Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year - 2010!!

Here's wishing a happy new 2010 to all of us!

2009 for me was many things. Hectic, no-blogging, rewarding in a few ways, work, work and work! 2010 doesn't look like it will be any different on the work side. But this blog - my one soapbox - had been almost neglected last year. This year, I should make a resolution to post something at least once every fortnight, if not more often. I am still in the process of making that resolution. It will happen as time permits.

Wide, wild and wonderful that this world is, there was no dearth for several compelling topics to write about in 2009 - both news-wise and on the personal front. However, rather than do impulse blogging (which is more fun - but it requires you have enough time to feel both the impulse and then blog it) it would be better to make a list of topics that I do want to write about this year. That way, if I am a little more methodical, I can keep my random writing part of the brain active.

For starters, I (along with a billion other people, I hope) am worried about the muck our collective lifestyle is putting into the environment. There are great ideas for implementation everywhere. However, for several people, including me - one should start small and easy. What are some things we can start doing that would reduce the ecological footprint of our lives? I agree entropy is not going to decrease - but can we at least  keep the increases lower? One good thing that I did last year and will continue to do is the use of public transport. I have taken my car to work less than five times last year. My company's transport and BMTC's Volvo service work quite well for me. Of course, this one is easy because I get the advantage of being able to get a few winks of sleep while travelling. Are there other similar things we can do - easy to implement and easy going - entropy increase wise? (Of course, I am referring only to the thermodynamic entropy and not its information counterpart).

Book reviews should happen - if I read a few books. Actually, I did finish the Panchatantra last year. Other titles - the Black Swan by Nicholas Nassim Taleb and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. The former one is an eye-opener. The second is more a Gladwellesque perspective on different topics. I am reading GEB right now. It's a rather ponderous read - but there is enough stuff to retain interest - very well written! Others - include my favorite - the Bhagavadgita. The more commentaries you read, the more facets of this gem do you get to admire. Hopefully, this will influence my outlook towards life in a positive way. Many books adorn my bookshelf - bought with great desire, but unopened. This unread list of books should become smaller and the number of reviews on this blog should increase. Samskrit classics lie in this list too. mRcChakaTika, mudrArAkShasa and shAkuntala should hopefully get reviews on this blog this year.

I will try to write about my reflections on random topics too. Some of them - Is it ethical to drink cow's milk from the dairy?  What is the state of Kannada in Karnataka? Is 2012 a hoax - if so, who started it? I'd like to try some occasional science and technology topics too - let's see how that part goes.

I hope to write about these in the usual languages - English, Kannada and Samskrit.

With this hope, and a wish that all of us might have a happy, prosperous, peaceful and healthy 2010, I conclude my first blog of the year....

||  sarve janAH sukhino bhavantu ||

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Water conservation and tradition - a meandering reflection

India's Farming 'Revolution' Heading For Collapse : NPR
(via SepiaMutiny)

While the world is busy dealing with the global economic recession on the one side and incessant acts of terrorism and patriotic saber-rattling on the other side, things that are far more essential and fundamental to human existence are in great peril. While we can exist without money and we can definitely thrive without terrorism, we will die without food and water.

"hoTTege hiTTilla, juTTige mallige hUvu" (Trans.: No flour for the stomach, but jasmine for the plait) goes a common Kannada proverb. We seem to be so interested in this proverbial jasmine for our hair while we are almost out of stock on the food side.

For me, the biggest problem now and in the next ten years is that of water. We can choose to be ostriches with our heads stuck in the sand but the problem will not go away. All the alarming news that we hear about depleting ground water reserves is not mere propaganda - it is reality. While I have not done a scientific study, my random sampling seems to indicate this trend. For instance, I had seen an abundance of water just fifteen years ago - not just in Bangalore - but in the surrounding rural parts and districts of Karnataka as well. Normal hand wells and borewells were sufficient to get water to people. Effort to get water from the ground would be back breaking work (picture womenfolk having a go at the village hand pumps) - but the water tables themselves seemed at a healthy level - indicated by how easily borewells could be drilled. I fondly remember the well in my neighbor's house in urban Bangalore being filled almost to the brim during the rainy season.

Fast forward to 2004 and beyond and the picture changes drastically. A single example will illustrate my point. A massive apartment complex comes up near Malleshwaram in Bangalore where they sink at least twenty to thirty borewells. And guess what? Forget the open wells; but almost all borewells in the surrounding areas go dry. Plain dry. My old neighbor's well is gone. If you wander in and around old residential areas, remnants of dry hand pumps, many of them sunk during the 1984 drought, call out for attention. However, residents of houses around the same wells, of houses that were modest during that age but have now been replaced by fancy looking multi-storeyed buildings, get water - 24 x 7, mostly from a borewell sunk 400 feet.

A similar state can be seen on the rural side also. At my village, we had a well - which again, like at my Bangalore neighbor's house would be almost full. Now, the well is dry and had to be closed. Each family in the village has dug at least two borewells - sometimes to depths of a thousand feet. Agriculture is not the same as before. Peer pressure adds to the vagaries of rainfall. When other farmers in the area in earlier times would at least lend a helping hand in times of distress, they are too busy counting notes now to help their neighbor. And envy has come as an urban export to rural India. In light of this, what does the sAmAnya farmer do when he sees his neighbor counting money? Take a loan and dig a well to keep up with his neighbor. The arguments about water table levels do not appeal to people whose existence tomorrow might be at risk.

The path to economic might has somehow landed us in ecological peril - not that economic might has been reached either. I sincerely hope that the picture is not as bleak as I see it to be. People are getting educated about rain water harvesting and other areas - but we can only hope for the best.

Tradition has been a vehicle for best known methods of livelihood in its respective geographical locations. However, with colonization and subsequent "modernization", tradition has been pushed back. To understand how traditional ways of water management were very effective and have since been dismantled over the ages, refer to a good research proposal here. Disregarding traditional values and wisdom without due consideration has been a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. India presents a very sorry example for this case.

The plight depicted in the following quartet written over fifty years ago by DVG still affects the world and India, especially. And will probably do so for a longer time to come.

haLeya bhakti-shraddheyaLisihOgive mAsi
suLidillavAva hosa-darshananada hoLapuM
paLagidda mane bidda kuMTa kuruDana teradi
taLamaLisutide lOka - mankutimma

(An apology of a translation - without any intention of belittling our visually and physically challenged brethren):
The ways of tradition fast fading away
And the new Vision yet unseen;
As the lame-blind stumbles about his ruined old home
Mankutimma, does the world bumble away...

The example of the lame-blind is testimony to the keen insight DVG had into the Human psyche. The lame-blind lived in his old home and was used to it with the objects he needed at the right place. He knew for example, how to get to the water pot, where he could get support, which wall he could lean on etc., With his old house ruined - (no commentary on how that happened...) - it fell because it was probably old, he could not rely on his old methods of livelihood and hence spends his time stumbling over the fallen bricks and walls of his old house.

The metaphor is quite apt as the lame-blind has not actually arranged the objects at home as he is not just lame but also blind. He probably started living in an old house built by somebody else. Tradition is similar to an extent that its methods and rules, though they might have been intelligently derived by its originators, are now blindly followed by its adherents, who lack the "legs" to progress forward and the "vision" to see things for what they are. However, tradition was still useful, even to the "blind" and the "lame" - but with it becoming ruined, the blind-lame are left to their stumbling and bumbling ways.

Though the earlier thought is somewhat depressing, the new vision at least according to DVG is still only unseen. It may exist and hopefully, will be seen by us. With that hope, till the next post... take care.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

दीर्घसूत्रता - एकं दीर्घलेखनम् ।

आबहोः कालात् न संस्कृतेन लिखितं मयेति सर्वदा मम संस्कृत्तलेखानाम् आरम्भे प्रलापः । एतस्मिन् लेखेऽपि स एव क्रमो मयाश्रितः । कारणं नाम समयाभाव इति तु असत् । यस्मात् कन्नडाङ्ग्लाभ्यां न सर्वदा परं तदा तदा लेखाः लिख्यन्ते मया । संस्कृतॆ विरला लेखा मम ।

कारणान्वेषणकाले तु भगवद्वचनम् एकं मनसि आगतम् । उच्यते खलु गीतासु -
अयुक्तः प्राकृतः स्तब्धः शठॊ नैकृतिकोऽलसः ।
विषादी दीर्घसूत्री च कर्ता तामस उच्यते ॥ (१८-२८)

प्रथमम् अस्य श्लोकस्य तावदर्थपरिशीलनम् । तदनन्तरम् विषयप्रसक्तिः। अर्थार्थं भगवन्तं भाष्यकारं श्रीशङ्करमवलम्बे ।
अयुक्तॊ नाम असमाहितः । यस्य मनसि समाधानं न विद्यते स अयुक्तः।
प्राकृतॊ नाम असंस्कृतबुद्धिः । यस्य बुद्धिः संस्कारविहीना स प्राकृतः।
स्तब्धः विनयविहीनः । छान्दॊग्यश्रुतौ श्वेतकॆतुः यदा द्वादशवर्षाध्ययनानन्तरं स्वगृहं प्रत्यागच्छति तदा ".... महामना अनूचानमानी स्तब्धॊ एयाय" इति तस्य विवरणं दृश्यते । तदनन्तरं पिता तस्य भगवदुद्दालको ब्रह्मतत्त्वं बॊधयतीति तु भिन्नं।
शठॊ वञ्चकः । नैकृतिकः अन्येषां वृत्तीनां जीविकानां च छेदकः ।
अलसो यत् करणीयमस्ति तद्विषयेऽपि यस्य अप्रवृत्तिः ।
विषादी विषादम् एव सदावलम्बते एष इति ।
दीर्घसूत्री अधुना कर्तव्यविषयेऽपि "श्वः कुर्मः । परश्वः अन्यदा वा कुर्मः" इति यस्य मतिः सः ।
एते गुणा अवगुणा वा यस्मिन् निवसन्ति स तामस इति उच्यते गीताचार्यॆण।

मम च पुर्वॊक्तावगुणानां च सम्बन्धॊ नास्तीति तु न वक्तुं शक्यते । यद्यपि नास्ति सर्वदा तमोगुणसम्पर्कः तदा तदा उष्ट्रवद् मनोमण्डपं पूर्णं प्रविशति । भाग्यवशात् तु नाहं सर्वावगुणदष्टः ।

कबीर-सद्भिरुक्तम् -
"कल् करे सो आज् कर् ।
आज् करे सो अब् ।" इति ।

मम विषये न तद्वद्द्भाग्यं ।
इदानींतनकार्यं वै प्रसृत्य दिवसेषु च।
करॊति पुनरन्यच्च दीर्घसूत्री स कथ्यते ।।
इति मे स्थितिः । ततः सोऽहं दीर्घसूत्री । सा च दीर्घसूत्रता अस्याश्च अग्रजः आलस्यं नाम मनसि मधुरायॆते । किमपि कर्तुमुद्युक्तमना यदाहं अन्यत् किमपि दृष्टिपथमायाति । यथा राज्ञः पुरतः नूतने वस्तुदर्शने मन्त्रिणः राजकार्यं त्यक्त्वा अपसरन्ति तथैव मनो मे प्रस्तुतकार्यं आपसारयित्वा नूतनं रुचिकरं प्रकाशयति ।

आलस्यं तदानींतने समये अमृतवत् आस्वाद्यं अतिमधुरं च भासते । तस्य विषस्वरूपस्तु गच्छता कालेनैव ज्ञायते । आलस्यममृतं विषम् - इति तु न व्यर्थोक्तिः।

तेन गोमुखव्याघ्रेण आलस्यामृतविषेण कतिपयेषु अवसरेषु बाधितोऽपि आलस्यपरं एव चित्तं मे सर्वदा इति तु चित्रम् । अस्माकं सुभाषितकाराः आलस्य-दीर्घसूत्रतायॊः विषये सदाजागृताः अन्यान् अप्रमत्तान् कर्तुम् उद्युक्ताः सन्ति ।

उदाहरणमेकम् अत्र विद्यते ।
षड्दोषाः पुरुषेणेह हातव्या भूतिमिच्छता ।
निद्रा तन्द्रा भयं क्रोध आलस्यं दीर्घसूत्रता ॥

शड्दोषेभ्यो मुक्तिः प्रापणीया ऐश्वर्यं इच्छता मनुष्यॆण । के ते? निद्रा - अतिनिद्रा स्वनाशाय एव । तन्द्रा नाम अशक्तिः । भयसहितो पुरुषः न हि किञ्चित्कर्तुमर्हति । क्रोधोऽपि महान् शत्रुः यस्मात् पुरुषे कुपिते सति बुद्धिः मोहमायाति अनर्थसम्भावना च वर्धते । आलस्यं दीर्घसूत्रता च अस्माभिः गत ज्ञातौ विषयौ।

एवं बहूनि सन्त्युदारणानि संस्कृतवाङ्मये। उच्यते खलु "वचने का दरिद्रता?" इति । परं मूलप्रश्नः कथं एताभ्यां मुक्तिरित्येव । वचनसरांसि शतानि भवन्तु परं कार्यजलस्य बिन्दुरपि नास्ति चेत् किं तेन प्रयॊजनम् । मनोनिग्रह एव अत्र कर्तव्यः । कथं पुनरेषः?

समस्यापरिहारार्थं पुनः भगवान् गीताचार्य एव आश्रयणीयः।
असंशयं महाबाहॊ मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् ।
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्यण च गृह्यते ॥ (६.३५)

जगद्गुरुणापि आङ्गीक्रियते यन्मनसो निग्रहः कष्टम् इति । परं उत्तररूपॆण शब्दद्वयं दीयते तेन । अभ्यासो वैराग्यश्च । अभ्यासो नाम निरन्तरं तदेकचित्तताप्रयत्नः। बुद्धिवाञ्चिते लक्ष्यॆ चित्तस्य एकाग्रताप्रयत्न एव अभ्यासः।

अभ्यासविषयॆ तत्र महत्कष्टम् अनुभूयते प्रायेण सर्वैरपि । उच्यते यद् एकविंशतिदिनपर्यन्तं यस्य कार्यस्य अभ्यासः क्रियते स वशवर्ती भवति इति । परं तावत् पर्यन्तं निरन्तरं तस्मिन् रन्तुं मनो न उत्सहते । बुद्द्यङ्कुशेन कथमपि मनोव्यालनियन्त्रणं करणीयम् ।

पुनश्च वैराग्यम् । वैराग्यं नाम लक्ष्यविरुद्दॆषु वस्तुषु सन्ततदोषदर्शनात् उत्पन्ना अनासक्तिः । अत्रापि बुद्दिकार्यम् अपेक्ष्यते ।

श्लॊकार्धेन भगवान् मनोनिग्रहं उपादिशत् । परं "अगच्छन् वैनतेयोऽपि पदमॆकं न गच्छति" इति श्लोकार्धे यथोक्तं तथैव अभ्यासवैराग्ययॊः अनुष्ठानादेव मनोनिग्रहः सिध्यति । "अभ्यासे चापि वैराग्ये अनुष्ठानशक्तिं दॆहि नो भगवन्" इति प्रार्थनं कर्तुम् शक्नुमः ।

श्रीमद्-विरोधिनामसंवत्सरस्य सर्वेभ्यो हार्दिकाः शुभाशयाः ।

अत्र कश्चिद्विशेषः । रोधो नाम नियमनं (आङ्ग्ले stop इव) । सामान्यतः विरोधो नाम विशेषः रोधः इति अर्थः स्वीक्रियते । यस्य विरोधः स विरोधी । कस्मात् विरोधीति संवत्सरस्य अमङ्गलं नाम? न तथा यस्मादत्र शक्यते चमत्कर्तुम् । विरॊधः इत्यत्र विगतः रोधः इति अर्थ्यते चेत् रोधो यस्मिन् संवत्सरे नास्ति स विरोधिसंवत्सरः इति शक्यते वक्तुम् । तस्मात् अयं श्रीमद्विरोधिसंवत्सरो नो द्वितीयार्थद्योतनो भवेदिति काङ्क्षन् विरमामि ।
॥ इति शम् ॥

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

ಕಾಮನ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆಯೋ ಕೃಷ್ಣನ ರಂಗಿನಾಟವೋ

ನಿನ್ನೆ ಫಾಲ್ಗುಣ ಮಾಸದ ಪೂರ್ಣಿಮೆ. ಅಂದರೆ ಹೋಳಿಯ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆ. ಅಪರೂಪವಾಗಿ ರಜೆಯ ದಿನ. ಹೋಳಿಯ ದಿನ ರಜೆಯಿದ್ದ ನೆನಪೇ ಇಲ್ಲ ನನಗೆ. ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ (ನಾವು ಬಯಲು ಸೀಮೆಯವರು) ಹೋಳಿಯೆಂದರೆ ಅಂಥ ವಿಶೇಷ ಆಚರಣೆಯೇನೂ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಒಂದು ದೇವರ ಪೂಜೆ, ನಂತರ ಒಬ್ಬಟ್ಟಿನ ಊಟ. ಮನೆಯ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಸಂಜೆ ಆರತಿ. ಇದೇ ವಿಶೇಷವೆಂದು ಹಲವರಿಗನ್ನಿಸಬಹುದು. ಆದರೆ ನೆನ್ನೆ ನನಗೆ ಅಷ್ಟು ವಿಶೇಷವಾಗಿ ತೋರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಹೋಳಿಯ ಮಹತ್ತ್ವವೇನೆಂಬುದರ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಆಲೋಚನೆಗೆ ತೊಡಗಿದೆ. ಆಗ ನನಗೆ ತೋಚಿದ್ದನ್ನು ಬರೆಯಬೇಕೆನ್ನಿಸಿ ಇಗೋ ಬರೆದಿದ್ದೇನೆ.

ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗೂ ಹೋಳಿಯೆಂದರೆ ಕಣ್ಣ ಮುಂದೆ ಬರುವುದು ಗುಲಾಲಿನಾಟ. "ಬಂಧನ" ಚಿತ್ರದ ಸುಹಾಸಿನಿಯ ಮೇಲೆ ವಿಷ್ಣುವರ್ಧನ್ ಸುರಿಯುವ ತರಾವರಿ ಬಣ್ಣದ ನೀರು ನೆನಪಿಗೆ ಬರುತ್ತದೆ. ಕಿರಿತನದಲ್ಲಿ ಹೊರಗೆ ಹೋಗಲು ಭಯ - ಎಲ್ಲಿ ಬಣ್ಣ ಮೆತ್ತಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತೇನೋ ಎಂದು. ನಾನು ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿ ಹೋಳಿಯಾಡಿದ್ದು ಒಮ್ಮೆಯೋ ಎರಡು ಬಾರಿಯೋ ಇರಬಹುದು. ನಂತರ ಮೈಮೇಲಿನ ಬಣ್ಣ ಹೋಗಲು ನಾಲ್ಕೈದು ದಿನಗಳೇ ಹಿಡಿದಿದ್ದವು. ಆದರೆ ಈಗ ಎರಡು ತೊಂದರೆಗಳು ಬಂದಿವೆ. ಮೊದಲನೆಯದು - ಬಣ್ಣಗಳು ಜೈವಿಕ ಮೂಲದ್ದಾಗದೆ ಕೇವಲ ರಾಸಾಯನಿಕ ಮೂಲದ್ದಾಗಿವೆ. ಇದರಿಂದ ಚರ್ಮಕ್ಕೆ, ಕಣ್ಣಿಗೆ ಬರುವ ತೊಂದರೆಗಳು ಹಲವು. ಆದರೂ ಬೆಲೆ ಕಡಿಮೆಯೆಂದು ಇದನ್ನೇ ಬಳಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಎರಡನೆಯದು - ಹೋಲಿಯ ನೆಪವೊಡ್ಡಿ ಹಲವೆಡೆ ಹರೆಯದ ಹುಡುಗಿಯರ ಮೈಕೈ ತಾಗಿಸಿ ಮೋಜುಮಾಡುವ ಪರಿ ಸಾಧಾರಣವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಈಗ ಹೆಣ್ಣುಮಕ್ಕಳು ಹೊರಗೆ ಹೋಗದೇ ಇರುವ ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಹೋಳಿಯೂ ಪ್ರಮುಖವಾದುದು. ಆಸಿಡ್ ದಾಳಿಯನ್ನೇ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರಂತೆ. ಹಬ್ಬದ ಈ ಮೋಜಿನ ಸಂಗತಿ ವಿಕೃತಗೊಂಡದ್ದು ನಿಜಕ್ಕೂ ವಿಷಾದನೀಯ. 

ಈ ಗುಲಾಲಿನಾಟದ ಐತಿಹ್ಯವೇನೆಂದು ಯೋಚಿಸಹೊರಟೆ. ಶ್ರೀಕೃಷ್ಣನ ಕಿಶೋರಾವಸ್ಥೆಯ ಲೀಲೆಯೇ ಇದಕ್ಕೆ ಪ್ರಮುಖವಾದ ಸ್ಫೂರ್ತಿ ಎಂದು ನನ್ನ ಈಗಣ ಅನಿಸಿಕೆ. ಉತ್ತರಭಾರತದಲ್ಲಿ ಹೋಳಿಯಂದು ಕೃಷ್ಣನು ರಾಧೆ ಮೊದಲಾದ ಗೋಪಿಯರೊಡನೆ ನಡೆಸಿದ ಬಣ್ಣದಾಟದ ನೆನಪು ಮೂಡಿಸಲು ಬಂದ ಹಬ್ಬ. ಬಂಗಾಳ ಮೊದಲಾದ ಕೃಷ್ಣಪಂಥದ ಪ್ರಾಮುಖ್ಯವಿರುವ ಸ್ಥಲಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಇದೇ ಹಬ್ಬ. ಕೃಷ್ಣನ ಪೂಜೆಯ ಜತೆಗೆ ಹೋಳಿಯ ಓಕುಳಿಯಾಟ. ರಾಧೆಯ ಸ್ಥಾನವೆಂದು ಖ್ಯಾತವಾದ ಬರ್ಸಾನಾ ದಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಇದು ದೊಡ್ಡ ಹಬ್ಬ. ಆದರೆ ಭಾಗವತ-ವಿಷ್ಣು ಪುರಾಣ-ಹರಿವಂಶ-ಮಹಾಭಾರತವೇ ಮೊದಲಾದ ಗ್ರಂಥಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ರಾಧೆಯ ಹೆಸರೂ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಆದ್ದರಿಂದ ರಾಧೆಯ ಹೆಸರೂ ದಕ್ಷಿಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಅಷ್ಟು ಚಾಲ್ತಿಯಲ್ಲಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಇದರಿಂದ ಈ ಬಣ್ಣದಾಟ ದಕ್ಷಿಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಈಚೆಗೆ ಕಂಡಿದೆ ಎಂದು ಧೈರ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಹೇಳಬಹುದು.

ಬದಲಾಗುತ್ತಿರುವ ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಈಚೆಗೆ ಕಾಣಿಸದ ಹೋಳಿಯ ಆಚರಣೆಯೆಂದರೆ ಹಳೆಯ ವಸ್ತುಗಳ ದಹನ. ನಮ್ಮ ಕಡೆ ಹೋಳಿಯೆಂಬ ಹೆಸರು ಬಂದದ್ದೇ ಈಚೆಗೆ. ಕಾಮನ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆಯೋ ಅಥವಾ ಕಾಮನ ಹಬ್ಬವೆಂದೇ ಇದನ್ನು ಕರೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದುದು. ಒಂದಿಪ್ಪತ್ತು ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ಬೀದಿಯ ಸುತ್ತಮುತ್ತಲಿನ ಪಡ್ದೆ ಹುಡುಗರು ಸುತ್ತಲ ಮನೆಗಳ ಹಳೆಯ ಚಾಪೆ, ಪೊರಕೆ ಮೊದಲಾದ ಒಣಗಿದ, ಕೆಲಸಕ್ಕೆ ಬಾರದ ವಸ್ತುಗಳನ್ನಾಯ್ದು ರಸ್ತೆಯ ಚೌಕದಲ್ಲಿ "ಕಾಮಣ್ಣನ ಮಕ್ಕಳು, ಕಳ್ಳ ಸೂ.. ಮಕ್ಕಳು, ಏನೇನು ಕದ್ದರು" ಎಂದೆಲ್ಲ ಕಿರುಚುತ್ತ ಸುಡುವ ಸಡಗರ ಈಗ ಕಾಣೆಯಾಗಿದೆ. ನಿಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಇದು ಈಚೆಗೆಲ್ಲಾದರೂ ಕಂಡಿದ್ದರೆ ನನಗೆ ದಯವಿಟ್ಟು ತಿಳಿಸಿ. 

ಪ್ರಭಾವಿ-ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಯ ನುಸುಳುವಿಕೆಯ ಉದಾಹರಣೆಯಾಗಿ ಇದನ್ನು ಕಾಣಬಹುದು. ಹಿಂದಿನ ನಮ್ಮ "ದೇಸಿ" ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಯ ಕಾಮನ ಹಬ್ಬ ಹಿಂದಕ್ಕೆ ಸರಿದು ಉತ್ತರ ಭಾರತದ ಸಿನಿಮಾ ಶೋಕಿಯ ಬಣ್ಣದ ಹಬ್ಬ ಇದೇ ಹೋಳಿಯ ಆಚರಣೆ ಅನ್ನುವುದರ ಮಟ್ಟಿಗೆ ಮನೆ ಮಾಡಿದೆ. ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಚೆನ್ನಿಲ್ಲವೆಂದಲ್ಲ - ಆದರೆ  ನಮ್ಮ ವಸ್ತುವನ್ನು ಕಳೆದುಕೊಂಡಂಥ ಕೊರಗು ಎಲ್ಲೋ ಕಾಡುತ್ತದೆ.

ಈ ಆಚರಣೆಯ ಹಿಂದೆ ಕೆಲವಾರು ಕಥೆಗಳಿವೆ - ರೋಚಕ ಕಥೆಗಳು ಕೂಡ. 

ಮೊದಲನೆಯದು - ಕಾಮ ದಹನ. ಶಿವನು ತನ್ನ ಮೂರನೆ ಕಣ್ಣಿನಿಂದ ತನ್ನಲ್ಲೇ ಕಾಮವನ್ನು ಕೆರಳಿಸಿದ ಮದನನನ್ನು ಸುಟ್ಟ ಕಥೆ ಸುವಿದಿತ. ಈ ಸಂಗತಿಯನ್ನು ಪುರಾಣಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕಾಲಿದಾಸನ ಅಮೋಘವಾದ ಕುಮಾರಸಂಭವದಲ್ಲಿ ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿ ಕಾಣಬಹುದು. ಇಲ್ಲಿನ ವಿಶೇಷಾಂಶಗಳು ನನಗೆ ತಿಳಿದ ಮಟ್ಟಿಗೆ ಎರಡು. ಒಂದು - ಶಿವನಂಥ ದೇವಾಧಿದೇವತೆಯೂ ಒಂದು ಕ್ಷಣಕಾಲ ಕಾಮದಲ್ಲಿ ಸಕ್ತನಾಗಬಹುದೆಂದರೆ ಕಾಮದ ಶಕ್ತಿಯ ಸ್ವರೂಪ ನಮಗೆ ತಿಳಿಯಬರುವುದು. ಎರಡನೆಯದು - ಕಾಮವನ್ನು ನಿಃಶೇಷವಾಗಿ ಸುಡಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವೆಂಬುದು. ಬುದ್ಧನು ಮಾರನನ್ನು ಗೆದ್ದ ಬಗೆಯೂ ಇದಕ್ಕೆ ಸಂವಾದಿ.  ದೇವೀ ಉಪಾಸಕರು ಆರಾಧಿಸುವ ಶ್ರೀಲಲಿತಾತ್ರಿಪುರಸುಂದರಿಯ ಕಥೆಯೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿಂದಲೇ ಆರಂಭ. ಸುಟ್ಟ ಕಾಮನ ಬೂದಿಯಿಂದ ಭಂಡಾಸುರನ ಜನನ ಇತ್ಯಾದಿಗಳನ್ನು ಲಲಿತೋಪಾಖ್ಯಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಣಬಹುದು. ಕಾಮದ ಶಕ್ತಿಯನ್ನು ತೋರುತ್ತಲೇ ಅದನ್ನು ಮೀರಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವೆಂದು ಹೇಳುವ ಈ ಕಥೆ ಬಹಳ ಸಮಂಜಸವಾಗಿದೆ. ಹೀಗೆ ದಕ್ಷಿಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಶಿವನ ಪೂಜೆಯನ್ನೂ ಈ ದಿನ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರೆ.

ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಕಥೆ - ಹಿರಣ್ಯಕಶಿಪುವಿಗೆ ಸಂಬಂಧಿಸಿದ್ದು. ತನ್ನ ಮಗನಾದ ಪ್ರಹ್ಲಾದನನ್ನು ಸುಡಲು ತನ್ನ ಬೆಂಕಿಯು ಸುಡಲಾರದ ತಂಗಿಯಾದ ಹೋಲಿಕೆಯನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಹೋಲಿಕಾ ಪ್ರಹ್ಲಾದನನ್ನು  ತನ್ನ ತೊಡೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಕೂರಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು ಅಗ್ನಿಪ್ರವೇಶ ಮಾಡಿದಾಗ ಹರಿಭಕ್ತನಾದ ಪ್ರಹ್ಲಾದನಿಗೆ ಏನೂ ಆಗದೆ ಹೋಲಿಕೆಯು ಬೆಂಕಿಗೆ ಸಿಗುತ್ತಾಳೆ. ಭಕ್ತನ ಉದ್ಧಾರದ ನೆನಪನ್ನು ಹೀಗೆ ಹೋಳಿಯು ಮಾಡಿಸುತ್ತದೆ.

ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಕಥೆ - ರಘುಮಹಾರಾಜನಿಗೆ ಸಂಬಂಧಪಟ್ಟದ್ದು. (ಓದಿರಿ - ಶ್ರೀ ಪಿ ವಿ ಕಾಣೆಯವರ ಧರ್ಮಶಾಸ್ತ್ರದ ಇತಿಹಾಸ, ಭಾಗ ಮೂರು). ಓರ್ವ ರಾಕ್ಷಸಿ (ಢುಂಡಿ ಎಂದು ಅವಳ ಹೆಸರು) ಶಿವನ ವರದಿಂದ ಹರೆಯದ ಹುಡುಗರ ಅಶ್ಲೀಲಶಬ್ದಗಳಿಂದ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸಾವನ್ನಪ್ಪುವ ವರ ಪಡೆದಿದ್ದಳು. ಅವಳ ಅಬ್ಬರ ಅತಿಯಾದಾಗ ರಘುವಿನ ರಾಜ್ಯದ ಯುವಪ್ರಜೆಗಳು ಅಶ್ಲೀಲಶಬ್ದಗಳಿಂದ ಬೈದುಕೊಂಡು ಹಳೆಯ ವಸ್ತುಗಳನ್ನು ಸುಡುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಆಗ ಆಕೆಯ ಸಾವು. ಈ ಕಥೆಯು ಬಹಳ ಪುರಾತನವಾಗಿದೆ.

ಕಾಣೆಯವರು ತಿಳಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ (ನಮ್ಮ ತಂದೆಯವರೂ ಈ ಆಚರಣೆಯನ್ನು ನೋಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ) ರತಿ-ಮನ್ಮಥರ ಮೂರ್ತಿಗಳನ್ನು ಮನೆಯ ಅಥವಾ ಗ್ರಾಮದ ಚೌಕದಲ್ಲಿಟ್ಟು ಅವರಿಗೆ ಪೂಜೆ ಸಲ್ಲಿಸಿ ಕಾಮದಹನವಾದ ನಂತರದ ಬೆಳಗ್ಗೆ ಪಾನಕ-ಪಣ್ಯಾರಗಳ ಸರಬರಾಜು. ಇಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಅಶ್ಲೀಲ ಶಬ್ದಗಳ ಪ್ರಯೋಗ ನಡೆಯುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. 

ಸನಾತನ ಧರ್ಮ ಕೃಷಿಮೂಲದ್ದಾಗಿರುವುದರಿಂದ ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಂದು ಹಬ್ಬದಾಚರಣೆಗೂ ಪ್ರಕೃತಿಗೂ ನಿಕಟವಾದ ಸಂಬಂಧ. ಇಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಹೀಗೆಯೇ. ಮಾಸಗಳ ಗಣನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಎರಡು ಬಗೆ. ಈಗಿನ ಹಾಗೆಯ ಆಮಾವಾಸ್ಯೆಯ ಅಂತ್ಯದ್ದು ಒಂದು - ಅಮಾವಾಸ್ಯೆಯಿಂದ ಅಮಾವಾಸ್ಯೆಯ ವರೆಗೆ ತಿಂಗಳ ಎಣಿಕೆ. ಎರಡನೆಯದು ಪೂರ್ಣಿಮೆಯ ಅಂತ್ಯದ ಮಾಸದ ಗಣನೆ - ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆಯಿಂದ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆಯವರೆಗೆ ಎಣಿಕೆ. ಎರಡನೆಯ ರೀತಿಯ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ಫಾಲ್ಗುಣ ಪೂರ್ಣಿಮೆ ವರ್ಷದ ಕೊನೆಯನ್ನು ಸೂಚಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಒಂದೆಡೆ ಛಳಿಯ ಅಂತ್ಯ, ವಸಂತದ ಆಗಮನ ಇರುವುದರಿಂದ ಇದೊಂದು ಸುಖದ ಕಾಲ. ಪ್ರಕೃತಿಯು ಎಲ್ಲೆಡೆ ಸಸ್ಯಶ್ಯಾಮಲೆಯಾಗಿ ಕಂಗೊಳಿಸುವ ಕಾಲ. ಹಳೆಯ ವರ್ಷದ ಹಳತು ತೊಲಗಲೆಂದು ಹಳೆಯ ವಸ್ತುಗಳನ್ನು ಸುಡುವ ಸಂಪ್ರದಾಯ ಇದ್ದಿರಬಹುದು. ಈ ಆಚರಣೆಯೂ ಹಳೆಯದೇ. ಆದರೆ ಈಚೆಗೆ ಕಾಣಸಿಗುತ್ತಿಲ್ಲ.

ಒಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೋಳಿ ಹಬ್ಬ ಅಥವಾ ಕಾಮನ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆ ರಮಣೀಯವಾದ ರೋಚಕವಾದ ಐತಿಹ್ಯವುಳ್ಳ ಆಚರಣೆ. ಒಂದಷ್ಟು ಗುಣವಿರುವ ಹಿಂದಿನ ಆಚರಣೆಗಳನ್ನು ಮತ್ತೆ ಜಾರಿಗೆ ತರಬಹುದೇ ಎಂಬ ಜಿಜ್ಞಾಸೆ ನನಗೆ. 

ಕೊನೆಯದಾಗಿ ಒಂದು ಮಾತು. ಕಳೆದ ತಿಂಗಳಿನ ವ್ಯಾಲೆಂಟಿನ್ ದಿನಾಚರಣೆಯ ಹಿಂದಣ ಬಿಸಿ ನೆನಪಿಗೆ ಬಂದಿತು. ಒಂದೆಡೆ ರಾಮಸೇನೆಯವರು "ಹಿಂದೂ" ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಯ ಗುತ್ತಿಗೆದಾರರು ತಾವೆಂದು ಎಗರಿದರೆ ಇವರಿಗೆ ಸರಿಯಾಗಿ "ಪಿಂಕ್" ಚಡ್ಡಿಗಳ ಬಣದವರ ಅಬ್ಬರ ಮತ್ತೊಂದೆಡೆ. ನಾನು ನೋಡಿದ ಹಾಗೆ ಸನಾತನ ಧರ್ಮದ ರೀತಿ ಈ ಎರಡು ವಿರುದ್ಧ ಬಣಗಳ ರೀತಿಗಳಿಂದಲೂ ಬೇರೆಯಾಗಿದೆ. ಬೇರೆ ಯಾವ ಧರ್ಮದಲ್ಲಿ ರತಿ-ಮನ್ಮಥರನ್ನಿಟ್ಟು ಪೂಜೆ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರೆ? ಇದನ್ನು ಕಂಡ ಸನಾತನ ಧರ್ಮದ "ಮಡಿವಂತಿಕೆ"ಯನ್ನು ಜರೆಯುವ "ಪ್ರಗತಿ"ಪರರು ಈ ಆಚರಣೆಯನ್ನು "ಪ್ರಗತ" ಎಂದು ತೇರ್ಗಡೆ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರೋ ಅಥವಾ ವಿಕ್ಟೊರಿಯಾ ರಾಣಿಯ ಕಾಲದ ಮಡಿಯನ್ನು ಮತ್ತೆ ನೆನಪಿಸುವಂತೆ "ಲೋಲುಪತೆ" ಎಂದು ಅನುತ್ತೀರ್ಣ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರೋ? ಪ್ರೇಮವೆಂದು ಹೇಳಿ ತಿಪ್ಪೆ ಸಾರಿಸದೆ ಕಾಮನ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆಯೆಂದೇ ಘಂಟಾಘೋಷವಾಗಿ ಹೇಳುವ ಈ ಬಗೆ "ಹಿಂದೂ" ಧರ್ಮದ ಆಚರಣೆಯೆಂದು ರಾಮಸೇನೆಯವರಿಗೆ ಹೇಳಿದರೆ ಅವರು ಮಡಿಮಡಿಯನ್ನು ಬಿಟ್ಟು ಸಿಡಿಸಿಡಿಯಾಗುವರೆ? ಅಥವಾ ಇದನ್ನು ತಮ್ಮ "ಹಿಂದೂ"ಧರ್ಮದಿಂದ ಬಹಿಷ್ಕರಿಸುವರೆ?
ಒಂದೆಡೆ ಕಾಮವನ್ನು ಅತಿಯಾಗಿ ವೈಭವೀಕರಿಸದೆ ಮತ್ತೊಂದೆಡೆ ಅದರ ತೃಣೀಕರಣವೂ ಕೂಡದೇ ಕೂಡದು ಅನ್ನುವ ಮಧ್ಯಮ ಮಾರ್ಗ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿಗೂ ಸಮಾಜಕ್ಕೂ ಶ್ರೇಯಸ್ಕರವೆಂದು ನನ್ನ ನಂಬಿಕೆ. ಅದೇ ನನಗೆ ತಿಳಿದ ಹಾಗೆ ಸನಾತನ ಧರ್ಮದ ಮಾರ್ಗ. ಮಾನವನ ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಂದು ಆಸೆಯನ್ನು, ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಂದು ಬೇಡಿಕೆಯನ್ನು ಸನಾತನ ಧರ್ಮ ಅಂಗೀಕರಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಆದರೆ ಎಲ್ಲಕ್ಕೂ ಕ್ರಮವನ್ನು ವಿಧಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಎಲ್ಲವೂ ಧರ್ಮದ ಚೌಕಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಯತಕ್ಕದ್ದು. ಆದರೆ ಧರ್ಮವೇನು ಅಧರ್ಮವೇನೆಂಬುದರ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಯೇ ಮೂಲದ್ದು. ಅದರ ಅರಿವು ಮಂಥನದ ನಂತರ ಆಗುತ್ತದೆ. ನನಗಂತೂ ಧರ್ಮವೇನೆಂಬುದರ ಅರಿವು ಕಷ್ಟಗ್ರಾಹ್ಯ ಎಂದು ಮಾತ್ರ ತಿಳಿದಿದೆ. ಇದು ಇದೇ ಎಂದು ಹೇಳಲು ಬರುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಆದರೆ ಅ ನಿಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಚಿಂತನೆ ಮುಖ್ಯವೆಂದು ಹೇಳುತ್ತಾ ಇಲ್ಲಿ ವಿರಮಿಸುವೆ.

|| ಇತಿ ಶಮ್ ||

Monday, February 16, 2009

SL Bhyrappa's sAkshi - a quick reflection

"dharmAviruddho bhuteShu kAmo.asmi bharatarShabha"
(O bull among the bharatas, I am kAma not opposed to Dharma in all beings)
declares the Lord in the bhagavadgItA. kAma and dharma are fundamental puruShArthas in the Indian psyche. It is easy to understand why Krishna qualified kAma with the additional adjunct of not being against Dharma. But still, in this age, when kAma and the artha are the more favored and attractive puruShArthas, sAkShi - Bhyrappa's novel, underscores the importance of Dharma and sounds a sobering note to those solely focused on the the second and third values of life.

sAkShi (English: witness) is in my opinion, Bhyrappa's most explosive novel. AvaraNa might be more controversial and tantu or parva more voluminous and philosophical. But no other book I have read recently packs profound, even mind-blowing philosophical questions with such a complex but gripping story line. Written in 1986, it is puzzling to me that this title is not on the lips of people. Bhyrappa is more identified with Parva, vamshavrikSha, dharmashrI and more recently with AvaraNa - but never so much with sAkShi.

sAkShi - the novel - is on a different plane altogether. While most of his other novels are mostly bound in a definite time and place, for example dATu (post-independent rural India) or tantu (India during emergency), or even Parva (mahAbhArata age) sAkShi with a few changes can easily transcend space and time, for, the concerns it raises are universally human. It is not that the others I mentioned lack parts of timelessness - but that this novel when stripped of its particulars can be equally at home with ancient India or with even modern America or medieval Europe. And it would be quite easy to strip them out lending itself quite well to an English adaptation (not just translation).

sAkShi also marks the creation of a great character, from a literary perspective - Manjayya. More about him later.

Some words of caution : sAkShi is not for the weak stomached. For example, I would shudder to share it with some one who is puritanical minded or some one who has just started reading.  People with Victorian mores are to be shooed away from this book.

The story begins and ends with a unique plot-device - discussions in the judgement court of Yama, the Supreme controller and arbiter in the Hindu puranic realm. It sounds fanciful, but does not come across as such and ends up enhancing the appeal of the novel. The novel begins with a dead soul in the court of Yamadharma narrating the conditions of its suicide. The spirit is then given permission to passively witness the mental conditions and thoughts of other actors in its earlier life.

Back in the real world, the story is set in the surroundings of Tiptur, Channarayapatna and Hassan - as Bhyrappa is wont to do. I suppose he has this particular choice of region for a couple of reasons. The first and most obvious is that Bhyrappa is himself intimately aware of these settings - given that he grew up there. The second one is that he probably finds it convenient to get the necessary scaffolding for his story out of the way as quickly as possible before grappling with the more fundamental issues. To explain it a little further, Bhyrappa is keen on exploring the universal in the particular. The structure of a novel demands that he give a certain "believability" to his characters and the plot. If he chose a place different from his customary surroundings, he would have to do research about a topic that he is peripherally interested in at best. By using a place he is already familiar with he achieves a wonderful narrative very easily and can set his mind to digging deep into each character's innards. Look at sArtha for a diametrically opposite kind of novel. Set in ancient India, Bhyrappa had to probably do enormous amounts of research to lend authenticity to the story. Here, he gets to the core quickly.

When the soul that has committed suicide is given a chance to explore the minds of its acquaintances as a silent witness, it chooses to do so. The characters range from the silent but thoughtful rAmakrishnayya (reminds you of shrInivAsa shrotri of vamshavrikSha), his wife, a money-minded Sukanya (a predecessor to tantu's kAnti) and their son Ganesha.  Manjayya is a coconut farm owner in the same village. Nagappa, the epitome of artha as an independent value, is Sukanya's father and Satyappa the Gandhian is Ramakrishna's brother-in-law. Savitri is the daughter of the house. Mention has to be made of Lakku and Sarojakshi who bring about profound changes in the story.

Continuing in the aftermath of a murder trial, the story serially narrates different events from the perspectives of different characters. Of course, we, as readers are also sAkShis in the book. It is quite difficult to go into the character without narrating some of the plot and that conflicts with the objective of this post - getting readers from this post to the book. However, the questions it raises are worthy of examination.

What is truth/falsehood? Are these absolute values?

Is concealment different from lying? Why do some people keep lying?

Is stating a truth a different way the same as lying?

Is it better to control one's base desires and falter occasionally or go all out in self-gratification?

What is the basis of carnal desire? Is it just the body or is there something else to it? When would it stop?

What is better - to have base desires secretly without satisfaction or treat it the same as any other bodily affliction?

Are suicides primarily caused by disproportionately morbid amplification of a momentary setback without a thought for the bigger picture?

What is Dharma in action? How do you recognize it?

The notion of purity and conversely, of sin- how much of the body and how much of the mind?

Is abstinence a virtue? How so or why not?

The Ego and its power

Manjayya is so much of this world - we see a lot of his likes everywhere - as anonymous statistics and reports in newspapers and sometimes in ourselves. Yet, there is something other-worldly about him; for no where else can we see such single minded self-indulgence. Manjayya is on par with a Duryodhana or a rAvaNa - Note that these characters are
not simple minded "evil-doers" - they are complex and layered. Manjayya is like that. Bhyrappa has created several characters - but Manjayya ranks with the highest, of course from a purely literary stand-point. SLB portrays Manjayya so convincingly that at times, there is no way to refute his arguments. 

The situation of Satyappa is very similar to that of Praneshacharya in URA's Samskara. The difference between URA and SLB is basically in what happens to each of their characters after they succumb to desire. Praneshacharya becomes a libertine whereas Satyappa is mortified. Satyappa is shaken out of his ivory tower and is ostracized by his family and society. However, Satyappa himself does not change - he sees the folly of his earlier ways and uses his fall (his perception) to achieve more focus on his life's mission.

Nagappa is another finely etched character. While self-indulgence for Manjayya is through bodily desires, the miserly Nagappa devotes his life to amassing wealth. Bhyrappa portrays the extreme nature of his desire brilliantly.

Sarojakshi is an intriguing character as well. While her similarity to Manjayya is alluded to on the surface, it ends right there. Her character could not be more different from that of Manjayya. Towards the end, the face off between the two shows how different they really are. While Manjayya epitomizes single pointed kAma, Saroja shows how kAma could be spread across pursuits. 

The story progresses towards a climax with two dramatic events. Between AvaraNa and sAkShi, there is a similarity of motif in the brutal nature of the first event. The second event - a revelation - is not as brutal but more disruptive to the characters and the reader. The plot twists are both unexpected and powerful, impacting both the reader and the story. 

However, Bhyrappa offers a vision of what he sees as ideal. For him, the ideal of disinterested karma as a tool to purify the mind is an important one. His focus, as seen in other works, on nirlepa karma (tantu, dATu) is echoed here as well.  The following sentence of Shankara in his introduction to the gItAbhAShya - "dvividho hi vedokto dharmaH | pravRttilakShaNo nivRttilakShaNashcha|" ("..Dharma is two fold, one characterized by activity and the other by renunciation") finds an echo in Bhyrappa's characters.

The two faces of his ideal are Ramakrishna and Satyappa. The former - distant, worthy of respect and immersed in Vedanta - is in the tradition of nivRtti dharma. The latter -  more down to earth, realistic and worthy of sympathy - is in the pravRtti path.

Bhyrappa leaves us with a question - "what is the origin of lies?"

To summarize, Bhyrappa is in his element here - so much so that the reader does not care for the name of the author when reading it. For all readers of serious literature, don't miss this.

PS: My apologies for writing this review in English. In hindsight, a review in Kannada would have been a lot better. Also, it seems that this book has been translated into both Hindi and English.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

India's $10 "laptop" - a media circus?

Why India's $10 Laptop is a Load of Hype | Technomix | Fast Company

I hate to tell "I told you so" for this - but this merely confirms my suspicion that the device would be far from a laptop. 500Rs is too low a price to get any decent "computer" (unless subsidized by long term contracts etc.,) and this device is not by any standards a laptop.

This "laptop" word associated with the device seems to be a hyped-up concoction of some clueless Indian media-person and less probably, some government busybody. I am quite sure folks in IISc and IIT-M would shudder to call this a laptop.

Of course, any "thing" can be a laptop - a book, a hard drive, or even a child. After all, it sits on top of your lap, right?

The only unfortunate thing is that this enterprise, worthy as it is, got all the publicity for the wrong reasons and now, instead of being appreciated it is called "Load of Hype", "massive exaggeration" and "downgraded by reality" among other things.

I wonder who called it a laptop - Indian media does have a fancy for hyperbole and this may be just it. Indian media seriously needs to tone down its hyperbole, sensationalism and shrillness factor. Anybody from Indian MSM reading this?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

BJP delegation invited by Communist Party of China

China woos saffron parties; Arunachal on agenda

Of all mainstream political parties, it is the BJP that is deemed most 'nationalist' - especially by its supporters. Hence it is interesting that the Communist Party of China has invited a delegation of key BJP/RSS folk led by people such as Ram Madhav and Balbir Punj to China. Though the report (rediff link above) is dated Jan 08, 2009, it mentions December 5th as the date of the trip. Has it been a month now or is it a typo?

This invitation seemed unbelievable in the backdrop of several things like the following:
1. BJP/Sangh folks have always brought attention, to put mildly, to the Chinese "treachery" of 1962. And apparently there was no greater sham than "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai"
2. NDA defence minister, George Fernandes openly naming China as rival no 1
3. That China is widely recognized as the arch rival not just in defense but in most other spheres.
4. That China has helped Pakistan with logistical and arms support over the years. It is quite possible that Pakistan became a nuclear state only because of China.
5. The cause of Tibet
6. China doing other things like claiming suzerainty over Arunachal Pradesh and damming rivers like Brahmaputra - all seen as India threatening.

To their credit, however, the delegation that visited China opined:
"We emphasised that Tibet has a distinct culture and that identity must be preserved. We also gave them an idea about how much Dalai Lama is revered in India. Of course, we have different perspectives but dialogue is important."

Good to read that. This is indeed the first time that there has been any dialog at the party level between India and China. (barring the CPs of India, of course)

I am also sure most of the delegation has read books like "Are we deceiving ourselves again?" by Arun Shourie (and Dalvi's Himalayan Blunder - banned in India - but these guys should have had access to it).

But this seems to be a definite instance where one could repeat Lord Byron's oft quoted words:
'Tis strange, but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction: if it could be told 

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sherlock Holmes' s Birthday?

The Curious Case of a Birthday for Sherlock - City Room Blog -

Sherlock Holmes has captured the imagination of the English reading world for well over a century now. It is but natural that several clubs honor and cherish the adventures as much as the first time reader. In fact, even in Bangalore you have a couple of societies or chapters of larger societies celebrating Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle can never be thanked enough for giving us this wonderful detective.

I did not know till I read this interesting post that Sherlock Holmes has a birthday celebration every year. And the date? January 6th or Twelfth night.

Read the interesting post to understand why this date was chosen.

I like the editions illustrated wonderfully by Sidney Paget as published in the Strand Magazine. Others just don't cut it.

And about the actors, I think Jeremy Brett portrayed Holmes best. Did you know that Roger Moore ("My name is Holmes, Sherlock Holmes") and Christopher Lee (and Saruman the white) have played Sherlock Holmes? Basil Rathbone was a favorite of Americans of the black and white generation. There were quite a few non-Conan-Doyle stories that featured Rathbone as Holmes. Personally, I have not read a non-Conan-Doyle Holmes and I don't think I will try to either.

I finish this post with a quiz: Which adventures of Sherlock Holmes have a number in their names? (No cheating...)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Nepal's Pashupatinath and de-culturing

Nepal priests to conduct worship at Pashupatinath-South Asia-World-The Times of India

Nepal was the only country in the world that proclaimed Hindu Dharma as its state religion. Soon after Prachanda and his cohorts took up power in Nepal, one of the first things they did was to remove the word "Hindu" from the country's constitution. Hindus the world over felt a twinge of discomfort when they read about it (this blogger included).

Karl Marx had this to say about religion, amongst other things - "It is the opium of the people." Whether his view was more nuanced than what this quote implies is a different topic. But as far as his followers are concerned, this statement pretty much sums it up. Religion and pre-communist tradition are something that have to be shunned. Atheism, nay, a form of nihilism and communism go together, that way.

Back to Nepal, the Pashupatinath temple is a very old and sacred centre of religion. Legend has it that Sri Shankaracharya instituted worship in this temple and appointed a lineage of priests (called ravals) from Karnataka. This tradition has gone on for centuries. When monarchy reigned in Nepal, Hindus and Hindu institutions flourished. That the pontiffs of the Kanchi Matha were held in high esteem by the king of Nepal is well known.

Communists, completely supported by the Chinese, started their activities within Nepal long ago. With bloodshed and rivalry within the royal family, their ascent to power accelerated. And finally, Prachanda got democratically elected as the prime minister. He belongs to the Communist Party (Maoist) of Nepal. The fact that he owes much to China can be seen from the name of his party as well as by his act of traveling first to China instead of India, as was the norm. The cold shoulder to India is quite evident here. It may not be long before Indian citizens need a passport and visa to visit Nepal, just like everybody else. India might need to worry about open borders with Nepal - but that is a separate issue.

The ascension to power by Prachanda was marked by the abolition of monarchy. Beginning with that, a systematic change of traditions instituted by the royal family has started. The change of the rawals is but a marker in the process of this "deculturing".

Monolithic religion-ideologies such as Islam, Communism and Christianity have one thing common amongst them. Wherever one of these has risen to power, the clock on history and culture is reset - as if there was no history and culture in these lands before the advent of these ideologies. Pakistan is an example in point. Textbooks are full of glorification of everything Islamic and condemnation of all else. Two generations of readers of such text books are all it takes to obliterate a country's indigenous traditions. Harappa is still in Pakistan, but from those textbooks, its achievements pale in front of those of a Ghauri or a Ghaznavi as Mohenjodaro et al were pre-Islamic sites and therefore jAhil. Mao's cultural revolution is similar.

A similar effort seems to be afoot in Nepal. Textbooks will, in all likelihood, be the next target if not already targeted. And it will be decreed in them that Nepal was under continued oppression till they were "liberated" by Chairman Mao's ideology, whose able representative is Chairman Prachanda. Whatever good remains will be credited to the new ideology and all things bad will be cast as the relics of a forgettable past.

The following quote by an American author sums it up quite well -
“Only when the war propaganda of the victors is entered into the history books of the vanquished, (and this is also believed by succeeding generations), only then will our reeducation have succeeded”