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, July 28, 2014

शंभर पावसाळे आले गेले...The Day Savage Industrial Slaughter Began...

100 years ago, today July 28 2014, World War I started

गोविंदराव टेंबे (1881-1955):
"…पण  तसे पाहिले असता, गेल्या पाच  सहा वर्षापूर्वीचे सर्वच जीवन पुसून गेलेले आहे; मग हस्तलिखित पुसून गेल्याचा विषाद कशाला वाटायचा? भावना, श्रद्धा, संस्कृती, भीती, कला, धर्म इत्यादी, समाजाला स्थिरता व मधुरता देणारी तत्वे नामशेष झाली आहेत..." ('माझा जीवनविहार')

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942):
" When I attempt to find a simple formula for the period in which I grew up, prior to the First World War, I hope that I convey its fullness by calling it the Golden Age of Security. Everything in our almost thousand-year-old Austrian monarchy seemed based on permanency, and the State itself was the chief guarantor of this stability . . . In this vast empire everything stood firmly and immovably in its appointed place, and at its head was the aged emperor; and were he to die, one knew (or believed) another would come to take his place, and nothing would change in the well-regulated order. No one thought of wars, of revolutions, of revolts. All that was radical, all violence, seemed impossible in an age of reason."

Erich Maria Remarque, "All Quiet on the Western Front", 1929:  “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”

B S Mardhekar (बा सी मर्ढेकर):
"पावसाळे आले गेले;
दोन युद्धे जमा झाली;"



Daljit Nagra, 'The last post: letters home to India during the first world war', The Guardian, February 21 2014:

"...Soldiers refer to their own classic books where good is pitted against evil: "Having seen this war, all that has been written in Mahabharat and in the Ramayan is altogether true." The German aeroplanes are compared to Vishnu's mighty eagle, the Garuda, who features in the Ramayana. Soldiers refer to demons, "The name of Germany is breathed throughout the world like the name of Harankash", or to Indian heroes, "The mud is up to a man's knees, and the trenches are full of water up to a depth of about 2 feet. As in the history of Ala [a great Sikh warrior]"..."


Niall Ferguson on the British empire's response to the  full-scale insurgency in Mesopotamia in 1920:
"How did the British address the manpower problem in 1920? By bringing in soldiers from India who accounted for more than 87 percent of troops in the counter-insurgency campaign. Perhaps, then, the greatest problem faced by the Anglophone empire of our own time is very simple: the United Kingdom had the Indian Army; the United States does not. Indeed, by a rich irony, the only significant auxiliary forces available to the Pentagon today are none other than ... the British Army. But those troops are far too few to be analogous to the Sikhs, Mahrattas and Baluchis who fought so effectively in 1920."

Seumas Milne, The Guardian, January 8 2014:

"...Unlike the second world war, the bloodbath of 1914-18 was not a just war. It was a savage industrial slaughter perpetrated by a gang of predatory imperial powers, locked in a deadly struggle to capture and carve up territories, markets and resources.

Germany was the rising industrial power and colonial Johnny-come-lately of the time, seeking its place in the sun from the British and French empires. The war erupted directly from the fight for imperial dominance in the Balkans, as Austria-Hungary and Russia scrapped for the pickings from the crumbling Ottoman empire. All the ruling elites of Europe, tied together in a deathly quadrille of unstable alliances, shared the blame for the murderous barbarism they oversaw. The idea that Britain and its allies were defending liberal democracy, let alone international law or the rights of small nations, is simply absurd.

It's not just that most men and all women in Britain were still denied the vote in 1914 – unlike Germany, which already had full male suffrage – or that the British empire was allied with the brutal autocracy of tsarist Russia.

Every single one of the main warring states was involved in the violent suppression of the rights of nations throughout the racist tyrannies that were their colonial empires. In the decades before 1914, about 30 million people died from famine as colonial officials enforced the export of food in British-ruled India, slaughtered resisters in their tens of thousands and set up concentration camps in South Africa.

Britain was supposed to have gone to war to defend the neutrality of "plucky little Belgium" – which had itself presided over the death of 10 million Congolese from forced labour and mass murder in the previous couple of decades. German colonialists had carried out systematic genocide in what is now Namibia in the same period..."

Santanu Das, The Guardian, July 22 2014:
 "...Today, one of the main stumbling blocks to a truly global and non-Eurocentric archive of the war is that many of these 1 million Indians, or 140,000 Chinese, or 166,000 West Africans, did not leave behind diaries and memoirs. In India, Senegal or Vietnam there is nothing like the Imperial War Museum; when a returned soldier or village headman died, a whole library vanished..."


Markus Meckel, German War Graves Commission, FT, August 3 2014:
 "We have no national memory about the first world war."


Historian John Keay in his 'India A History', 2000/2010 writes of the start of the First World War:

"...News of war had been greeted in India with a demonstration. For once it was not of dissent but of enthusiastic support. British hearts warmed at the protestations of loyalty and the offers of support which poured in not only from the predictably sycophantic princely states but also from the Muslim League and Congress. With recruitment exceeding all expectations, Indian troops were soon sailing for novel destinations like Flanders, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. Over two million Indian combatants and support staff would eventually serve overseas, dwarfing all other imperial contributions to the war effort..."
  
Many of those two million were Marathi speaking.

Despite that, the war does not figure big in Marathi (मराठी) literature, probably because the participants came mainly from the middle peasantry belonging to non-Brahmin castes. 

(The other two big misses of Marathi literature are Second World War except Vishram Bedekar's 'Ranangan' (विश्राम बेडेकर, रणांगण) and the Partition of India.)

As quoted above Marathi poet B S Mardhekar writes: 

"पावसाळे आले गेले; दोन युद्धे जमा झाली;" (Monsoons came and went; two wars were done with;)

Critic D K Bedekar (दि के बेडेकर) writes with some indignation: 

"...'दोन युद्धे जमा झाली' या चार शब्दांत कोट्यावधी भारतीयांच्या, नव्हे सर्व मानवजातीच्याच वेदनांचे व मृत्यूचे ब्रह्मांड सामावलेले आहे. पण मर्ढेकर परमहंसगतीला पोहोचलेले असल्यासारखे आहेत ! त्यांच्या कालप्रवाहाला मनुष्यांच्या सुखदुःखांचे मोजमाप लागत नाही. नुसते पावसाळे येतात नि जातात हीच कालगणना !..."

 ('साहित्य : निर्मिती व समीक्षा', 1954 / 2008)

['...Two wars were done with'...these four words contain the whole universe of pain and death of millions of Indians, indeed the entire human race. But Mardhekar is like having attained the enlightenment ! His passage of time is not measured in man's happiness and pain. Monsoons simply come and go is the only time measurement !..." 

('Sahitya: Nirmiti va samiksha')]

Not everyone, alive during the war, could afford the luxury of nirvana (परमहंसगती)

Certainly not those Marathi speaking combatants who were trapped in Siege of Kut (7 December 1915 – 29 April 1916). 

As the food became almost impossible to come by during the siege,  Indian soldiers were offered horse meat. Maratha soldiers thought it was heretical and refused to eat it with a rider, conveyed to the their commanders,  that if 'their deity' Rajarshi Shahu (राजर्षी छत्रपती शाहू महाराज) ordered it, they would eat it

In a most moving letter dated March 23 1916, Shahu-maharaj pleaded with the Maratha soldiers to eat the meat, survive and press on. He wished he could join them in their struggle.

['Rajrishi Shahumaharajanchi Bhashane' (राजर्षी श्रीशाहूमहाराजांची भाषणे), editor-aggregator Bhagvanrao Bapusaheb Jadhav (संपादक-संकलन भगवानराव बापूसाहेब जाधव)2001/2009, page 177-180]


'He probably spoke Marathi'

Indian army soldier after the siege of Kut  (courtesy: Wikipedia and  Wikimedia Commons)

Despite this, Wikipedia informs,  "around 13,000 Allied soldiers survived to be made prisoners. 70% of the British and 50% of the Indian troops died of disease or at the hands of their Ottoman guards during captivity."




courtesy: Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College and  Slate.com
 
   




 

Artist:  Benjamin Schwartz , The New Yorker, January 2014

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