Thirukkural for today

Kural # 71:

அன்பிற்கும் உண்டோ அடைக்குந்தாழ் ஆர்வலர்
புன்கணீர் பூசல் தரும்.

Rough translation:

Can love (towards our dear ones) ever be confined within a safe lock? The tears that automatically well up when one watches the suffering of our loved ones will make the love in our hearts clear to all.

There are so many memorable lines in Tamizh literature and I suppose அன்பிற்கும் உண்டோ அடைக்குந்தாழ் must be added to them. So much meaning and beauty packed into so few words.

Dave Zirin: Serena Williams is the modern day Mohammad Ali

A lovely article by Dave Zirin.

Symbolically, the very audacity of Serena Williams—a black woman from Compton who has owned a country-club sport with style, flair, and the occasional leopard suit, is without comparison. She is “peak Tiger Woods” in skill, but cut with Ali’s transgressive style: the equivalent of the Champ telling the craggy, macho world of boxing that he was “so very pretty.” But not even Ali had to achieve in an atmosphere as inhospitable as Serena’s athletic setting. This is about the very particular intersectional oppression she has faced as a black woman.

Then there are her explicit politics. This is not the 1960s and there isn’t a mass movement to deify Serena Williams the way there was one to lift Ali, when the world was insistent upon his destruction. But that only makes the stands she has chosen to take all the more remarkable. In 2000, Serena Williams pulled out of the Family Circle Cup in South Carolina in solidarity with the NAACP’s call to boycott over the flying of the Confederate flag atop the state house. After her Wimbledon victory Saturday, she spoke about the recent “Mother Emmanuel” Church murders in Charleston, calling it a “tragedy yet again,” and an “unspeakably sad” moment that takes its “toll.” However, she pledged to “continue to have faith, continue to believe, continue to be positive, continue to help people to the best of [my] ability.”

She has been a voice for women’s pay equity in the sport, backing her sister Venus’s powerful push for economic gender justice in a sport that at one time paid women with bouquets of flowers. Most compellingly, as the Black Lives Matter movement has attempted to focus the nation on both police violence and the injustices that surround our system of mass incarceration, Serena has chosen to partner with the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that fights for prisoners’ rights amid the racism that pervades our criminal-justice system. In a move as audacious as it was affecting, she even tied her return to Indian Wells, a tournament she had boycotted after being showered with racist catcalls in 2001, to the raising of money for the organization. Using boxing as a platform for these kinds of politics amidst the 1960s was certainly legendary. But doing it in 2015 in the world of tennis? It’s simply above and beyond, like clearing a hurdle while wearing cement shoes

Wittgenstein and cricket

The Guardian is a lovely newspaper indeed. Amongst other things, cricket match reports, rendered redundant in these days of instant multimedia communication, is still beautifully done, retaining the freshness and spontaneity, that seem to be missing in these days of cliched filled reporting.

Anyway, there is a lovely article about why the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein loved cricket so much.

For me, though, the more likely draw for Wittgenstein was the game’s language. His whole life was spent attempting to deconstruct the lines of code underpinning evolution’s most fabulous app – verbal communication. And cricket, with its dense and extraordinary quilt of gorgeous words and phrases, must have utterly captivated him.

The complexity of cricket necessitates an equally complex language merely to describe the basics of the game. There’s quite a lot of vocab for a player to learn just to know where to stand on the field. Imagine a circle of radius three metres around a batsman. Any fielder brave enough to stand on that circle can be described as any of (the titular) silly point, silly mid-off, silly mid-on, short leg, backward short leg, leg slip, slip or gully, depending on which point of the compass they are standing on in relation to the batsman.

Lightness of touch

Everybody seems to agree that CLR James’ Beyond a Boundary is the greatest sports book ever written. A beautiful book indeed, with chapter titles like: the welfare state of the mind, the art and the practic part etc; One can write pages about this book. If you love sport of any kind or want to see how sport relates to the outside world, this is the book to read. But one can also argue that it is a “heavy” tome in some sense, filled with scholarly references and rich allusions. A wonderful counterpart to this book is Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano who sadly passed away a while back. This book manages to convey the same beauty and pathos that James’ wanted to in a silken little book in such a deft, delicate way without using bombastic words or abstruse philosophy. A Zen like minimalism compared to James’ labyrinthine work.

Pataantharam vs Svayambhu

People often talk about authentic pataantharam (loosely translated as musical lineage) having learnt from somebody who in turn learnt from somebody going all the way to Tyagaraja but some people like Abhishek Raghuram are absolutely original geniuses. The cognoscenti tells you that a raagam like Nata Bhairavi is a “scalar” raagam (i.e a raagam where a bunch of notes are simply strung together) as opposed to a rakthi raagam (a raagam where the notes are infused with a lot of feeling, and individual phrases become important and give a hue unique to the raaga) like Saaramathi (a janyam of Nata Bhairavi) but AR refuses to be caged by these consensus built notions. Like Virender Sehwag who rewrote the rules of opening batsmanship, he charts his own brilliant, wild and beautiful path. Listen to the beautiful Nata Bhairavi in this concert where he builds the “rakthi” out of a raagam where people tell you it is a mere “scale”.

I suppose one can add that when musicians who stick to tradition sing, they mainly induce feelings of happiness, satisfaction and peace and when the innovators sing, they tend to induce feelings of excitement, wonder, awe etc;

Somak Ghoshal on Mallikarjun Mansur

A lovely article indeed.

There is now a common apathy for anything remotely difficult. Unlike connoisseurs who attended mehfils a century ago, audiences nowadays go to concerts mostly out of a lumpen curiosity to listen to young artists of exalted pedigree rattling off their ancestral rote-learning with aplomb. It would be unfair to undermine their stock athletic skills or their capacity to produce beautiful sounds, but they are seldom able to illustrate the inner richness of the music, as Mansur almost always managed to. Listening to him sing rare treasures like Khat, Bahaduri Todi, Sawani or Yamani Bilawal is as sublime an experience as hearing him delineate familiar ragas like Shree, Nayaki Kanada, Gaud Sarang or Bhairav. Mansur was less concerned with demonstrating his own ingenuity; he wanted his listeners to glimpse the mind at work beyond the voice. For him, making music went beyond technical acrobatics.

Contemporary audiences, attuned to the easy pleasures of singing contests, their tastes honed by a commercially driven ethos, tend to approach classical music in an intellectual vacuum. At music conferences in Calcutta — the self-proclaimed national cultural capital — one hears rousing applause after a feisty saath-sangat or a thunderous tihai, while many a subtle meend or unusual sargam goes unnoticed. The reason behind this decline goes back to what the artists routinely present before their audiences, as also to a serious lack of public discourse on classical music.

The most beautiful lullaby…..

is Omana Thingal Kidavo.

English translation by Fox Strangeways from Wikipedia:

Is this sweet babe
The bright crescent’s moon, or the charming flower of the lotus ?
The honey in a flower, or the lustre of the full moon ?
A pure coral gem, or the pleasant chatter of parrots ?
A dancing peacock, or a sweet singing bird ?
A bouncing young deer, or a bright shining swan ?
A treasure from God, or the pet parrot in the hands of Isvari ?
The tender leaf of the kalpa tree, or the fruit of my tree of fortune ?
A golden casket to enclose the jewel of my love ?
Nectar in my sight, or a light to dispel darkness ?
The seed of my climbing fame, or a never-fading bright pearl ?
The brilliance of the sun to dispel all the gloom of misery ?
The Vedas in a casket, or the melodious vina ?
The lovely blossom put forth by the stout branch of my tree of enjoyment?
A cluster of pichaka buds, or sugar-candy sweet on the tongue ?
The fragrance of musk, the beat of all good ?
A breeze laden with the scent of flowers, or the essence of purest gold ?
A bowl of fresh milk, or of sweet smelling rose-water ?
The field of all virtue, or an abode of all duty ?
A cup of thirst-quenching cold water, or a sheltering shade ?
A never-failing mallika flower, or my own stored up wealth ?
The auspicious object of my gaze, or my most precious jewel ?
A stream of virtuous beauty, or an image of the youthful Krishna ?
The bright forehead mark of the goddess Lakshmi ?
Is it, in this beautiful form, an Avatar of Krishna Himself ?
Or, by the mercy of Padmanabha, is it the source of my future happiness ?


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