Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology)

In the early years of the India story, the CBS 60 minutes featured a slot on the IITs. I remember being in the US within a month or two of its telecast and quite a few Americans had seen it, were fascinated and asked me about it: amongst them corporate employees, the car hire firm manager and even a stripper.

So here's the original

Sax appeal: Down memory lane with Manohari Singh

article in
interspersed with youtube videos (courtesy me)

Manohari Singh turned any Hindi film song into a duet. Capturing the 50-year journey of the man with the golden saxophone is Sudipta ChandaUsually musicians of yesteryears fail to find space in the media ~ the reason perhaps lies in their failure to be good ‘public relation officers’ for themselves. Manohari Singh’s saxophone has never failed to pep up Hindi songs or earn the respect of music directors. The saxophonist ~ known for his work in Guide, Chalte Chalte, Veer Zaara and numerous other films ~ is celebrating 50 years of being a part of the Indian music industry. The journey from the golden age of Hindi film music to Laage Raho Munnabhai has been a pleasant one, with some milestones being more memorable than the others.

After bringing him to Bombay in 1958, Salil Chowdhury introduced him to another legendary music composer ~ SD Burman, who gave him a break in Sitaron Se Aage. Singh never had the opportunity to look back. That year his work was heard in Madhumati (Salil Chowdhury had a soft corner for the saxophone and the flute).

Music director Jatin Pandit is lavish with his praises for Singh. “He is one of the finest musicians in the world. He can read notations as if it were his native language. There was hardly a song made after the late 1950s that didn’t feature him. He is a living example what can be achieved through hard work and god’s blessing.”

A long time back, during a show in Kolkata, Singh was performing at a concert attended by Naushad, SD Burman and Salil Chowdhury. The last named couldn’t check his emotions and went on to give Singh a break in Pasher Bari. One incident led to another.

Sabita Chowdhury says, “Salil gave him shelter in Mumbai and even introduced him to Burman dada.” He later joined Pancham. She adds, “Music runs in his blood. Salil used his mastery on the English flute and the saxophone as if it were a second voice. His musical instrument changes scales like the human voice. Listen to Jare Ud Jare Paanchhi.”

Out of a bagful of memorable incidents, Chowdhury picks one, “During the recording of Haalud Gandar Phool Salil had problems with his second flute player, who was supposed to play with Aloke Nath Dey. Manohari da was present and agreed to play on my song.” Eminent musicologist Ranabir Neogi says, “I consider Jare Ure Jare Paakhi a duet between Lata Mangeshkar and Manohari Singh.”

Beside Salil Chowdhury, SD Burman too offered Singh an extravagant platform to showcase his talent in umpteen songs ~ Raat Akeli Hai (Jewel Thief), Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, Tere Mere Sapne (Guide), Roop Tera Mastana (Aradhana), etc.

“The fact that I am six or seven years elder to Pancham, helped to nurture our bonding. It was easier to make suggestions to Pancham than approaching Burmanda (senior). From watching English films to discussing music, Pancham was my partner. I joined him on the background score of Bhoot Bungla and kept working with him till his last film,” says an emotional Manohari Singh.

Besides the saxophone and flute, Pancham brought out a unique feature in Singh. Remember the beautiful whistling in the prelude of Yeh Shaam Mastani or that in Yeh Dosti Hum Nehin? Both are the efforts of Singh. Try to recollect the song Hoga Tumse Pyara Kaun in Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai. A flute was used in the interlude.

“Once Pancham bought a musical instrument made out of bamboo from a shop near Metro Cinema in Calcutta. He asked me to play the instrument. The bamboo clarinet sounded quite different.”

Singh had a good run with fellow musician Basudev Chakraborty. They had a successful innings as the music director duo Basu-Manohari, music composer in Saabse Bada Rupaiya, Yaasmeen, Chatpati, besides a number of Bangla songs.

Some of Singh’s memorable numbers are Gulabi Ankhen (The Train), O Hasina Zulphonwale (Teesri Manzil), Hai Duniya Usiki (Kashmir Ki Kaali), Dil Jo Na Kehe Saka (Bheegee Raat), Mehbooba Mehbooba (Sholay), etc. In Bengal he left his mark in Taar Aar Por Nayee, Ek Boishakhe (Bilombito Loy), Bujhbe Na Keu Bujhbena (Kobita), Phoole Gandho Nei, Moner Anka Banka and Bandho Moner Duyaar (Mohonar Dikay).

Music director Viju Shah says, “He worked often with my father and uncle (Kalyanji-Anandji) and I can’t help but recall a memorable incident that took place during a recording session involving Asha Bhonsle.

“During recording a song, papa asked Manoharida to put on the headphone and fill the gaps with his sax. Without notations he did a brilliant job. He simply changed the outcome of the song and it became known as an Asha-Manohari duet.”

The golden age of music in the Hindi film industry involves music directors like Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, OP Nayyar, Roshan, Salil Chowdhury, Laxmi-Pyare, SD Burman, RD Burman and Jatin-Lalit (the duo entered the scene much later). Singh has worked with all of them. He has even worked with one of the best musicians of our era ~ Shantanu Moitra in Pareenita and Laage Raho Munnabhai.

Since Singh was born and brought up in West Bengal ~ starting his journey here ~ he will be felicitated by the Amit Kumar Fan Club on 27 November. Fifty years have gone by and hopefully many more are to come. This is truly the man with a golden saxophone.

(To celebrate Manohari Singh’s 50th anniversary in the music industry, visit Odyssey in south Calcutta on 27 December).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Vyakti Ani Valli (Personalities And Characters): 2008- # 1

The magazine Outlook does manage to surprise me sometimes. At a period in time, when most popular Indian magazines publish / rehash garbage, Outlook once in a while manages to be original, serious, not trivial and mature.

The latest issue (the New Year Double Issue) has a series of articles on ‘The Native Place’ that make quite interesting reading. But what delighted me particularly was the article by Ebrahim Alkazi, an Arab of Saudi Arabian descent but an ‘Indian’ by birth and belonging: a tremendous influence on the theatre and acting crowd in India, frequently unsung and more in the shadows.
But a giant in his own right, as acknowledged by many greats time and again.

Here’s the article reproduced below with due acknowledgements to Outlook magazine. Also at http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20090112&fname=IAlkazi+%28F%29&sid=1

My roots extend back to Saudi Arabia, but the richest years of my life are the ones that I spent in Poona, where I was born and raised. The education I received there—from my father, and from the Jesuit school I attended—and the rich life of the area around me, have shaped me into the person I am today.

I have never really gone back to Poona except for a short trip a couple of years ago, and I have never staged a play there. It isn't that I don't miss it, but places change and some have changed beyond recognition. The Poona I knew, of my family and neighbours, no longer exists for me to go back to.

My father was the first member of the Alkazi family to leave Saudi Arabia.

He was an orphan, who had to make his way in the world, so his uncles sent him to Bombay, which had a centuries-old tradition of Arabs coming to trade. He worked initially with the Bassam family, who were primarily in the tea trade, but then went on to become a businessman in his own right, trading in textiles, tea and whatever else was in demand. The Arab traders made their presence felt through business or from things such as Iraqi horses imported for the Poona races. Many of the Arab families did not circulate much beyond this circle, but my father preferred to mix with others.

Although he continued to work from Bombay, where his office was on the fifth floor of the building, and his flat on the fourth floor, my father decided to rent a house in Poona, which was a military town known for its quiet and salubrious environment, and a good place to raise children. Our house was in the cantonment area, but just at the edge, so we enjoyed the quiet of the military areas but were not that far from Poona city. I grew up in a family of nine children.

Beyond my immediate family, there were three other families living in the compound, each in their own villa. There was a Parsi family, where an emigre German-Jewish music teacher would come to give piano lessons every day. Then there was an English family in the next villa, and an emigre Persian family in the last. This created a very cosmopolitan environment. There was a tremendous feeling of good neighbourliness and a great tradition of visiting each other, very informally. On top of which every family—the Parsis, Christians and us—would celebrate its own festivals and invite everyone from the compound. This was a taste of the "communal" in the very best sense of the term.

In the neighbouring compound, there was a long bungalow divided between a Goan Christian family and a Parsi one. The Parsi women were very skilled at playing Western classical music, while the Goan Christian family loved jazz, so different types of music were constantly in the background as I grew up. Beyond the compounds were the green fields of a Maharashtrian farmer, from whom we bought our greens and vegetables. He was one of my father's closest friends, although they really had no common language to communicate in. The farmer spoke only Marathi and my father had some knowledge of Hindustani but they were both drawn to each other. As I think back, all of this was also my education in theatre. Theatre is primarily about social observation and I saw a really rich slice of life, including a Parsi family that was like out of a Chekhov play. The sisters were all spinsters, and the one brother was a weak man, always drinking and borrowing money from the Pathan moneylenders.

My father was a self-taught man, and created libraries everywhere he went. These would include encyclopaedias, books in English, and he also subscribed to the latest journals from the Arab world, such as Al Ahram from Egypt

We read Naguib Mahfouz when he was just starting out, long before he became famous or received a Nobel. My father firmly thought that our cultural roots were in Saudi Arabia; we spoke only Arabic at home, and we had a teacher of Arabic and Islamic studies who was brought over from Saudi Arabia and lived as part of our family.

I never had a day's vacation from studying. My brothers and I would return from our Jesuit school—St Vincent's High School—to the study of the Quran and its interpretation at home. My sisters were taught at home. This gave us a solid foundation in Islam and Islamic studies. The second great influence on my early life was also a person in charge of a library—Father Riklin, who was also the principal of St Vincent's, and it was he who encouraged me to participate in the annual school play. I acted in those plays from age nine to 14.

Outside our immediate lives, other great events were happening. Poona played an important role in the Independence movement, which was at its height at this time. Gandhi and other Congress leaders would stay at the Aga Khan Palace in Poona city and I remember cycling around it. At night we could hear the Congress leaders working up the crowds. At the same time, you would have regimental bands marching through the streets, emphasising the presence of the British army. It was exciting, and scary.

I remember that on Saturdays, which were half-days, I would carry my bicycle over the sandy patch in the compound so that my mother wouldn't hear me leaving the compound. Some instinct would still alert her, and she'd call, "Ebrahim, Ebrahim!" But I'd pretend not to hear and cycle to Poona city. There I'd go to the International Book Service, which used to get the finest of new English literature from Europe. The intellectual fraternity of Maharashtra would also gather there, and they'd be discussing all the important issues of the time with the shop owner, a Mr Dikshit.

Then World War II broke out in 1939, and a great transformation took place. The Fathers at St Vincent's were Swiss and German; the Germans were taken to the internment camps. We watched it happen, feeling almost bereaved. My father, who had bought a plot of land in our compound and had made me measure it, also began to feel increasingly like an unwelcome alien. He had to carry his passport; every Friday evening when he returned from Bombay, he had to report to the police.

I left for Bombay soon afterwards, in 1941, to study at St Xavier's College and to work with my father. Bombay was where I really became involved in drama and this was deeply tied to my connection with the Padamsees. To a certain extent, Bombay was also my native place—of my life in theatre. Sultan Padamsee had just returned from Oxford. He was a young man in his 20s then, but he had such a strong personality, and such command over poetry and production. I also met Roshen, Sultan's sister, who I would later go on to marry. At this time I was also getting more entwined with India. You could go from listening to Gandhi at Chowpatty, to Mohammed Ali Jinnah's house to see what he had to say. I won an elocution contest on behalf of the Communists, but when I visited Calcutta and saw the results of the Bengal Famine, I was disgusted that the Communists were taking part in these petty things rather than dealing with the famine.

My father felt a greater bond with the larger Islamic world, and he moved to Karachi after Pakistan was founded, as he had once gone to Turkey when he had initially been enthusiastic about Ataturk. In Pakistan, too, he was disappointed.The army had its eye on the building he owned, and one day they just came in, threw all his beautiful furniture out, and took it over. He went on to Beirut, and later most of my family would end up in Kuwait. I've gone to Saudi Arabia with my mother and the family as part of Haj, but not to Aniza where my father came from. But I consider India as my homeland, and I have a debt to repay.

Although I have no real "native place" to go back to, nevertheless I am very, very attached to Poona. In a sense, my native place has followed me rather than I ever going back to it. When I was at the National School of Drama, many of my finest students were from Maharashtra.

A couple of years ago I was honoured for my work in theatre at an award ceremony in Poona. When the door of the car opened, there was this old man who tapped me on the shoulder. I had no idea who he was and couldn't meet him then, but I met him again as I was leaving and he handed me this small envelope. Inside was a photograph from my wedding. Early in his life, he had worked as a very young peon at my office in Bombay and he had kept that picture all these years.

The people of Maharashtra have taken to me in a great way, and shown me tremendous regard. At times I am so overwhelmed by this that it becomes harrowing because of the responsibility it puts on me to return that regard. My work, in preserving and presenting India, is a part of what I give back.

(Ebrahim Alkazi, the founder-director of the National School of Drama, has recently established the Alkazi Foundation of the Arts in New Delhi.)

As told to Omair Ahmad

Other resources






Sunday, December 28, 2008

P.G. Wodehouse - 5

From ‘The Heart of a Goof’

To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time

It was a morning when all nature shouted ‘Fore!’ (page 1)

I wish to goodness I knew the man who invented this infernal game. I’d strangle him. But I suppose he’s been dead for ages. Still, I could go and jump on his grave. (page 5)

I frequently find myself enrolled as a father-confessor on the most intimate matters by beautiful creatures from whom many a younger man would give his eye-teeth to get a friendly word. Besides, I had known Barbara since she was a child. Frequently – though not recently – I had given her her evening bath. These things form a bond. (page 7)

‘My angel!’ said Ferdinand.
He folded her in his arms, using the interlocking grip (page 26)

……he was heard to observe to the purser that if the alleged soprano who had just sung ‘My Little Grey Home in the West’ had the immortal gall to take a second encore he hoped that she would trip over a high note and dislocate her neck. (page 29)

I attribute the insane arrogance of the later Roman emperors almost entirely to the fact that, never having played golf, they never knew that strange chastening humility which is engendered by a topped chip-shot. If Cleopatra had been outed in the first round of the Ladies’ Singles, we should have heard a lot less of her proud imperiousness. (page 104)

His brow was furrowed and he had the indefinable look of one who has been smitten in the spiritual solar plexus. (page 144)

I have seen him in a club dining-room musing with a thoughtful frown for fifteen minutes on end while endeavouring to weigh the rival merits of a chump chop and a sirloin steak as a luncheon dish. A placid, leisurely man, I might almost call him lymphatic. I will call him lymphatic. He was lymphatic. (page 147)

‘William,’ I said ‘as one who dandled you on his knee when you were a baby, I wish to ask you a personal question. Answer me this, and make it snappy. Do you love Jane Packard?’
A look of surprise came into his face, followed by one of intense thought. He was silent for a space.
‘Who me?’ he said at length.
‘Yes, you.’
‘Jane Packard.’
‘Do I love Jane Packard?’ said William, assembling the material and arranging it neatly in his mind.
He pondered for perhaps five minutes.
‘Why, of course I do,’ he said. (page 149)

The fifth and sixth holes at Mossy Heath are long, but they offer little trouble to those who are able to keep straight. It is as if the architect of the course had relaxed over these two in order to ensure that his malignant mind should be at its freshest and keenest when he came to design the pestilential seventh. (page 162)

From ‘Money for Nothing’

John drew a deep breath. He was not one of those men who derive pleasure from parading their inmost feelings and discussing with others the secrets of their hearts. Hugo, in a similar situation, would have advertised his love like the hero of a musical comedy, he would have made the round of his friends, confiding in them, and when the supply of friends had given out, would have buttonholed the gardener. But John was different. to hear his aspirations put into bald words like this made him feel as if he were being divested of most of his more important garments in a crowded thoroughfare (pg 34)

John’s emotions as he approached the head waiter rather resembled those with which years ago he had once walked up to a bull in a field, Pat having requested him to do so because she wanted to know if bulls in fields are really fierce or if the artists who depict them in comic papers are simply trying to be funny. (pg 39)

Most of the head waiter’s eyes were concealed by the upper strata of his cheeks, but there was enough of them left visible to allow him to look at John as if he was something unpleasant that had come to light in a portion of salad. (pg 39)

‘Was that you, Ronnie?’
’Was what me?’
Hugo approached the matter from another angle.
‘Did you see anyone?’ (pg 131)

From ‘The Code of the Woosters’

He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled, so I tactfully changed the subject. (pg 3)

Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to her skin. (pg 4)

‘Bertie,’ she said, ’I wish to begin by saying a few words about Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE. May greenfly attack his roses. May his cook get tight on the night of the big dinner party. May all his hens get the staggers.’
’Does he keep hens?’ I said, putting a point.
’May his cistern start leaking, and may white ants, if there are any in England, gnaw away the foundations of Totleigh Towers. And when he walks up the aisle with his daughter Madeleine, to give her away to that ass Spink-Bottle, may he get a sneezing fit and find that he has come out without a pocket handkerchief.’
She paused, and it seemed to me that all this, while spirited stuff, was not germane to the issue.
’Quite,’ I said. ’I agree with you in toto. But what has he done?’ (pg 22-23)

She was definitely the sort of girl who puts her hands over a husband’s eyes, as he is crawling in to breakfast with a morning head, and says: ‘Guess who!’ (pg 35)

Old Bassett has been listening to these courtesies with a dazed expression on the map – gulping a bit from time to time, like a fish that has been hauled out of a pond on a bent pin and isn’t at all sure it is equal to the pressure of events. (pg 36)

He gave me a look, a kind of wide-eyed, reproachful look, such as a dying newt might have given him, if he had forgotten to change its water regularly. (pg 90)

’Said he would beat you to a jelly, did he?’
‘That was the expression he used. He repeated it, so that there should be no mistake.’
‘Well, I wouldn’t for the world have you manhandled by that big stiff. You wouldn’t have a chance against a gorilla like that. He would tear the stuffing out of you before you could say “Pip-pip”. He would rend you limb from limb and scatter the fragments to the four winds.’
I winced a little.
’No need to make a song about it, old flesh and blood’ (pg 95)

Owing to the fact that the shock had caused my tongue to get tangled up with my tonsils, inducing an unpleasant choking sensation, I found myself momentarily incapable of speech. (pg 103)

The hair was ruffled, the eyes wild, the nose twitching. A rabbit pursued by a weasel would have looked just the same – allowing, of course, for the fact that it would not have been wearing tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles. (pg 103)

He recoiled as if he had run into something hot, and a look of horror and alarm spread slowly over his face.
The whole situation recalled irresistibly to my mind something that had happened to me once up at Oxford, when the heart was young. It was during Eights Week, and I was sauntering on the river-bank with a girl named something that has slipped my mind, when there was a sound of barking and a large, hefty dog came galloping up, full of beans and buck and obviously intent on mayhem. And I was just commending my soul to God, and feeling that this was where the old flannel trousers got about thirty bob’s worth of value bitten out of them, when the girl, waiting till she saw the whites of its eyes, with extraordinary presence of mind suddenly opened a coloured Japanese umbrella in the animal’s face. Upon which, it did three back somersaults and retired into private life. (pg 119)

….Totleigh Towers was one of those country houses which had been built at a time when people planning a little nest had the idea that a bedroom was not a bedroom unless you could give an informal dance for about fifty couples in it……. (pg 126)

’What ho, Stinker.’
‘Hullo Bertie.’
‘Long time since we met.’
‘It is a bit, isn’t it?’
’I hear you’re a curate now.’
’Yes, that’s right.’
’How are the souls?’
’Oh, fine, thanks.’ (pg 137)

Stiffy…..one of those girls who enjoy in equal quantities the gall of an army mule and the calm insouciance of a fish on a slab of ice….. (pg 141)

I wouldn’t say he smiled – he practically never does – but a muscle abaft the mouth did seem to quiver slightly for an instant. (pg 226)

From the Introduction by Joe Keenan
‘Are you going for a stroll?’ said Aunt Dahlia, with a sudden show of interest. ’Where?’
’Oh, hither and thither.’
’Then I wonder if you would mind doing something for me.’
’Give it a name.’
’It wont take you long. You know the path that runs past the greenhouses into the kitchen garden. If you go along it you come to a pond.’
’That’s right.’
’Well, will you get a good, stout piece of rope or cord and go down that path till you come to the pond.’
’To the pond. Right.’
’And look about you till you find a nice heavy stone. Or a fairly large brick would do.’
’I see,’ I said, though I didn’t, being still fogged. ’Stone or brick. Yes. and then?’
’Then,’ said the relative, ’I want you, like a good boy, to fasten the rope to the brick and tie it round your damned neck and jump into the pond and drown yourself. In a few days I will send and have you fished up and buried because I shall need to dance on your grave.’ (pg viii)

’I admit that any red-blooded sultan or pasha, if offered the opportunity of adding M.Bassett to this harem, would jump to it without hesitation, but he would regret his impulsiveness before the end of the first week. She’s one of those soppy girls, riddled from head to foot with whimsy. She holds the view that the stars are God’s daisy chain, that rabbits are gnomes in attendance on the Fairy Queen, and that every time a fairy blows its wee nose a baby is born, which, as we know, is not the case.’ (pg ix)

Bertie himself once inadvertently proposed to Madeline while pleading Gussie’s case. Though Madeline’s passion for Gussie got Bertie off the hook, she has since viewed him as a sort of vice-fiance, ready to step in should anything go amiss with the current office-holder. Bertie’s code as a gentleman will not permit him to correct this misconception. After all, ‘If a girl thinks you’re in love with her and says she will marry you, you cant very well voice a preference for being dead in a ditch.’ (pg ix)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thoughts… … …

There is an orientalism in the most restless pioneer,
and the farther west is but the farthest east.
- Henry David Thoreay (A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking
for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night
- Allen Ginsberg

Like a falling star, like a bubble in a stream,
Like a flame in the wind, like frost in the sun,
Like a flash of lightning or a passing dream –
So should you understand the world of the ego.
- Buddha

My swaraj (self rule or independence) is to keep intact the genius of our civilization. I want to write many new things but they must all be written on the Indian slate. I would gladly borrow from the West when I can return the amount with decent interest
- Mahatma Gandhi

Say it with Numbers: #9-2008

  • When Iraq invaded Kuwait, there were only 58,000 men in the Saudi Arabian army. Iraq on the other hand had a standing army of nearly a million men – the 4th largest army in the world – not counting its reserves and paramilitary forces
  • The Beijing-Lhasa train cost $4.2 billion to build and runs on the highest rail tracks in the world, crossing passes at an altitude of around 16,000 feet
  • India exported Buddhism to China around 70 BCE
  • The number of Tibetans killed during the Cultural Revolution varies between 200,000 and 400,000
  • The first book printed in the world in 868 AD was a Chinese translation of the Sanskrit treatise ‘Diamond Sutra’ which was intended for free distribution
  • Between 12 and 29 million Indians were deliberately allowed to die during the 1877-78 famine under British rule
  • When the East India Company was founded in 1600, Britain was generating 1.8% of the world’s GDP while India was producing 22.5%
  • Manasarovar, at 4500 metres is the highest lake in the world and with a circumference of 88 kms, one of the largest too
  • Death Penalty

    A total of 135 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice

    In 2007, only 24 countries carried out executions

    China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and USA are the top 5 perpetrators. They account for 88% of all known executions. India chose to vote against a motion (alongwith Pakistan and China) in response to the UN General Assembly call for a Universal Moratorium on Death Penalty
  • Indonesia is an anthropologist's fantasyland. It is made up of 17,500 islands, on which 230 million people speak more than 300 languages. The archipelago's culture is colored by Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Dutch traditions.
  • While there are 32 Americans per square mile of America, there are some 840 Indians per square mile of India.
  • Bacterial counts on the hands range from 5000 to 5000000 colony-forming units per sq.cm. The hair, underarm and groin harbor greater concentrations. On the hands, deep skin crevices trap 10 to 20% of the flora………The worst place is under the fingernails.
  • Speed of light: 299,792,458 m/s
  • Baba Budan, a 17th century Sufi is supposed to have brought coffee to India, from Yemen
  • 1 in 7 Filipinos is abroad working at any point in time. A quarter of the world’s seafarers are from Philippines. The Greek word for maid is ‘filipineza’.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan

If the 24-hr news coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks doesnt depress you, few things will.

The less said the better about the Indian media which indulges in wholesale misquoting or selective quoting, jingoism, repetition and sensationalism. Serious journalism……..whats that?

And the politicians are a topic by themselves. One changes clothes thrice in the latter half of the day at a time of national crisis. A dapper gentleman this. The other, no less than the chief minister, visits the scene of terror and carnage (the Taj Hotel) with his actor son (and his film director friend). Was that a family outing, terror tourism or blissful mindlessness of public sentiments.

His deputy, says that such type of incidents (the Mumbai carnage) happen in big cities. No doubt this person was handicapped by his poor knowledge of Hindi and made a mistake in his nervousness but I would have expected a better press statement

And it doesn’t stop at that.

Another chief minister down south visits a freshly martyred father who has forewarned the CM that he is not welcome. The CM not surprisingly is then shown the door. The CM later remarks that were it not for the martyred son, no dog would have glanced at their house.

Isnt it our right to expect some statesmanlike figures in politics?

Another one from a different party says that the lipstick/powder/suit crowd is defaming the politicians over this incident. All leaders of all classes seems to be fighting each other like cats and dogs (surprisingly the communists seem to be away from all this mayhem, part 2. Are they the saner ones?)

Is this nation or political class imploding? Or are they so self-absorbed in their private cocoons that they have lost all sense of a nationalistic spirit, an empathy with the masses, a control over the tongue (and the ego). Indian politics depresses. And the only seemingly decent guy, the Prime Minister seems to be isolated in his administration with minimal control over others.

Will my nation wake up to a better tomorrow, with slightly more wise public leaders?

To mouth a cliché, its darkest just before the dawn. Hopefully the dawn is round the corner.

In such times, Lata soothes. ‘Allah tero naam’ is the cry of the sane for the mayhem that surrounds us

As for me, the bitter cynic that I am, I hope my envisioned world is a lie and a better future awaits.


The lyrics and English translation

This is a song sung by Lata Mangeshkar in the Hindi film Hum Dono. The score was composed by Jaidev.

Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam
sab ko sanmati de bhagwaan
...maangon kaa sindoor naa chhoote
maan behenon kee aans naa toote
deha binaa bhatake naa praan
o saare jag ke rakhawaale
nirbal ko bal denewaale
balawaanon ko de de gyaan

The translation

Allah is your name, Ishwar is your name
Bless everyone with wisdom O God
May wives not be widowed
May the hopes of mothers and sisters not be broken
May lives not flounder disembodied
Oh Protector of the whole world
Giver of strength to the weak
Do grant wisdom to the strong

Courtesy: http://sacred-songs.blogspot.com/2007/06/allah-tero-naam.html

Monday, November 24, 2008

Helen of Bollywood - courtesy Rediff

The original item girl, femme fatale of Bollywood Helen is an interesting story in her own right.

Rediff’s article (http://specials.rediff.com/movies/2008/oct/21slide1.htm) with a listing of top 10 Helen songs allowed me to revisit nostalgia. The top 10 list is as below, in no particular order

1. Piya Tu Ab To Aaja, Caravan

A petrified Asha Parekh (who wouldn’t be, watching Helen dance like that!!!), exhilarating Asha, gyrating Helen, a writhing man in a giant birdcage dancing pseudo Bharatanatyam steps and pink flamingoes in the background

2. Mera naam chin chin choo, Howrah Bridge

From the black and white era, a wonderful old-style bar atmosphere, great music, Helen starring as Ms. Chin Chin Choo (with apologies to the Chinese for the name caricaturing) and the suave KN Singh and Ashok Kumar adding to the highs.

3. O haseena zulfonwali, Teesri Manzil

Art nouveau, staircases leading upto nowhere, a suited (orange-border) Shammi Kapoor,

4. Yeh mera dil, Don

a tremendously sexy Helen wooing a green-shirted Amitabh with Asha in great form

5. Mungda, Inkaar

An awesome song sung by Usha Mangeshkar (the lesser known amongst her more famous sisters, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosale), Helen in traditional Koli (fisherwomen) dress with a few desi steps to match, a song with lots of oomph

6. Mehbooba, Sholay

a hit song from the cult film, Sholay. Helen and her tribe of gypsies entertaining the dacoit Amjad Khan. Music by and sung by R.D.Burman

7. Tora mann bada paapi, Ganga Jumna

The joker in the pack this, a fully attired Helen as the Indian courtesan dancing the traditional Indian dance steps and carrying it off quite well, with some great sarangi instrumentals in the background

8. Aa jaane jaan, Inteqam

With this its back to the pelvic-thrusting Helen, the vamp in western dress, topped by bird feathers!! And Asha (?) with a softer tone offsong

9. Aiyay ya Suku, Suku, Junglee

giant paintbrushes, pink…umm….tree….thingies, gypsies dancing, a silly but exuberant Shammi Kapoor and the charming Helen

10. Aao na, Mere Jeevan Saathi

the deep cleavaged Helen cant work wonders on the blind Kaka, Rajesh Khanna. So she changes into a hideous pink gown-thingy which stands in contrast to the orange safari of RK. As if that is not enough the whole frame is suffused with a reddish/pinkish/orangish hue. Asha’s great though

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Norwegian Wood - By the Beatles

Haunting tune this by the Beatles.....................a small Indian connection there with the sitar in the background.

Lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/beatles/norwegian+wood_10026489.html

I once had a girl, or should i say, she once had me.
She showed me her room, isn't it good, norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So i looked around and i noticed there wasn't a chair.
I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine.
We talked until two and then she said, "it's time for bed".
She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her i didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath.
And when i awoke i was alone, this bird had flown.
So i lit a fire, isn't it good, norwegian wood.


Friday, November 21, 2008

From ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ by Jhumpa Lahiri

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom-House”

………….from the conclusion he sometimes feared was true: that the entire enterprise of having a family, of putting children on this earth, as gratifying as it sometimes felt, was flawed from the start. But these were an old man’s speculations, an old man who was himself behaving like a child

He owned an expensive camera that required thought before you pressed the shutter, and I quickly became his favorite subject, round-faced, missing teeth, my thick bangs in need of a trim. They are still the pictures of myself I like best, for they convey that confidence of youth I no longer possess, especially in front of a camera.

It is clear to me now that my mother was in love with him. He wooed her as no other man had, with the innocent affection of a brother-in-law. In my mind, he was just a family member, a cross between an uncle and a much older brother, for in certain respects my parents sheltered and cared for him in much the same way they cared for me. He was respectful of my father, always seeking his advice about making a life in the West, about setting up a bank account and getting a job, and deferring to his opinions about Kissinger and Watergate. Occasionally, my mother would tease him about women, asking about female Indian students at MIT or showing him pictures of her younger cousins in India. “What do you think of her?” she would ask. “Isn’t she pretty?” She knew that she could never have Pranab Kaku for herself, and I suppose it was her attempt to keep him in the family. But, most important, in the beginning he was totally dependent on her, needing her for those months in a way my father never did in the whole history of their marriage. He brought to my mother the first and, I suspect, the only pure happiness she ever felt. I don’t think even my birth made her as happy. I was evidence of her marriage to my father, an assumed consequence of the life she had been raised to lead. But Pranab Kaku was different. He was the one totally unanticipated pleasure in her life.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Brimful of Asha

Younger than most of us, Ashatai has entranced us for years. Wish you a long life !!!!

Madhuri 'Mads' Dixit

Ladies and Gentlemen. Presenting….the Marvellous Madhuri Dixit.





Comedy by Kuldeep

The explosion of cable television since the days of my childhood has thrown up lots of talents that would have been unimaginable earlier.

I came across Kuldeep on one of the comedy shows and his fluency and grasp of the language, his mimicry, timing and sense of comedy had me entranced.

Just great!!!!!!

Safed Rasgulla

Gubba Ali

National Geographic

baba ramdev

Barack Hussain Obama

Why should the ascendance of a middle-aged charismatic African-American in a far away country half a world away to the presidency, make any difference to a person of my profile i.e. Asian male in his late thirties, located in a tier-2 city in Western India, middle class, with some global exposure but otherwise unaffected by the US and its activities.

But it did affect me. I was shaken and stirred. Tears welled-up. Obama represents the great hope that in a sense all of us have and expect of our rulers. He seems an essentially decent guy with balance in his step and a nature of reaching out to others. Perhaps no more will we hear the ‘axis of evil’ speeches or the world divided into the righteous and the evil; or ‘us’ and ‘them’. Perhaps there will be after all a reconciliatory atmosphere.

And now here’s the cynical me, rearing my head again. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be just another politician……………

Acceptance speech 4-Nov-2008

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Speech at the Democratic National Convention

Iowa Caucus Victory speech

The Story of Barack Obama's Mother


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From ‘India’s Unending Journey’ by Mark Tully

……..one of the lessons I have learnt from India is to value humility. Others are to avoid thinking in black and white, to be suspicious of certainty, to search for the middle road, and in particular, to acknowledge that there are many ways to God.

…….. R.C.Zaehner, the former Professor of Eastern religion and Ethics at Oxford……..Hindus do not think of religious truth in dogmatic terms: dogmas cannot be eternal but only the transitory, distorting images of a truth that transcends not only them, but all verbal definition. For the passion for dogmatic certainty that has racked the religions of Semitic origin, from Judaism itself, through Christianity and Islam to the Marxism of our day, they feel nothing but shocked incomprehension.

………Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks………..Bad things happen when the pace of change exceeds our ability to change, and events move faster than our understanding. It is then that we feel the loss of control over our lives. Anxiety creates fear, fear leads to anger, anger breeds violence, and violence – when combined with weapons of mass destruction – becomes a deadly reality. The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation, speaking our fears, listening to the fears of others, and in that sharing of vulnerabilities discovering a genesis of hope.

Those who are dogmatic and certain that they are right don’t feel vulnerable and have not desire to have conversations. They only want to convince.

……..Chaturvedi Badrinath…..he has written:
The question is one of knowing the true place of everything in the scheme of human life. To value too greatly or too little a particular human attribute in its relation to the rest is to disintegrate the natural wholeness of human personality. To value the material over the spiritual, or the spiritual over the material, the transient over the eternal, or the eternal over the transient, the body over the mind, or the mind over the body, the individual over the society or the society over the individual, the self over the other or the other over the self, is to create conflicts both within ourselves and with the rest of the world

And so to me, the Indian tradition has come to imply that in everything in life, we should seek to be balanced, and that the quest for balance never ends.

In his book, Radhakrishnan explains that Hinduism does not demand the kind of certainty that had always troubled me so much about Christianity, as I understood it. He says there has never been ‘a uniform, stationary, unalterable Hinduism whether in belief or in practice’ and he describes Hinduism as ‘a movement, not a position, a process not a result; a growing tradition, not a fixed revelation’. Because it was not fixed there could be no certainty and the possibility of further development must always be allowed. But even so, Radhakrishna warns against thinking that ‘Hindus doubted the reality of a supreme universal spirit’. Rather, Hindus accept that there can be many descriptions of this spirit and that none is complete. That is why in the Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad there two words neti, neti…..are repeatedly added after a description of the supreme spirit or reality. Radhakrishnan translates neti as meaning ‘not this’. But………..my friend the Sanskrit scholar Chaturvedi Badrinath always insists it should be translated as ‘not yet complete’, ‘not this alone’, because the word neti implies that we can never come to a final and complete definition of God, the ultimate reality or the supreme universal spirit – call it what you will.

Hindus….what they do say….is that their certainty is not necessarily the only certainty.

Hinduism doesn’t have a monopoly on pluralism. It is part of the general Indian tradition of questioning, discussion, dissert and indeed skepticism………Pluralism is a characteristic of all the major religions born in India………………….To my mind, pluralism involves humility. It means acknowledging that you don’t have the complete or final answer, that what you know may seem right, but there are other points of view.

Radhakrishnan, who wrote: ‘In Hinduism, intellect is subordinated to intuition, dogma to experience, outer expression to inner reality.’

Meritocracy is a cruel concept because success becomes the goal of life and we can never all be given equal opportunities from birth onwards in order to succeed and become a meritocrat. Those who do not succeed in a meritocracy often suffer mentally because the social ethos implies that it is their fault that they have failed………such societies tend to turn into a rat race, with those who lose being regarded, and regarding themselves as failures. What we need is a society which, while trying to remove disadvantages, at the same time recognizes that we can never all be equal and respects every sort of achievement.
Going back to caste, the system does have a certain social value. Each of the main divisions of caste is divided into hundreds of jati……..each individual should marry within his or her own jati, and it is the members of this jati who form that persons biradari or community. That community can form a rudimentary social system.

……..he decried the caste system as:
the chain of social hierarchy, reflecting an ascending scale of reverence and descending order of contempt that cannot be allowed to be broken in this life. If you are an ‘untouchable’ you are told you should remain so and you are warned that if you deviate and do not discharge the duties of an untouchable and a scavenger you will not get to a higher position after death.

Swami Veda Bharati said, ‘In Yoga, one simply practices the methods and waits for the doctrine to emerge out of the experience.’………….’The yogi ministers to people of all faiths, lets them see the ever-present God in their own church, temple, mosque, or pagoda, but first see him in the temple which is the human personality.’

…….the Irish poet Diarmuid O’Muyrchu…..’the prevailing culture, especially within the formal Church or religion, tends to protect the old values and can be quite harsh in its treatment of those whose spiritual growth leads them in other directions.’

I once heard the Dalai Lama asked why there were different schools of Tibetan Buddhism. With a broad smile he replied, ‘Because there are different sorts of people.’

Chaturvedi Badrinath wrties: ‘There has hardly been anything in human history that has produced greater violence and killing than conflicting perceptions of what truth is.’ It is when those perceptions leave no room for doubt or questioning, when they are held too firmly, that violence follows.

………..Smugness and self-satisfaction in every line of it. That is the Irish church all out…..if not the whole Church. Nothing short of a spiritual earthquake would make them even question their belief in themselves. They don’t know that anything is wrong and they are unteachable. They prefer to be what they are – autocrats, domineering over a sycophantic clergy, holding an ignorant laity in check through fear of eternal damnation.

Philip Francis was the vicar of the small country parish in Cheshire where my siblings and I lived as children after returning from India………..the All Saints Marthall was neither particularly old nor particularly beautiful. Nor could it have been called a prestigious post for a parish priest.
Philip, a small, rather insignificant figure with a wisp of hair standing up on his otherwise bald head, emerged from the vestry Sunday after Sunday to preach to the same handful of faithful church-goers. He was a humble man, and some of the parishioners seemed to think of him as Churchill did of Clement Attlee: ‘He has plenty to be humble about.’ Philip was unmarried, not because he was a celibate priest, but because he had never found anyone to marry. His career was going nowhere. He was never going to hold any higher office in the Church than that of parish priest, and only in small insignificant parishes. If success in the job was to be measured, as if often was in the Church, by ‘bums on seats’, the number of people attending Sunday Services meant that he was a failure. But to me he wasn’t a failure at all. He was an inspiring example of someone who labored and yet who did not seek for any reward; someone who truly practiced the Christian virtue of humility.
The memory of Philip Francis came back to me while I was writing this chapter because it is a critique of a competitive culture obsessed with rewards. Of course there has to be a balance. We cant have a society without competition and rewards…….But that does not mean we should go to the other extreme and accept that rat-racing is the natural sport of human beings.

For many Hindus, Varanasi is the archetypal sacred place, yet almost 1/3rd of its population is Muslim………. Varanasi has learnt to preserve tradition and accommodate change. It is one of the oldest living cities in world – as old as Jerusalem, Athens or Beijing……Diana Eck, who has studied the city’s traditions, religion, and culture….in her book, Banaras, City of Light, she says:

If we could imagine the silent Acropolis and the Agora of Athens still alive with the intellectual, cultural and ritual traditions of classical Greece, we might glimpse the remarkable tenacity of the life of Kashi. Today Peking, Athens and Jerusalem are moved by a very different ethos from that which moved them in ancient times, but Kashi is not.

Varanasi and India have taught me to respect the faith I was born into. For me to become a Hindu would be to deny that Christianity is also a way to God………The Swami told me, ‘Your well being lies within your own tradition.’ I was born a Christian and I believe that by remaining a Christian I am respecting fate and tradition, both of which are such important aspects of a balanced life. There is also a question of loyalty to the Church and to the priests and others who have kept my faith alive at those times when I had almost abandoned it. Bede Griffiths………wrote of a marriage between the East and West. He didn’t divorce the West and marry the East.

For me, India acknowledges that we can never find absolute answers to the most important questions in life, but we must go on asking them. That is why I have called my book India’s Undending Journey. It is a journey we can all learn from

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On the Director: N.Chandra

Am reviewing 2 key films in the filmography of the director N.Chandra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._Chandra). Whose claim to fame could well be: being the catalyst to the emergence of the talent of Nana Patekar and Madhuri Dixit, both of them Maharashtrians; just like the director.

These 2 films are without doubt the most well known (and probably the most successful) of the films that he directed

Ankush (Trident) (1985) (Hindi Film)

A low budget gritty film, this one packs a surprisingly powerful punch aided in no small measure by the promising emergence of the talent of Nana Patekar, one of the main protagonists.

Essentially the story portrays the lives of some characters of the underbelly of the city: 4 youths driven by frustration, the unfairness of society and unemployment to being small-time hoodlums/gangsters. Essentially good at heart, they lose their way. Until in their neighbourhood, arrive the mother-daughter Jodi of Ashalata (the widow) and Nisha Singh, her idealistic daughter. The lives of the 4 take a turn for the better until an unsavoury event shatters their peace again. The girl, NS is raped by some hoodlums and the law turns a blind eye. And the 4 take it upon themselves to deliver justice.

The 4 youths: Nana Patekar and 3 others engage in minor crime and scuffles and this angle is developed during much of the first part of the movie. The next part is where the widow and her daughter form a bond with these scruffy characters and turn them to lead more meaningful lives. The final part is where the dreaded event and its aftermath occurs. The strong value system of the mother-daughter duo serves as a counterpoint to the lack of values of the gang of 4. The film walks on the tightrope between the 2 views on either side.

The film was quite successful in its time. In no small measure due to the presence of Nana Patekar (the new ‘Angry Young Man’) + the impressive way in which the script developed and the direction in which the plot progressed + its simple plot and premise. This was a time of strong frustration in India and all that cathart-ed onto the screen. The movie attempts to address some of the problems of that era: unemployment being the prime one, generic lawlessness, a lack of societal values and a frustration with the system being the others

Although featuring pretty low production standards (including one memorable sequence of scenes in the beginning where an event has part of the scene in the darkness of the night and part of it in broad daylight, alternating: much to my amusement), the film does raise the bar on quite a few fronts. Some crisp editing (no surprises here, the director started his career as an editor), powerful cameos and lead performances give the film its high watchability quotient. It has some fairly authentic location shoots. And a certain raw poignancy that touches your depths.

Subtlety may not be a strong point in most Hindi films but surprisingly is so over here. No romantic angle is even hinted-at. The relationship between the boys and NS is never classified. Whether there is a romantic angle or whether it is a brotherly/sisterly love? That angle is just not explored. And that’s nice, one just accepts it whatever it is.

The rape is depicted in what seemed to me a surprisingly sensitive fashion. Unlike the time-honoured tradition of most Hindi films, Ankush surprisingly does not drool over the rape or present it full of voyeurism or lasciviousness. There are some graphic scenes but sensitively handled. The sensitive dialogues dealing with the rape too. are rare for a Hindi film.

And a couple of its songs are quite hummable:

Itni Shakti Hame Dena Data

Aaya Mazaa Dildara


Madan Jain
Arjun Chakravarti
Nana Patekar
Suhas Palshikar
Nisha Singh

Screenplay: N.Chandra
Idea and Script: Debu Sen
Dialogues: Sayyed Sultan and N.Chandra
Music: Kuldeep Singh
Producer: Subhash Duragkar and N.Chandra
Writer, Editor, Director: N.Chandra

Tezaab (Acid) (1988) (Hindi Film)

Tezaab is a ‘Violent Love Story’ as it proclaims about itself at the beginning. The story and its handling is not of much consequence.

The primary reason why this movie was a super-duper hit was Madhuri Dixit, who arrived with a bang in the Hindi film industry and was to become one of its top heroines in the subsequent decade. The iconic song ‘Ek Do Teen’ and Madhuri’s dancing skills further aided that in no small measure. ‘Mads’ Madhuri Dixit’: Hindi films have never been the same after Mads.

Watching the movie itself some 20 yrs down the line sure is an embarrassing experience. It is sloppy at times, overtly violent, chauvinistic, caricaturist, garish and so on. But during those magical times, Tezaab was a breath of fresh air. And this has more to do with the movies that preceded it. The years prior to Tezaab were when Hindi films reached their nadir. One quote on them would suffice

Those who remember Bollywood of the eighties, remember them with a shudder. The women wore salwars with dhotis, the men had big hair and no one, not even the Khans of our current nostalgia trip, could rescue the films and make them kitsch classics. – Udita Jhunjhunwala

And onto this dreary landscape arrived Madhuri Dixit. Mads was refreshingly daring and not inhibited. Scanty dressing notwithstanding she still managed to appear virginally innocent, which is guess she was !!!!! She signaled the arrival of the Indian MTV generation. In those days her revealing dresses and suggestive moves in this song caused much public outrage and charges of increasing social immorality. By today’s standards however, it is pretty tame. Anyway, while the magic lasted, Mads and her songs were a young boy’s ultimate wet dream.

Her brilliant smile, the youthfulness and energy, the evident sincerity. Years have gone by, much of Tezaab is forgotten. But to some of us, the infatuation for Mads still remains.

And now about the songs:

Ek Do Teen has 2 versions but I could find only one on youtube….the more famous one with Madhuri all the way

The other 2 songs too are quite hummable / watchable.

So Gaya Yeh Jahaan

Keh Do Ke Tum

Other than that, there is some stellar emoting from Anil Kapoor (that is assuming you turn a blind eye to his dancing/prancing), Anupam Kher, Kiran Kumar and the supporting cast. And then there is the terrific chemistry between AK and MD that started with this movie and had so many others incarnations subsequently.

Story, Screenplay: N.Chandra
Dialogues: Kamlesh Pandey
DoP: Baba Azmi
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Music: Laxmi-Pyare

So what were the commonalities in both the movies:

There is a strong feeling of earthiness where the characters and inspirations are born from the underbelly of the city. As evidenced by the Bambaiya lingo.

The underdogs are the heroes and the director attempts to resurrect the ‘Angry Young Man’ of yore because the average Indian is angry.

There is a strong antipathy towards law, the police and their impotence and a violent attempt to resist. The wheel however turns a full circle in both films and we see the characters ultimately adhering to acceptable morality.

Sadly N.Chandra sort of faded away after these 2 initial successes. Were he around, Hindi films would have been less elitist and class conscious in these times

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We Surely Need Some More Of These Debates

D'Souza, Hitchens, and Prager in a debate on ‘The Christian God, the Jewish God or No God’.

There’s something vital missing in our part of the world where we don’t have any such stimulating debates
















D’Souza – doesn’t get ‘it’ sometimes
Hitchens - sounds very pompous and arrogant but I am on his side mostly.
Prager - vague

From ‘Lust For Life’ by Irving Stone – a book on Vincent Van Gogh

Human conduct…….is a great deal like drawing. The whole perspective changes with the shifted position of the eye and depends not on the subject but on the man who is looking

“They call my books immoral,” said Zola “for the same reason that they attribute immorality to your paintings, Henri. The public cannot understand that there is no room for MORAL judgements in art. Art is amoral; so is life. For me there are no obscene pictures or books; there are only poorly conceived and poorly executed ones. A whore by Toulouse-Lautrec is moral because he brings out the beauty that lies beneath her external appearance; a pure country girl by Bouguereau is immoral because she is sentimentalized and so cloyingly sweet that just to look at her is enough to make you vomit.
The ordinary human being thinks in terms of duality; light and shade: sweet and sour, good and evil. That duality does not exist in nature. There is neither good nor evil in the world but only being and doing. When we describe an action, we describe life; when we call that action names – like depravity or obscenity – we go into the realm of subjective prejudice.”

“Lets formulate our manifesto, gentlemen,” said Zola. “First, we think all truth beautiful, no matter how hideous it's face may seem. We accept all of nature without any repudiation. We believe there is more beauty in a harsh truth than in a pretty lie, more poetry in earthiness than in all the salons of Paris. We think pain good, because it is the most profound of all human feelings. We think sex beautiful, even when portrayed by a harlot and a pimp. We put character above ugliness, pain above prettiness and hard, crude reality above all the wealth of France. We accept life in it's entirety, without making any moral judgements. We think the prostitute as good as the countess, the concierge as good as the general, the peasant as good as the cabinet minister for they all fit into the pattern of nature and are woven into the design of life!”

……….the fields that push up the corn and the water that rushes down the ravine, the juice of the grape and the life of a man as it flows past him are all one and the same thing. The sole unity in life is the unity of rhythm. A rhythm to which we all dance; men, apples, ravines, ploughed fields, carts among the corn, houses, horses and the sun. the stuff that is in you, Gauguin, will pound through a grape tomorrow because you and the grape are one. When I paint a peasant laboring in the field, I want people to feel the peasant flowing down into the soil, just as the corn does, and the soil flowing up into the peasant. I want them to feel the sun pouring into the peasant, into the field, the corn, the plough and the horses just as they all pour back into the sun. When you being to feel the universal rhythm in which everything on earth moves, you being to understand life. THAT ALONE IS GOD

Saturday, October 11, 2008

From ‘After Many A Summer’ by Aldous Huxley

…..the perfect message – the message his mother expected of him, at once tender and witty, charged with genuine devotion ironically worded, acknowledging her maternal determination but at the same time making fun of it, so that the old lady could salve her conscience by pretending that her son was entirely free and herself the least tyrannical of mothers

The frightfulness of the world had reached a point at which it had become for him merely boring

Her admiration gave him an intense satisfaction. ‘Oh, it's quite easy,’ he said with hypocritical modesty, angling for more

Patients belonged to three classes: those that imagined they were sick but weren’t; those that were sick, but would get well anyhow; those that were sick and would be much better dead

‘……because it's a fact.’
‘For you, perhaps,’ said Jeremy in a tone which implied that more civilized people didn’t suffer from these hallucinations

A comic spectacle, Mr. Propter reflected as he looked at him; except of course, that it was so extremely depressing.

How disastrous when a man knows how to say the wrong things in the right way

Art can be a lot of things; but in actual practice most of it is merely the mental equivalent of alcohol and cantharides

Thoughts… … …

There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings

– Dostoevski

Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.

– Spinoza

He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how

- Nietzsche

That which does not kill me, makes me stronger

– Nietzsche

Who really knows? Who here will proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? Perhaps it was formed itself or perhaps it did not. The one who surveys it all, in the highest heaven, only he knows – or perhaps even he does not know.

– Rig Veda

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

– Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Shall I tell you?” “what you have that other men don’t have and that will make the future?”
“It's the courage of your own tenderness, that’s what it is”

- From Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H.Lawrence

Youths should be firm
In character and strong in body
To such a man, the whole
World becomes full of wealth

- Taittiriya Upanishads 2-8

If you have nothing but complexion to recommend you,
You have no recommendations.
If you know anything, you recommend yourself

- Anon

He could have added fortune to fame
But caring for neither
He found happiness and honour
In being helpful to the world

- Epitaph on the tomb of George Washington Carver (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Carver)

Coincidence, if traced far back enough, becomes inevitable

- Inscription on a Hindu temple near New Delhi and quoted by Carl Gustav Jung

Only when one can face death without fear that one can face life

- Anon

‘Atticus’ – said Jim bleakly.
‘What, son?’
‘How could they do it, how could they?’
‘I don’t know, but they didn’t. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only children weep. Good night!’

- From ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. The event: A white jury had given a judgement of ‘Guilty’ to a black man who was innocent

Mrs ......was one of those childless adults who find it necessary to assume a different tone of voice when speaking to children

- From ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.

From ‘Zorba The Greek’ – by Nikos Kazantzakis

“May God be with us,” I said as I rose. “Lets go!”
“God and the devil!,” Zorba added calmly

An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, granddad!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned round and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’ Which of us was right, boss?

While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.

“What happened to the crow, Zorba?”
“Well, you see, he used to walk respectably, properly – well, like a crow. But one day he got it into his head to try and strut about like a pigeon. And from that time on the poor fellow couldn’t for the life of him recall his own way of walking. He was all mixed up”

He threw himself into the dance, clapping his hands, leaping and pirouetting in the air, falling on to his knees, leaping again with his legs tucked up – it was as if he was made of rubber. He suddenly made tremendous bounds into the air, as if he wished to conquer the laws of nature and fly away. One felt that in this old body of his there was a soul struggling to carry away this flesh and cast itself like a meteor in the darkness. It shook the body which fell back to earth, since it could not stay very long in the air, it shook it again pitilessly, this time a little higher, but the poor body fell again, breathless

It was raining again the next day. The sky mingled with the earth in infinite tenderness

‘Don’t you fear God, Giaour?’ ‘Why should I’
‘Because, little Roumi, he who can sleep with a woman and does not, commits a great sin. My boy, if a woman calls you to share her bed and you don’t go, your soul will be destroyed! That woman will sigh before God on judgement day and that woman’s sigh, whoever you may be and whatever your fine deeds, will cast you into Hell!’

“This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To take part in the Christmas activities and after eating and drinking well, to escape on your own far from all the snares, to have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right: and to realize all of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished the final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.”

My indiscreet desire of that morning to pry into and know the future, before it was born suddenly appeared to me a sacrilege.
I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited a while, but it was too long in appearing and I was impatient. I beat over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain. It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of its wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.
That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.

‘Well, I think every man has his own smell. We didn’t notice it much because smells mingle all together and we can't tell which is yours and which is mine, really…….All we know is that there’s a foul smell and that what we call ‘humanity’……I mean “the human stench”. There are people who sniff at it as if it was lavender. It makes me want to spew.’

When you’ve made up your mind, no use lagging behind, go ahead and no relenting.
Let your youth have free reign, it won’t come again, so be bold and no repenting.

“Once when I was a kid, I was mad on cherries……..found a silver mejidie and pinched it……..bought a basket o’ cherries……began eating it……till I was all swollen out. My stomach began to ache and I was sick……thoroughly sick, and from that day to this I’ve never wanted a cherry. I couldn’t bear the sight of them. I was saved. I could say no to any cherry. I don’t need you anymore and I did this same thing later with wine and tobacco. I still drink and smoke, but at any second, if I want to, whoop! I can cut it out. I’m not ruled by passion. It’s the same with my country. I thought too much about it, so I stuffed myself up to the neck with it, spewed it up and its never troubled me since.”
“What about women?” I asked.
“Their turn will come, damn them!......When I’m about seventy!”
“……..that’s how men free themselves!...............there’s no way except by stuffing themselves till they burst. Not by turning ascetic. How do you expect to get the better of a devil, boss, if you don’t turn into a devil and a half yourself?”

“The weather’s changed. The tree’ll swell and so will young girls breasts….and they’ll be bursting out of their bodices! Ah! Spring’s a rogue! An invention of the devil!”
“…………Have you noticed, boss, everything good in this world is an invention of the devil? Pretty women, spring, roast suckling, wine - the devil made them all! God made monks, fasting, camomile-tea and ugly women……pooh!”
“…………In the spring,” he said, “Satan reigns supreme. Belts are slackened, blouses unbuttoned, old ladies sigh…”

“Yes, you understand with your brain. You say: ‘This is right and that’s wrong……..’ but where does that lead us? While you are talking I watch your arms and chest. Well, what are they doing? They’re silent. They don’t say a word. As though they hadn’t a drop of blood between them. Well, what do you think you understand with? With your head? Bah!”

“Its all because of doing things by halves,” he would often say to me and “saying things by halves, being good by halves, that the world is in the mess it's in today. Do things properly by God! One good knock for each nail and you’ll win through! God hates a half-devil ten times more than an archdevil”

………two seagulls bobbed up and down on the tiny waves, with necks fluffed out, voluptuously enjoying the movement of the water.
I could well imagine their delight in the freshness of the water under their bellies. As I watched the seagulls, I thought: “That’s the road to take; find the absolute rhythm and follow it with absolute trust.”

That is what a real man is like, I thought, envying Zorba’s sorrow. A man with warm blood and solid bones who lets real tears run down his cheeks when he is suffering; and when he is happy he does not spoil the freshness of his joy by running it through the fine sieve of metaphysics