G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Can We See As Far As Sampati?


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

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

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

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

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

Vultures while feasting look like humans.

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

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

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



'Ravana Mortally Wounds Jatayu' 

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

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

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

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

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

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

from Valmiki Ramayana)


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

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

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




 'Sampati Points Towards Lanka'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from Valmiki Ramayana)


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

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


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

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

Page 16 has following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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