Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Handicapping politics of Amar- Akbar – Anthony (part 2)
from Punya Prasun Bajpai by Punya Prasun Bajpai
I went to Patna from Delhi to attend the Book Fair

Choosing the best book in a fair is similar to choosing the best couple; which is happening on a same platform. The filmy version of music and dramatization of plays looks similar everywhere. Black magic and painting competition are happening in the same event and venue. What has Bihar become? This was a question that kept me occupied throughout the book fair.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sri Aurobindo's Savitri is a landmark in Indian English writing

BHUBANESWAR Tuesday, February 20, 2007 The Pioneer 'Indian English writers have made great impact on world arena' Santanu Barad Berhampur

Indian English writing has made great impact on the world arena in present times; however, there is no room for complacency; hence the present generation writers have to sustain their efforts," opined Prof Prafulla Kumar Mohanty, while speaking on the recent trends in Indian writing in English at a national seminar, held recently at the Khallikote Autonomous College. Quoting from his survey, he said there were several inspirational writings in English by Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo and Nehru. Aurobindo's Savitri was a landmark in Indian English writing. Later, some Indian writers like RK Narayan, Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand had strengthened this tradition, he added.

Viswabharati's Prof Niranjan Mohanty presented a paper on trends in Indian poetry in English. He observed that after Independence, Indian poetry in English evidenced a new trend. Instead of writing about myths, real-life situations drew the attention of the poets who had attempted to find out their own original voices. Such kind of regional identities subsumed their national identities.

Prof Mohanty expressed hope that the future direction which Indian poetry in English would take, is full of promises- promises to authenticate the experience, to minimise the gap between experience and expression and to authenticate one's identity without failing to project a valourous national identity. Sarat Chandra Roy, in his paper Tradition and Modernity: A Study of Indian and Indo-English Love Poetry, mentioned, "The best work of art is that in which tradition asserts immortality most vigorously."

He stated that the international exchange of ideas and the new mode of verse expression in world poetry influenced the style of expression. Though it took a new shape in Indian English poetry, the traditional and cultural ethos prevailed as an undercurrent of motivation and inspiration, he added. He quoted TS Eliot's remark that when new literature is created. "the past is altered by the present and the present is directed by the past."

Utkal University Professor Himansu S Mohapatra also presented a paper 'A fiction of our own?' in which he explained different stages of Indian English writing, starting from the 18th century to the present times, particularly about the hybrid genre of writers. Commenting on the new generation of writers, Prof Mohapatra stated, "VS Naipaul, one of the indisputable early pioneers of the hybrid form, explained the secret of nativisation in an illuminating comment he made on Narayan's achievement, saying that it consisted in writing about ordinary people and small places of India in English, which, freighted by its imperial baggage, was obliged to write only about big, epochal things."

"The fact of the matter, of course, is that the Diaspora writing of the 1980s and 1990s has gathered all the three phases of Indian writing in English, marked by colonialists in the 18th century, aestheticism in the 19th century, anti-colonialism and cosmopolitanism in the early and middle decades of the 20th century, into itself, as it has sought to create a rich, complex and ambiguous post-colonial discourse of both collusion and resistance, of commoditisation and decolonisation," Prof Mohapatra explained.

Speaking on the "fantasywallahs" like Vikram Chandra, Amitabh Ghosh and Arundhati Roy, Mohapatra said Salman Rushdie was the writer who inspired the young generation of Indian writers. felt the necessity to quote Rushdie, "These writers have gone on to find new literary voices through English, thereby taking India's encounter with the English language to a whole new level."

Since 1963, attracted by Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, he has made Puducherry (Pondicherry) his home

FORAY Sunday, July 27, 2008 The Pioneer Orissa's literary genius One of Orissa's famous sons, Manoj Das is a stalwart of Oriya and English literature. Swati Das profiles the veteran litterateur as he shares nuggets from his journey

He is still chasing his rainbow. But its arc has changed in time. He was a columnist in leading newspapers and magazines, he is one of India's ablest interpreters of literary and cultural heritage and his literary works in Oriya and English have made him a hugely successful bi-lingual writer in the country. But for the last one decade Manoj Das, who was recently conferred Sahitya Akademy's highest honour - a Fellowship "reserved for immortals of literature," has busied himself with projects like Sahitya Akademy's Mythical, legendary and literary antiquities of India and editing the historical Yogic and Mystic Experiences. He is planning on an English novel pegged on India in transition and his quest today is a spiritual one - a far cry from his days as a Communist.

"Chasing the rainbow began in infancy and the chase continues. Only the meaning has changed from time to time. Everybody is driven by an urge to chase a rainbow - it is a dream or an ideal. Today my rainbow is to know myself and I ask myself simple questions like why was I born, why do I suffer, why do chances and coincidences occur to overshadow one's personal way and why does one die," says the litterateur who was conferred the Padmashri in 2000, recounting the opportunities and events he enjoyed in his 74 years. He frowned as he reflected on current Indian writers.

"Literature is an expression. There are plenty of literary talents in India. But there are not enough opportunities for these talents to surface. Today's writing has become commercialised. My anguish is most of them (writers) are not reflections of the genius of India - they do not project the Indian genius. They lack vision. Hype and publicity play a major role than serious writing or reviews. These books are believed by people outside (the country)," says the writer who began writing in English only after reading a book where a "cynical" writer made a "poor" portrayal of rural India.

Das was a regular columnist for English and Oriya dailies The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Samaj and Dharitri. But his favourites were The Illustrated Weekly, The Statesman and The Imprint, where his writings were a regular feature. He was the editor of the English monthly The Heritage (1985-89) and served the Ministry of Education, Singapore as its author-consultant (1981-85). His Stories of Lights and Delights in 1970 published by National Book Trust is still the largest selling children's book. Along with his friend Ruskin Bond, he worked for Chandamama (1970s-80s), churning out stories for children. Even today, Chandamama bears the name of the two authors. Das captivated readers with simplicity of his language and style, born out of a charming rustic childhood in a village by the sea in Orissa.

Since 1963, attracted by Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, he has made Puducherry (Pondicherry) his home. Like all other villages and towns Pondicherry has changed. When he came, not a single hotel existed. Now they have mushroomed. The former French colony is crowded and polluted. The (Sri Aurobindo) Ashram is teeming with tourists. "Yet there is something spiritual and mystic about Pondicherry that will never change - an inner Pondicherry. The city is harmonious and people are courteous," says the writer. He teaches English Literature and works of Aurobindo at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, while his wife Pratijna Devi teaches psychology.

"I stopped writing columns (The Hindu) 10 years back. Deadlines were becoming too tedious for me," he says. Looking for newspapers at a newsstand in New Delhi one morning few years ago, he noticed The Pioneer with a blurb "Three short stories of Manoj Das". He was surprised. "Today there are hardly any newspapers or magazines that encourage creative writing. There are no short stories, poems or essays in them. This is why we are unable to tap the literary talent in the country. It is a betrayal of the creativity and of young Indian writers who need a forum to reveal their talents," he said unhappily.

"Journalism has gained from literature. Literature has given good journalists to this country. But they (journalists) do not give space for creative writing. Ironically, it is journalism that can give the best that the nation has," said the writer.

"True literary genius can be found in regional languages," he observed. Translation of literary works from one language to another provides exposure for young writers - especially regional writers. Das himself had benefited from this. But only two journals publish translated writings today - Anubhat Patrika in Bengali and Vipula in Telugu.

Das was decorated with Saraswati Samman and Orissa's Utkal Ratna. His awards include Sahitya Akademi Award, Orissa Sahitya Akademi Award (twice), Sahitya Bharati Award (Orissa), Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Award (Kolkata) and BAPASI (Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India) Award. Among the honours: Professor Emeritus by Berhampur University and D Litt. (Honoris Causa) from two universities - Utkal and Fakir Mohan. In 2000, he led the Indian writers' delegation to China. Among his western admirers are scholars Graham Greene and HRF Keating.

The litterateur was born in the coastal village of Shankhari in Balasore district of Orissa, bordering West Bengal. His father Madhusudan Das was one of the few Oriya zamindars of the region who travelled on horseback and his mother Kadambini Devi a poet who travelled in a palanquin. He grew up running around the green meadows in-between tall palms, munching on delicious berries - water berries, barriers from cane trees, berries from creepers on sand dunes etc. He was witness to the killer cyclone in 1942, followed by the great famine. His house was attacked twice by dacoits and his family watched helplessly as the dacoits plundered the house.

His childhood has been recorded in his autobiographical Chasing The Rainbow - Growing Up In An Indian Village. He often narrated his observations to his friends in school and gradually began to write them down. His first book in Oriya was published when he was only 14. At 15, he launched his first Oriya literary journal Diganta. He completed his schooling in Jamalpur and college in Balasore, where he emerged as a popular revolutionary youth leader. He also worked as an English lecturer in Cuttack before moving to Puducherry. He has written 40 books each in English and Oriya.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sri Aurobindo’s remarkable capacity to hold Paradise Lost and the Mahabharata in his mind at once is an integral gesture

"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
Daniel Gustav Anderson
INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2
Anderson: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
I mean something very specific by integral theory. Broadly speaking, the integral part of integral theory seeks to address the problem of everything (Wilber, 2000b),3 and to propose means of transforming it: [...]
3 As a cultural matter, integral theory is in this sense one heir of a project initiated by early-modern pedagogues such as Pierre de la Ramee (Petrus Ramus, 1515-1572) and Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius, 1592-1670)—that of organizing many discrete problems into a schematic, spatial theory of everything. Ong (2004) offers a now-classic analysis of this project. [...]

Uncompromisingly novel interventions have been challenging in just this way, historically. Consider the riot that greeted the debut of Igor Stravinsky’s prophetic-voiced Rite of Spring, most meaningful in the context of all ballet that had come before it, or the difficulty James Joyce’s Ulysses must have presented to a reader accustomed to the much less demanding narratives of Walter Scott or Charles Dickens.10

This is not to imply that my work is analogous in significance to Stravinsky’s or Joyce’s, or that the oeuvre of any integral theorist (Aurobindo, Gebser, Krishnamurti, Wilber) is analogous in importance to that produced by Dickens, Scott, or Tchaikovsky. Rather, Ulysses and The Rite of Spring are examples of how the novel appears first as an unacceptable or impenetrable surprise, but then over time transforms its milieu—again, a double intervention. The present inquiry aspires to such a transformation in integral practice (see Thesis Eight).

I humbly ask my readers’ indulgence with the stiffly-worded passages, on the promise that, insofar as I have been successful, the effort one invests in parsing a given thesis ought to be rewarded in kind with conceptual, and therefore practical and transformational, clarity. I have also suggested ways in which these theses relate to and recontextualize each other parenthetically, giving some texture and space for the reader to work with imaginatively. The structural and stylistic features of this text are intentional and purposive.

As a practical matter, I invite newcomers to explore this essay in order to become acquainted with it, at least for a first exposure. Because major points and many minor motifs are cross-referenced to other relevant material in the essay, one can follow threads and skip around at a self-directed pace, as desired. In fairness to the work, however, if one intends to really understand any one part of this proposal, one will need to work through all of it systematically, because it expresses a systematic strategy. This is an integral theory, after all. One must be responsible for the totality (see Thesis Two). [...]

27 For example, Hampson (2007) observes that Wilber is dyspeptically disissive of multiculturalism (p.163), a cultural moment that makes real integral inquiry possible in the first place—as a properly contextualized, respectful, and intelligent appreciation of world values and traditions (see Thesis Seven), akin to respect for human dignity (and appropriately, it is the third commitment made by the California Institute of Integral Studies in its mission statement).

Aurobindo Ghose’s remarkable capacity to hold Paradise Lost and the Mahabharata in his mind at once is nothing other than a multicultural gesture, an integral gesture; but this contradiction in Wilber’s work, between monoculture and multiculture, is but one example of a contradiction in an articulation (the articulation "Wilber’s work," numbered as it is in consecutive waves). I would like to suggest that as coherences spiral into increasing complexity, the odds increase that contradictions, inner tensions, will arise, and that these tensions can be wedged open productively by critique into new coherences.

Studying figures of speech, and Rhetoric is a de facto study of human perception

Victor Davis Hanson on classical education
from The Daily Goose by Matthew
His piece from City Journal is worth reading several times (hat tip Drew Campbell).

This comprises a form of “media studies” because as one studies meter, metaphor, allusion, invective, and the hundreds more figures of speech, two things occur. One, one learns how to write more flexibly; and two, one learns the effects of figures of speech upon human perception and common sense. Why?

Because studying figures of speech is part of studying the subject of Rhetoric; and studying the subject of Rhetoric is studying what persuades people. And we all know that the study of what persuades people is so wedded to human perception so as to be functionally the same. Thus studying figures of speech, and Rhetoric more generally, is a de facto study of human perception.

Once one studies a discipline from both its concrete dimension and its “rhetorical” dimension, one is down the road of what, in the post-McLuhan age, is now called “media studies” and, when grouped with other disciplines and their media, “media ecology”.

Intuitively, but not at the time explicitly, understanding this is probably why I suggested to Dan Allison that classical education is the most seasoned and traditional form of “media studies”. And, at the very least, we continue to see how McLuhan insights continue to be a crucial bridge between classical education and contemporary fine artistry. Because without McLuhan, I don’t see how to make the connections between the study of classics and the kind of renewed study and practice of the fine aesthetics, of which, in my view, our society is in such want.

Without McLuhan, we have “many small creeks of water” in the fine arts and firm dams between what famous artists like Shakespeare “used to do” and what we fine artists today do. Whereas with McLuhan, we have A Mighty River of inspiration, insight, and intuition where we, today, can breathe the one and same electric air along with all the famous fine artists of our traditions.

Friday, December 12, 2008

English Studies in India both in its contestatory and collaborative modes

Edited by: U. M. Nanavati, Prafulla C. Kar
ISBN: 81-85753-37-7 Year of Pub: 2000 Price: Rs.300.00

The Book: This volume of essays examines some of the important issues in Indian English literature emerging both from its search for a new sense of identity and its affiliation to a global perspective in the wake of post colonialism. The essays comprising this volume address topics such as nation and nationalism, hybridization and assimilation, problems of exile and migration, the question of location and boundaries and the place of Indian English literature in the changing canon of English Studies.

By focusing on the shifting paradigms of Indian English literature as a part of the subtle transformation of the global configurations of English, the volume attempts to place the genre of this writing within a broad range of issues stemming from the peculiar and problematic role of English as a creative medium deployed in various ways in the countries which were once a part of the British Empire.

For illustrative diagnostic purposes some important writers like Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Attia Hosain, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy are included in this volume. But the overall focus of this volume is not on the individual writers or texts and their close readings, but on conceptual and ideological formations of the genre of Indian English literature and the way it has entered the canon of English Studies in India both in its contestatory and collaborative modes.

The Editors: Prafulla C. Kar is Professor of English at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. He was Deputy Director of the American Studies Research Centre, Hyderabad during 1982-86, and Chair, Department of English at Baroda during 1995-2000. He visited Universities of Chicago, Taxas at Austin, and California at Berkeley under a Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship. He was a Fellow at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth College, USA in 1986. Besides editing several scholarly books, he has published papers on American literature, critical theories and new literatures in English. He is one of the editors of the Journal of Contemporary Thought, Baroda.

U.M. Nanavati is a reader in the department of English at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. He was the recipient of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Fellowship to Visit Canada to work on a project on postcolonial include Indian Literature and Aesthetics, Comparative Literature and Literary Theory. 6:30 AM 11:41 AM

The complexity and struggle involved in living a life of faith in this world

Part IV: Alyosha and Zarathustra on Com-passion and a Genuine Embodied Life
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

Dostoevsky, as well, offers his own critique of rationalism and related forms of reductionism. Though accused by many scholars of advocating a (so-called) Kierkegaardian irrationalism and extreme voluntarism, as Rowan Williams has convincingly argued, such a conclusion (among other things) fails to take into account (1) what Mikhail Bakhtin coined as the “polyphonic” mode of Dostoevsky’s text-a mode creating both dissonant and consonant extended harmonies-and (2) the way in which Dostoevsky allows Alyosha’s faith to grow and mature, thus exhibiting a picture that reflects more authentically the complexity and struggle involved in living a life of faith in this world.[6]

Many critics point to an early statement (Feb. 1854) found in a letter written by Dostoevsky to Natalya Fonvizina, a woman who had gifted him with a copy of the New Testament that he had read avidly while in prison. The content of the letter is frequently cited as evidence that Dostoevsky’s religious faith is based on irrationalism and exhibits something closely resembling Nietzsche’s will to power (extreme voluntarism).[7] Dostoevsky’s admittedly difficult statement reads as follows: “if someone were to prove to me that Christ was outside [вне] the truth, and it was really the case that the truth lay outside Christ, then I should choose to stay with Christ rather than the truth.”[8]

Williams, having examined and analyzed several of Dosteovsky’s texts and characters-from the Underground Man (Notes from the Underground), to Shatov and Stavrogin (Devils), to Alyosha and Ivan (Brothers Karamazov), offers a plausible (and to this author convincing) way to approach and interpret Dostoevsky’s statement that resonates with Dostoevsky’s own complex understanding of faith as that which “moves and adapts, matures and reshapes itself.” 6:58 AM

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Savitri is represented in the poem as an incarnation of the Divine Mother

Dawn Built her Aura of Magnificent Hues
from Savitri: the Light of the Supreme by RY Deshpande

The legend of Savitri is, writes Sri Aurobindo in a letter, “one of the many symbolic myths of the Vedic cycle”. In another letter: “Savitri is represented in the poem as an incarnation of the Divine Mother. This incarnation is supposed to have taken place in far past times when the whole thing had to be opened, so as to ‘hew the ways of immortality’. ”

New Films on the Integral Yoga
from Sri Aurobindo Yoga Website by VladNesh

Dear friends!
40 films of the sequence “The Synthesis of Yoga” in high quality are available for download.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Harekrishna Meher's endeavours for simplification and modernization of Sanskrit language are appreciable

Wikipedia talk:Articles for creation Submissions Harekrishna Meher
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Harekrishna Meher (b. May 5, 1956) was born at Sinapali, Nuapara District of Orissa in a renowned poetic family. His father was Poet Narayan Bharasa Meher and mother Smt. Sumati Meher. His grandfather Poet Manohar Meher is regarded as 'Ganakavi' of Western Orissa. He has excellent qualifications being topper in his career: B.A. (Sankrit Honours) from Ravenshaw College, Utkal University; M.A. (Sanskrit) and Ph.D. from Banaras Hindu University. He joined OES in 1981 as Lecturer in Sanskrit.

Currently he resides at Bhawanipatna working as Sr. Reader and Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Govt. Autonomous College, Bhawanipatna. He mainly writes in Sankrit, Hindi, English, Oriya and Koshali languages in the field of literature, music and language. He is a noted researcher, creative writer, critic, poet, lyricist, composer of songs, orator and translator. His endeavours for simplification and modernization of Sanskrit language are appreciable. His tri-lingual (Hindi, English and Sanskrit) translations of Gangadhar Meher's Tapasvini Kavya are remarkable.[1]

LITERARY AWARDS: Gangadhar Samman (2002), Gangadhar Saraswat Samman (2002), Jayakrishna Mishra Kavya Samman (2003), Vidyaratna Pratibha Samman (2005)
MAIN PUBLICATIONS: 1. Philosophical Reflections in the Naisadhacarita (Ph.D. Thesis) ISBN :81-85094-21-7 2. Naishadha-Mahakavye Dharma-Shastriya Pratiphalanam 3. Sahitya Darpana: Alankara (With Oriya-Sanskrit Commentaries) ISBN : 81-7411-12-7 4. Manohar Padyavali of Poet Manohar Meher (Edited) 5. Matrigitikanjalih (Original Modern Sanskrit Gitikavya)[2] 6. Tapasvini (Hindi Version of Poet Gangadhar Meher's Oriya Kavya) [3] [4]
SOME OTHER PUBLICATIONS (TRANSLATED): 1. Niti-Sataka, Sringara-Sataka and Vairagya-Sataka of Bhartrihari 2. Naishadhacharita (IX Canto) of Sriharsha 3. Kumara-Sambhava (I, II, V, VII Cantos) of Kalidasa 4. Raghuvamsha (II Sarga) of Kalidasa 5. Koshali Meghaduta (Kalidasa's Meghaduta into Koshali) 6. Siva Tandava Stotra 7. Gayatri Sahasra Nama.

References About Harekrishna Meher Modern Sanskrit Lyricist Gangadhar Meher English Tapasvini
Categories: Completed Afc requests Indian poets Sanskrit poets 1956 births Indian poet

Saturday, November 01, 2008

6 people whose lives intertwine one day in a small resort town

Sri Aurobindo Auditorium ::: 7:30 PM

The Auroville Theatre Group
by Rachel Barnett
SAT and SUN, NOV 1 and 2, 2008
Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, Bharat Nivas
7:30 pm.
"A Perfect Sandcastle", written by English playwright Rachel Barnett, is a sad, sweet story about 6 people whose lives intertwine one day in a small resort town on the English sea coast.
Rachel, a young playwright (only 28 years old) has given us a story about choices we make to move on or stay put, to grow old, to love, to mourn, to remember, to die, to live eternally, to suffer when we try to hold on, to let go and let be.

Actors: Swar, Damian, Amy, Anna Durga, Masha, Ladina and Drupad.
Directed by Jill.
Lighting Design by Jean L. and Mahi
Lighting Tech: Mahi
Sound Recorded by Matthia.
Sound Tech: Axel.
Stage Assistant: Janaka
Set from Auroarchana (Coco and Clemens).
Original Music by Hartmut.
Surfboard by Himal and friends.
With thanks to Joel, Anna, Penny, the Visitor's Centre Cafeteria and the Bharat Nivas Group.
Our very amateur theatre group welcomes three new actors to the stage: Ladina, Amy and Damian!
The Auroville Theatre Group is a project of SAIIER (The Sri Aurobindo International Institute for Educational Research) posted by jill

Monday, October 27, 2008

2nd Annual Mussoorie International Writers Festival

from swapan k banerjee to date 27 October 2008 18:34

How long the Nature will hold out and will not let us down? Why is tiger population shrinking in our country? Is self publishing more reliable than sending your stuff to publishers and wait eternally only to have it rejected? If Tolstoy, Pamuk, Oe, Szymborska, writing in their mother tongue, could be familiar all over the world, then why some of our highly evolved writers writing in vernacular are still unknown and therefore sadly underrated?

These are some of the topics that were debated and dissected over in the 2nd Annual Mussoorie International Writers Festival (7 Oct to 11 Oct) at Woodstock with 25 published authors from Australia, USA, Singapore, London and India and students from Doon school, RIMC, Welham, Woodstock and Tibetan Home Foundation School participating.
After the welcome address by David Laurenson, Principal of Woodstock School, and the introductory remarks by K Desiraju representing Govt. of Uttarakhand, the festival opened with a book release function at the lawn of Hanifl Centre: Freedom’s Child by Chandralekha Mehta, elder sister of reputed author Nayantara Sahgal who was present on the occasion. It’s a memoir that chronicles her growing up at a critical moment in India’s history. “I tried to capture the nuance of that long vanished age”, said Chandralekha.
The photographic exhibition of wonderful Uttaranchal landscapes, birds and of celebrated writers from that area, at Hanifl centre, by S F Ahmed, A Naurial and S Khullar, drew a large crowd.

In the first session titled ‘Writing about Nature’, Ullas Karanth, wildlife ecologist, basically a conservation scientist and Director of Tigers Forever at the centre for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore, talked on tiger preservation. It’s the decline of prey’s species rather than the poachers that has contributed to the shrinking number of tigers. At least an area of 15 sq km is needed to raise 3 cubs. Conservation is more a political decision than otherwise, he said.
Bill Aitken, the renowned travel writer, took the microphone next: “When I climb Landour’s slopes to meet my literary guru Ruskin Bond, I revel in the heartsease I share with him over the arching trees we have grown up with for fifty years. Faithful companions, their roots anchor the hillside while the canopy provides shade to Mussoorie writers-- as well as their publishers and book sellers. The message, at least to a writer, seems clear: If you must have shady companions, let them be trees.”
Mukul Sharma, a Senior Editor with The Times of India, who’s ‘an agnostic teetering on atheism’, spoke brilliantly on topics ranging from recreational mathematics and spirituality.
In the last session on the first day, poets from Uttarakhand: Narendra Singh Negi, Leeladhar Jaguri and Maglesh Debral were introduced by Padmashri Sekhar Pathak. The poems they read out touched the chords of the appreciative audience.

On the second day, Gabrielle Walker, award-winning science writer, who explored the coldest region on earth, swam in the Amazon, climbed trees in rain forest, and Gretel Ehrlich, Nature writer, poet, who visited Greenland more than once, enthralled the audience at Parker Hall, talking about their Polar Journeys.
The Antarctic has all the secrets of big bang buried in there. In the middle of the winter it’s -890C. Ice is more than 3 km thick. The deeper you go the older the ice you find. It’s the only way to calculate the age of the earth. Now there’s too much carbon heating up the earth giving rise to Green House gas. Ice is melting faster than ever. If the sea level goes up and up, places like London, Bombay, Bangladesh, New York are likely to vanish under the water soon. North Pole is frozen sea, no land there at all. But it’s drier than the Sahara desert! Yes, the South Pole contains land, almost a circle, isolated from the rest of the world. It’s the natural air conditioner on earth. Arctic ice has shrunk by half in just 15 years as a result of carbon emissions. The most miraculous stuff on earth is air which is born here. We live submerged in the ocean of air. It’s only who sees takes off the shoes.
In a discussion about editors and publishers at Media Centre, Woodstock Campus, Ritu Menon, co-founder for Kali for Women, and now publisher, Women Unlimited, said that theirs a publishing for social change. She stressed on precision and the danger of overstatement. One has to hammer home the message. She talked about the catastrophe that confronts the climate, about the tribal land appropriated by the Govt. for development. She said her publishing house wanted to be a small link in the chain of movement to generate a ripple effect.
Shamini Flint, whose crime fiction novels are to be published by the big publishing house Little, Brown in 2009, brought a whiff of great energy into the discussion. She said one can avoid standard rejections that sap the spirit, and go for vanity publication where one is at liberty to use recycled papers and actually get a bigger margin, but the stack at the backroom can be very depressing. The distribution, the reach, the way of getting books into a shop that’s what worries a self publisher.
Despite all this, Flint managed to make some money through self publishing. Her Sunbear Publishing House is still there, and doing brisk business. She publishes her own books when she does not find another publisher. Flint does not want the publisher to control what she writes. Moreover, some publishers take a long time to respond and this process of waiting involves frustration.
Neeta Gupta representing Yatra Books in collaboration with Penguin said: We publish creative writing and works in translation. We’ve so far during the last four years published some 50 books in Hindi, Marathi and Urdu. The ultimate translator’s tool is dictionary which will be published soon. A course in translation, said she, should also made compulsory.

In the fiction reading session at Vera Marley Library, Shamini Flint, Malaysian born who writes from Singapore, read out from Seeds of Time, an environmental fantasy. Its about a whale that swam up the Thames. Shamini has a knack of reaching the deeper layers of a child’s urges. Whatever she said was lapped up by the adults and the children alike.
According to Ken Spillman, a well-known Australian author, story telling is not something special. Every one of us has that power ingrained in us. The important tool a writer has is his/her sense, the receptor.
Now it was the turn of I Allan Sealy, a writer of great gifts. Introducing the story of his choice he said: “It’s basically a series of city in noir collections. This is the Delhi one. What happened was that each writer’s given the choice of a particular suburb, locality in which to set his crime. Mine takes place on a ridge. It’s roughly where the Delhi University is.” The story is told in the voice of an auto rickshaw driver. Sealy’s words wove a world of suspense, crime and mystery, taking the audience with him to the heart of the place where the actual crime happened.

The much-awaited poetry reading took place under the famed Lyre tree. Sampurna Chatterji, poet, translator, fiction writer who situates herself in the cacophonous world and makes sense out of it, recited some of her poems like Mother & Daughter: A Duel, Object Lessons from her debut collection “Sight May Strike You Blind” which carries an introduction by none other than Keki N Daruwalla.
Gieve Patel, one of India’s most distinguished poets, usually works on a poem for years. But one poem came and he hardly had to change anything. The poem ‘Killing a Tree’ was inspired by a huge peepul tree uprooted in monsoon blizzard. It’s prescribed for study in school. “I’ve lots of kids coming up to me. What’s the moral, they ask, what’s the hidden meaning? Horrifying questions! Was I writing a conservation piece, warning people not to kill? It was just a response…” Patel recited particularly those poems born out of his being a medical practitioner like Post Mortem, Hill Station, Just Stretch Your Neck, The Multitude Comes to the Man etc.

On 9 Oct, Advaita Kala read out from her maiden novel: Almost Single. It’s now in its sixth print. She started with a disclaimer: The heroine in the novel is not me! The adhoc selections for reading she made resonated with the audience.
Anita Jain read out from her memoir: Marrying Anita, an under-explored genre in India. In response to a question regarding the danger of writing about someone who is shown in a negative light in the book, Anita said: “People are actually dying to be written about…”
Later, at Woodstock farm, Sampurna chatterji talking on the mystery and madness of translation recounted how difficult it was to retain some of the originality through translation which was for her a kind of reverse journey, when she felt something was lacking in the existing translation. She recalled how the dark, imagistic surreal images in Joy Goswami’s poetry drove her to the wall. The rule is: “Possess the text not kidnap”.
Ira Pande, writer, translator, Chief Editor of the Publications Division of the India International Centre, stole the limelight with her graceful exposition on how to keep intact through translation the visual memory of a word which’s the greatest challenge. Her advice was: Get rid of the vanity of a writer. You’re just like a medium. The original author is speaking through you. What has killed translation in India is the presence of the official translator who lacks the emotional depth and the sense of music that reverberates in the original. Writers like Tolstoy, Pamuk…— the translation of their works has brought them to the doorstep of readers all over the world, whereas the works of our writers of the same calibre writing in vernacular are relatively unknown…

At the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, next day, Mukul Dev, from the second oldest profession in the world (Army) read out from Salim Must Die (releasing in Jan’09). It’s all about terrorist strike and the chin-wagging politician. Answering a question on terrorism he said: Terrorism is not solved with military. The responsibility lies with the civil administration. Any lack on the part of intelligence will always lead to disaster. The terrorist has the latitude. He is going to get you somewhere.
Poet Bruce Berger, a poet of great distinction, specializes in desert setting. He started with a poem titled “Transmigration” which he recited from the heart. It’s on the black spot, the Death Valley somewhere in California. He captured the heart of the audience with poems on money (money is mysticism), how to look at desert sunset, and on the way the water flows and the writing moves.
The event on the last day was all about tips for creative writing. Geoff Page, the renowned Australian poet, after reciting some of his interesting animal poems, said: If you want to learn the business, art, craft of writing, you must keep your eyes and ears open for ideas from dream, newspaper, conversation … everywhere. Idea happens but the work is hard, for the poem does not happen easily. You need to revise, revise and revise to make them better and better.
Advaita Kala, the young novelist said that she grew up reading Ruskin Bond stories and stressed on the need of keeping a diary.
Shamini Flint had the children on their feet when she narrated her story. At the end, she had this advice for the budding writers: Don’t do a book for a reason. Think about your life. If you find a moment straight from the core of your heart, eventually it’ll come out the other side…
Stephen Alter, writer of international repute, also the main organizer of this writers’ festival, said that the intention of the lit-fest was not to restrict itself just to Woodstock but to see that it spread right across the country. -- SWAPAN K BANERJEE

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rancière’s micropolitics designate a third term between the two politics of aesthetics of art as art and art as life

Jacques Rancière: Aesthetics is Politics [1]
Sophie Berrebi The interlacing of political motivations, re-use of avant-garde forms and use of the archive are the kind of question the French philosopher Jacques Rancière addresses in his recent book, Malaise dans l’esthétique. (Paris, 2004).

Following his work in the field of political philosophy, Rancière’s interest has in recent years shifted towards visual culture and the relation between politics and aesthetics; two fields he perceives as inherently belonging to one another rather than being autonomous. While his new book reviews some of the theories developed earlier in The Aesthetics of Politics, (translated into English in 2004), it extends his reflection with the discussion of specific examples drawn from recent art exhibitions. Malaise dans l’esthétique seems to propose a working way of apprehending the political nature of aesthetics in the specific context of today’s art and provides at the same time a salutary demystification of the ‘critical art’ of the 1960s and its legacy.

In order to achieve this, Rancière’s program is rather ambitious: it involves nothing less than shredding notions we usually happily go by with: modernism and postmodernism, autonomous art and avant-garde. His departure point is a reworking of the notion of aesthetics, a term, he argues, that has been under attack in recent French intellectual debates. He notably responds to publications by Alain Badiou, Jean-Marie Schaeffer and reiterates his long-term dialogue with Jean-François Lyotard’s work on the sublime. Going back to the origins of the term aesthetics, in the mid-eighteenth century, Rancière contends that aesthetics is not a discipline as it is usually defined but rather a particular ‘regime of identification of art’, that is, a particular way in which, in a given historical or social context, art is identified as art. Art therefore never exists as an abstraction, but is always tributary to the way it is perceived in different periods or regimes, of which Rancière identifies three.

In the ethical regime, exemplified by Plato’s republic, a sculpture is gauged against the question of truthfulness and copy. In the representational regime the sculpture will be considered within the system of the hierarchy of genres and in relation to qualities such as skill and adequacy between subject matter and representation. In the representational regime the arts occupy a particular place in what Rancière has elsewhere called the ‘distribution of the sensible’, a notion that can be understood as the division of activities in a society. The aesthetic regime differs from the other two in that it no longer assigns to art a particular place in society, nor is art any longer defined by skill and practice: for this reason, the term art in the singular replaces the pluralized form of the (fine) arts. (Here, Thierry de Duve’s idea of art in general, motivated by Duchamp’s ready-made, comes to mind.) Stripped from these categorisations, what defines the work of art in the aesthetic regime is its belonging to what Rancière calls a specific ‘sensorium’— something like a way of being – in which it will be perceived as art. A paradox arises here, because this specific sensorium exists in a context in which art has not been attributed a specific place: the aesthetic regime rejects the distribution of the sensible. As a result, in the aesthetic regime art is constantly caught in a tension between being specifically art and merging with other forms of activity and being.

This tension between art as art and art opening up onto life enables Rancière to argue that there is no such thing as the completion or failure of the modernist project as signified by the advent of postmodernism, just as it is simplistic to oppose strictly, as is often done, autonomous art and engaged art. Instead of these, he says, one can better speak of two ‘politics of aesthetics’: the politics of the ‘becoming life of art’ (le devenir vie de l’art) and the politics of the ‘resistant form’ (la forme resistante), which always exist together: In the first politics, the aesthetic experience resembles other forms of experiences and as such, it tends to dissolve into other forms of life. In the second politics of aesthetics – the resistant form – the political potential of the aesthetic experience derives from the separation of art from other forms of activity and its resistance to any transformation into a form of life.

These two politics of aesthetics, although opposite, cannot be envisaged separately, but exist in a tension with one another. This principle anchors the political at the heart of the aesthetic. It permits, furthermore, to understand that opposite positions, such as for instance, Peter Bürger’s theory of the avant-garde as politically engaged and Theodor Adorno’s preservation of the autonomy of art are necessarily complementary. For the artistic generation engaged in ‘critical art’ in the 1960s, the question, argues Rancière, was not about negotiating between art and politics, but rather of finding a form that can exist in-between the two opposite aesthetics of politics. The critical art of the 1960s thus oscillates between legibility and illegibility, everydayness and ‘radical strangeness’. The heterogeneous forms emanating from Hans Haacke and Wolf Vostell try to establish what Rancière calls a micropolitics. The terms is perhaps ill-chosen in that it recalls the exhibition Micropolitiques (Magasin, Grenoble, 2000) which under the intellectual tutelage of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari brought to view artworks that favoured an immediate and restricted political impact (Kendell Geers, Philippe Meste).

Rancière’s micropolitics, by contrast, designate a third term between the two politics of aesthetics of art as art and art as life. It is this that makes it impossible to read in a simplified way the art of the 1960s as politically committed, and by extension, annuls the idea of a postmodernity that acknowledged the impossibility of the political. Yet, the forms of these micropolitics developed by the artists of the 1960s have changed in contemporary practices. While the art of the 1960s expressed unambiguous positions (Haacke), today’s art functions on very different means. Rancière identifies these by looking at a series of exhibitions organised around the year 2000 in Europe and in the United States... Volume 2. No. 1. Summer 2008 ISSN 1752-6388

Monday, September 22, 2008

Understand what the author wished

13 April, 2008 Updike Warns; Choudhury Ignores
Many years ago, John Updike laid down, for himself, a few rules for reviewing books. The first of them was:
Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.

I suspect my friend Chandrahas makes that error when he complains of Patrick French’s biography of VS Naipaul:
French’s book is too sexual, and not textual enough.
So no, I don’t agree that French’s biography is “somewhat unbalanced”. It is just that Chandrahas’s expectations of the biography were different; and that is not French’s fault.
Posted by Amit Varma in Arts and entertainment India Uncut

1] I have given up writing columns and Op-Eds, and am trying to be a full-time novelist instead. So those impassioned (sometimes too impassioned) essays about freedom and suchlike are a thing of the past—at least for a while.
2] While reacting to the news around me, I often find I am repeating myself. How often can I rant about the nature of government or free speech or the wastage of the taxes we pay? Posted at 3:16 AM by Amit Varma in Freedom Personal 11 September, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sri Aurbindo considered nothing more futile than for a poet to write on expectation of contemporary fame or praise


The fact that Sri Aurobindo is one of the pioneers of Indian English critics grows more and more vibrant and authentic when one journeys through the works of him where he appears to be a chief living authority on Indo-English criticism. As he was supposed more a saint or Yogi than a poet or critic, he was not properly evaluated by Indian scholars with a viewpoint of critic but his works like The Future Poetry, On Himself, Essays Divine and Human and Letters on Poetry Literature and Art are replete with scholarly jottings on poetry literature and art.

Besides The Future Poetry, the most original and authentic work on criticism, carries practical aspects of poetic criticism. The criticism of Sri Aurobindo is perfect and exemplary because it is never too close to its time nor it neglects the findings of its predecessors but as his more inclination towards spirituality and God, his criticism is fumed with the tinge of spiritual colors also. In his terrestrial existence Sri Aurobindo played many parts the politicians, the poet, the critic, the philosopher, and the Yogi which in sum made him the Rishi Aurobindo. But his part of critic not only set milestones in the world of English criticism but also torch bore the path of new critic and poet...

Aurobindo lays much emphasis on writing one’s own original thoughts and forbids the Indian poets to imitate or follow some particular school of thought, because it was his own conviction that ‘writing in one’s own words what another has said or written is a good exercise or a test for accuracy, clear understanding of ideas, and observant intelligence but it is also imperative to understand English and express oneself in good English.Undoubtedly most of the observations of Sri Aurbindo on English and Indo-English poetry are sound and valid even today.

Unquestionably the capacities of Aurobindo are yet to acquire proper recognition specially in the terms of criticism where he stands alone with the theory of his own. In this term he can be regarded as critics’ critic for he was the first critic who hoped so much with the Indian English poets and authors, yet he considered nothing more futile than for a poet to write on expectation of contemporary fame or praise, however agreeable that may be, if it comes; but it is not of any definitive value... Posted by Dr Shaleen Kumar Singh at 12:35 PM Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We find from Sri Aurobindo’s observations that the age of institutionalised religions is over

The human passage to God Tuesday August 12 2008 23:48 IST BANGALORE Aug 14, 2008 Manoj Das

ONCE upon a time,there was a king who believed that God being infinite can never be presented through any finite image. He desired all his subjects to follow his philosophy and direct their prayers to the infinite and the indescribable. All went well till one day he was informed that in a certain frontier village of his territory, a sage had been preaching the ideal that although God was infinite, He had the capacity to manifest as finite. There was nothing wrong in forwarding one’s prayers to an image as long as a devotee believed that image to represent the Omnipotent, Omniscient and the Omnipresent.

The report displeased the king. He summoned the sage to his court. “How dare you preach a different approach to God? Do you mean to say that my approach was wrong?” “My lord, before I answer your question, may I request you and your three wise minister to answer a small question by me?” appealed the sage. The king agreed. The sage wrote out his question in four slips of paper and gave them to the king and his ministers.

They wrote down their individual answers under the question. The sage read out the question and the answers aloud. The question was, “What is earth?” “Earth is that to which we all will be reduced after death,” was the king’s answer. “The earth is what gives us the crops,” was the first minister’s answer. “The earth is the base on which we walk,” had been the second minister’s answer. According to the third, “The earth was the stuff with which this world is made.”

“My lord, if to a most simple question the answers given by you and your three ministers could be so different and yet all the answers could be correct, why should we expect that the answer to the most profound of all possible questions, namely what is God, should be only one?” The king appreciated the truth in the sage’s observation.

For centuries, men have fought amongst themselves because of their variant concepts of God. Sri Aurobindo explains how the Supreme Divine, though One, has manifested at different planes of existence as emanations reflecting His different aspects and His different powers.

We find from Sri Aurobindo’s observations that the age of institutionalised religions is over and it was high time, man transcended all sectarian affiliations and pursued the Divine directly, for the Divine knows how to respond to each individual’s need according to the stage of evolution in consciousness the individual had achieved through vicissitudes of life, both present and past.

In Sri Aurobindo’s words, “The Divine is that from which all comes, in which all lives, and to return to the truth of the Divine now clouded over by ignorance is the soul’s aim in life. In its supreme Truth, the Divine is absolute and infinite peace, consciousness, existence, power and Ananda.” (Letters on Yoga) (The author is recipient of a Padma Award, the prestigious Saraswati Samman, Hon Doctorates from three universities and the highest honour of the Sahitya Akademi, its Fellowship)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Towards the utterance of the spirit in its natural and native tongue

Devotion: An Anthology of Spiritual Poems The Aspiring Soul of Poetry and the New Birth--A Review by RY Deshpande on Wed 06 Aug 2008 05:03 PM PDT Permanent Link

If there is an impressive mass of Aurobindonian poetry written during the past seven or eight decades, then it is time to have a proper compilation of this contribution to take stock of the situation and to assess its impact on our creative writing, its worthwhileness in the broader context of what is expected of it, of the Aurobindonian poetry. During those fruitful and awe-inspiring 1930s not only did Sri Aurobindo write a new kind of mystic-spiritual poetry drawing inspiration from the higher planes of expression; he also actively and extensively encouraged his poet-disciples to find the true poetic word in their utterances...

We have in this anthology entries of 111 poet-authors, the main text of the book spanning over a little more than 300 pages, plus notes and an index, with a total tally of 271 poems, a work that has been brought out exquisitely, in hard cover, designed by Auroville Prose Editors (Avipro) and published by Integral Enterprise of Auroville. We must say that, for its fine quality, it has been very reasonably priced, just at Rs 400 (approximately $10), something which a poetry lover and bibliophile can easily afford to own for himself. There is no doubt that over a couple of years the editors have patiently and meticulously gone through thousands of poems belonging to this genre of poetry before making their final compilation; a huge pile of Xerox sheets made by them is a witness to this colossal effort that has gone into it. But then they should have also done a couple of more things. We do not know what was the criterion employed by them in making this difficult selection, although it could be their personal taste which is always understood. In other words, the anthology does not seem to celebrate a landmark event in the arrival of the future poetry in any distinctive or specific way, if what Sri Aurobindo wrote in his critical essays and letters has been in some manner or other fulfilled, that we are assuredly moving towards the utterance of the spirit in its natural and native tongue, of the seeing speech that is paśyanti vāc...

When Maggi Lidchi speaks of “hums and glows in great and littlest things but for which the tongue no words can ever find”, we feel behind it “a power that emanates a thousand rays”. And it is there everywhere, all-pervasively: “It chimes at root of rock and sea/ Of earth and sky/ It sings in flower, fern and fire.” When Narad (Richard Eggenberger) sees behind this world of forms a beauty breaking upon the subtle sight, there certainly is the assuring possibility that this world is not an illusion, that it’s not a dream through which we wander, but is for the habitation of the supreme Lord himself, īśāvāvasyam idam sarvam. The divine glory bursting everywhere, in every name and form, nāma and rūpa—that’s a spiritual experience. Georgette Coty’s bird of blue sings on the bough and strange sound of strings cross the sphere—and she tells us to listen to it, asks why really is it calling us. And the call goes so deep, deep that her soul becomes her eyes in this most magical night. That’s wonderful indeed. And the wonder, having wondered, moves on.

The lawyers may know the law of the land but, says Nani Palkhivala the jurist-poet, they cannot tell what’s that law which makes honey the food of the bees, why the winter comes when freeze the rivers. How can they understand that, if hope and charity and faith are unknown to them? But for Vikas Bamba there’s no fall from the peaks when is seen the One in the depths of all. Sailen Roy is enamoured with a golden dream and in it gigantic grows his faith; he wouldn’t then care if there aren’t hearers even when he talks aloud. For Ashalata Dash words leap and, though lame, already is composed a poem; soon in her hot deserts flowers bloom even as poetry starts humming. And for Damodar Reddy it is the breaking forth of the dance the timeless Ancient had ordained long ago; now the celestials are here,—even as the Master steps alive to embrace this earth. But look at what Themis has—an incredible experience: within her night is a hidden sun and there is moon-nectar in her breast; no wonder, the star-eye within her inward sight goes to make all her quest. Chandresh Patel has weathered tempests, and ridden strong waves in a storm; indeed, he has passed the test in flying colours and the reward is the surprise, the disclosure of the form that is behind them all. Akash Deshpande tells us of the hushed miracle of silver light bestowing sight on vaster sight, and there’s the enormous peace with a fulfilling joy. Suresh Thadani saw, with “other eyes”, Vishnu of antiquity pervading the air and transcending time and stone, the stone that enshrined him and time that bound him in its movement, as if born again among people who worshipfully aspired and who themselves had another birth in him.

Yes, there is the aspiring soul of poetry and the new birth must take place. What we have in the present anthology is a believable promise and it seems that we have to go a long way in carrying out that promise. There are often wonderful snippets, with authentic inspiration and expression but they do not generally constitute the totality of a poetic experience. Hardly is there a poem which can be said to be a whole ‘success’, with the power of vision, and the nuanced rhythm and movement, and the firmness of substance, all going together and breathing the presence of the poetic spirit in its full authenticity. Very often we seem to be in a rush to write out the poem without allowing it to express itself with its native inspiration. A kind of calm, a spiritual calm, a luminous spiritual poise with its receptive silence has to be the support for it to happen, and seldom is it present. Yet the aspiring soul of poetry must aspire, and the new birth of poetry must take place. But how is this going to be?

The anthology itself has a few perceptive excerpts on poetry from Sri Aurobindo and these could provide the needed guidance. In poetry that aims at perfection, there has to be the eternal true substance which is not a product of mental manufacture but which comes with the “eternal spirit of Truth and Beauty through some of the infinite variations of beauty, with the word for its instrument.” Then speaks, through the personality of the poet, the impersonal spirit of Truth and Beauty; following it comes the inspired and inevitable word, the gleaming poetic word with the rhythm that reveals the creative secret that is behind all. “The essential power of the poetic word is,” writes Sri Aurobindo, “to make us see, not to make us think or feel; thought and feeling must arise out of the sight or be included in it, but sight is the primary consequence and the power of poetic speech… There must be a deeper and more subtle music, a rhythmical soul-movement entering into the metrical form and often over-flooding it before the real poetic achievement begins.” There has to be the “direct call of three powers, inspiration, beauty, and delight”, and when it is there and when it has done all that has to be done, then the essential work of poetry is done. If the anthology can urge us towards it then it shall have served the purpose well, fulfilling genuinely the condition of what the “spiritual poems” should be, the Word expressing itself under the five suns of poetic Truth and Beauty and Delight and Life and the Spirit. Keywords: SriAurobindo, Spirituality, Review, Poetry, Mysticism, Literature Posted to: Main Page CULTURE LITERATURE .. Book reviews .. Poetry

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Anita Desai: née Mazumdar

"As a novelist you can only view history through individuals. But I see history as something that happens in spite of individuals; it gathers momentum and sweeps them away. What they choose to pick up when they flee, what they lose and what they take - that makes history real to me."

Journey To Ithaca further explores foreigners' encounters with India through Matteo, an Italian ascetic and disciple of "The Mother", and his more materialistic German wife Sophie, who prefers sybaritic Goa to the ashram. Spanning India, Paris, Cairo, Venice and New York in the 20s of Sri Aurobindo - the Indian yogi and philosopher - and the 70s of Hermann Hesse-inspired hippies, it stages a conflict between scepticism and belief, but ends ambiguously.

Desai was interested in "the non-political colonial view of India, of mystery, exoticism, the spiritual fascination. Indians take it for granted; it's as down to earth as eating and drinking. But Europeans approach it on a different level, so there's constant misunderstanding and distortion." Yet she rejects the "mediating" role sometimes ascribed to her, insisting she has no answers. "To me, fiction is exploring; if you felt you'd arrived, you'd give up."

The Guardian Profile: Anita Desai: née Mazumdar. Born: June 24 1937; Mussoorie, India.
A passage from India
Maya Jaggi traces a journey from provincial India to suburban America
The Guardian, Saturday June 19 1999

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Our knowledge of Sri Aurobindo the philosopher may remain incomplete without our knowledge of Sri Aurobindo the poet

Sri Aurobindo’s Collected Poems
from Most people think that one bids goodbye to poetry when one steps out of the student life. This may be why poems don’t usually form a part of our general reading. Sunayana Panda

A combination of factors has made the poems of Sri Aurobindo so little appreciated. Firstly, among his followers, especially the Indians, there are very few who are familiar with the subtleties of English poetry. Secondly, even among those few who do take pleasure in reading poetry, an even smaller number would turn to the poems gathered in Collected Poems, as they don’t belong to the kind of poetry which the modern reader is used to. Then for those who do not know much about Sri Aurobindo the reputation of his prose works as being rather difficult to understand without close study may lead them to assume the poetry of this yogi must be incomprehensible to the common man. There may also be a certain impression in their minds that he probably wrote poetry as a pastime after he had become a yogi...

We can open the Collected Poems and take delight in the many-coloured emotions, in full bloom here, of one whose high thoughts we usually have to grapple with. Perhaps knowing his feelings through his poetry may help us to understand his thoughts better. Perhaps our knowledge of Sri Aurobindo the philosopher may remain incomplete without our knowledge of Sri Aurobindo the poet. ‘Love & Death’

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Poet Gańgādhara Meher is influenced by Bhavabhūti

Tapasvini of Gangadhara Meher: A Critical Observation
Gańgādhara Meher, popularly known as ‘Swabhāva-Kavi’ is one of the illustrious makers of Indian literature. Dr. Harekrishna Meher

In the verses of Kālidāsa, ‘Tapas’ (penance) is clearly meant for Sītā in the later part of her life. Gańgādhara happens to take the word ‘Tapasvi’ from Kālidāsa and has used it as ‘Tapasvinī’ in feminine gender for Sītā. Moreover, the poet in the Preface of Tapasvinī kāvya mentions : “The main purpose of this book is to elucidate how Sītā strengthened and heightened more and more, her devotion-to-husband (pati-bhakti) by deeming exile as her own misfortune and how she as a ‘Tapasvinī’ elapsed time by rendering her forest-dwelling into penitential austerity beneficial to her husband.”(9) The poet further expresses his hope that the wise readers would once unveil the memory’s curtain portrayed with the brilliant impeccable and sacred character of Sītā of their own hearts and would render uplift of the hearts of women.(10)

Gańgādhara is very distinct and doubtless in his writing. Sītā is the heroine of this epic poem that analyses the social condition of a married woman and contends to give appropriate honour and status even after separation from her husband. Tapasvinī mainly treats of the plight of Sītā’s later life, yet the entire story of Rāmāyana has been recounted contextually. So in this perspective, this kāvya may be regarded as a ‘Miniature Rāmāyana’ in Oriya literature. Just as Rāmāyana is named after King Rāma with depiction of his life-deeds, so in a greater sense Tapasvinī kāvya may be construed as a ‘Sītāyana’, as it prominently features the sublime character of Sītā in the entire story.(11)...

POETIC STYLE: Tapasvinī, as the masterpiece of Gańgādhara Meher, enjoys an outstanding position in the arena of language and literature. The desideratum of the poet in composing this kāvya was mainly to fill in the gap of a character of devoted chaste wife flourished with Indian culture, in the domain of Oriya literature and to establish the language of Orissa with its epical excellence. Befitting the modern taste, the poet has utilized different nine melodious metres (Chaturdasākshara, Rāmakeri, Bańgalāśri, Chokhi, Rasakulyā, Kalahamsa-Kedāra, Kedāra-Kāmodī, Nata-Vānī and Kalyāna-Paditāla), collaborating the old metres with the modern ones.

Musical melody, grace of diction, serenity, rhythmic eloquence, lucidity with emotional touch and sweetness of meaning are the remarkable features of this epic poem. Various figures of speech such as alliteration, simile, metaphor, imagery and the like also find proper and praiseworthy places in this literary work. There occurs no verbosity or stiffness of speech. Predominance of meaning and sentiments is greatly appreciable. Words of Gańgādhara are pleasantly intelligible and imbued with emotions. So this kāvya has become unhesitatingly attractive and appealing...

In Classical Sanskrit Literature, Bhavabhūti is the first poet and dramatist who advocated and elucidated the Sentiment of Pathos (Karuna Rasa) in a separate style and presented it as the original source of all sentiments.(14)...Poet Gańgādhara is influenced by Bhavabhūti. In Tapasvinī, the excellence of Pathos begins from the outset. Though other emotions are accessories in the middle, sentiment of Pathos is prominent. The poet has avoided to end the kāvya in a tragic description and made the ending comically happy, depicting Sītā’s union with King Rāma even in a dream state. Apropos filial affections of Sītā for her twin sons (Canto-X), also that of Anukampā and River Tamasā (Canto-IV) and as well as of Godāvarī (Canto-VIII), Vātsalya Rasa is contextually blended in this kāvya.

Kālidāsa’s words are mostly indicative or suggestive of sentiments, while like Bhavabhūti’s, appropriate words of Gańgādhara are mostly expressive and directly appealing to the hearts of the readers. In comparison to other sentiments, Pathos directly touches the core of heart and Gańgādhara has successfully portrayed the sentiment that leaves an ever-lasting impression in the mind...

Gańgādhara vividly and exhaustively delineates the beautiful facets of Nature. With his poetic insight, he sees human feelings, conscious life and internal beauty in her. Nature imbibes her comely, gracious, fierce, tranquil and auspicious forms in various contexts.

Gańgādhara is a prolific painter of Nature. Depiction of Dame Ushā (Dawn) in Canto-IV is most popular all over Orissa. Here Nature honours Sītā as an esteemed Queen and offers all the royal formalities of worship. Dawn, the blooming lotus-eyed lady, cherishing hearty desire to behold Sītā and bringing presentations of dew-pearls in her hands of leafage, stands in the outer courtyard of the hermitage and in cuckoo’s voice speaks to grace her with Sītā’s benign sight. The retinues of Dame Dawn perform their duties to wake up Sītā...

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE: The ideology of Bhavabhūti along with the naturality of Vālmīki and Kālidāsa are intertwined in the poem of Gańgādhara. The quintessence of poet’s philosophy of life has been contextually reflected in Tapasvinī. Forbearance, theistic trend, noble endeavours for the attainment of goal and high aspiration are signified in his work. He believes in both deed and destiny, but never adheres to pessimism. For instance, life of fortitude, benevolence and polite activities is indicated in Canto-IV...

Gańgādhara’s humanistic approach of reaching the destination through incessant practice is traced here. Simplicity, modesty, purity, harmlessness and noble services are the gem-like features of his work and life. Whatever may be the obstacle, the poet’s optimistic insight pervades the realm of life. “Simple living and high thinking” is his view-point both literary and empirical.In spite of negative attitude of some fault-finders in social life, one should patiently and courageously go ahead to establish one’s own goodness and virtues valuable to others.

[ Published in ‘Kalahandi Renaissance’ (Research Journal), Vol.-1, 2005, pp. 39-52. Courtesy : Government Autonomous College, Bhawanipatna, Orissa, India.]* For My English Translation and related topics, please see :
REFERENCES : 1. Meher, H.K., Kavi Gańgādharańka Tapasvinī Kāvya : Hindī-Ińgrājī-Sanskruta Anuvādara Trivenī,‘Bartikā’, Vishuva Special Issue, 1999, pp.178-209.Saraswat Sahitya Sanskrutika Parishad, Dasarathpur, Jajpur, Orissa. 2. Meher, H.K., Canto-IV from the Complete English Rendering of Tapasvinī Kāvya,‘Kantāraka’, 2000, pp.14-20, Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi.* * * Posted by Dr. Harekrishna Meher at 10:49 AM Address: Dr. Harekrishna Meher, Reader & Head, Department of Sanskrit, Govt. Autonomous College, BHAWANIPATNA-766001, Orissa (India). * Phone : +91-6670-231591 * Mobile: +91-94373-62962 *** Email : * * * * URL :

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rasika presented pieces dealing with the Buddha and Sri Aurobindo's classic poem on the 'Bliss of Brahman'

Abhinaya News
Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, 52, Harold Avenue, San Jose, CA 95117
Phone: 408-983-0491 - Fax: 408-983-0492, URL: - Email:
August 12, 2006
Summer Concert : Rasika Kumar Solo

On Saturday, July 1, Rasika Kumar presented her solo performance “Saatvika – the Emotions Within” at Hoover Theater in San Jose. The emotion of Sringara (love) in manifest forms was communicated by Rasika through the elaborate choreography of a composition of 19th century composer Maharaja Swati Tirunal. As Saatvika also evokes serenity and tranquillity, Rasika presented pieces dealing with the Buddha and Sri Aurobindo's classic poem on the 'Bliss of Brahman'.

The performance featured a visiting orchestra from India: Sri.E.P.Sudev Warrier (vocals), Sri.A.P. Krishnaprasad (flute), and Sri. K.S. Sudhaman (mridangam) along with Malavika Kumar (nattuvangam). Comments both from other dancers and the general public alike were glowing. Susie Cashion of Stanford University’s Dept of Dance said, “Rasika is AMAZING. Never have I felt the power of the emotional, inner to outer, aspect as she was able to communicate”.

Vidya Ramakrishnan, a Bharatanatyam dancer who attended had this to say, “It is such a pleasure to see Rasika blossom into such a wonderful dancer of such high caliber. All the hard work, her commitment, determination and involvement were obvious and very inspiring”. Ragavan Manian, a noted musician of the Bay Area praised “Rasika & co'shardwork and interpretative skill” and “Malavika’s control of layam and nattuvangam; I felt very proud that she could match the mridangist jathi for jathi!”

Finally, R. Radhakrishnan, a Bay Area poet lauded the sisters thus, “Rasika has marveled in abhinayam; shringaram, as we all know is the most difficult (emotion), was expressed by Rasika with great ease and Malavika's strong cholkattu added a great deal to the performance. Her (Rasika’s) Tillana choreography was unique and was executed very well”

Since her graduation from MIT and subsequent return to the Bay Area, Rasika has been a featured soloist in many of Abhinaya's recent productions. Rasika currently works as a software engineer at Google, Inc while actively pursuing the dance form and developing as a solo artist and choreographer.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Writing difficult prose is a will to power in the face of impotence, futility, death, indifference

Chances are theorists are merely too lazy to find clearer ways to express themselves (or they have cowed all potential editors), especially when opacity also serves a beneficial end casting the aura of difficulty over their works to make it seem more profound, and the scholars that pursue it to comprehension more ascetic. With that in mind, it’s worth remembering what Nietzsche said about asceticism in The Genealogy of Morals:

“For a very long time the ascetic ideal serves the philosopher as the sole phenomenal guise under which he could exist qua philosopher.”

Writing difficult prose is a will to power in the face of impotence, futility, death, indifference. This can prompt a grandiloquent egotism:

“Whoever, at any time, has undertaken to build a new heaven has found the strength for it in his own hell.”

Difficult prose may be just as difficult for the writer as it is for the reader, but necessarily so, because the ideas must seem tortuous to feel true. —Rob Horning 11:55 pm Permalink

Sunday, June 01, 2008

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