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."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Measuring Out Life (and Samadhi) with LEGO blocks...

On September 15 2014, I wrote लेगोत् लेगोम् उदच्यते!...But Ram in Hanuman

T S Eliot says: "....I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;..."

How about LEGO blocks instead of coffee spoons?

courtesy: Fox

from The Simpsons  'LEGO Spectacular' first aired on May 4 2014

 And even possible Samadhi....


Artist: Barbara Smaller, The New Yorker, February 17 2003

Sunday, November 23, 2014

नवगिरे-तांबट आणि ड्यूररचा गेंडा...Had Navgire-Tambat Seen Albrecht Dürer's Rhinoceros?


I wrote a post 'गंगाराम चिंतामण तांबट: The Hidden Marathi Artist In A British Archive' on August 31 2011.  


There I said: "I wish to reproduce two pictures of Mr. Navgire-Tambat courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon collection. These drawings on paper were commissioned by Malet and the British artist James Wales.
How many better drawn Rhinos have you seen? Me none."

One of the pictures is this: 



A Rhinoceros in the Peshwa’s Menagerie at Poona, November 1790, watercolor and gouache

current location: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

In February 2014, I saw the following:


'Albrecht Durer's (1471-1528)  woodcut of a rare and novel beast is a magnificent product of the curious, questioning Renaissance mind.'

Courtesy: The Guardian and The Trustees of the British Museum.  

Regardless of whether Mr. Navgire-Tambat has seen the Durer's picture or not, he had seen a real rhino in the collection of Peshwa's.  That was not the case with Pieter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) when he drew a hippopotamus in 1616.

Daniel Margocsy writes on Nov 12 2014:

"...Large and aggressive, live hippos were practically impossible to transport in those days. In modern times, the first two hippos arrived in Italy in 1601, when the Italian surgeon Federico Zerenghi brought their skins from Egypt first to Venice, where he had them stuffed, and then to Rome and Naples, where he exhibited them. As luck would have it, Rubens was traveling in Italy at that time, and circumstantial evidence indicates that he probably saw these exhibits with his own eyes. Exotic animals were a prized painterly object, and it is no wonder that Rubens decided to picture this animal in his series of Hunts that he painted for Maximilian I, ruler of Bavaria..."

Location : the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

courtesy: Wikimedia Commons


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dolls: Buster Keaton, Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor was influenced by Buster Keaton, he talks about it in the book-   'Raj Kapoor: Speaks' by Ritu Nanda in the chapter 'Making of Mera Naam Joker'. 

(This year I have watched quite a few pre-1950 American films and their influence on Hindi films is far more than I previously imagined. More on that in 2015.)


When I saw the picture above, on Facebook, of Buster Keaton along with his doll, I remembered unforgettable song from Mera Naam Joker, 1970: 'Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Din' (singer: Mukesh, Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri Music: Shankar Jaikishan)

That song alone demonstrates how talented Mr. Kapoor was, although I have always felt that the talent was not always harnessed fully cinematically. 


courtesy: Shemaroo and the current owner of the copyright to the feature

Saturday, November 15, 2014

वसंत वृक्ष...The Tree of Lalit

The following is the 50th cover designed and created by Vasant Sarwate ( वसंत सरवटे) for Marathi magazine Lalit (ललित).

(Magazine is priced Rs. 100.) 

Third row from the bottom, two covers on the left,  belong to Diwali   2007 and 2009 about which I have already written in the respective years.

The one on the bottom left is dated Diwali 1964.   Not just the plant has grown into a solid looking (guava?) tree but  even the kid has grown into a nattily dressed middle-aged man - no doubt feeling little proud- who is still smiling.

Today Sarwate himself is in autumn of his life but listen carefully, and you can hear his life force gushing through the tree of Lalit, 'वसंत वृक्ष'.


 (Magazine was priced Rs. 0.75)
 
If you wish to enjoy a few of the past covers of Lalit done by Sarwate, please visit the given links.

2013: Lalit, 2013

2012:  Lalit, 2012 

2011: Lalit, 2011

2010: Lalit, 2010

2009: Lalit, 2009 

2008:  Lalit, 2008 

2007:  Lalit, 2007 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hanging Upside Down Like Possums

Today November 14 2014 is Children's Day




"Down the block where Stieren meets Guenther, a father trimmed a lantana bush, his two girls hanging upside down from the porch rail like possums."


Artist: Ester Hernández

courtesy: 'Have you seen Marie?', 2012  by Sandra Cisneros
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Did Desai-bai Ever Hold a Cricket Bat or Wear a Hat?...काळा सूर्य आणि हॅट घालणारी बाई

Today November 10 2014 is 86th Birth Anniversary of Kamal Desai (कमल देसाई), author of 'Kala Surya aani hat ghalanari bai' ('काळा सूर्य आणि हॅट घालणारी बाई')- 'Black Sun and Hat Wearing Woman'

Sylvia Plath:

"...Widow. The bitter spider sits
And sits in the center of her loveless spokes.
Death is the dress she wears, her hat and collar.
The moth-face of her husband, moon white and ill,
Circles her like a prey she'd love to kill..."


 
Jonathan Yardley, May 31 2014:

"...(Rebecca) West was a feminist before the word had gained wide usage, but as a daughter of late Victorian and Edwardian England, she was a feminist with an asterisk. She “wrote angrily about the necessity of better working conditions for women,” yet “more than once she remarked to friends that there was nothing as sad and lonely as the lot of a woman who did not have a man.”..."

Our family called the late Ms. Kamal Desai:  'Desai-bai'.

On January 13 2013, this is what I wrote on a blog dedicated to Kamal Desai.

"I never commented on the Ms. Desai's art either on my blog or here because I never liked what she wrote. (Not that I have a read a lot written by her but whatever little I did.)

I did not like even her supposedly last essay- on Anil Awchat (अनिल अवचट)- in 'Lalit' Diwali (ललित दिवाळी) 2012.

But I liked her as a person.

She and our family went back a long way. We lived just 100 meters from her house in Miraj (मिरज). She and my father were colleagues at a Bhiwandi (भिवंडी) college and at one point we would have classified her as our good 'family friend'. 


She came to our house a few times in Miraj and I still remember a very pleasant evening our family spent on the terrace of Ms. Desai's house at Miraj.

I think her sister and very old mother (?) too were around. As a kid I liked her because she came across as funny.



 My father, she and another of their colleague saw a performance of celebrated Marathi play 'Natsamrat' (टसम्राट) in Mumbai, soon after its launch, around 1970 (?). My father later told me the kind of commentary she was doing while watching the play. She called my father 'GD'. She said something like this: "what are you watching so seriously GD? This all is xxxxxxxx!"

I know some of the family feuds she had to suffer. Various writers on her have alluded to them on the blog already referred to. In fact, I know a lot of gory details because once she came to our house and met my mother after an 'incident'...Very unpleasant. Almost unbelievable. But I won't recount them here.

I tried to meet her in Pune when Sadhana (साधना) award was bestowed on her. Just after the function, I touched her feet and tried to make small conversation. But she was lost somewhere. I realised I was unable to take the relationship forward.

I lost all the interest in her literature after reading Vilas Sarang's (विलास सारंग) criticism of her work (by the way, my father too never spoke about her writing but often spoke about her witticism),
('मराठी नवकादंबरी', 1983, 'अक्षरांचा श्रम केला', 2000). When you love Sarang's literary-critical writing, as I do, that is the price you pay. Now, there was no motivation to make even an attempt to read her work.

Today, I don't possess a single book written by Desai-bai. But I remember her as a very pleasant, funny personality."


I looked at the following picture in January 2014. Apart from realizing that my own batting stance was better than that, I thought of Desai-bai and wondered if she ever held a cricket bat in her hand. 

Or wear an actual hat? I never saw her wearing any.


Pictured: Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa playing cricket

Photo-artist: Not known to me; Year: Unknown to me

courtesy: the Paris Review and Facebook

Saturday, November 08, 2014

पुलंचे गुडघे, पाठ, पाऊस, प्रभाकर कारेकर...To Perish or to Live in Pain?

Today November 8 2014 is 95th Birth Anniversary of P L Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे)


Abul Ala al-Ma’arri (973-1058), 'The Epistle of Forgiveness':

"...Over many a race the sun’s bright net was spread

And loosed their pearls nor left them even a thread.

This dire world delights us, though all sup –

All whom she mothers – from one mortal cup.

Choose from two ills: which rather in the main

Suits you? – to perish or to live in pain?..."

To perish or to live in pain?

Weather patterns are certainly changing across India. I don't know how they will look in the long run but one senses the big change alright.

The late P L Deshpande (1919-2000) suffered (a kind of) arthritis for a number of years. He of course made fun of it, at least, in public.

In one of the best pieces of humour I have heard, he once said that his joint started acting up even when he heard  Marathi song "Nabh Meghani Akramile" (नभ मेघांनी आक्रमिले), sung by Prabhakar Karekar (प्रभाकर कारेकर), from one of the most popular Marathi plays- 'Sangit Saubhadra' (संगीत सौभद्र), 1882 by Annasaheb Kirloskar (अण्णासाहेब किर्लोस्कर).

'Nabh Meghani Akramile' translates as 'the sky is invaded by clouds'.

When I heard the joke first time, I realised what  funny head the late Mr. Deshpande carried.

I often remember Pu La for something or the other. I don't own most of his books. I mayn't have read his book for a very long time now but he remains an integral part of my ecosystem.

I remember in one of his TV interviews, in a kind of response to his wife's autobiographical, rather grim, book ('Aahe Manohar Tari' आहे मनोहर तरी), not one of my favorites, he said : "मला उदास-बिदास  काही वाटत नाही… " (I don't feel depressed etc.)

It was funny but said with such conviction, I felt it deep inside me and has stayed there since then. I feel he never took himself seriously, an attribute most middle-class Maharashtrians seriously lack. Most of them, especially from  the writing/talking community, are full of themselves.

Let me now return to the invasion of clouds and arthritis.

WSJ on October 14 2013 reports:

"The Wolff family of Paramus, N.J., was eyeing the gathering clouds and debating whether to cancel a planned park trip when 6-year-old Leora piped up with an idea: "Let's call Grandma. Her knees always know when it's going to rain!"

Leora's grandmother, Esther Polatsek, says she started being sensitive to the weather in her 20s, when a fracture in her foot would ache whenever a snowstorm approached. Now 66 and plagued by rheumatoid arthritis, Mrs. Polatsek says she suffers flare-ups whenever the weather is about to change..."

I recently bought my favorite book of PLD:  "Nasti Uthathev" (नस्ती उठाठेव), first published in 1952. ["tyache vyavachhedak lakshan" (त्याचे व्यवच्छेदक लक्षण), an essay in there, is one of the best pieces of comic writing I have ever read]

The cover is by Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे). The subject of the picture is 'Majhi Path Dharate" (माझी पाठ धरते)-  my back sprains!


Thursday, November 06, 2014

The real Gertie is NOT 100 but probably 100,000,000!



“A century ago, well before Jurassic Park or The Land Before Time or even plain old moribund Godzilla, cinema’s preeminent dinosaur was Gertie, a colorless, potentially narcoleptic herbivore, species indeterminate, fond of dancing and casting elephants into the sea. Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) was one of the first animated films; it pioneered key-frame animation, a technique in which a story’s major positions were drawn first and the intervening frames were filled in afterward…”


Artist: Zenas Winsor McCay (c. 1867–1871 – July 26, 1934)