Friday, June 04, 2004

Dom Moraes and Wang Weilin

These two names have been in the news for the last couple of days. Today at work when news-browsing, I came across both of these. The former, a celebrated Indian poet who wrote in the English language and the latter a name given to a man who symbolized the opposition to the Chinese government's oppression of the student led revolt in 1989.

When I googled for Dom Moraes, one thing about him that has been recognized in all his biographies is the fact that he won the Hawthornden prize for poetry in 1958 at the tender age of 20. He published several other collections, worked as a journalist and has authored several books. He passed away a couple of days ago.

The interesting thing about Moraes, is that he lived and died an Indian though he did not learn even a single Indian language. Born of Christian parentage, he probably did not need that. But he remained an Indian. This, I notice, is one of the strange and interesting things about the man. At that time, when India had just achieved her freedom, Dominic was an instant celebrity for having won the coveted poetry prize. He was praised by poets of the stature of WH Auden. Looking at several web pages, I gathered something that seemed like he was a well acclaimed poet worldwide. He could have stayed abroad in Britain, like one of those of Indian descent who turned their back on their country - Nirad Chaudhury. Or, he could have done an AK Ramanujan who taught in several US universities and stayed there till his death for almost 40 years. But he chose to stay in India from 1979. The fascinating thing again is that Dom Moraes chose to stay in India in spite of not knowing a single Indian language, whereas, Ramanujan fluent in Kannada and Tamil, did not. Something to ponder about, right ?

The other thing that whets my curiosity is the meteoric rise of young Dominic. When he won the poetry prize at such an early age, I am sure that people began to expect much more of him. But in spite of such a great beginning, I see that Dom Moraes did not have much to show. One clarification here. Though I have been an Indian all my life, it is only in the last few years that I have heard of Dom Moraes. So, if my point is seen to be like that of somebody else who decides that X is not famous if he has not heard of them, I suppose that would more or less be correct. But I strive to be well informed and if I haven't heard of a person, chances are quite high that 99% of the Indian population hasn't heard of him. Anyway, Dom Moraes did not achieve something like the Nobel prize in literature which is the highest award in the world.

Did Moraes squander a good beginning ? Or was he a free spirit who never bothered about trifling awards ? Or did the pressure of having won an award early in life do him in ? Dom probably knew, or did not. We definitely know not.

Coming to the second person in the title who is Wang Weilin. This is the man in the famous photograph who stood opposite a line of marching tanks near Tiananmen square in Beijing in 1989. I was too young at that time to appreciate the reasons for this revolt. But now, I can see and understand the yearning of a young student population that wanted their country to be free from the shackles of corruption and government bossiness. The interesting thing about this man is that nobody knows who he really is. Wang Weilin is just a name for this person. Whether this is really his name or not - nobody knows. But Wang has become the symbol of that student revolt. That photograph, supposedly banned in the PRC, provides inspiration to millions of people. Just think of it - a single unarmed man standing up to 4 fully armed battle tanks ! Does that not show the courage of one man against all odds ? You can see the picture here.

That's pretty amazing, isn't it ? Several Human Rights groups have drawn inspiration from this picture.

I don't know why I included both of these people in one blog. Such different people! But there is the unknown part in the lives of both people. Both shot to fame. We know one's name and we don't know the others. The former a literary icon and the latter a beacon of hope.

Anyway, my thoughts for the day !


Anonymous said...
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nIlagrIva said...

ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ ಪವನಜ ಅವರೇ,
ಕಾಮೆಂಟುಗಳು ಬಂದಿವೆ ನನ್ನ Rantಗೆ ಎಂದು ತಿಳಿದಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ನಿಮ್ಮ ಬ್ಲಾಗನ್ನು ಇನ್ನೂ ನೋಡಿಲ್ಲ. ಆದರೆ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಬಹಳ ಮುಂಚೆಯೇ ಕೇಳಿದ್ದೆ. ನಿಮ್ಮ ವಿಶ್ವಕನ್ನಡವನ್ನೂ ಬಹಳ ಸಲ ನೋಡಿದ್ದೇನೆ.