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."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Science Demands Heroic Minds, But Not Heroic Morals

Today February 28 2014 is National Science Day in India

J. Robert Oppenheimer:

"When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you've had your technical success. That's the way it was with the atomic bomb."

Dr. Vijay Bhatkar, 'Outlook', July 2002:

"Vedic astrology is one of the six limbs of the Vedic knowledge-system. Jyotish-shastra—that combines astronomy and astrology—is a coherent, consistent and comprehensive body of knowledge with theory, practice and underlying mathematical models, and is certainly a science."


Czesław Miłosz:


" If I had to tell what the world is for me 
I would take a hamster or a hedgehog or a mole
and place him in a theatre seat one evening
and, bringing my ear close to his humid snout,
would listen to what he says about the spotlights,
sounds of the music, and movements of the dance"
 
John Horgan, Scientific American, June 2013:

"There are lots of other irrational beliefs out there that science should try to cure people of. Some examples: Belief that string theory and multiverses are legitimate scientific propositions and not just science fiction with equations. Belief that snazzy new mathematical models running on ever more powerful computers will help the social sciences become as rigorous as nuclear physics. Belief that evolutionary psychology represents psychology’s final, triumphant paradigm instead of just another fad. Belief that behavioral genetics will soon transcend its embarrassing record of bogus claims—the gay gene, God gene, warrior gene, high-IQ gene, and so on–and become a credible field. Belief that drugs like SSRIs represent a huge advance over psychoanalysis and other “talking cures” for mental illness. Belief that humanity is headed toward a Singularity, when we all turn into software and live happily ever after in cyberspace."



Jeanette Winterson:


"As explanations of the world, fairy stories tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not. There are different ways of knowing. "Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird."

John Gray:

"An old fairy tale has it that science began with the rejection of superstition. In fact it was the rejection of rationalism that gave birth to scientific inquiry. Ancient and medieval thinkers believed the world could be understood by applying first principles. Modern science begins when observation and experiment come first, and the results are accepted even when what they show seems to be impossible. In what might seem a paradox, scientific empiricism – reliance on actual experience rather than supposedly rational principles – has very often gone with an interest in magic.
Science and the occult have interacted at many points. They came together in two revolts against death, each claiming that science could give humanity what religion and magic had promised – immortal life."




'Science, Mystery and Magic II (superman)', 2011 (Oil on Canvas)

Artist: Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra

Courtesy: THUKRAL & TAGRA

 For most middle-class Maharashtrians and their media,  scientists- likes of Jayant Narlikar (जयंत नारळीकर), A P J Abdul Kalam,  Stephen Hawking,  Albert Einstein, Vijay Bhatkar (विजय भाटकर), Raghunath Mashelkar (रघुनाथ माशेलकर), Anil Kakodkar (अनिल काकोडकर) -  are like gods.

They can do almost no wrong. 
  
A few of them are best-selling authors in Maharashtra. They also are often sought after for 'sound bite' on most issues that attract media. All Indians among them have been given 'Padma' awards.

I have hardly read- if any- a critical assessment of their scientific work or general writings in a Marathi newspaper or TV.

They are as much celebrated for their morals as their intellect.


Adam Gopnik writes of Galileo:

"...In 1592, Galileo made his way to Padua, right outside Venice, to teach at the university. He promised to help the Venetian Navy, at the Arsenale, regain its primacy, by using physics to improve the placement of oars on the convict-rowed galleys. Once there, he earned money designing and selling new gadgets. He made a kind of military compass and fought bitterly in support of his claim to have invented it. Oddly, he also made money by casting horoscopes for his students and wealthy patrons. (Did he believe in astrology? Maybe so. He cast them for himself and his daughters, without being paid.)..."

(The New Yorker, February 11 2013)

Mr. Gopnik further writes:

"...Contemporary historians of science have a tendency to deprecate the originality of the so called scientific revolution, and to stress, instead, its continuities with medieval astrology and alchemy. And they have a point. It wasn’t that one day people were doing astrology in Europe and then there was this revolution and everyone started doing astronomy. Newton practiced alchemy; Galileo drew up all those horoscopes. But if you can’t tell the difference in tone and temperament between Galileo’s sound and that of what went before, then you can’t tell the difference between chalk and cheese. The difference is apparent if you compare what astrologers actually did and what the new astronomers were doing..."

I agree. You must appreciate "the difference in tone and temperament between Galileo’s sound and that of what went before,"

But Mr. Gopnik's conclusion of the essay is very disturbing:

"...It may be no accident that so many of the great scientists really have followed Galileo, in ducking and avoiding the consequences of what they discovered. In the roster of genius, evasion of worldly responsibility seems practically a fixed theme. Newton escaped the world through nuttiness, Darwin through elaborate evasive courtesies and by farming out the politics to Huxley. Heisenberg’s uncertainty was political—he did nuclear-fission research for Hitler—as well as quantum-mechanical. Science demands heroic minds, but not heroic morals..."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Organise Them Along Linguistic Lines?...शं बा जोशींचे 'मर्‍हाटी संस्कृती'


Dr. B R Ambedkar:

"...Should all Maharashtrians be collected together into one Maharashtra State? Should all Andhra areas be put into one Andhra State? This question of consolidation does not merely relate to new units. It relates also to the existing linguistic provinces such as U.P., Bihar and West Bengal. Why should all Hindi-speaking people be consolidated into one State as has happened in U.P.? Those who ask for consolidation must be asked whether they want to go to war against other States. If consideration creates a separate consciousness we will have in course of time an India very much like what it was after the break-up of Maurya Empire. Is destiny moving us towards it? This does not mean that there is no case for linguistic provinces. What it means is that there must be definite checks and balances to see that a communal majority does not abuse its power under the garb of a linguistic State...


...As the area of the State increases the proportion of the minority to the majority decreases and the position of the minority becomes precarious and the opportunities for the majority to practise tyranny over the minority become greater. The States must, therefore, be small. The minorities must be given protection to prevent the tyranny of the majority. To do this the Constitution must be amended and the provisions must be made for a system of plural member constituencies (two or three) with cumulative voting.


दुर्गा भागवत:

"...शं बा जोशींच्या 'मराठी संस्कृती' या ग्रंथाने माझ्या विचारांना चालना दिली. आंध्र प्रदेश,  कर्नाटक आणि महाराष्ट्र हे सांस्कृतिकदृष्ट्या एक कसे आहेत हे त्यांनी प्रथम मांडल. मला तो विचार आकर्षक वाटला..."

[Page: 69, 'Aaipais Gappa : Durgabainshi', Pratibha Ranade, November 1998) ( "ऐसपैस  गप्पा: दुर्गाबाईंशी",   प्रतिभा रानडे)]

("...S B Joshi's book 'Marathi Sanskruti' mobilized my thoughts. He was the first who argued how Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra were culturally one. I found that thought attractive...") 

Economic & Political Weekly Leader, March 1 2014:

"...It makes sense for smaller political units, not just in AP but in many other states of the Indian union. It is time for a renewed national conversation about our federalism and the structures which underpin our polity and administration. The churn one witnesses in electoral politics is perhaps an expression of the same transformations which have fuelled the demand for Telangana. A second States’ Reorganisation Commission will also help smaller nationalities like Gorkhaland, which do not have the electoral muscle to force their demand through. More states of the union neither lead to a weaker country nor weaker provinces. Rather, it may well help strengthen the union by democratising it further."

गिरीश कर्नाड, लोकसत्ता, November 12 2013:

"… कन्नड भाषेला १९५६ पर्यंत स्वत:चा प्रांत नव्हता. मुंबई, मद्रास आणि म्हैसूर अशा तीन प्रांतामध्ये कर्नाटक विभागला गेला होता. द. रा. बेंद्रे आणि शं. भा. जोशी या मराठी माणसांनी केलेल्या लेखनामुळे कन्नड भाषा समृद्ध झाली. या दोघांना खरे तर, मराठीमध्ये लेखन करता आले असते. पण, त्या वेळी पुणे हे मराठी साहित्याचे केंद्र होते. मराठीत लेखन केले असते, तर 'धारवाडचा मराठी लेखक' अशीच त्यांची ओळख झाली असती. म्हणूनच या दोघांनी कन्नडमध्ये लेखन केले…"

("...Kannada language didn't have its own state until 1956. Karnataka was divided among Mumbai, Madras and Mysore. The Kannada language was enriched by writing done in it by Marathi people like D R Bendre and S B Joshi. These two could easily write in Marathi. But at that time Pune was the centre of Marathi literature. If they were to write in Marathi, then they would be known as 'Marathi writer from Dharwad'. Therefore, they wrote in Kannada...")

Looking at all that is happening in the country on the issue of Telangana, I feel sad and confused.

I have always questioned the wisdom of dividing this country based on the language.

I am supported by the strong words of Durgabai,

"...पण या भाषावार प्रांतरचनेमुळ आपापसातला दुस्वासच वाढीला लागला. आपल मन त्यानं संकुचित करून टाकलय…" (ibid, page 56)

(...but this linguistic division has increased ill will towards each other. Our mind has been constricted by it...)


Artist: Bill Watterson

Durgabai praises S B Joshi's book at least at one more place (page 27) in the book saying it is an excellent book. (I don't know if it's a coincidence but Dr. Irawati Karve इरावती कर्वे was not very fond of the book!)

The correct title of the book is 'मर्‍हाटी संस्कृती : काही समस्या' (Marhati Sanskruti: Kahi Samsya) first published in December 1958.

I thought the book was surely out of print. It almost is but lucky me, Bookganga.com still had copies in October 2013 of its second edition dated August 1980, edited by Vasant S Joshi (वसंत स. जोशी), published by Venus Prakashan (व्हीनस प्रकाशन). That 294-page book was available only for Rs. 170. An absolute steal!



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Did Shivaji See a Tulip at Dutch Factory in Surat?

Today February 19 2014 is 384th Birth Anniversary of Shivaji (शिवाजी)


William Dalrymple, October 2012:

"...it was India’s extraordinary wealth that drew in the merchant adventurers of the East India Company. They came to India not as part of some Tudor aid project, but instead as part of a desperate effort to cash in on the riches of the Mughal empire, then one of the two wealthiest polities in the world. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Mughal city of Lahore is revealed to Adam after the Fall as a future wonder of God’s creation: by the 17th century, Lahore had grown richer than Constantinople, and with its two million inhabitants it dwarfed London and Paris combined. It was, in terms of rapid growth, prosperity and opportunities, the Gurgaon of its day.
What eastern Europeans are to modern Brit­ain – economic migrants in search of a better life – the Jacobeans were to Mughal India. It was only after the arrival of the various colonial powers that India came to be perceived as poor..."

Jennifer Szalai, Lapham's Quarterly:

"The speculator is fixated on what everybody else is thinking, because the existence of a market in shares means that prices will be determined more often by the mentality of the herd than by the thing itself—whether it be a tulip, a pork belly, a pound sterling, or a house...Tulips may be beautiful to look at, a lovely addition to the breakfast table, but during the height of Tulipomania in the winter of 1636-7, the bulbs were in the ground and speculators were trading pieces of paper: no tulips were actually delivered"

Mr. Narendra Modi claims that Shivaji did not sack Surat in 1664 and 1670

Instead, Mr. Modi says, he plundered Mughal emperor Aurangazeb's treasure in the city with the help of local people.

Maybe. 

In any case, it looks like, we all have to start loving Mr. Modi.


As  'Aurangazeb's treasure in the city was being looted', by one account,  narrated so beautifully (maybe little speculative perhaps) by the late D G Godse (द ग गोडसे), Shivaji watched it, for some time,  from the Dutch factory. 

Dutch painter then present grabbed that opportunity to draw Shivaji's most moving portrait available to us today. 

If you read Marathi (मराठी), read a couple of pages from Godse's said essay  below:


 [ "Shivrayache Kaise Bolane....", 'Samande Talash', Shreevidya Prakashan

("शिवरायाचे कैसे बोलणे…. ", 'समन्दे तलाश', श्रीविद्या प्रकाशन , 1981) ]

On February 2 1637,  legendary Dutch tulip bubble burst. It very much happened on Shivaji's watch. Maharaj was six years old. 

Did Shivaji know (they say he was generally well informed even about European affairs)  about the speculative madness as he stood in the Dutch factory? If he knew, what would he think about the money that changed hands in Holland during the mania? He needed only a tiny fraction of it to build his own dream and that's why he was in Surat in the first place!



Courtsey: The Economist


Dan Piepenbring writes in 'Tulipomania!': 


"...Most edifying of all, though, is a list of various articles that “were delivered for one single root of the rare species called the Viceroy,” which gives an astonishing sense of just how inflated the flowers’ value was:


·        Two lasts of wheat

·        Four lasts of rye

·        Four fat oxen

·        Eight fat swine

·        Twelve fat sheep

·        Two hogsheads of wine

·        Four tuns of beer

·        Two tuns of butter

·        One thousand lbs. of cheese

·        A complete bed

·        A suit of clothes

·        A silver drinking-cup..."



Artist: Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678), 1640