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."

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)."


"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?