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."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

आंब्याची डाळ, पन्ह आणि भेदभाव: चैत्रगौरीच हळदीकुंकू ...Spring Socials and Indian Soil

Dr. B R Ambedkar,  November 4 1948: 

“Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only top dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic” 

The month of Chaitra (चैत्र) of the Saka-era (शक संवत) 1937, marking the end of the winter and the start of the spring, began on March 21 2015. Chaitra in Maharashtra is known for women's gatherings (हळदीकुंकू).

My wife has never called such a gathering but my mother always called one at Miraj (मिरज) and it used to be a festive occasion. Until my sister grew up, I used to go around door to door and extend the invitations for the same with some enthusiasm.

We used to create an arrangement with the goddess at the center surrounded by all kinds of decorations (आरास) - fruits, figurines, sweetmeats, oil-lamps (समया)....The goddess always looked stunning.

The women and kids- men not invited- who came were served a roughly crushed mix of Bengal gram and raw mango (आंब्याची डाळ) and a cardamom-saffron scented sweet-sour drink of boiled raw mango (पन्ह).

Most of the invited women used to be Brahmins but there also were a few non-Brahmin from our immediate neighborhood.

I think the tradition of holding such events 'Haldi-Kunku' (हळदी-कुंकू) goes back a long way.

Of course. there was hardly an aspect of Indian life not affected by segregation and discrimination. I did not know even Haldi-Kunku was not spared.

Even when the invitees were only Brahmins, there used to be deep discrimination.

"... एकदा मी चैत्रगौरीच फार सुंदर हळदीकुंकू केला होत…व्हायच काय पूर्वी, की श्रीमंतांच्या घरी चैत्रगौरीच्या हळदीकुंकवाचे खूप मोठे समारंभ व्हायचे; पण सगळा भेदभाव असयचा, हळदीकुंकवाला आलेल्या बायकांपैकी खूप श्रीमंतांच्या  ज्या बायका असत त्यांच्या हाताला केशर लावीत; मधल्या-आधल्या असत, त्यांच्या हाताला अष्टगंध लावीत आणि अगदी गरिबांच्या असत, त्यांना नुसतच हळदीकुंकू देत!…"

[from preface to 'Shreemati Kashibai Kanitkar: aatmacharitra aani charitra (1861-1948)' by Sarojini Vaidya first published in 1979 {'श्रीमती काशीबाई कानिटकर: आत्मचरित्र आणि चरित्र (१८६१-१९४८)' सरोजिनी वैद्य}]


Ladies, all Brahmins,  from the rich households were applied saffron on their hands, those from the (upper) middle-class were applied 'ashtagandha' (a mixture of eight fragrant herbs) on their hands and the rest were not applied anything at all! (All married women, regardless of their class, were applied vermillion and turmeric on their foreheads.)

This used to happen even in early decades of 20th century. 

Inspired by Ms. Kashibai Kanitkar, some time during 1919-1924, Mrs. Sakhutai Abhyankar (सखुताई अभ्यंकर) supposedly rebelled against such a practice and held a 'classless' Haldikunku,  which some three hundred women attended and the wife of Mr. N C Kelkar (न चि केळकर) presided. Unfortunately, Mrs. Kanitkar could not be present because she was away at Banaras (Varanasi)

All this was narrated to the author (Ms. Vaidya) by Mrs. Abhyankar.

Was there an aspect of Indian life that had  no segregation or discrimination? Is it there now? Have old prejudices now been replaced by new?


Artist: Mike Twohy, The New Yorker, 19 July 1993

My caption: "The courts ruled that we had to apply saffron or ashtagandha to all or nothing at all."

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