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."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

When Did Tarzan Start Shaving?

The day after tomorrow- June 2 2014- is 110th Birth Anniversary of Johnny Weissmuller...the Tarzan for me.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

"Perhaps the fact that I lived in Chicago and yet hated cities and crowds of people made me write my first Tarzan story." 

Gore Vidal, Esquire, December 1963:

"...There is something basic in the appeal of the 1914 Tarzan which makes me think that he can still hold his own as a daydream figure, despite the sophisticated challenge of his two young competitors, James Bond and Mike Hammer. For most adults, Tarzan (and John Carter of Mars) can hardly compete with the conspicuous consumer consumption of James Bond or the sickly violence of Mike Hammer, but for children and adolescents the old appeal continues. All of us need the idea of a world alternative to this one. From Plato’s Republic to Opar to Bondland, at every level, the human imagination has tried to imagine something better for itself than the existing society. Man left Eden when he got up off all fours, endowing his descendants with nostalgia as well as chronic backache. In its naïve way, the Tarzan legend returns us to that Eden where, free of clothes and the inhibitions of an oppressive society, a man is able, as William Faulkner put it in his high Confederate style, to prevail as well as endure. The current fascination with LSD and drugs—not to mention alcohol—is all a result of a general sense of boredom. Since the individual’s desire to dominate his environment is not a desirable trait in a society that every day grows more and more confining, the average man must take to daydreaming. James Bond, Mike Hammer, and Tarzan are all dream selves, and the aim of each is to establish personal primacy in a world that, more and more, diminishes the individual. Among adults, the current popularity of these lively fictions strikes me as a most significant and unbearably sad phenomenon..."


(Think of the popularity of all the super heroes in 2014 and then re-read Vidal's quote above!)

I first read Burroughs's Tarzan book in Marathi. I did not know it was a translation. I used to feel miserable reading how Tarzan was orphaned. I did not want to be a kid-Tarzan. For a long time, my knowledge of Africa was entirely restricted to what Tarzan books taught!

I guess as a kid I loved Hindi films like Suraj, 1966 because they had Tarzan-like elements in them. 

(Read entries on this blog, about about my other childhood heroes: Nath Madhav's  Virdhawal   and Lee Falk's Phantom.)

When I first saw Johnny Weissmuller film, I realized how sculpted a male could look. Later I learnt he was a champion swimmer too. 

Of course, as always with me, Maureen O'Sullivan playing Jane helped!





But one thing I never realised...when did Tarzan start to shave?



Artist: Joe Dator, The New Yorker, February 2014

Tarzan of the Apes and its twenty-two sequels together have sold more than 30 million copies. Mr. Burroughs was also a popular science fiction writer. His 'A Princess of Mars' is a futuristic sci-fi fantasy romance.

Like Ms. O'Sullivan, the princess looks enticing to me.


courtesy: Penguin Classics FB  page

Monday, May 26, 2014

Astrological signs, Lida Goodman and My Mother

I have never read Linda Goodman's (1925-1995) 'Sun Signs' (1968) or 'Love Signs' (1978).

Some of my (pretty) female work colleagues in Mumbai often quoted from it during 1984-1987. Especially, if I behaved like a jerk, they found its rationale in 'signs'. (Another famous miss is Ayn Rand. I never read a page from any of her books, unlike, again, those pretty girls.)

'Gemini'

Artist: Salvador Dali, Courtesy: Brainpickings.org

Until I turned 21, I did not even know there was something called Sun sign (mine Gemini) that is different from Moon sign (mine Taurus).


'Taurus'

Artist: Salvador Dali, Courtesy: Brainpickings.org

But my mother was a big believer in Moon signs and the concept of 'Sade-sati' (साडेसाती). She often traced my scratchy throat to my moon sign!

She thought my father's financial and occasional health struggles during our early childhood  were due to 'sade sati'. Whatever the truth, it was soothing to the ears because we knew they all were going to end because 'Sade sati' always ends!

Now that she is gone, I realize that I forgot to ask her when her own final 'sade sati' began and did it ever end?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Riding Since May 1987

Today May 22 2014 is our 27th Wedding Anniversary.
 
Thank you, Anju for being less confused and less rudderless on this ride...(Isn't it obvious from the following picture? He is clearly looking more confused and clueless than her!)...and did I tell you that you look even more pretty when injured?



Artist: S D Phadnis (शि द फडणीस)

Friday, May 16, 2014

किती पुतळे आहेत गोळवलकर गुरुजींचे?...Pygmalion Falls In Love


Narendra Modi, 63, a card-carrying member of  Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), for which he started volunteering at the age of eight, is all set to become India's Prime Minister

Rick Perlstein, preface to 'The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan', 2014:

"...But a central theme of my previous two books chronicling conservatism’s ascendency in American politics has been the myopia of pundits, who so frequently fail to notice the very cultural ground shifting beneath their feet..."

Luis Buñuel, 'My Last Sigh':

"I also remember being struck by de Sade's will, in which he asked that his ashes be scattered to the four corners of the earth in the hope that humankind would forget both his writings and his name. I'd like to be able to make that demand; commemorative ceremonies are not only false but dangerous, as are all statues of famous men. Long live forgetfulness, I've always said—the only dignity I see is in oblivion.”

Financial Times, May 13 2014:

"The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS believe that India is the Hindu holy land and that it needs protection from outside cultural influences including the country's Muslim and Christian minorities. The organisation has mobilised behind Narendra Modi in the current election in the hope that he will further their aims for the nation."

Marc Bloch, 'The Historian’s Craft', 1953:

"Are we so sure of ourselves and of our age as to divide the company of our forefathers into the just and the damned …? When the passions of the past blend with the prejudices of the present, human reality is reduced to a picture in black and white."

Dr. Ramachandra Guha, 'Makers of Modern India', 2011:

"...There were important Hindu right-wing thinkers before (M S) Golwalkar, such as V.D. Savarkar and Madan Mohan Malaviya. These may have been more subtle or sophisticated, but scarcely as effective or influential. Through his three decades as the head of the RSS, Golwalkar exercised a deep influence on the society and politics of modem India. A lifelong brahmadtari, or celibate, he acquired, in the fashion of a typical Hindu guru, a cult of younger male acolytes. These went on to become chief ministers of large Indian states. Others acquired even more power, directing the affairs of the Central government in New Delhi. Thus, Atal Behari Vajpayee, prime minister of India between 1998 and 2004, and Lai Krishna Advani, home minister and deputy prime minister during the same period, were both, in a personal as well as ideological sense, disciples of the long-time head of the RSS... "

Simon Critchley, review of John Gray's 'The Silence of Animals', 2013:

"...Today’s metaphysics is called “liberal humanism,” with a quasi-religious faith in progress, the power of reason and the perfectibility of humankind. The quintessential contemporary liberal humanists are those Obamaists, with their grotesque endless conversations about engagement in the world and their conviction that history has two sides, right and wrong, and they are naturally on the right side of it..."


John Buchan, Greenmantle, 1916:

"Some day, when the full history is written – sober history with ample documents – the poor romancer will give up business and fall to reading Miss Austen in a hermitage."

I am often amused by the shallowness of what I read in most Indian newspapers or see on most Indian TV news channels.  I often recall what Nicholas Taleb says: “To be competent, a journalist should view matters like a historian, and play down the value of information he is providing…Not only is it difficult for the journalist to think more like a historian, but it is, alas, the historian who is becoming more like the journalist.”


I have largely stopped writing about it. But here I make an exception with an example from a Marathi newspaper.

डॉ. सदानंद मोरे, लोकसत्ता, Loksatta, April 11, 2014:

"...१९२० साली लोकमान्य टिळकांचे निधन झाले आणि १९२२ साली शाहू छत्रपतींचे. मात्र त्यानंतर त्यांची जागा घेऊ शकेल असा एकही नेता त्यांच्या अनुयायांना लाभला नाही. परिणाम म्हणून तोपर्यंत भारतात अग्रेसर असलेला महाराष्ट्र राजकारणात एकदम मागे फेकला गेला, तो अद्याप आपले पूर्वीचे स्थान परत प्राप्त करू शकला नाही..."

[Dr. Sadanand More:

"....Lokmanya Tilak died in 1920 and Shahu Chhatrapati in 1922. But after that their followers did not get a single leader who could replace them. This resulted into Maharashtra who once was a leader in politics fell so far behind that it has not been able to get back to its earlier position..."]

"...१९२५ च्या दरम्यान टिळकांच्या अनुयायांनी पुण्यात चिपळूणकरांचा पुतळा बसवून त्याचे खुद्द गांधींच्या हस्ते अनावरण करवले. जेधेप्रभृती सत्यशोधकांच्या फुल्यांचा पुतळा बसवण्याच्या मागणीला वाटाण्याच्या अक्षता लावण्यात आल्या.
आज शतक पूर्ण व्हायच्या आतच चिपळूणकरांचा पुतळा बहुधा एकुलता एकच राहिला आहे. फुल्यांचे पुतळे मात्र असंख्य आढळतील..."

(लोकसत्ता, Loksatta, March 28 2014)

[...Around 1925 the followers of  (B G) Tilak installed (Vishnushastri) Chiplunkar's statue and got it inaugurated by none other other than (M K) Gandhi. The demand of Satyashodhak's like Jedhe and others to install (Mahatma) Phule's statue was dismissed.
Today before it completes the hundred years, it probably remains the only statue of Chiplunkar. However, one may find lots of Phule's statues...]

I have now read this argument- 'Maharashtra lost political leadership of India after 1922'- for many years.

The argument is cliched and all it does is strengthening of  parochial tendencies in urban middle-class Maharashtra and their political leaders. (Perhaps it also is the objective of a large part of the Marathi media.)

The argument is simply not true. Here is an attempt to explain why.

According to Amazon.com: "Makers of Modern India collects the work of nineteen of India's foremost generators of political sentiment, from those whose names command instant global recognition to pioneering subaltern and feminist thinkers whose works have until now remained obscure and inaccessible..."

Six out of those nineteen are Maharashtrians/ Marathi speaking- Jotirao Phule (1827-1890), G K Gokhale (1866-1915), B G Tilak (1856-1920), Tarabai Shinde (1850-1910), B R Ambedkar (1891-1956), M S Golwalkar (1906-1973).

Of the six people above, who do you think India's soon-to-be Prime Minister is closest to in his ideology? Dr. Guha's verdict, quoted above, leaves nothing to the doubt:

"...Golwalkar exercised a deep influence on the society and politics of modem India...Thus, Atal Behari Vajpayee, prime minister of India between 1998 and 2004, and Lai Krishna Advani, home minister and deputy prime minister during the same period, were both, in a personal as well as ideological sense, disciples of the long-time head of the RSS..."

I have no doubt Mr. Modi too is, in a personal as well as ideological sense, a disciple of Golwalkar guruji,  just like Vajpayee and Advani  (read Mr. Modi on M S Golwalkar in Caravan Magazine dated May 31 2014 here).

Golwalkar was born in Maharashtra and died there as late as in 1973.

How can then one say that 'Maharashtra fell far behind in politics' (महाराष्ट्र राजकारणात एकदम मागे फेकला गेला) after the deaths of Tilak in 1920  and Shahu Chhatrapati in 1922?


Read what Dr. R. Guha further says about Mr. Golwalkar: "...Golwalkar saw three principal threats to the formation of a Hindu nation-—Muslims, Christians and communists. All three were foreign
in origin, and the last were godless to boot. Golwalkar saw Muslims, Christians and communists as akin to the demons, or rakshashas, of Indian mythology, with the Hindus as the avenging angels who would slay them and thus restore the goodness and purity of the Motherland. The RSS itself was projected by Golwalkar as the chosen vehicle for this national and civilizational renewal of the Hindus.
..
"? (page 371)

Is Dr. More ashamed to acknowledge Maharashtra's political leadership in 21st century India just because it is NOT  in the hands of "liberal humanists"?

I also feel this "fell far behind" argument does not do justice to the posthumous rise of Dr. B R Ambedkar as a political figure as 'tall' as Mahatma Gandhi.  Arguably Ambedkar is now more important than Gandhi in India's electoral politics.

Let me now turn to the second quotation, above, of Dr. More. There,  he sort of implies that Mahatma Phule has 'trumped' Chiplunkar because he has more statues!

The comparison is not fair although it is funny.

Chiplunkar lived for only thirty-one years to Phule's sixty-three. Chiplunkar's thoughts influenced B G Tilak,  who in turn influenced M S Golwalkar. (Dr. Guha: "...Golwalkar also admired Bal Gangadhar Tilak, 'THE MILITANT NATIONALIST',  for making culture so central to national identity and self-assertion...". He could have as well said Chiplunkar instead of Tilak.)

Therefore,  the fair comparison is that of Phule with Tilak or Golwalkar- all three from Guha's list. If Dr. More makes that comparison, I doubt if  he will give the decisive 'victory' to Phule.

By the way, I wonder how many statues of Golwalkar exist in India. I could NOT locate a single image of his statue on Google image search while Phule has got dozens of them.

But does it prove anything one way or the other?

If Phule were to appear today and examine India's democracy closely, he may think it is (perhaps) better than the rule of Peshwa of the first two decades of 19th century but would he be happier with it than the rule of the British Raj? Has the grip of Brahmanism on the Indian society at large loosened since his death? Would he chuckle after reading the leader from  EPW, May 24 2014: "...If there is a message from Elections 2014 it is that India has been changing. It is becoming a society where those with a voice are becoming less tolerant, less compassionate and more aggressive towards those without a voice. This is just the atmosphere for an aggressive mix of religion and nationalism to find expression..."?

More than the Indian National Congress, 'liberal humanists' of  India belonging to the writing/ talking community have been defeated in India's 2014 federal elections. They, of course, will continue to think that they are on the right side of history and will cling on to their own Galatea. 



Artist: William Steig, The New Yorker, 14 November 1964

p.s.

Narendra Modi on May 20 2014 at the Central Hall of Parliament, New Delhi

"...Whatever we have achieved today, is because of sacrifices made by past five generations. Jan Sangh was not known to the people, some thought it is a social, cultural organisation. Today, I salute all those generations who made sacrifices for nationalist causes. We should not forget that we are here today because of sacrifices made by the past generations..." 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

मराठीत बुद्धा वर पुस्तक आहेत का?...R M Rilke's Buddha In Glory

Today May 14 2014 is Buddha Purnima, Buddha's birthday

Herman Hesse, 'Siddhartha: An Indian Poem', 1922:

"...No longer knowing whether time existed, whether this looking had lasted a second or a hundred years, no longer knowing whether there was a Siddhartha, whether a Gautama, whether a Self, an I and You, wounded in his innermost core as if by a divine arrow whose wound tastes sweet, entranced and bewildered in his innermost core, Govinda remained standing there a short while longer, bending over Siddhartha’s still face that he had just kissed, that had just been the site of all shapes, all Becoming, all Being. This countenance appeared unchanged once the depths of the thousandfold immensity had closed again beneath its surface; he was silently smiling, smiling quietly and gently, very kindly perhaps, perhaps mockingly, precisely as he had smiled, the Sublime One.

Deeply Govinda bowed, tears of which he knew nothing coursed down his old face, and like a fire the feeling of the most ardent love, the most humble reverence was burning in his heart. Deeply he bowed, bowed to the very earth, before the one sitting there motionless, whose smile reminded him of everything he had ever loved in all his life, everything that had ever, in all his life, been dear to him and holy."


"...'मराठीत बुद्धा वर पुस्तक आहेत का?'

'असतील एक दोन. मराठीत ६० उलटली की लोक ज्ञानेश्वरीवर पुस्तक लिहितात. बुद्धावर नाही.'..."


( ...'Are there books on Buddha in Marathi?'

'Perhaps one or two. Once one crosses 60, people write a book on Dnyaneshwari. Not on Buddha'...)

['Amaryad Aahe Buddha' by Vilas Sarang

 ('अमर्याद आहे बुद्ध', विलास सारंग), 2011]


'Buddha In Glory' by Rainer Maria Rilke

'Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet—
all this universe, to the furthest stars
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.
Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,
a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.'

(from 'The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke' by Stephen Mitchell, 1980/1989)
We were raised at Miraj  (मिरज), for more than twenty years,  looking at the following picture that prominently hung in our drawing room, along with that of Dnyaneshwar (ज्ञानेश्वर).

Every time I looked at that picture, it moved me. Apart from its ethereal beauty, it was personal.

In those years, our own father, for most years,  worked away from Miraj- Bhwandi (भिवंडी), Karmala (करमाळा), Nashik (नाशिक). So his home coming, for most years, was like a festival for us. And his departure a kind of death.

In early years, I used to wonder why Buddha was shown so much bigger than his family.

Now, perhaps I know...it had to be..."your vast shell reaches into endless space"....


Artist(s): Anonymous but hopefully Marathi speaking !

  Location: Ajanta

Friday, May 09, 2014

फणसाचा गरा लागतो बरा, नाकतोड्यापेक्षा परवडला खरा ...We Also Serve Jackfruit



Simone Weil:


"What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Gasoline is much more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict." 


Wikipedia:


"The jackfruit is one of the three auspicious fruits of Tamil Nadu, along with the mango and banana, known as the mukkani (முக்கனி). These are referred to as ma-pala-vaazhai (mango-jack-banana). The three fruits (mukkani) are also related to the three arts of Tamil (mu-Tamizh).[30] Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh. It is also the state fruit of the Indian state of Kerala."

Eating jackfruit in summer, when the fruit used to compete unfavourably with the mangoes for attention, at our home in Miraj (मिरज), was a family activity.

Twice or so the summer, my father used to buy the fruit and, with the help of my mother, used to cut it and we would sit around and eat the whole of it. There were two types of the fruit available- 'kapa' (कापा) and 'barka' (बरका). Apparently, you need the former type to eat it the way I have described it.


"The World Bank and United Nations warned recently that rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall had already reduced yields of wheat and corn, and could lead to food wars within the decade."

So contrary to what great Ms. Weil has said, wheat could be a cause of  international conflict !

 "Researchers say jackfruit — a large ungainly fruit grown across south and south-east Asia — could be a replacement for wheat, corn and other staple crops under threat from climate change.."

 "...Efforts in India to exploit the fruit’s potential coincides with a global push to expand food production, especially in developing countries which are expected to face growing challenges to feed their people in the coming decades.

Jackfruit can fill the gap on a number of counts, said Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, which works on sustainable agriculture.

“It is easy to grow. It survives pests and diseases and high temperatures. It is drought-resistant,” she said. “It achieves what farmers need in food production when facing a lot of challenges under climate change.”
The fruit is rich in potassium, calcium, and iron, said Ms. Reddy, making it more nutritious than current starchy staples..."


"Two billion people around the world, primarily in south-east Asia and Africa, eat insects – locusts, grasshoppers, spiders, wasps, ants – on a regular basis. Now, with food scarcity a growing threat, efforts are being made to normalise the concept of entomophagy, or the consumption of insects, for the other 5 billion. Last year, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published a list of more than 1,900 edible species of insects; the EU, meanwhile, offered its member states $3m to research the use of insects in cooking.

Why? Because insects, compared to livestock and fish, are a much more sustainable food source. They are available in abundance: for every human on Earth, there are 40 tonnes of insects. They have a higher food conversion rate than even our fastest-growing livestock (meaning they need to consume less to produce the same amount of meat) and they emit fewer greenhouse gases. As a fast-food option, which is how people treat them in countries such as Thailand, insects are greatly preferable to the water-guzzling, rainforest-destroying, methane-spewing beefburger. They are nutritious too: rich in protein, low in fat and cholesterol, high in calcium and iron..."


                                                            "But Wait, We Also Serve Jackfruit"

Photograph/ courtesy: Photomorgana/Corbis,: The Guardian

p.s.

Rajyasree Sen, WSJ, July 6 2014:


"...Ripe Jackfruit –The green unripe jackfruit is used extensively in cooking across India for its texture that resembles meat. And then there is a pungent-smelling ripe jackfruit, which is India’s answer to the durian, famous for its strong odor which is said to resemble anything from rotting onions and gym socks to raw sewage..."