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, October 30, 2013

With Bhau Padhye at the Window, Sitting 4th Seat in Second Class Mumbai Local!...मी जरूर लिहीन, पण जमेल तेव्हा…तसे…

Today October 30 2013 is 17th Death Anniversary of Bhau Padhye (भाऊ पाध्ये)

W. G. Sebald:

“There seems to be no remedy for the vice of literature; those afflicted persist in the habit despite the fact that there is no longer any pleasure to be derived from it.”   

Tony Perrottet:

"...Another of France’s wildly prolific authors, Honoré de Balzac, felt that the most effective spur to productivity was abject poverty. As a best-selling writer in his early 30s, Balzac looked back fondly upon his younger days as a bohemian, living in a garret and gnawing on a diet of bread, nuts, fruit and water. (“I loved my prison,” he wrote, “for I had chosen it myself.”) Even when successful, he would wake at midnight, symbolically don the habit of a medieval monk, and write for eight hours straight, fueled by pots of coffee. His biographer Graham Robb suggests that Balzac went so far as to deliberately run up debts to force himself to churn out the pages..."

As I was looking at old issues of Abhiruchi (अभिरुचि) I have preserved, I came across this letter of Bhau dated 23 November 1984, to the founder editor of the magazine P A Chitre (पु आ चित्रे), father of Dilip Chitre (दिलीप चित्रे), popularly known as Baburao (बाबुराव).

The letter was printed in the magazine's issue dated January-February 1985. 

The letter is so poignant...read this line :

"...means I don't remain occupied hence I feel miserable and since I feel miserable, I don't remain occupied. I don't know how to break this vicious circle..."

Sad and funny, typical Bhau.

Reminds me of Woody Allen:

"I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable."

('Annie Hall', 1977)



Now some boasting...This issue of the magazine has a short story of mine.

What that means is Bhau and I shared the same literary space.

B S Mardhekar (बा सी मर्ढेकर) has written:

"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")

 Not for me. No heaven or hell. Whatever it's, it's right here...and now I'm imitating Bhau: I sat 4th-seat on a bench in second-class of  Mumbai local train only to discover that Bhau was sitting at the window seat, wind in the face, of the same bench!

The idea is more than consoling for me. 

I repeat the following cartoon that I used for Bhau even earlier because I simply love it. I can't take my eyes off the speaking lady's face and can't stop smiling for a while.

Artist: the late Helen E. Hokinson, The New Yorker, 9 June 1945

"Where do you suppose Bhau Padhye learned such terrible words?"



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ashok Shahane Confesses and I Feel Cheated

W H Auden:

"...Should you have troubles (pets will die,
Lovers are always behaving badly)
And confession helps, we will hear it,
Examine and give our counsel :
If to mention them hurts too much,
We shall not be nosey..."


Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) dated October 7 2013:

"मराठी कवितेला जागतिक परिमाण मिळवून देणारे ज्येष्ठ कवी अरुण कोलटकर यांची कविता  प्रसिद्ध करताना प्रकाशकाची कोणतीही परवानगी न घेतल्याने, तसेच कवितेखाली प्रकाशकाचा उल्लेख न केल्याने, हा स्वामित्वहक्क (कॉपीराइट) कायद्याचा भंग आहे, हा मराठी साहित्य व्यवहारातील गैर प्रकारांवर क्ष-किरण टाकणारे ज्येष्ठ समीक्षक, प्रास प्रकाशनाचेअशोक शहाणे यांचा दावा मान्य करत मुंबई उच्च न्यायालयाने 'सकाळ' या वर्तमानपत्राला माफीनामा प्रसिद्ध करण्याचे तसेच खटल्याचा खर्चही शहाणे यांना देण्याचे आदेश दिले आहेत."

(Bombay High Court, agreeing to the plea of Pras publication's Ashok Shahane- a senior critic who put an X-ray on misdemeanors in Marathi literature- that publishing a poem of senior poet Arun Kolatkar- who gave an international dimension to Marathi poetry-without obtaining any permission from the publisher and not mentioning publisher's name under the poem is a violation of copyright act, has ordered 'Sakal' newspaper to publish an apology as well as pay Shahane legal fees.)

The news above was on the front page of the paper. I had to read it because it mentioned Arun Kolatkar. I could never understand why it was on the front page. But I said, I didn't understand most of what happened around me and this was one of them.

The court ruling, as I understand it, says that newspaper Sakal (सकाळ) should have, among other things, mentioned the publisher of Kolatkar's poem. Remember,  Sakal has mentioned the name of the poet.

Let us now turn to 'X-ray on misdemeanors in Marathi literature' mentioned in the news above. 

Ashok Shahane (अशोक शहाणे) has written an essay in Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) October 27 2013.

The essay is in 'celebration' of 50th anniversary of his 'own' essay titled 'आजकालच्या मराठी वाङ्मयावर 'क्ष'- किरण' (X-Ray on Marathi literature of these days) dated November/December 1963, first published in Marathi periodical Manohar (मनोहर).

What a huge disappointment it turned out be.

Right now, I give only two reasons: there is nothing new there and his confession.

The essay is largely a rehash of what he has already said in the past. He has got nothing new to say.

But more serious thing for me is his 'confession'.


He says in the essay:

"...या लेखाचा पहिला- म्हणजे जो तात्त्विक भाग आहे, तो मी लिहिलेला आहे. मराठी साहित्याच्या संदर्भातला भाग मी आणि नेमाडय़ांनी मिळून लिहिलेला आहे. त्यातलं माझं किती आणि नेमाडय़ांचं किती, असं नाही सांगता येणार. नेमाडे साहित्याचाच विद्यार्थी असल्यामुळे त्याला सगळी माहिती होती. त्यामुळे ते र्अधमरुध नेमाडय़ांचंच आहे..."

(...the first part of the essay,  that is philosophical, I have written it. The part about Marathi literature is written jointly by me and Nemade. How much is mine and how much is Nemade's can't be specified. Since Nemade was the student of literature, he knew every thing. So about half is Nemade's...)

The essay is now part of his much celebrated book 'Napeksha' (नपेक्षा) published by Lokvangmay Gruha first in April 2005 and then in January 2008. (I have occasionally quoted from the book on this blog.)

I have the second edition in front of me. The book starts with the said essay.

Nowhere in the book Mr. Shahane says that Mr. Bhalchandra Nemade (भालचंद्र नेमाडे) has generously contributed to the essay.

So the reader is told exactly after 50 years that what she thought was entirely Shahane's (then a young man) is partly someone else's!


If one has to compare this to the Sakal episode mentioned at the top, one may argue that, unlike Kolatkar,  Nemade was (perhaps) a willing party to Shahane's act.

I agree with the logic but shouldn't a reader be told about this 'joint venture' as early as possible, at least when the book 'Napeksha' containing the said essay came out in April 2005?

If I knew this, I would not have even read the essay because I can read Nemade's views on Marathi literature elsewhere, such as in 'Teekaswayamvar' (टीकास्वयंवर).

I feel such a 'joint venture' may also violate the integrity of the essay. Shahane says 'Nemade was the student of literature, he knew every thing'. What it means is: he did not know some things. In that case, why did he make some sweeping statements in the essay? Why couldn't he wait a few more years, read/study as much as Nemade and then write the essay?

I feel kind of cheated reading Shahane's confession. And wonder if he still has some more unsaid confessions.



Artist: Joseph Farris, The New Yorker, 24 January 1983

p.s.

1> This is being written on January 5 2014.

On January 4 2014, I read Vilas Sarang's (विलास सारंग) essay 'Lekhakrao Nemade' (लेखकराव नेमाडे), now part of his book 'Lihitya Lekhakache Vachan' (लिहित्या लेखकाचं  वाचन), 2011. (I kept laughing loudly reading it.)

Sarang writes:

"...शहाणेंच्या 'क्ष-किरण' लेखाने बेपर्वा शेरेबाजी करण्याची पद्धत रूढ केली. ती इतरांबरोबरच नेमाडेंनी आपलीशी केली..."

(...Shahane's article established the method of cavalier commenting. Nemade adopted it along with the others...)

Sarang probably did not know that one half of 'Shahane's article'  belonged to Nemade in any case. Therefore, Nemade didn't have to adopt the style of 'cavalier commenting' (बेपर्वा शेरेबाजी). He co-invented it!


2> This is being written on January 23 2014.

Ek Regh blog says on January 23 2014: "शहाण्यांच्या 'आजकालच्या मराठी वाङ्मयावर क्ष किरण' या १९६३ साली गाजलेल्या लेखाच्या घडणीत भालचंद्र नेमाडे यांचा हातभार आहे, हे शहाण्यांनीच त्यांच्या 'नपेक्षा' या पुस्तकाच्या प्रकाशनावेळी २००५मध्ये उघड केलं होतं."

My response to that: "Sure he 'disclosed' it decades after the essay was published but could not he 'announce' it as a part of the book when it was published or when its second edition came out in 2008?"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

150 Years Later Rat Turns into Goose...'मुंबईचें वर्णन' वाचा मुळातून

Friedrich Nietzsche, 278, 'The Gay Science', 1882:

"And all, all, suppose that the past has been nothing, or a small matter, that the near future is everything: hence this haste, this crying, this self-deafening and self-overreaching!"


Lee Sandlin, WSJ, October 27 2011:

"...There's a cryptic line of Sophocles (most of Sophocles is pretty cryptic, but bear with me) about the glories of Athens, which can be translated as "Superior horses, superior colts, the superior sea." William Butler Yeats once offered a rather stunning alternative version: "Horses and horses of the sea, white horses." Is that a satisfactory translation? Is it a translation at all? I have the feeling that it's more like the opposite of a translation: it's so striking and beautiful that it obliterates the original. Mr. Bellos's beguiling book never sufficiently explores the possibility that in any translation something essential might be getting lost..."

Frontline dated November 1 2013 has an article "Story of two riots" by A G Noorani. I read every thing Mr. Noorani writes for Frontline...Every single line.

This time I got more excited because the essay mentions one of the most enduring (and one of my favourite) books in Marathi  'Mumbaiche Varnan' (मुंबईचें वर्णन) by  Govind Narayan Madgaonkar (गोविंद नारायण माडगांवकर)
.
The book was first published, 150 years ago,  in 1863 and then it went out of print. The second edition/reprint came out only 100 years later in 1963!  (This must be a kind of world record for a very good book in a major world language.)


Historian N R Phatak (न र फाटक) 1893-1979 wrote a lovely introduction to its 1963 avatar. (Among other things, Mr. Phatak laments poverty of Marathi there: '...या पुस्तकाची ही नवी आवृती मुंबई मराठी ग्रंथसंग्रहालय या संस्थेने प्रकाशित करून महाराष्ट्राची उपेक्षावृत्ती घटविली असली तरी या साहसांत शंभर वर्षामागील दैन्याची साक्ष आहेच…')

To celebrate 150th anniversary of such an enduring book, I would have liked to see a Marathi periodical serializing the book, a chapter a week/ month, with  commentary/ annotations by experts from different walks of life, speaking all Mumbai tongues.

Hey, I am just fantasizing! The way view of 19th century Parel, below, looks to us in 21st century.





'Government House at Parel'

Artist: Sir Henry Darell, Bt.  Lithographed by Messrs. Day and Son   Courtesy: Frontline


I bought the book in November 2012 for a song (Rs. 50). I keep reading it from time to time. 

This is how Mr. Noorani introduces Madgaonkar's book in Frontline:

"...A Goan, Govind Narayan (1815-1865), came to Bombay in 1824 and soon established himself as an author. Murali Ranganathan has translated from Marathi into English his informative biography of the city (Govind Narayan’s Mumbai; Anthem Press, India, 2012)..."

I didn't like dropping of the surname from author's name by Noorani and  Ranganathan. I wonder what the late author would have thought.

Now, on to the translation quoted by Noorani.

"On 7 June 1832, the Parsis called a strike in Mumbai and rioted. The reason given is that the previous day, the dog squad had entered the houses of many Parsis and had taken away their dogs. The Parsis entreated them not to do so, as it was against government rules, and asked them to release the captured dogs. There were some skirmishes between the Parsis and the dog squad. It was then decided in a meeting of a hundred odd Parsis that all the food and grain shops would be closed on the 7 June, food supply to the English stopped, and a general strike be called. They indicated their programme to the shops inside the Fort and the bazaar outside the Fort. The only positive aspect was the rich Parsis were not with them and were in fact unaware of their plans. Most of the rioters were of the lower class like cooks and water-carriers; there were also some middle-class gentlemen. On that day, they closed the shops, and stopped the supply of roti and bread which was being sent for the soldiers at Colaba. Many of the Khatki people did not support the strike; when they were transporting meat, they were beaten up and the meat was thrown into the moat surrounding the Fort. The Portuguese Christians, who supplied bread to the English regiments, were intimidated and their produce spilt. In this manner, they continued till about ten in the morning." (bold and italics mine)

I did not understand what was meant by "the Khatki people"...Were they some kind of tribal people?

I looked up the original Marathi book (Chapter 7, page 118)...it says "… कित्येक खाटकी लोक यांस अनुकूल नव्हते,… ".


Now, it became clear...it's 'khatik'...'खाटीक'  in today's Marathi… butcher! I wonder why Mr. Ranganathan did not translate it.

Mr. Noorani's quote continues:

"Their actions spread terror amongst the English. The Magistrate wrote to the Town Major asking him to send some troops as the Parsis were rioting. He however did not respond for a long time. The white regiment in Colaba did not receive the bread they were supposed to on that day. The English who were going to their offices were waylaid. They obstructed the vehicle of Sir John Awdry, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and threw some garbage and a dead goose into his vehicle..." (bold and italics mine)

'Goose' reminded me of Christmas dinners. Did ordinary rioting Parsis take trouble in killing a goose for Your Lordship? Were they waiting on  or protesting? They must really respect the Chief Justice of the Supreme court!

Perturbed, I turned to the original.

"...त्यांच्या गाडीस अडविले आणि रस्त्यांतील कचरा व एक दोन मेलेल्या घुसी त्यांच्या गाडीत फेकून दिल्या..."

So it's Ghusi ('घुसी')...in today's Marathi 'Ghushi' (घुशी)… rats/ bandicoots and not just one probably more!

Even today when I walk about in Pune, I invariably find dead rats near every big pile of trash. (do they die of indigestion or brought there dead?)

So no special treatment was meted out to the Bada Saab by Parsis...just a couple of dead bandicoots for an early lunch!

Now, in 150 years, Mumbai property prices might have gone up 15000 times, Parsis in Mumbai are probably less in number than they were then, there might be more mobile handsets in Mumbai than humans but dead rats sure don't turn into dead geese even today. 

This English translation has been published in 2012 and I could locate two glaring errors in less than ten lines!



 Artist: Alan Dunn, The New Yorker, 19 April 1952

"No, no! घूस as in rat not duck"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hamlet of G G Agarkar, H N Apte and of Lego...हा मिल्ल का मोठा मल्ल?

The Economist, November 2013:

"After a strong 2012, Lego's sales to Asian consumers have risen by 35% so far this year, outperforming the Asian toy market by a factor of five. Sales have grown by 70% in China, 35% in South Korea and 20% in Singapore. The company will start building its first factory in China next year. Anything associated with Lego seems to flourish in Asia at the moment..."


Ashok Shahane (अशोक शहाणे) says in his book 'Napeksha' (नपेक्षा):

"...टिळकांनी तुरुंगात 'गीतारहस्य' लिहल. अन नेहमी ठाम बोलणार्या आगरकरांनी मात्र 'हॅम्लेट'चं रुपांतर केल. 'विकारविलसिताबद्दल मात्र महाराष्ट्र आगरकरांच्या ऋणात राहील… "

("...Tilak wrote 'Gitarahasya' in prison. And Agarkar- who always spoke with firmness- translated 'Hamlet'. Maharashtra will always remain in Agarkar's debt for 'Vikarvilasit'...") 

[Page 41, 2005/2008, Lokvangmay Gruha]

'Vikarvilasit' ('विकारविलसित' अथवा शेक्सपीअरकृत हॉम्लेट नाटकाचे भाषांतर '), 1883 is a translation of 'Hamlet'.
 
I have already written on this blog about J S Mill's iron-like grip on Agarkar's (and many others who followed him) intellect.  Read for instance the post "R D Karve, Skepticism Not Included...जो शंकाच घेत नाही त्याला ज्ञान कसे मिळणार?" dated August 25 2013.

So how did Shakespeare, for Agarkar,  fit in Mill's 'utilitarianism'?

I was carious about it. It was not just the love of great literature. There was more to it. Shahane's statement only implies irony.

H N Apte (8 March 1864- 3 March 1919)  (ह. ना आपटे) answered it for me. 

Apte has written reviews of a few Marathi/ Sanskrit plays. One of them is Agarkar's 'Vikarvilasit'. The review was first published in 1883-84.

"...त्याची (शेक्सपीअरची) नाटके म्हणजे, विकारविलसितकारांच्या मताप्रमाणे केवळ मनोरंजनार्थ नाहीत, तर ती त्यांच्या योग्यतेप्रमाणे वाचून त्यांचा अभ्यास केला असता आपणास जीर्णारण्याप्रमाणे भासणार्या जगात उपयोगी पडणारी वर्तणूक शिकवणारी आहेत.…"

["...his plays (Shakespeare's) plays, according to the author of 'Vikarvilasit'- are not for entertainment alone. But if they are studied as per their merit, they may teach us useful conduct in this rickety-forest like world..."]

[from 'Nivadak Hari Narayan Apte', Sampadak- Vidyadhar Pundalik, Sahitya Akademi, 1991/2013

'निवडक हरि नारायण आपटे', संपादक - विद्याधर पुंडलीक]

So there you go....Hamlet has a utility and hence you should read it and perhaps translate it!





"How now? A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!" --Hamlet from "Hamlet" (Act III, Scene iv)

Hamlet using  Lego

courtesy: FB page on Shakespeare

 Even H N Apte was deeply influenced by J S Mill more than any other contemporary social reformer. [Note- Later V D Savarkar वि दा सावरकर too would be an ardent follower of Mill's
utilitarianism (उपयुक्ततावाद)]


Vidyadhar Pundalik informs, in the book quoted above, that the protagonist of Apte's incomplete novel 'Ganpatrao' (गणपतराव) takes an oath of social reforms on the copy of Mill's 'The Subjection of Women ', 1869 (quoted wrongly as 'Subjegation of Women' in the book).

Not just this, in year 1991, Pundalik adds his own testimonial to Mill:

" ...इथे हे सांगितले पाहिजे की, मिल्ल हा आजच्या स्त्रीमुक्तीवाद्यांनासुध्दा प्रेरक आणि मौलिक वाटेल असा असामान्य प्रज्ञावंत होता..."

("...it must be stated here that Mill was such an extraordinary intellect that today's proponents of women liberation would find him inspirational and valuable...")

I wonder what Agarkar and Apte would have thought of 'Hamlet' using Lego... And what did they think of the ghost in 'Hamlet'?


 courtesy: Getty Images


"Materialism - the philosophy, not the perennial human tendency to pursue and accumulate material things - sees the universe as a physical system. Everything that exists in it must be some sort of matter, or something that emerges from matter. In a fully scientific view of the world, only material things are real. Everything else is just a phantom. Materialists would see the ghost in Hamlet as a figment of the imagination." 

(John Gray, 'Ghosts in the material world', BBC)

I have another thought on Agarkar's Hamlet.


Tim Lott says: 

"...You can’t get away from jealousy and rivalry when you’re brothers and that, taken to the extreme, is what happens in Hamlet. It’s about how brothers sometimes really fucking hate each other. I know there are times in my childhood when if I’d had a gun in my hand, I would have shot my brother dead. That dark impulse, although suppressed and effaced by what we want to believe about ourselves, is very deep and dark.."

When Tilak and Agarkar, once almost like brothers,  fought a bitter wordy duel in public in 1893, documented on this blog here,  did Agarkar remember Hamlet?