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 27, 2015

Romancing Cosmos...कुसुमाग्रज, Hafez, Italo Calvino and Amar Chitra Katha

Today February 27 2015 is 103rd Birth Anniversary of Kusumagraj (कुसुमाग्रज). It also is Marathi Bhasha Diwas (मराठी भाषा दिवस).

पृथ्वीचे प्रेमगीत:

"...तुवा सांडलेले कुठे अंतराळात
वेचूनिया दिव्य तेजःकण
मला मोहवाया बघे हा सुधांशू
तपाचार स्वीकारुनी दारुण

निराशेत सन्यस्थ होऊन बैसे
ऋषींच्या कुळी उत्तरेला ध्रृव
पिसाटापरी केस पिंजारुनी हा
करी धूमकेतू कधी आर्जव

पिसारा प्रभेचा उभारून दारी
पहाटे उभा शुक्र हा प्रेमळ
करी प्रीतीची याचना लाजुनी
लाल होऊनिया लाजरा मंगळ

परी दिव्य ते तेज पाहून पूजून
घेऊ गळ्याशी कसे काजवे
नको क्षूद्र शृंगार तो दुर्बळांचा
तुझी दूरता त्याहुनी साहवे

तळी जागणारा निखारा उफाळून
येतो कधी आठवाने वर
शहारून येते कधी अंग तूझ्या
स्मृतीने उले अन् सले अंतर

गमे की तुझ्या रुद्र रूपात जावे
मिळोनी गळा घालुनीया गळा
तुझ्या लाल ओठातली आग प्यावी
मिठीने तुझ्या तीव्र व्हाव्या कळा..." (courtesy: current copyright holder of the poem)

I never quite liked Kusumagraj's rejection of the Moon on behalf of earth- तुवा सांडलेले कुठे अंतराळात वेचूनिया दिव्य तेजःकण मला मोहवाया बघे हा सुधांशू- because he (moon) is working with borrowed light.  His earth (she) might choose the Sun in the end but the Moon (whether he or she) sure is a great contender.


Italo Calvino:

“The Distance of the Moon

At one time, according to Sir George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth. Then the tides gradually pushed her far away: the tides that the Moon herself causes in the Earth’s waters, where the Earth slowly loses energy.

How well I know! – old Qfwfq cried – the rest of you can’t remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full – nights as bright as day, but with a butter-colored light – it looked as if she were going to crush us; when she was new, she rolled around the sky like a black umbrella blown by the wind; and when she was waxing, she came forward with her horns so low she seemed about to stick into the peak of a promontory and get caught there. But the whole business of the Moon’s phases worked in a different way then: because the distances from the Sun were different, and the orbits, and the angle of something or other, I forget what; as for eclipses, with Earth and Moon stuck together the way they were, why, we had eclipses every minute: naturally, those two big monsters managed to put each other in the shade constantly, first one, then the other…”

(from ‘The Complete Cosmicomics’, 1965)


courtesy: Hafez, Amar Chitra Katha Studio and its artists on Facebook page

Monday, February 23, 2015

Madhubala Probably Had Good Teeth

Today February 23 2015 is 46th Death Anniversary of Madhubala


Her smile for me is more precious than Buddha's or Mona Lisa's. 


But apparently, in as late as 18th century Europe, the act of smiling, not just smirk but the one showing teeth, was considered improper and radical. "If the slightest curl of the mouth was detected, it was taken as a sign of disdain or disapproval, not of pleasure or amusement."

Another important reason NOT to smile was having bad teeth!

"...The new sensibility of smiling was underpinned by the new science of dentistry (the term dentiste and the toothbrush both being inventions of this period). There were small fortunes to be made patching up teeth and replacing those that had been lost..."

(the quotes above are from Mary Beard's review of the book for The Spectator.)Artist: Sidney Hoff, The New Yorker, December 25 1954

Notice- he has no teeth!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

वाऱ्यात उडणारे काळेभोर केस...Mandela from Maharashtra, G K Gokhale

Today February 19 2015 is 100th Death Anniversary of Gopal Krishna Gokhale (गोपाळ कृष्ण गोखले) 1866-1915


A G Noorani, Frontline, May 2 2014:

"...Nelson Mandela’s greatness lay not only in liberating the blacks of South Africa but in taking along the whites and the rest with him. None of the leaders of India had that quality. In the hour of their trial, they all emerged as small men, indeed.
India suffered because it could not produce a Mandela or a Gokhale after Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s death..."

Ramachandra Guha, 'Makers of Modern India', 2010:

"...As a leader of the Congress, Gokhale tried hard to reach out to the Muslims. He was wholly free of sectarian prejudice himself. However, he was regarded as excessively pro-British by militants such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak. His was the classical liberal dilemma—too moderate for the radicals, yet too extreme for the Establishment. One viceroy, Lord Hardinge, called Gokhale ‘the most dangerous enemy of British rule in this country’..."

G K Gokhale, 1904, Pachaiyappa’s College, Madras:

"...There is work to be done for the mass of your countrymen who are plunged in ignorance and superstition. This mass has been kept at a lower level of existence, from which level it has got to be raised. Then there is work to be done for the elevation of the status of the womankind of the land. A whole sex shut out from the intellectual life of a people—this is not good for any country. In religion many of the old institutions are existing only in form and the spirit seems to have fled from them. You have got to recognize that there is work to be done in that direction as well. Further, the whole country is on a low level in regard to political existence and that means arduous work for those who interest themselves in that question. Lastly, the industrial development of the country needs to be urgently attended to. In all these directions there is work to be done..."

लोकमान्य टिळक, 1893 :

 " गोखले हे हुशार आहेत, तरुण आहेत, तरतरीत आहेत हे आम्ही मोठ्या आनंदाने कबूल करतो; पण उतावीळपणा व अविचार हे त्यांच्यामध्ये मोठे दुर्गुण आहेत… "

 ('Agarkar' by Y D Phadke, 1996/ 2002 / 'आगरकर', य दि फडके)


I am not sure about Mr. Tilak's views of Gokhale. Some might say those limitations- impatience and hastiness-  were Tilak's and not Gokhale's!  As Mr. Guha's quote suggests above, I don't think Tilak and Gokhale really were friends. I have a book of Palhad Keshav Atre 1898-1969 (प्रल्हाद केशव अत्रे) where Atre frankly admits how as a Tilak groupie he among many others used to shout slogans against Gokhale in public places in Pune.

But more importantly does any one- other than a few like Messrs Noorani and Guha- remember, let alone celebrate, Gokhale, 100 years after his death? It's to be noted that recently a Marathi cinema on Mr. Tilak's life ('Lokmanya - Ek Yugpurush') was released with a lot of publicity. 

In our class at Miraj High School, Miraj (1969-1975) we had a friend whose name was Gopal Krishna Gokhale. When he told his name, people nodded in appreciation. I wonder, these days, if any one has such a name and even if he does, any one really nods.

Y D Phadke describes Gokhale c 1886 as:

"...गोपाळराव गोखले तेव्हा जेमतेम वीस वर्ष वयाचे. सर्व शिक्षकात वयान लहान. तांबूस गोरा रंग, वाटोळा हसतमुख चेहरा, भव्य कपाळ, वाऱ्यात उडणारे काळेभोर केस. किंचित फुगीर लाल गाल. भरलेली छाती. नीटनेटका पोशख. ऐटीत चालणारे गोखले…" 

("...Gopalrao Gokhale then just twenty years old. The youngest among all the teachers. Brownish fair skin, round smiling face, broad forehead, thick black hair tousled by wind, slightly plump red cheeks, broad chest. Smartly dressed, Gokhale who walked with elan...")

Twenty-eight years later and despite receded hairline bordering on baldness, one can still see some of those features in the picture below.



G K Gokhale and Ratan Tata, c 1914

courtesy: Ramachandra Guha's 'Gandhi Before India', 2013

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Is Such a Girl Thing to Say...So Say It...

Today February 14 2015 is Valentine's Day

Samuel Beckett:
 "...if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love.."





Darcy: "I love you."

Bart Simpson: "That is such a girl thing to say."

The Simpsons, Season 18, Episode 12 "Little Big Girl"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

दुर्गा भागवत @105: Terrorism and Sacrilege

 Today February 10 2015 is 105th Birth Anniversary of Durga Bhagwat (दुर्गा भागवत)

Of all the writings on the terrorist act at Charlie Hebdo offices, so far I have liked the best what cartoonist Joe Sacco has drawn and Tim Parks has said.

courtesy: Joe Sacco (the artist) and The Guardian

Tim Parks writes:

"...At this point, and notwithstanding a profound sense of horror for the evil and stupidity of the terrorist attack on the magazine’s offices, one has to wonder about Charlie Hebdo’s pride in constantly dubbing themselves a “Journal Irresponsable.” The current edition of the paper shows Muhammad in such a way that his white turban looks like two balls and his long pink face a penis. The Prophet is being dubbed a prick. He holds a Je suis Charlie placard and announces that all is forgiven..."

This depiction of the prophet is highly deplorable.

I am wondering how the late Durga Bhagwat (दुर्गा भागवत) would have responded to the terrorist act and the sacrilege.

She would be the first to condemn the heinous act and any attempt to curb the freedom of expression. But she would have been equally quick to protest the sacrilege by Charlie Hebdo.

There are numerous examples of how she stood for the freedom of expression. How would she have protested the insult of another religion? Here is an example:

"...आकाशातून जाणार्‍या मारुतीच्या शेपटीवर बसलेली सीता कशासाठी चितारायची ? आणि तीदेखील विवस्त्र अवस्थेतील ? धार्मिक प्रवृत्तीच्या लोकांना राग येईल; नाही तर काय होईल ? मुळात (म फि) हुसेन यांनी वाचलेल नाही हे स्पष्ट दिसतं. कारण रामायणात मारुती सीतेला घेऊन जातो असं कुठेही नाही… हे संदर्भ लक्षात न घेता हिंदू देवतांची उघडीवाघडी चित्र काढण ही गोष्ट आक्षेपार्हच समजली पाहिजे. अशा चित्रांनी धार्मिक प्रवृत्तीच्या लोकांचा भावना दुखावणही स्वाभाविकच आहे. एवढंच नाही; मी तर म्हणेन की, धार्मिक प्रवृत्तीच्या मुसलमान माणसालाही दुसर्‍या धर्मातील देवतांची अशी विटंबना केलेली आवडणार नाही."

“…why should Seeta sitting on the tail of Lord Maruti flying across the sky be drawn? And that too naked one? Obviously religious people will get angry, won’t they? Basically (M F) Husain has not read Ramayana is obvious because no where in Ramayana, Maruti carries Seeta.… Without considering this context, drawing revealing pictures of Hindu goddesses has to be considered objectionable. Such pictures are naturally going to hurt the sentiments of religious people. Not just that even a religious Muslim may not like this insult of gods of other religions."

(Source- ऐसपैस गप्पा : दुर्गाबाईंशी लेखक प्रतिभा रानडे “Aispais Gappa: Durgabainshi” by Pratibha Ranade, 1998)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The House of Bijapur (Vesh)

Orhan Pamuk:


"...Thus, these legendary illustrators of Kazvin and Herat, all these elderly masters, along with their apprentices, these artisans who made masterpieces in Shah Tahmasp’s workshops, painters and colorists whose brushes made horses gallop at full speed and whose butterflies fluttered off the page, all of these master binders and calligraphers, every last one was left without work, penniless and destitute, homeless and bereft. Some migrated to the North among the Uzbeks, some West to India..."

('My Name is Red', 1998)

William Dalrymple, The Times of India, May 17 2015:

"As the works in the Met show demonstrate, while Ahmadnagar and Golconda both produced extraordinary artwork, it is Bijapur that is rightly admired as the most refined and innovative of the Deccani sultanates. The archetypal Bijapur ruler was Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1556-1627) of Bijapur, an erudite scholar, lute player, poet, singer, calligrapher, chess master and an aesthete. Under Ibrahim Bijapur underwent a remarkable renaissance. Though his first love was perhaps music (and his most popular composition a book of Urdu songs) Ibrahim oversaw the creation of a remarkable literary revival and attracted to his court the greatest poets and writers of his day, including Zuhuri, the Persian poet laureate. "
 
In Miraj, where I lived for first 21 years of life, the most important part of our address was "Bijapur Vesh".  

The distance between Miraj and Bijapur is 121 km and yet it exerted such deep influence on our life. That was because Miraj once was an important town of Adil Shahi for a long time. The capital of Adil Shahi was the town of Bijapur. Therefore, a border of the town  from where the road to the capital city began was named after it. Hence 'Vijapur/ Bijapur Vesh' (विजापूर वेस) and our house of Bijapur Vesh!


Artists:   Kamal Muhammad and Chand Muhammad

courtesy: Wikipedia and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

I came across this intriguing, beautiful painting in 'The Spirit of Indian Painting: Close Encounters with 100 Great Works 1100-1900', 2014  by B N Goswamy. Four pages of the book are devoted to it. 

The painting is showing us successive Sultans of Bijapur.  The figure in pink- according to one theory- is that of Shah Ismail, the Safavid ruler of Persia. The figure on the throne is of Sultan Yusuf, the founder of the Adil Shahi dynasty.

The painting apparently was made for boyish looking Sikandar Adil Shah, the sitting figure on the extreme  right, who was placed on the throne in 1672 at the age of four and whose reign was marked by chronic civil war. The picture is making a statement that the young man belongs there in the company of his predecessors and should be accepted as such.

The painting becomes poignant because just six years after its completion, the Bijapur Sultanate came to an end at the hands of Mughals in September 1686.  Sikandar- who died in Mughal captivity- turned out to be the last Adil-Shah. Neither was there any need to prove anything to anyone nor the painting would ever need a revision!

Who were Kamal and Chand Muhammad, the artists? Did they come from Persia? Were they trained there? Apparently not much is known about them as per the book.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Portraying Oneself More Suave and Debonair: Triple Self-Portrait

Today Feb 3 2015 is 121st Birth Anniversary of Norman Rockwell and 88th Birthday of equally great Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे)




I saw the above on FB page of The Hindu on June 10 2014.

I kept looking more at the background of Mr. Haasan.

The painting, whose artist I don't know,  is an imitation of  the late Norman Rockwell's "Triple Self-Portrait" from The Saturday Evening Post issue dated Feb 13 1960.


John Wilmerding writes of the painting:

"His well-known “Triple Self Portrait” (1970), incorporates details from works by Rembrandt, Dürer, Picasso and van Gogh. Rockwell knew his art history from books, museum visits and trips abroad. More than borrowing from the old masters, he was sensitive to the artifices of pure design and perception. We see this in his numerous scenes of figures looking at pictures and of compositions showing paintings within paintings."



"Rockwell pokes fun at himself in 1960’s “Triple Self-Portrait.” The Rockwell in the mirror has foggy glasses. Rockwell’s reasoning for that was so “I couldn’t actually see what I looked like—a homely, lanky fellow—and therefore, I could stretch the truth just a bit and paint myself looking more suave and debonair than I actually am.”
There are a lot of interesting details other than the debonair gent at the easel. A student of great artists, Rockwell had self-portraits of masters pinned to the upper right of his work. We see Durer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and a funky post-cubist Picasso, all of which Rockwell himself painted..."

courtesy:  The Saturday Evening Post

Monday, February 02, 2015

Ayn Rand's Unpublished Title!

Today February 2 2015 is 110th Birth Anniversary of Ayn Rand



Darryl Cunningham, New Statesman, October 31 2014:


“…In Rand’s philosophy an individual’s needs matter more than the needs of the majority, taxation is theft, and the welfare system should be allowed to wither away (along, presumably, with the poor).


So a world of low taxes, low business regulation, welfare state rollback, and government reduced only to matters of policing and the military, while all else is farmed out to giant corporations, is a world Rand would much approve of. If this picture looks familiar, it’s because it’s the world that those on the political right have been moving us towards for the last thirty years.

All of the above shows us why Ayn Rand is still relevant. Hers is the spirit of the age: the age of selfishness. An age of greed, financial crime, and indifference to the poor, sick, and disabled. Where most work harder for less and a tiny percentage of people at the top of society own the majority of all wealth.”
 



courtesy: Boing Boing FB page   and Dangerous Minds's FB page