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."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

If Marathas and Tipu-sultan Came Together... एक दरबारचित्र आणि दोन मोठ्या चुका नवीन पुस्तकातील

Loksatta dated April 28 2013 has published edited version of preface written by M/s Suhas Bahulkar and Deepak Ghare (सुहास बहुळकर,  दीपक घारे) for their own book 'Shilpakar Charitrakosh' (शिल्पकार चरित्रकोश') that is going to be published on May 4 2013.

I look forward to the book.

However,  I was startled by this part of their preface:

"सवाई माधवरावांच्या काळातील पुण्यातील रेसिडेन्ट मॅलेट यानेही जेम्स वेल्स या चित्रकाराला आमंत्रित करून एक भव्य चित्र रंगवण्यास सांगितले होते. हे चित्र इंग्रज, मराठे व टिपू सुलतान यांच्यात ६ ऑगस्ट १७९० रोजी झालेल्या त्रिवर्ग तहाचे..."

(Pune 'Resident' Malet during the reign of Sawai Madhavrao had invited artist James Wales and asked him to paint a majestic picture. That picture was of a tripartite treaty between the British, Maratha and Tipu sultan done on August 6 1790...)



Artist: Thomas Daniell, commissioned by Sir Charles Malet circa 1805

courtesy: Tate Gallery and Wikimedia Commons

I have already written about this picture on September 23 2007.

Like the picture above, funnily there are two blunders in Bahulkar/Ghare statement as well!

1:  The artist of the picture is Thomas Daniell and NOT James Wales.

(p.s. It has been claimed that the painting was started by James Wales and his team but completed by Thomas Daniell. Visit here to read about it.)

2:  The treaty was NOT with Tipu sultan but it was AGAINST HIM. It was among the Nizam , Marathas and the British! If Marathas and Tipu sultan had come together, the history of India would have turned out to be quite different. The British were most scared of that possibility. The way USA is scared today of India and China coming together.


If the book on the history of art starts with such bloomers, can I trust such a book for anything else other than  pretty pictures in there?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Drinking at the same Watering Hole...Lion, Johnny-come-lately and Vinod Khanna

Natalie Angier:

"...Thirstiness is a universal hallmark of life. Sure, camels can forgo drinking water for five or six months and desert tortoises for that many years, and some bacterial and plant spores seem able to survive for centuries in a state of dehydrated, suspended animation. Yet sooner or later, if an organism plans to move, eat or multiply, it must find a solution of the aqueous kind..."



Robin McKie

“…we still dig up plenty of 100-million-year-old dinosaur bones today. However, those ancient animals thrived for tens of millions of years. By contrast, Homo sapiens has lasted around 100,000. By that reckoning, we are a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies.” 


"A lion quenching thirst by drinking water at nearby pond in Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad."

 Photo: Nagara Gopal

courtesy: The Hindu, April 2013

When I saw the majestic picture above, I remembered following great picture.

 Hunter who is probably out to hunt the lion is drinking with that same lion at a watering hole...in fact, if you watch closely, the hunter will be  drinking small quantity of water already mouthed by the lion...




                                                                   'Thirst'

Artist: Laszlo Reber  (László Réber) 1920-2001, Hungarian graphic artist, illustrator, cartoonist

[I have taken this picture from one of Vasant Sarwate's (वसंत सरवटे) books. This is Sarwate's one of favourite cartoons. During the period I was writing this post, he called. I told him I was not finding the artist in Google search. He got up, looked up Reber's book and helped me locate him. He also promised to send me the book's preface. This is Sarwate for me. Great artist, kinder man!]

....and how can Darwin say: humans are like other animals?...they need a water bag....unless they are Vinod Khanna in "Mera Gaon Mera Desh", 1971.




courtesy: Shemaroo and the distributor of the film, the publisher of the film

(This picture and movie became cult things for us. We never drank this alright! But we swooped down like this as a part of the thieves-cops (चोर-पोलीस) game we played.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Where is Pervez Musharraf's White House?


These days it has been great fun to watch Pakistan's former dictator Pervez Musharraf. It maybe schadenfreude but I have no guilt.

I have never liked him largely because he has blood of Indian and Pakistani soldiers martyred in The Kargil War.


Artist: James Stevenson, The New Yorker, February 28 1970

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I’ll give thee a wind...Yes, I Have No Doubt

Today April 23 2013 is 397th Death Anniversary of  William Shakespeare

Hilary Mantel: 

“It’s for Shakespeare to penetrate the heart of a prince, and for me to study his cuff buttons.”

William Logan:

"...Usually in tragedy a good person is made to suffer through a flaw in his goodness. In ''Macbeth'' this pattern is reversed: it is the streak of goodness that causes pathos and suffering. (W H Auden) ''Macbeth and Lady Macbeth attempt to be murderers without malice.''..."



"...Second Witch: I'll give thee a wind.

First Witch: Thou'rt kind.

Third Witch:  And I another.

First Witch:  I myself have all the other,
                   And the very ports they blow,
                   All the quarters that they know..."


(Act I, Scene 3,  'Macbeth', c 1606)


I understand little of Macbeth or any of Shakespeare but I was bewitched (!) by the magnificence of this picture:



Artist: John Raphael Smith,  'Macbeth',  the Weird Sisters, 1785

courtesy: British Museum and Guardian  

After seeing the picture, I can't question the power of  "Three Weird Sisters"...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Should I Read Vijaya Mehta's Autobiography 'Zimma'?...उदात्त एपिक क्षणांच्या ठिणग्या

Samuel Beckett:
“I went to Godot last night for the first time in a long time. Well played, but how I dislike that play now. Full house every night, it’s a disease”.
(about language) “Since we cannot dismiss it all at once, at least we do not want to leave anything undone that may contribute to its disrepute. To drill one hole after another into it until that which lurks behind, be it something or nothing, starts seeping through — I cannot imagine a higher goal for today’s writer.” 

'There is nothing to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.''

विलास सारंग:

"… एक आश्चर्याची गोष्ट म्हणजे 'महाभारता'वर आधारलेली सोफिस्टिकेटेड सांस्कृतिक मूल्यावर उभी राहिलेली एकही प्रभावी नाट्यकृती (इतक्या शतकांत) निर्माण झाली नाही, जिने जनमानसावर सर्वकष मोहिनी टाकली आहे. इ. स. 1000  नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली  संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे." 

('वाङ्‌मयीन संस्कृती व सामाजिक वास्तव', 2011)

[ Vilas Sarang:

"...One surprising fact is not a single influential play based on Mahabharata grounded in sophisticated cultural values (in so many centuries) has  been created, the one that has enchanted the society in its entirety. The kind of culture that was established after 1000 CE, in that virtues of commonality and catholicity almost disappeared...our culture has untimely lost universal commonality."]

Discussion on the subject of Marathi drama thus starts on a somber note.

I did not read Dr. Shreeram Lagoo  (डॉ. श्रीराम लागू) 'Laman' (लमाण) because it was (and still is)  unaffordable and I did not get to read a single good review of it.

There will one less reason NOT  to read Ms. Vijaya Mehta's (विजया  मेहता) thanks to Kamlakar Nadkarnni's  (कमलाकर नाडकर्णी)  excellent review of it in Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) April 21 2013.



courtesy: Rajhans Prakashan and Ms. Vijaya Mehta and the cover artist(s)

 What I liked the best about the review is one of the two benchmarks against which it measures the book:  'Bahurupi' (बहुरूपी) by the late Chintamanrao Kolhatkar (चिंतामणराव कोल्हटकर). For me, 'Bahurupi' remains one of the bests books of 20th century. I keep reading it from time to time.

[I say one of the two, second being Nanasaheb Phatak's (नानासाहेब फाटक) 'Mukhavtyanche Jag' (मुखवटय़ांचे जग), because I have still not read it.]

Ms. Mehta is an important stage personality of independent India. (Don't go by moth-eaten entry on her in English Wikipedia and almost nonexistence of it on Marathi Wikipedia!)

I have never seen her perform on the stage but seen Girish Karnad's 'Hayavadana' (हयवदन) and 'Nagamandala'  (नागमंडलdirected by her. They were beautifully staged at NCPA, Mumbai. But today almost nothing from those plays stands out in my mind.

Last year or so I saw her longish interview on Marathi TV in many parts. I forgot what she said as soon I changed the channel or switched off the TV. I thought she looked great for her age!

I have seen a few  of her pictures from the youth and she looks stunning, very attractive. I hope this aspect of her personality has been done adequate justice in her book.

Mr. Nadkarni writes in the review:

"बाई इतरांबद्दल लिहितात; पण ते त्यांना लाभलेल्या नेपथ्यकारांबद्दल..." (Madam writes about others; but about the art directors she got...).

I understand that Ms. Mehta and the late D G Godse (द ग गोडसे), renowned art director, were friends and I hope she has written about Shri. Godse because the TV interview I refer above had no mention of him. (disclaimer- I may be wrong if I missed that part of the show.) In fact, one of the principal reasons I saw the interview was to hear her talk about Godse!

The review made me disappointed with Ms. Mehta's actions such as:

"आयनेस्कोच्या 'खुच्र्या'बद्दलही त्या घाईघाईत लिहून जातात." (On Eugene Ionesco's 'Chairs' she writes in a haste.)

" '.. नाटय़कृती सामान्याकडून असामान्याकडे जाते आणि त्यातून उदात्त एपिक क्षणांच्या ठिणग्या उडतात. असे अनेक क्षण ब्रुक यांच्या महाभारतात मला मिळाले. म्हणून मी त्यांना गुरू मानते.' बाई फक्त दोनच प्रसंग त्रोटकपणे लिहितात."  ["...'the play moves from the ordinary  to the extraordinary and from that sparks of sublime epic moments fly. I got many such moments from (Peter) Brook's Mahabharata. And hence I consider him guru' Madam writes only two incidents briefly."]

(BTW- I kind of understand all the individual words there but I have no clue what 'उदात्त एपिक क्षणांच्या ठिणग्या' are...although, I agree, it's fashionable to speak and write such Marathi these days. )

Is this intellectual inadequacy because even her TV interview gave me the same impression? A kind of shallowness. Problem of the medium? She did not give me the impression that she once was a  friend of great artist and art critic D G Godse.

Mr. Nadkarni concludes:

"...तसं झालं असतं तर 'बहुरूपी' (चिंतामणराव कोल्हटकर) आणि 'मुखवटय़ांचे जग' (नटवर्य नानासाहेब फाटक) या तोडीच्या नाटय़ग्रंथांत आणखी एकाची भर पडली असती. आताचा 'झिम्मा' आठवणींचा आढावा म्हणूनच लक्षात राहील..." [...had that happened another book of the quality of 'Bahurupi' (Chintamanrao Kolhatkar) and 'Mukhavatyanche Jag' (Natvarya Nanasaheb Phatak) would have been added to the books on drama. Current 'Zimma' will be remembered for summary of memoirs...]'

This conclusion and 'उदात्त एपिक क्षणांच्या ठिणग्या' reminded me of this cartoon:



Artist: Robert J. Day, The New Yorker, March 14 1959


Saturday, April 20, 2013

American Media and Our Loksatta!

Niall Ferguson: 
"I was riveted by (Karl) Kraus’s central theme, that World War I could to some extent be understood as a media-driven event."
Lewis Lapham:
"The reading of history damps down the impulse to slander the trend and tenor of the times, instills a sense of humor, lessens our fear about what might happen tomorrow...

...What I’m telling you is the media is not trustworthy."


Following is what Marathi daily Loksatta has published on its front page on April 20 1013. The paper is lauding American media's maturity in handling the Boston manhunt.




courtesy: Loksatta daily April 20 2013

Sure,  26/11 coverage was bungled by Indian media but American e-news-media are as lousy as Indian if not worse because  they have been in the business for much longer.

This is what Adam Gopnik says in The New Yorker on the Boston episode:

On leaders' behaviour in the wake of the conclusion of the manhunt:

"Then, of course, the cops and officials stepped forward to claim credit, or at least a piece of the spotlight, for the arrest. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced that now “my journey begins.” One imagined the real heroes and heroines of the occasion standing back in the shadows, smiling ironically at the politicians’ posturing."

On the over-reaction of the administration:

"...The decision to shut down Boston, though doubtless made in good faith and from honest anxiety, seemed like an undue surrender to the power of the terrorist act—as did, indeed, the readiness to turn over the entire attention of the nation to a violent, scary, tragic, lurid but, in the larger scheme of things, ultimately small threat to the public peace.

The toxic combination of round-the-clock cable television—does anyone now recall the killer of Gianni Versace, who claimed exactly the same kind of attention then as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did today?—and an already exaggerated sense of the risk of terrorism turned a horrible story of maiming and death and cruelty into a national epic of fear. What terrorists want is to terrify people; Americans always oblige."


On media:

"The incomparable A. J. Liebling wrote once that there are three kinds of journalists: the reporter, who says what he’s seen; the interpretive reporter, who says what he thinks is the meaning of what he’s seen; and the expert, who says what he thinks is the meaning of what he hasn’t seen. The first two—reporters and interpretive reporters—have been largely undermined by economics and incuriosity. But the third category never stops growing. We are now a nation of experts, with millions of people who know the meaning of everything that they haven’t actually experienced."



Friday, April 19, 2013

Deer Kebab by the River Side, eh?...आम्ही वानरांच्या फौजा

Today April 19 2013 is ShreeRam Navami (श्रीराम नवमी)

A K Ramanujan:

"How many Ramyanas? Three hundred? Three thousand? At the end of some Ramayanas, a question is sometimes asked: How many Ramayanas have there been? And there are stories that answer the question...."


(the collected essays of A K Ramanujan, edited by Vinay Dharwadkar, 1999-2012)


 Phillips Talbot (quoted in  Frontline, October 19 2007):

"Among the less select circle of ordinary educated people there  is breadth of culture that is sometimes missed by outsiders because it is not all in English. Few in our country know Greek and Aramaic as some of these people know Arabic and others Sanskrit. Few can recite Latin poetry with the delight that these people find in Persian couplets and the Ramayana. But even more general than that, the conversational level among educated Indians is high. Their interests are broad and their tongues usually adept at expression. They are cultured."

PerryAnderson,  London Review of Books, August 2 2012:

"Not only that. Like every other major religion, Hinduism also gave rise to a major reservoir of high culture – metaphysics, poetry and mathematics in particular. To dismiss or undervalue such riches of the subcontinental past would be as philistine a self-mutilation as a breezy ignorance of Christian art or thought would be in the West or the classical corpus in China. Outstanding among them, too, were the great epics of Hindu legend, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which unlike the Odyssey or the Aeneid, are still in such absolute command of popular imagination that their dramatisation on television could not only mesmerise hundreds of millions of viewers, but occasion many a literal act of worship before the small screen. If Gandhi could in all seriousness advise Congress in 1947 that partition was no more definitive than Ravana’s abduction of Sita to Ceylon, where Rama would reclaim her; or the law minister of a communist-supported government in Delhi, assuring the Supreme Court of his faith in the divinity of Rama, defer as potential sacrilege the dredging of the Pamban channel across which Hanuman’s monkey army built a bridge to rescue Sita – who should be impious enough to gainsay them? Accommodation of fervours like these, inspired by so popular a literary masterpiece, might be held common prudence on the part of a state equi or flexi-distant from all religions. Indian secularism can encompass them all."

Ramayana has appeared on this blog many times.

That along with Mahabharata must be the most read book by me.

And I like illustrated versions of them. I feel good picture are like annotations. They give me time to pause, imagine and reflect.

I have never looked at Rama as a god but as a very sincere, honest, upper-caste, rich guy who,  although very much product of his time, tried to do good all his life. I don't know if he succeeded or failed. And therefore he remains interesting.

I don't know when and where first illustrated Ramayana was prepared.

Emperor Akbar commissioned one in year 1588 with 166 miniatures followed by Rana Jagat Singh of Mewar.

As is true of composite culture of India, this Ramayana was commissioned by a Sikh (Rana Jagat Singh), Sanskrit text in there owes a debt to a Hindu storyteller (Mahatma Hirananda), and was illustrated by a Muslim (Sahib Din).

Jagat Singh's Ramayana, an illustrated manuscript in seven books, was commissioned in 1649. Five of the books (2, 4, 5, 6, 7) are in the British Library and two (1, 3)  in India.

View that treasure-trove here.

Here are some of the contents on pages 13 and 14 with some commentary.

"The exiles have headed south from Ayodhya. When they reached the shore of the holy river Ganges Rama sent Sumantra back with the chariot and horses. The three were taken in a boat across the river by Guha the local king and made for the hermitage of the sage Bharadvaja at Prayaga where the rivers Ganges and Jumna meet. Bharadvaja advised them to make for the mountain Citrakuta a short distance away on the other side of the Jumna, a delightful spot frequented by other sages. The exiles have reached the mountain and built a hut near to the river Jumna.

Laksmana hunts for deer on Rama's instructions, so that they may make offerings to the presiding deities of the place. Laksmana cooks the venison on skewers rather than boiling it as in the text and Rama makes the offerings. Sahib Din, again contrary to the text, depicts the two brothers eating while Sita waves a scarf over the food; and she then retires to the hut to eat her own meal. This picture demonstrates the format used by Sahib Din for a forest landscape, with a river at the foot of the picture, a foreground surrounded by trees where the action takes place and a backdrop of vertically striated purple rocks. The two-banded sky is typical of early Mewar painting."

Now,  no Ramayana I read as a kid even had a hint of Rama and Laksmana eating the venison! I wonder why.

And this version shows- picture just below-  them eating the one cooked on skewers...kebabs


a

(As I have said a couple of times before, I saw dozens of beautiful deer from touching distance on the campus of IIT, Madras. I never felt like eating them! But c 1991, courtesy a tribal chief, once I ate small potion of venison curry in Arunachal Pradesh by the side of the river that had ice-cold , deep blue water. That basic tribal recipe tasted very good. There were no skewers on display there.)



courtesy: British Library 

"तुम्ही अवतरले गोकुळी आम्ही गोपाळांच्या मेळी

तुम्ही होते रामराजा आम्ही वानरांच्या फौजा"



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Sure of the Mumbai Locals, Straphanging and Palmistry

Today April 16 2013 is 160th anniversary of commercial passenger train travel in India



"साहेबाचा पोऱ्या मोठा अकली, बिन बैलान  गाडी कशी हकली ."

( I remember the above couplet from my 9th standard history school text. Any error in reproduction is regretted.)


Matthew Engel:

"...The narrative takes on its most epic quality in the United States; its most stupid in Australia (where the different states set about building a charming variety of gauges without a thought about what would happen when you tried to link them up); and its most brutal in India, where maybe 25,000 workers died building the line through the Western Ghats alone..."

(Review of  "Blood, Iron and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World" by Christian Wolmar,  Guardian,  November 29 2009)


The first train ran at 3:35 pm on April 16th, 1853, when 14 railway carriages and 400 guests left Bombay's Bori Bunder for Thane, with a 21-gun salute. It was hauled by three locomotives: Sindh, Sultan, and Sahib. The journey took an hour and fifteen minutes.


2013 also marks the 150th anniversary of the London Tube, the world’s first subway system.

The freedictionary.com defines 'straphang' as:  "To travel as a straphanger", as on a subway or bus and straphanger as "One who grips a hanging strap or similar device for support while riding as a passenger on a bus or subway."

Now, I have traveled quite a bit on Mumbai local trains, often in second class, luckily not often during the rush hours, and, more importantly, against the flow of the majority (i.e. traveling towards South in the evenings and North in the mornings).

I thought I knew a little about straphanhging and then one day I took a fast train around 5 PM from VT  and alighted (?) at Ghatkopar.  I felt my education in  straphanhging or simply hanging-for-dear-life was complete.


1905: Comic card from the District Railway, whose electric trains defied the underground's reputation for slowness and unreliability, and taught passengers the new skill of 'straphanging' during rush hours

Image courtesy London Transport Museum and Brainpickings.org

More interesting is the following picture where it says the lure of the Underground...the way they are getting sucked into the tube station....Mumbai local commuters can identify better with the word sure because the inevitability of locals in their lives


Image courtesy London Transport Museum and Brainpickings.org

Now, look at the following picture of inside of a Mumbai local.

People are hanging on to straphangers or bars. There is lots of pushing and shoving. But not all are irritated.

Look at the smiling man at the centre  of the picture wearing a headgear. He is looking at the open palm of the man standing next to him and lo, he sees a better future there!




caption: "You are soon buying a car ! Line on your palm only is telling it...."

 ("तुम्ही लौकरच  मोटार  घेणार ! हातावरची  रेषाच  सांगतेय … ")

Artist: Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे), 'Vyangkala- Chitrakala' ('व्यंगकला - चित्रकला'), 2005

(note- This is Sarwate's early cartoon, first published decades ago)

p.s.

I buy one Marathi and two English dailies and I did not see even a mention of this anniversary in them.

However, today morning I was glad to see that Google had decided to celebrate it, doodle style.

courtesy: Google inc.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

उंच माथ्यावरी चढून कधीतरी बकरी पाला खाते...And then Happens a Rescue Mission!

Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) dated April 14, 2013 quotes a part of B S Mardhekar (बा सी मर्ढेकर) poem on its first page in the story: "अजुनी बकरी पाला खाते.."
 
Initially I was so happy to see Mardhekar quoted on the first page that reads: "अजुनी फुलांना गंध येतो,
अजुनी बकरी पाला खाते..". But then disappointment set in.

First of all,  it‘s not quoted correctly. 

It should read:

"अजून येतो वास फुलांना
---
अजून बकरी पाला खाते."

The full stanza reads:

"अजून येतो वास फुलांना
अजून माती लाल चमकते;
खुरट्या बुंध्यावरी चढून 
अजून बकरी पाला खाते."

A leading Marathi newspaper quoting  an important Marathi poet in a sloppy manner...will Guardian or The New York Times quote YeatsAuden or Eliot like this?.

Secondly, I don't know how the contributor thought of this poem,  describing a thrilling rescue operation of goats from  great heights, because 'Mardhekar's goat' is grazing on shortish  heights (खुरट्या बुंध्यावरी)!

Finally, for me,  Mardhekar’s poem does quite fit there because his poem is a cry against Korean war that was fought between 1950-1953. Read little more about the poem on this blog here.



courtesy: Loksatta April 14 2013 and unknown photo artist(s)

With apologies to the late poet:

"अजून येतो वास फुलांना
अजून माती लाल चमकते;
उंच माथ्यावरी चढून 
कधीतरी बकरी पाला खाते..." 

and then happens a rescue mission!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Then Missing WMD, Now Books? Mike Luckovich Is Back and How!

Pankaj Mishra:

"...The Great War, wrote (Karl) Kraus, "was a disastrous failure of the imagination and an almost deliberate refusal to envisage the inevitable consequences of words and acts". It was "made possible above all by the corruption of language in politics and by some of the major newspapers". Burke's book shows that this is as true of 21st-century multi-theatre conflict, from the bloodthirsty rants of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki through the falsehoods about Iraq's WMDs in prestigious western newspapers, the martial bluster of respectable politicians and intellectuals to, most recently, the "manifesto" of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik..."

(Guardian, September 2 2011)

This blog loves Mike Luckovich. Some of his absolute gems have been captured here.

For instance Changing of Guard  or What's Map (both dated November 2006) or Chelsea Clinton's Wedding  and The Godfather  (August 2010) or Did Arnold ever quit grabbing them? (May 2011)...and more.

Even a thought of some of his pictures make me laugh alone any where, any time. My son too likes him and it's fun to recall Luckovich cartoons in his company.

And  then one day I stopped following his work. What happened?

Barack Obama replaced George W Bush in the White House.

For me, Mr. Luckovich was at his best when Mr. Bush was running the world.

I had expressed my fears on November 4 2008, when Mr. Bush rode away,  that humour around the world was going to suffer with that change and I was going to miss Mr. Bush.

I was bloody right.

Look at the following cartoon.

This is vintage Luckovich and the reason is obvious: "George W. Bush Presidential Library". The library is going to open some time in April 2013.
Now, what does the cartoonist think of this upcoming opening of a presidential library?

Not books but bombs...Weapons of Mass Destruction that were never found...Remember Iraq, WMD inspectors, war on terror etc?

Are books too missing from the library just like WMD from Iraq? There is an added edge to the picture because Mr. Bush was (is?) NOT very fond of books.





Artist: Mike Luckovich, April 2013

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Agastya of 21st Century! Filling Up a Damn Dam

B R Ambedkar:

"To become a politician is like going to work in the drain."

Henry Miller:

"Often, when I listen to the radio, to a speech by one of our politicians, to a sermon by one of our religious maniacs, to a discourse by one of our eminent scholars, to an appeal by one of our men of good will, to the propaganda dined into us night and day by the advertising fiends, I wonder what the men of the coming century would think were they to listen in for just one evening."

विनोबा भावे (Vinoba Bhave):

"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...")

Joseph Brodsky:

"...Freedom is when you forget the spelling of the tyrant’s name..."

Agastya (also Agasti) was one of the Vedic Rishis (inspired poets); his name is given as the author of several hymns in the first of the 10 chapters of the Rigveda

Vinoba Bhave (विनोबा भावे)  has written a brilliant essay on him. Here is a part of the same:


['विनोबा सारस्वत' (Vinoba Saraswat) edited by राम शेवाळकर (Ram Shewalkar) 1987]

But today I remember him for another thing. 


"One story about Agastya goes that once the demons had taken refuge in the ocean and it was difficult for the gods to vanquish them, so they went to Sage Agastya for help. Then, after hearing the gods, the sage drank the entire ocean water and held it within him until the demons were destroyed. After the demons were destroyed, Devtas requested him to save the sea animals who were dying because of lack of water. At Devtas request Agastya Rishi released all the water as urine and that is why the sea water became salty."

It has happened before:  A great man has peed to fill up an ocean. 

Therefore, I wonder why another great man of this century can't do it again to fill up a damn dam.







Artist: Unknown, Courtesy: Blog http://maharishis.blogspot.in



Roger Ebert: Cartoon Caption Contest Will Miss You More than Films!

I have read a few film reviews of Mr. Ebert. In recent years, I have used them to decide whether to watch a film or not. (By the way- I was mildly surprised to see some Marathi newspapers reporting passing of Mr. Ebert. I wonder if any of them has ever printed a translation of his review.)

Mostly,  I have benefited from his advice.

I like what Maureen Dowd wrote about him  in The New York Times in September 2011:

"...Ebert likes movies about Good People who do the right thing, like “Casablanca”; Bad People who do the right thing, like “The Silence of the Lambs”; and Bad People who have a sense of humor, like “Goodfellas.”

He asserts that “modern actors are handicapped by the fact that their films are shot in color” rather than the more mysterious black and white. “Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are, and will remain, more memorable than most of today’s superstars with their multimillion-dollar paychecks,” he writes.

He complains that his life “has been devoted in such large part to films of -worthlessness.”
Hollywood dialogue was once witty, intelligent, ironic, poetic, musical,” he says. “Today it is flat.” He mourns that “it sometimes seems as if the movies are more mediocre than ever, more craven and cowardly, more skillfully manufactured to pander to the lowest tastes instead of educating them.”..."

(From the list of movies above, I love Casablanca, I like Goodfellas and I don't like The Silence of the Lambs.)

..."it sometimes seems as if the movies are more mediocre than ever, more craven and cowardly, more skillfully manufactured to pander to the lowest tastes instead of educating them" is more true of Hindi films than Hollywood ones.

(Marathi films are slightly different. Ideas behind some of them are good but the final product that comes out on the screen- cinema-  is mediocre.  Marathi news TV, newspapers and people involved with the film try talking it up but it does not work for me. You don't laugh while promoting a comedy. No sermonising on your own love, happy marriage will help. It has to come from within of the watcher while watching your film.)

But I like another side of  the late Mr. Ebert more: a New Yorker  cartoon caption contestant. He won the contest after failing at 107 of them earlier.

Bob Mankoff has written about this on his blog in April 2011 and now after Mr. Ebert's death.

Following is one of Mr. Ebert's failed attempt and, it was a failure only because of the 'Caption Contest Board of Censors' at the New Yorker. 

(I wonder why it was not sent to Playboy. Playboy has published some great cartoons. Marathi Diwali magazine Awaaz would have probably published it.)

This picture lifted my spirit as much as the tray on that plane! I have not traveled on a plane since I saw this. If and when I do, I will remember this.


Drawing Artist: Leo Cullum (1942-2010), Caption Artist: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

That's you, Ed Fisher...and Thanks for Your Right Ideas

I always feel if you are a cartoonist and you die and if you care what happens on the earth afterwards, I hope Bob Mankoff knows both your work and the fact that you are dead because no one can quite pay a tribute to the dead cartoonist the way he does.

Great cartoonist Ed Fisher died  on April 3 2013 at the age eighty-six. Read Mr. Mankoff's pictorial tribute here. (You my pay your own tribute to the late artist here.)

Mr. Fisher has appeared on this blog  a few times earlier. Below are my favourite couple of them from that set:

All of his cartoons gave me endless pleasure when I first discovered them and now when he is gone. 

You can search the blog to view them or better visit cartoonbank.com to see all of his New Yorker contributions.





The New Yorker,  February 12, 1955

Thanks to the TV,  don't we know that very well by now?...People just want to be entertained. Even while watching funerals or kids dropping in tube wells or terrorists invading a country.



The New Yorker, May 7 1960

"Although most men are unaware of the peril, the Y chromosome has been shedding genes furiously over the course of evolutionary time, and it is now a fraction the size of its partner, the X chromosome." (The New York Times, June 2003)



The New Yorker, March 26 1990

Even Omar Khayyam has to bother about ordinary life.



The New Yorker, February 11 1956

Natalie Keener: Men get such hardons from putting their names on things. You guys don't grow up. It's like you need to pee on everything. ('Up in the Air', 2009 film)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Imagining Remnants of an Army after Panipat 1761: Precious As Bhausahebanchi Bakhar


Homer Simpson:

“I’ve learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.”

Norman Stone:

"George Orwell once summarised history in terms of technology: the castle defeated the knight, gunpowder defeated the castle, and the cheque-book defeated gunpowder (adding that the machine-gun defeated the cheque-book)."


SUSAN SONTAG:
 

"It seems to me that what most people mean by "peace" is victory. The victory of their side. That's what "peace" means to them, while to the others peace means defeat."




Manan Ahmed Asif has done a review of William Dalrymple's latest book 'Return of a King' for Caravan Magazine. Read it here.

I was drawn in by the picture there.



Artist:  Elizabeth Butler,  'Remnants of an Army' , 1879

William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842. 

courtesy: Wikipedia 

By the way Mr. Brydon was NOT the only survivor!

Mr. Asif writes:

"Many hundreds of the nearly 17,000 troops and civilians who evacuated Kabul—only 700 or so were British nationals—had survived. Hundreds of the indigenous infantry (sepoys) were captured and sold into slavery by Afghan troops. A number of British officers and their retinues were taken as hostages by the warring princeling Akbar Khan, who led the main force against the British. The memoirs of the British survivors and some of the military testimonies of the sepoys were subsequently published and debated, and were commonly known truths of imperial London. Hence Butler’s decision to project Brydon as a sole survivor was less documentation of fact and more a comment on the high price that this frontier region could extract from the Empire. Butler seemed to want to ensure that the general euphoria about imperial aims in Afghanistan was tempered by a recognition of past setbacks. Her painting of Dr Brydon, who had died in 1873, was not a condemnation of war, but rather a warning, a plea to learn from mistakes.

Butler’s depiction of the first Anglo-Afghan war went on to become the basis of a long-enduring myth on the futility of imperial intervention in Afghanistan, an image of the hubris of colonial imagination in the high steppes of Central Asia, providing inspiration for those who wanted to do empire ‘right’. The image, which started out as a warning, transitioned over the years into a convenient hook for all manners of florid fantasies of power and imperial rule—adorning book covers and plates in tome after tome."

But it doesn't matter in appreciating the tremendous beauty and moving power of the picture. Such pictures define an event like nothing else does.

After seeing it, I started wondering if there is a single picture of such quality depicting an event, particularly a defeat,  from Maratha history.

I don't think so.

Imagine what a picture it would have been, had it depicted retreating Maratha army from Panipat on the starry night of January 14 1761? It would have been as precious as 'Bhausahebanchi Bakhar' (भाऊसाहेबांची बखर) c 1762/1763.

(Sadly there is not even a great poem in Marathi on Panipat 1761.)

Going back to the picture,  Mr. Asif says: "Against a distant and barren landscape, the painting foregrounded a hunched figure atop a tired, almost dying, horse, while a rescue party was seen charging from a fort. The painting was unveiled at a time when the Empire was engaged in the second Anglo-Afghan War and the mood was rather boisterous.
Butler framed the war through both text and image—the title “Remnants of an Army” endowed a sense of tragedy to the lone figure, and the landscape against which he was pictured was an unforgiving, endless one."

Could Sadashiv Rao Bhau be depicted like this in his final moments in the afternoon of January 14 1761: endowing a sense of tragedy to the lone figure, and by picturing him against the landscape that was an unforgiving, endless one?