A most lovely and beautiful blog:
Akhil Sharma has this lovely piece about this book.
Kural # 71:
அன்பிற்கும் உண்டோ அடைக்குந்தாழ் ஆர்வலர்
புன்கணீர் பூசல் தரும்.
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.
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.
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 ?
Vaasanthi has beautiful tribute to Jayakanthan here:
Soon he was to overpower the literary scene of Tamil Nadu literally like a storm with short stories that revealed a deep and sensitive understanding of the downtrodden. For the first time here was a writer who did not just
portray their misery but found in the lives of rickshaw pullers, prostitutes, rowdies, pickpockets and cigarette-butt scavengers, a flaming passion, a liveliness, and truth. The compassion that entwined their characters and attitudes was so moving in his narration that the result was an elevating experience for the reader. He wrote about the slumdweller in earthy prose with firsthand knowledge of one who had lived among them in his early years of struggle when he worked as a compositor in a printing press. Suddenly it was a celebration of life, be it in dirt, squalor or a prostitute’s bed.
was also introduced to the works of the great Tamil poet Subramanya Bharati. Bharati has been Jayakanthan’s biggest inspiration to this day. There is no speech of his that is not interspersed with quotes from Bharati’s poetry. The passion with which the writer recites the quotes never fails to moisten the eyes of the listeners.
On the Diary of a madman:
Here we find expressed the essential absurdity and tragedy of life, where dream and reality merge so that we have no means of distinguishing what is true from the illusory, what has value from what is worthless;
On the Overcoat:
The use of language alone (as opposed to any conscious effort on the author’s part to impose his vision or message) to create what is literally another world, where logic does not apply, where values become transmuted and the world is turned upside down, is quite extraordinary.
Gogol did not so much work from the imagination…as by using apparently irrelevent, trivial details to astonishing effect…..
Gogol’s characters do not have psychological depth and are developed in the main purely by external physical descriptions.
On Gogol’s portrayal of women:
It is interesting to note that Gogol generally portrays women either as delicate, ethereal, impossibly unattainable beauties, or as viragos or witches, in league with the devil and ready to lure man to destruction.
Very interesting development this. The grand old man of the Dravidian movement, Karunanidhi, is scripting a serial on Ramanuja. As a boy growing up in an intensely Vaishnavaite family, I was brought up revering Vedanta Desikan, Alwars and Ramanuja and was taught that there was nothing good about the Dravidian movement (because they use to openly lampoon our gods and made fun of Brahmins etc). As I grew up I came to admire several of their causes: their opposition of the imposition of Hindi (language is such a fundamental thing for humans; even if 5 per cent of Tamil Nadu wanted to speak / study in their language as opposed to Tamil, I would fight for their right to do so), their wanting to create a truly casteless society, their idea of using science and rationality as opposed to silly religious superstition like astrology (it beats me how even educated people justify astrology) and which sane person will not be moved by the fact that the first bill signed by C.N. Annadurai when the Dravidian party came to power was the Hindu Marriage Act of 1967 recognizing various kinds of marriages without a Hindu priest. I suppose being removed from their immediate (alleged) atrocities (against Brahmins), it becomes easier to admire their abstract core idealogical beliefs.
Karunanidhi is a beautiful writer. I remember a lesson we had in class X on a verse from Thirukkural. I was “taught” to not like his writings but I was drawn to his arresting and deeply beautiful prose. There is a beautiful story, with comical effect, in Ramayana where Hanuman (or is it Angadhan?) tries to explain the ecstasy of chanting Rama’s name to Ravana who scoffs at the idea but once Hanuman begins chanting the name, Ravana is entranced and he chants too, before he shakes himself off it. One can say I had a similar experience reading Karunanidhi.
One thing that will be interesting is that as an outsider, he might be able to hit at the essential core of Ramanuja’s teachings that perhaps Vaishnavite followers do not see. Also, both of these ideologies, Vaishnavism and the Dravidian movement, are beautiful in principle, with their central ideas valid for all time and for all people and not only their core followers, but seem to have sadly gotten corrupt over time.
One does not have to be a Vaishnavaite, or even understand Tamil all that well, to be staggered, and completely moved by the awe inspiring literary and devotional creations of the Azhwars. A chance encounter with a verse from the Thiru Pallandu prefacing Periyalwar Thirumozhi on Krishna’s spinning chakram, Sudarsana, paying obeisance (in my error riddled imagination) by imagining the disc as a dense, spinning ball of fire in Krishna’s hand left me struggling to fight back my tears. Such is the power and poetry of Azhwar Paasurams. What a delightful juxtaposition of words with “zha” and “ra” in them. My (rather error riddled) transliteration below.
Thiyir Pozhigindra Senchudar Aazhi
Thigazh thiru Sakkarathin
Koyir Poriyale Ondrundu nindru kudi kudiat cheikindrom
Maya porupadai Vaananin Ayirantholum
Pozhikuzhidhipaiya suzhatriya Aazhi Vallanukku
I am also reminded by the this famous quote by Heinrich Hertz:
One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulas have an
independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are
wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more
out of them than was originally put into them.
One can perhaps say the same of Azhwaar Paasurams.
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!