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.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

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."

Monday, March 24, 2014

2057 Ides of March...240 August 30th


This month 2057 years ago Roman emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated




William Shakespeare:

"Let's be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
...And, gentle friends,
Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds;
And let our hearts, as subtle masters do,
Stir up their servants to an act of rage,
And after seem to chide 'em."
      --Brutus from "Julius Caesar" Act 2, scene 1, 166, 171–177

Charles Simic, March 2014:

"...It is the selective morality of our interventionists that offends me. They judge acts of violence not by their consequences, but on whether someone else or we are the perpetrators—if the acts are done by us they tend to have their full approval. Hypocrites who are blind or indifferent to their own country’s atrocities are not well suited for playing the part of moral conscience of the world,...There are few things that never change in this world of ours, but one of them happens to be the near certainty that those who raise their voices against injustice get betrayed in the end."

Judith Flander:

“Murder is like hearing blustery rain on the windowpane when sitting indoors. It reinforces a sense of safety, even of pleasure, to know that murder is possible, just not here.”

Colin Wilson, ‘CRIMINAL HISTORY OF MANKIND’, 1984:

“…Crime is renewed in every generation because human beings are children; very few of us achieve anything like adulthood. But at least it is not self-perpetuating, as human creativity is…”



Caesar's assassination lives in memory largely because of Shakespeare’s great play. 

The most memorable assassination in the medieval history of Maharashtra is that of Narayanrao Peshwa (नारायणराव पेशवा) that took place on the afternoon of August 30 1773 during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.

There is very little literature in Marathi based on that event, let alone any great one. There is no great painting, done later, either.

This is surprising because Pune then was the most powerful force in the politics of South Asia.

A Marathi novel (not a good one) based on this event was one of the earliest serious books I read as a kid. I have often imagined the bloody event. The Peshwa was not alone to be killed that afternoon. Apparently, almost a dozen people, including two women, and even a couple of cows were killed along with him.

How the young man of just eighteen must have run for his life...did he stumble and fall while running? Which all places he ran to before he got killed? How messy the crime scene must have looked...who cleaned it? How was Peshwa's body prepared for cremation? How was the news received by the stalwarts of the Peshwa court? Which exact Marathi words were used by the plotters of the murder? Did anybody speak like Brutus and Antony? Was it raining that day in Pune?

There is so much tragic drama in all this...

I also think that the event has a great significance as a turning point in Maharashtra's politics.

People, led by Brahmins,  became audacious in their acts to grab the power. They started getting confident that they would eventually get away even with a regicide.

 John Gray says: "The true lesson of Machiavelli is that the alternative to politics is not law but unending war." Maybe this murder averted a revolt or an immediate start of an unending war among various factions that existed in Peshwa's regime.

Another lesson, and a shocking one,  of Machiavelli's 'The Prince' is not that politics demands dirty (bloody?) hands, but that politicians shouldn’t care.


I feel every political event in Maharashtra's politics,  that ordinary people judge as a 'shameful' one,  has its roots in that afternoon of August 1773.  A sitting Brahmin 'king' was brutally slaughtered, in his own house, during one of the biggest Hindu festivals, apparently on the orders of his uncle and right under his nose.

The uncle went on to live for another ten years and continued to play a significant role in the politics of Maharashtra until his death. His son, Baji Rao II, went on to become the 'king' in due course and 'served' the people of India the longest among all the Peshwas.

In India, today, all this does not sound strange at all.

 Should Vijay Tendulkar (विजय तेंडुलकर) have paid more attention to this political murder than the episode of Ghashiram Kotwal (घाशीराम कोतवाल) to write his political satire?

R G Gadkari (राम गणेश गडकरी), Annasaheb Kirloskar (अण्णासाहेब किर्लोस्कर), G B Deval (गो ब देवल), S K Kolhatkar (श्रीपाद कृष्ण कोल्हटकर), K P Khadilkar (कृष्णाजी प्रभाकर खाडिलकर) never wrote any (well-known) play based on the event.

I wonder why.



 'The Death of Caesar', 1804-1805, Oil on Canvas  Artist: Vincenzo Camuccini (1771-1844)  courtesy:  Wikimedia Commons

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