नाही याचं कारण स्वभावतःच मी नास्तिक आहे."
".. त्यामुळं आपण त्या दारिद्र्याच्या अनुभवापलीकडे जाऊच शकत नाही. तुम्ही जर अलीकडची सगळी पुस्तके पाहिलीत...तर त्यांच्यामध्ये त्याच्याखेरीज दुसरं काही नाहीच आहे. म्हणजे माणसांच्या नात्यानात्यांतील जी सूक्ष्मता आहे ती क्वचित चितारलेली तुम्हाला दिसेल. कारण हा जो अनुभव आहे... आपले जे अनुभव आहेत ते ढोबळ प्रकारचे आहेत....."

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, March 30, 2013

Why Do Women Have No Pockets and Other Such Questions

Julia Felsentha, 'Why clothing sizes make no sense', Slate, December 28 2012:

 "If your clothes are made-to-measure—as they were in an earlier era, particularly for wealthy women—there’s no need for a standard set of sizes...And as wealthy women began to purchase premade clothing, pressure mounted to ensure that it fit in a consistent way.  

The ready-to-wear sizing system that existed prior to the ‘40s was first developed for menswear. Scholars have found evidence of standardized men’s sizing as far back as the Revolutionary War. By the War of 1812, the Army was in the practice of holding stocks of ready-made uniforms sized according to a single measurement, of the chest—based on the assumption that you could deduce from it a proportional understanding of the rest of a man’s body. So, when manufacturers in the early 20th century began to produce women’s clothing, they based women’s sizes exclusively on a single measurement: the bust.
The only problem? Bust measurements on their own are not particularly accurate indicators of a woman’s size or of the rest of her proportions. As we all know, some small women have very large breasts, and some large women have very small ones. This sizing conundrum was particularly irksome to the Mail Order Association of America, which was well aware by the late 1930s that women often returned clothing because of poor fit...

...Women’s sizes were derived from bust size—with all other measurements based on the proportions of an hourglass figure—"

My wife's cousin's engagement took place in the last week of December 2012.

Cousin's mother's blouse- even a simple sleeveless affair- and not a designer one to be worn on  the occasion-  was a big deal.

To make sure there was no goof up on that front, she got a trial blouse stitched by a tailor in our area. It came out perfect. Since he passed the test, he was given the 'real' thing. Every once concerned was happy and confident. And why not?

It was screwed up big time! The lady said she had never seen a worse blouse in her life! 

In the end though all was sorted out amicably and every one that mattered looked pretty in the pictures and videos. I stuffed myself with Veg and Panir  Manchurian and generally avoided photographers until a mandatory picture.

I am so tired of listening to these 'evil tailor stories' now because they seem to happen all the time.

On the other hand, the last time I got my trouser or shirt stitched was in the last century. [It was not always the case though. I still remember:  we were to catch a morning train (Deccan Express) for Pune from Miraj- then metre gauge- in 1965 to attend my mother's brother's wedding. My father, my brother and I were at the tailor previous night after 8 PM- then very late hour-  waiting for our clothes to delivered. I still remember my exasperation!]

I wonder why tailoring of women's blouse remains such a fickle art and it has always been so since my childhood.

One oft-heard female Marathi expression then was "शिंप्याने ब्लाऊज बिघडवला!" (tailor spoiled the blouse!) I don't think it has changed much.

Artist: Victoria Roberts, The New Yorker, 17 September 2001

Once upon a time I couldn't live without four pockets to my attire.

Once, in academic year 1973-74, I stuffed my khaki half-pants pockets with the school tiffin during the break (मधली सुट्टी) of thirty minutes so that I could go play Kabaddi (कबड्डी). I think some of my friends were mildly disgusted once they realised that I had put thick Maharashtrian  pancakes (घावन) in my pocket!  Even today, when I share that story with my son and wife, they shriek at the thought! And I still don't regret what I did.

Therefore, I could never understand why women have no pockets. How can they afford not to? 

Paul Johnson tried to answer it on June 4 2011:

"...The question takes us into the murkier depths of the sex war as well as the arcana of sartorial history. In the 19th century the skills of the Savile Row tailors devised a male suit that has remained standard for over 100 years, giving its owner 17 pockets in which to distribute all his keys, watch, notecase, money, matches, hanky etc without seriously altering his shape....

...Women did not even have the help of sensible underclothes. They wore petticoats, up to a dozen at a time. What were then called drawers, later knickers, were denied to all except prostitutes and dancers, who needed to show their legs. Drawers for respectable women did not begin to come in until about the time the papacy dropped its Opposition to trousers. If women were denied trousers, why could not they be given pockets?This question is discussed in an ingenious article in a recent issue of Victorian Studies. In “Form and Deformity: the Trouble with Victorian Pockets”, the American scholar C.T. Matthews discusses 19th-century writers who analysed fashions with a view to drawing social lessons. The record shows that the absence of pockets was a huge disadvantage to females and one reason why male superiority was so steadfastly maintained...

...Instead there was the handbag, which evolved in the late 19th century out of the traditional workbag, in which ladies kept their sewing and knitting. The point about the handbag was that it was and is external to the body, and has to be carried. This increases female dependence and limits freedom of action. Moreover, whereas pockets are distributed about the person with a view to differentiated purposes, so that a man knows where everything is and can find it instantly, a bag is exactly that, a thing into which every needful article is indiscriminately thrown, so that much time is wasted in searching, quite apart from the risk of mislaying the bag itself...

...The 20th century brought women, in theory, trousers and pockets. But a clothes industry run by men, and a fashion trade dominated by homosexuals, ensured this made little difference. Tight jeans will not accommodate useful pockets. I remember Christian Dior saying to me in 1954: “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration”. Handbags have become much more important in women’s appearance and practical life than they were in the 19th century, and relatively more expensive. Bigger, too. And in my observation, women spend a much greater proportion of their lives looking for mislaid objects than men do..."

Staying on women's clothing: Until I read Alice Rawsthorn's review of Robert H. Frank's book "The Economic Naturalist" in July 2007, I had not even noticed that women button their clothes from the left, and men from the right! Let alone knowing the reason.

Surprise, surprise even my wife didn't know it.

 "Take the positioning of buttons on clothes. Why are they on the right for men, and the left for women, especially since, for the 90 percent of the population who are right-handed, it's much easier to do up buttons from the right? It's because when buttons were introduced in the 17th century, they were affordable only by the wealthy. As rich men then dressed themselves, they did so from the right; whereas wealthy women were dressed by servants, who preferred to button them up from the left. The custom continues today, even though fewer women are dressed by servants, because there has been no incentive for the fashion industry to change it."

Artist : Garrett Price, The New Yorker, 22 Nov 1947

Who is he? Servant, husband or lover?  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Space is Small, My Life too is Small.

Samuel Brittan:

"The Greek philosopher Diogenes is said to have lived in a tub. But far from being dismissed as a crank, he was the only thinker whom Alexander the Great went to see – the others had to come to him. Was Diogenes a happy man? You can answer how you like. You can say that he was happy living in a tub. Or you can say that he thought that other things were more important than happiness."

Graham Hill has written an interesting essay for The New York Times, March 9 2013 titled 'Living With Less. A Lot Less'. Read it here.
Such things keep appearing in the Western media from time to time. The most recent famous example of it, as I remember, would be Jared Diamond's essay “What’s Your Consumption Factor?” (The NYT,  January 2  2008). Read that essay here.

I often wonder if this is a long, loud belch after a sumptuous meal or is there more to it?

My first question to the likes of Mr. Hill would be: why do you have to say this? Why not just more people do it?

My second question: why do you have to be successful first and then throw away things? Why not be a 'failure' in the world's eyes to begin with? Won't it make things much simpler? Less garbage to clear for municipal authorities.

My final question to him: Are you happy saying : 'My space is small. My life is big.'? What if your space is small and life too is small?

All my life I have been always attracted to austere living rooms.  I have lost count of how many such rooms I have seen during my childhood at Miraj. My classmates who came to Miraj  from nearby villages  to study after 7th or 10th always lived in such rooms and ate even simpler meals.

To my eyes, even following elegant and world-famous  room looks crowded!

Artist: Vincent van Gogh, 'Bedroom in Arles', 1888

Instead I like this room:

Artist: Alok Shukla, "Blue Nile", April 2010

courtesy: Jamuna Inamdar


...Diogenes credited his teacher Antisthenes with introducing him to a life of poverty and happiness — of poverty as happiness. The cynic’s every word and action was dedicated to the belief that the path to individual freedom required absolute honesty and complete material austerity.
So Diogenes threw away his cup when he saw people drinking from their hands. He lived in a barrel, rolling in it over hot sand in the summer. He inured himself to cold by embracing statues blanketed with snow. He ate raw squid to avoid the trouble of cooking. He mocked the auctioneer while being sold into slavery..." 

p.s There is another problem with collecting stuff....excess baggage charges on the final journey!

Artist: Richard Jolley (RGJ), The Spectator, UK , 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Can You Spot Me in the Crowd?

संपादकीय, लोकसत्ता , मार्च 28 2013:

"...लोकप्रतिनिधींनी हक्कभंग ठराव आणला म्हणून कोल्हेकुई करणारे काही जण सत्ताधारी भुजांच्या आधारे आपल्यात नसलेले बळ कसे वाढवीत होते याचे स्मरण शिमग्याच्या पवित्र दिनी करणे समयोचितच ठरणार नाही काय? काही पक्षीयांकडून झालेल्या कथित हल्ल्यांच्या न झालेल्या खोटय़ा जखमा मिरवण्यात ज्यांनी आयुष्य व्यर्थ घालवले तेच त्याच कथित हल्लेखोर पक्षप्रमुखांचे चरणतीर्थ घेण्यासाठी रांगेत उभे असतील तर ते दृश्य कधीही शिमग्याच्याच स्मृती जागवणार यात विशेष ते काय?..."

These days in Maharashtra a three-cornered contest is being fought:

Law Makers, Cops, Two Marathi TV news channels....

One does not know where it is going but I know how it will end: Amicably...the old order and peace will be restored...after all they are all respectable,  award-winning/ decorated/ elected citizens of the greatest democracy on this planet...

But while it is going on, it's not even good entertainment...worse than the Marathi TV serials, including the one supposedly comic one

Although the quote at the top reminds of the great Aesop, in such times, I remember only one thing:  George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'

from movie 'Animal Farm', 1954

courtesy: Halas and Batchelor, a British animation company

This is how the great book ends:

“The pigs and farmers return to their amiable card game, and the other animals creep away from the window. Soon the sounds of a quarrel draw them back to listen. Napoleon and Pilkington have played the ace of spades simultaneously, and each accuses the other of cheating. The animals, watching through the window, realize with a start that, as they look around the room of the farmhouse, they can no longer distinguish which of the cardplayers are pigs and which are human beings.”

from movie 'Animal Farm', 1954

courtesy: Halas and Batchelor, a British animation company and  BBC

I am in this second picture.  Can you spot me? Or am I in the first picture ?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Will Your Verse Be?...सांस्कृतिक आळस व स्वभाषेबद्दल तुच्छता !

John Keating: 

"...We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?..."

Nathan Heller:

"But given the wild outpouring of praise online, one has to wonder how much of what you see is just a public put-on. “OMG your Cartagena vacation looks AMAZING!!!”: Is this an expression of envy, interest, or a desire to have me shut up about it? The distance between earnestness and disingenuousness is vanishingly small, and—more alarming still—seems to matter less and less."   

अशोक शहाणे :

"...त्यात परत रामदासांनी मराठी मन अचूक हेरूनच  का काय, पण 'टवाळा आवडे विनोद' असे म्हणून टाकल्यावर नंतरच्या मराठी लोकांनी नेमकं तेच खरं  मानलं  अन  इथले लोक टवाळकीला विनोद समजायला लागले..." 

(महाराष्ट्र टाइ म्स , 1994 /  नपेक्षा, 2005)

अरुण  साधू:

"…एक विचित्र अशा ऐतिहासिक न्यून गं डाने  मराठी माणसाचे  व्यक्तिमत्व  आधुनिक का ळात  फाटून गेले आहे.. त्यात भर घातली आहे ती मराठी वृत्त पत्रांनी , मथळ्यान्मधे , उप मथळ्यान्मधे  मजकुरामधें जणू  शिवाजीमहाराज  किंवा  विष्णूशास्त्री चिपळूणकर  यांच्यावर सूड घेतल्यासारखी  इंग्रजी  शब्दसमुच्चयांची  मस्तवालपणे भेसळ  केली जाते . तेच बोलतानाही . सांस्कृतिक आळस  व  स्वभाषेबद्दल  तुच्छता !…"

(ललित , मार्च  2013)

Jaywant Dalwi (जयवंत दळवी) writes in his essay, dated 1980's,  on his close friend Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे) that if he asked Sarwate about a book and if the reply was "it's interesting", it meant only one thing-  "trash" (भिकार)!

When I first read this I could not stop laughing, for the way Dalvi used the Marathi word 'bhikar'.

Luckily, I have now met Mr. Sarwate a few times, also spoken to him on phone a few times,  and have always heard very carefully if he calls anything "interesting". (He might have called this blog 'interesting' once or twice!)

These days Marathi speaking "TV celebrities" use only following words to describe anything- from their poodle to cinematic  or theatrical experience-:

 'cute, amazing, incredible...'

"...judging something “cute” often “infantilizes" the beholder, as we melt into a puddle of oohs and aahs at the sight of a baby bunny eating a baby carrot. But just as a child might love a doll to tatters, our absorption with “cuteness” is born of both tenderness and aggression. Something cute is something we condescend to, even as we desire to touch and ruffle and hold and possess it...

...At its most thoughtful, calling something “interesting” might be an expression of indeterminacy, a placeholder for a future conversation. But more often than not, it’s just conversational filler, something dropped in when you don’t feel like judging at all.

(Hua Hsu, Slate, Review of 'Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting' by Sianne Ngai)

"moments when our assumptions around cuteness—the stability of feeling somehow “above” the cute object—melt away, for these images manage to be “helpless and aggressive” at the same time."

Artist: Yoshitomo Nara, 'Yellow in blue', 2005

 "Does anyone ever mean it when they say something is “interesting”—or do we all, in art and conversation, merely aspire to be interesting enough? We usually ponder the present condition by considering our consumer choices or modes of self-presentation. But perhaps the line around our imagination starts elsewhere, in those aesthetic experiences that happen on the edge of comprehension.  Before we are inventories of symbols and things, we are thinking, feeling people navigating a fluid, ever-changing world—a world where everything is interesting but not much more, where cuteness and zaniness are the only scales available to us when confronted with global vastness."

Artist: Robert Weber, The New Yorker 

In this cartoon of Mr. Weber for The New Yorker, we find as the woman does household chores with great intensity, a kid- presumably her- has appeared in the doorway and is saying:

'That was an incredible nap!'... Nothing less- just incredible. She could have also said: That was an amazing nap!
Bruce Eric Kaplan (BEK), a great cartoonist-(philosopher) himself and one of my favourites, says about the picture:

 "The meaning of the cartoon was clear to me -- it is a hilarious comment on the fact that we live in a culture that feels comfortable saying that anything is incredible, or, more often these days, "Amazing!" We have incredible lattes, amazing socks, etc. But apparently some readers didn't get this.

I have a theory I just came up with in this moment -- perhaps people don't get the genre of ironic cartoons because they themselves are incapable of irony. But then again, I have only had this theory for a few moments, and it may be completely off base."

Most middle-class Marathi readers, at least in this century, have been raised only on the diet of horseplay on TV / cinema masquerading as humour.  I can say with some confidence that  most of them don't get the genre of ironic cartoons because they themselves are incapable of irony.

At the top of this post,  I have quoted Mr. Ashok Shahane on what people of Maharashtra consider as humour....tomfoolery (टवाळकी)!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Username and Password?....तो तूंच हटकलेंस 'कोण' म्हणून

Today March 20 2013 is 57th death anniversary of B S Mardhekar (बा सी मर्ढेकर)...sometimes it's hard to imagine someone with his command of Marathi was writing in that language not too many years ago...

Graham Greene:
"Well, there is no such thing as success. The priest can't hope to become a saint- or else it's an illusory dream which vanishes with time; the writer can't hope to write a book equal those of Tolstoy, Dickens or Balzac. He might have dared to believe in the possibility at the outset, but his books always carry a flaw somewhere."

Very early in his short career,  BSM (1909-1956) knew he was a good poet, a special talent perhaps, or maybe even more.

Why do I say that?

"गेलॉ विदूषक जरी ठरुनी सुहास,
दान्ते-नि-शेक्सपिअर-संगत आसपास
कोठे तरी स्वमरणोत्तर भाग्यकाली-!
हाही विचार न कमी मज शांतिदायी."

[poem no 15, "शिशिरागम" ("shishiragam") from "मर्ढेकरांची कविता" ("Mardhekaranchi Kavita"), 1959-1977; courtesy: राघव बाळ मर्ढेकर (Raghav Bal Mardhekar)]

("Even if I pass on as a grinning joker,
company of Dante and Shakespeare in proximity
somewhere in my good fortune after my death-!
even this thought is no less consoling")

Remember, in 'Shishiragam' collection,  BSM is NOT the poet we now know. There, he comes across as some one following his idol Madhav Julian  (माधव जूलियन) or English romantic poets he studied and later taught.

But then he is already thinking of life after death spent in the neighborhood of Dante and Shakespeare! It's like after playing just one season of Ranji trophy cricket with some success, you seek the company of Don  Bradman and Garry Sobers in your afterlife!

If you do that you are either a pompous fool or you must be really good and confident about your creative future. For me, Mardhekar was the latter.

What might have happened when rather young BSM met his maker?

Artist: Arnie Levin, The New Yorker, May 29 2000

courtesy: the artist, the magazine and  Bob Mankoff's blog

(Now, user name and password are confidential. No one is supposed to ask them to you, especially  very openly. But then where's the problem if it's perhaps the last time you will ever need them?)

Mardhekar was perhaps ushered in without this formality and shown his dwelling next to Dante and Shakespeare! I hope so.

Or was he?

"आलो क्षणिचा विसावा म्हणून;
टेकले पाय:
तो तूंच हटकलेंस 'कोण' म्हणून
आणि मनांतले शिणलेले हेतू
शेण झाले"

[the last and unnumbered poem of the section 'Kanheen Kavita' from 'Mardhekaranchee Kavita', 1959/1977 ('कांही कविता', 'मर्ढेकरांची कविता')]

("I came to rest momentarily;
touched down feet:
At once you confronted with "who"
and the tired aspirations in the mind
turned to shit")

Is "who" in the poem above refers to "Username and password?"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Empower the the Election Commission to Ban the Nonelected Expression!


"...When asked by Lysias the pharmacist if he believed in the gods, Diogenes the Cynic  replied, “How can I help believing in them when I see a god-forsaken wretch like you?” When he was asked what was the right time to marry, he said, “For a young man not yet, for an old man never at all.” When asked what was the most beautiful thing in the world, Diogenes replied, “Freedom of speech.” Sadly, it remains one of the most dangerous..."

Almost all the political parties in India are against some expression or the other-   by artists or ordinary citizens like me, who are nobody. Artists get police protection and media attention. I am left to fend for myself.

The expressions include cartoons, paintings, books, plays, speeches, thoughts, cinema, blog-post, FB post, Twitter post...

Wikipedia informs:

"Political parties that wish to contest local, state or national elections are required to be registered by the Election Commission of India (EC). In order to gain recognition in a state, the party must have had political activity for at least five continuous years, and send at least 4% of the state's quota to the Lok Sabha (India's Lower house), or 3.33% of members to that Legislative Assembly of that state..."

If so, why not empower the EC of India to ban any expression that is not acceptable to even one political party.

That is, we can have a transparent online process where a recognized political party raises an objection to a particular expression...TV channels get the live feed of that...They start running the story if it's TRP- worthy...Democracy at its best....political parties represent people....elections and media are the backbones of any democracy...the EC gets the final vote on the subject..

Jonathan Jones writes on his Art Blog in The Guardian 'Dirty old masters: should the EU ban pornographic paintings?':

"...Europe's greatest art has long been an aid to, and celebration of, sexual fantasy. Will a ban on porn affect our art heritage?...Europe's great artists were making pornography long before the invention of the camera, let alone the internet. In my new book The Loves of the Artists, I argue that sexual gratification – of both the viewers of art, and artists themselves – was a fundamental drive of high European culture in the age of the old masters. Paintings were used as sexual stimuli, as visual lovers' guides, as aids to fantasy. This was considered one of the most serious uses of art by no less a thinker than Leonardo da Vinci, who claimed images are better than words because pictures can directly arouse the senses. He was proud that he once painted a Madonna so sexy the owner asked for all its religious trappings to be removed, out of shame for the inappropriate lust it inspired. His painting of St John the Baptist is similarly ambiguous...."

Venus of Urbino by Titian

The Venus of Urbino by Titian.

Photograph: Nicola Lorusso/Alinari Archives/Corbis , The Guardian

Many Indians were/are  well familiar with the sentiments expressed above:

"Paintings were used as sexual stimuli, as visual lovers' guides, as aids to fantasy. This was considered one of the most serious uses of art by no less a thinker than Leonardo da Vinci, who claimed images are better than words because pictures can directly arouse the senses."

I fell ill in Kolkata in 1991 supposedly by amebiosis...its water they said, its weather some others. Some advised to go to "the West" for change of water and weather.

We went to  Khajuraho coinciding with the annual dance festival there

But the flesh and blood were no match for the stone. Not only I was cured in a dayI was massively turned on by what I saw on the temple walls there. I was back...(I won't go further than this to protect my wife's privacy.)

Today,  as I suffer from high blood pressure, I wonder where I should go to "snap out of it"! Khajuraho does not sound right but who knows!

'A temple relief at Khajuraho features a couple in a sexual embrace with a man and a woman masturbating to either side.'

courtesy: Wikipedia and Mr. Henry Flower

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Illegal Let, then Sublet and then Pay not even a Halfpenny of Rent!

Since we started laying rice-grain, ground glucose biscuits and clean water saucer on our terrace, we have been visited by many birds. We have now counted a few generations of sparrows. And I recognize at least two crows. (I wish I were as healthy as them!)

In one of the most beautiful essays I have read, George Orwell writes:

"Indeed it is remarkable how Nature goes on existing unofficially, as it were, in the very heart of
London. I have seen a kestrel flying over the Deptford gasworks, and I  have heard a first-rate performance by a blackbird in the Euston Road.  There must be some hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of birds living inside the four-mile radius, and it is rather a pleasing thought that none of them pays a halfpenny of rent"

('Some Thoughts on the Common Toad', 1946)

 Artist: David Sipress, The New Yorker, November 2012

Saturday, March 09, 2013

If Tukaram Was Alive Today


*GO TO M-TOWN (ask The Pune Times for the directions to reach there)

*USE TWITTER (or Facebook)

*BE A JUDGE ON 'SA RE GA MA PA' (or a dance contest featuring Marathi Bollywood hottie)

*WRITE FOR AN 8-PM-MARATHI TV SERIAL (or write a screenplay of blockbuster Marathi movie based in your times featuring the practice of sati or any such regressive social practice against which you might have railed all your life.)

*WRITE A COLUMN FOR A WEEKEND EDITION OF A MARATHI DAILY WITH A TITLE SUCH AS 'KAUTUKA' (कौतुक) [or write for  two-dozen 2013 'Diwali anks'. Sorry, you are too late to make it to 'Lalit' poetry special.]



Read the above after soaking in this wonderful picture:

Artist: Tom Gauld, November 26 2012

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Sarang Chapalgaonkar... Who? केल नीट म्हणजे बराबर मझा येतो ...

"When the spring arrives
And I sit outside, working,
I am never bored.
With a chisel in hand
I can raise flowers from stones."  

(A Japanese Haiku quoted by the late N J Nanporia in his article on Japan in The Times of India dated around 1980)

Steve Rose, The Guardian, February 28 2013:

"..."Indian films have this obsession with hygienic clean spaces, even though the country's not so clean," says Anurag Kashyap. "They're either shot in the studios or shot in London, in America, in Switzerland – clean places. Everywhere except India." By contrast, Kashyap's latest movie, Gangs Of Wasseypur, seems determined to show the India you don't see in the movies. Wasseypur is a nondescript industrial town in Bihar, India's poorest region. And rather than drugs or casinos, these gangs are fighting for control of coal mines and scrap metal. It was filmed on bustling streets and industrial wastelands, even – since one of the movie's central clans are butchers by trade – an abattoir. "That was difficult," Kashyap recalls. "The smell was so bad. While we were shooting, 60 buffaloes and a camel got slaughtered before our eyes. I don't think any of us could eat meat for a month."..."

Sarang Chapalgaonkar (सारंग चपळगावकर),  for me Sarang-mama,  is dead. He died on December 20 2012. He was my wife's mother's maternal uncle (मामा).

He was an interesting, handsome  man...He was a groupie of  Pune city's one biographer V N Natu ('आधीच पुणे  गुलजार'  वि. ना. नातू.....Btw- I really like Natu's book)...Knowing my tastes, he strongly recommended to me Hari Narayan Apte's (हरि नारायण आपटे) book 'Madhali Sthiti' (मधली स्थिती). I have still not able to get hold of the book.

We could talk for hours on many subjects. Once he told me how the Dalits were not allowed to construct houses in a certain direction of the Pune city because the wind blew from that direction into the city!

He spent his entire working life- from 1942 for 39 years-  in Indian (central) railways. A few years go, he wrote a book- "Tikit Please" (तिकीट प्लीज)- based on his experiences there. It was only for private circulation.

It turned out to be a wonderful book. I finished it in one sitting. A lot of the then celebrities make guest-appearances in the book. Among them are Manohar Malgaonkar (मनोहर माळगावकर),  Bal Gandharva (बालगंधर्व)...

Mr. Malgaonkar presented him with his autographed book and Balgandharva treated him with great  sensitivity and affection . The latter experience made Sarang-mama cry and reading that made me cry! Another instance of Balgandharva's greatness.

But the best thing about the book comes in its foreword by the author:

"टी सी म्हणून साधारण वाटणाऱ्या नोकरीत मी अत्यंत स्वाभीमानाने व समाधानाने दिवस काढले. त्या नोकरीचा मला अद्याप अभिमान वाटतो."

("I spent days with dignity and satisfaction working in an ordinary sounding job like ticket-checker. I still feel proud of that job.")

How rarely I get to read such a sentiment in a native Indian language.

Reminded me of following set of dialogues:

",,,उषा: तुम्हांला सगळ्याचाच मझा वाटतो.

काकाजी: पाहिलं नीट म्हणजे बराबर मझा दिसतो. इंदूर स्टेशनात एकदा एक भंगी दोन लंब्या झाडू घेऊन कचरा काढीत होता. उषा, अरे ऐश्या झाडू फिरवीत होता, की तुझ्या सतीशला बॅट देखील फिरवता येणार नाही तशी."

("...Usha: You think everything is fun.

Kakaji: If you look carefully, you notice fun alright. At Indore station once a street-sweeper was sweeping using two long brooms. Usha, the way he was brandishing broom, your Satish would't be able to wave even a (cricket) bat.")

['Tujhe Ahe Tujapashi', 1957 (तुझें आहे तुजपाशीं) by P L Deshpande (पु  देशपांडे)]

So many books remain unwritten in Marathi....

Has there been a great Marathi book by a nurse? By a house-maid? By an under taker at crematorium?  By autopsy (post-mortem) conductors? By a butcher? By a person engaged in manual scavenging? By an auto-rickshaw or a tonga driver? By an ST bus conductor? By a postman? By a dangerous-chemical factory worker? By MSEDCL worker exposed to high-voltage live wires? By a coal-engine train driver?.....What 'Marathi' or language do they use on the job?

And I am not talking about some howling rebel (विद्रोही) books, not the kind whose authors are now 'parallel' celebrities making monthly/quarterly appearances on TV channels anchored by 'socialist' anchors,  but written matter-of-factly, making people appreciate: Despite all the likely misery of the job, I did it with quiet dignity and satisfaction and my job was perhaps as important as that of an IT professional or a journalist or a priest or a publisher or an artist or a doctor or an architect or a teacher or a lawyer or an ad-man or an actor or a writer or a builder or a politician or a broker or a pilot or a cricketer or Miss Beauty-queen or a TV anchor...

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Tukaram, Richard Feynman, Helen E Hokinson: We Are Only An Atom

John Gray:

"When people look to religion for the meaning of life, they eventually find mystery. When they look to science for meaning they end up in mere incoherence."

Brian Greene:

" In 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that distant galaxies are all rushing away from us. And the best explanation for this cosmic exodus came directly from general relativity: much as poppy seeds in a muffin that’s baking move apart as the dough swells, galaxies move apart as the space in which they’re embedded expands. Hubble’s observations thus established that there was no need for a cosmological constant; the universe is not static."

 courtesy: 'Feynman' by Jim Ottaviani (Author), Leland Myrick (Illustrator)

Richard Feynman has said:

"If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied."

 When I read it, I immediately thought of Tukaram (तुकाराम):
"अणुरेणियां थोकडा ।
तुका आकाशाएवढा ॥१॥"

( midget like atom-molecule
Tuka is sky-like)

Tukaram of course did not know about the atomic hypothesis, as we know it today, but isn't he saying something equally profound here?

Maybe he is  telling us how small atoms-molecules make the big sky.

Maybe he is telling us how we can grow from being a lowly dwarf to a leviathan like the sky.

Maybe he is telling us we are sometimes like an atom-molecule while other times like the sky.

Maybe he is telling us that the universe is not static.

Maybe he is telling us that when your perspective changes things look different.

Maybe he is telling us about the feeling of awe that comes from understanding the beauty of nature. (Mr. Feynman describes it thus: ...It’s an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It’s a feeling of awe — of scientific awe —)

 Artist: Helen E Hokinson (1893-1949), The New Yorker, July 12 1930