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Showing posts from September, 2007

Allama Iqbal writing about Sri Krishna

Allama Iqbal in his preface to his monumental work Asrar-i-Khudi, (Secrets of the Self), has expressed eloquently his admiration for Sri Krishna:

“The heart and mind of the Hindu community has been nourished by the penetrating discussion that its learned thinkers have concluded that the struggle of life which makes a man go through trials and tribulations, is directly linked with action; or, in other words, his existing human self is the result of his past deeds. And so long as this law of action operates, the result will be the same. When Goethe, the well-known German poet of the 19th century , makes his hero Faust read in the Bible the word ‘action’ instead of’ speech’, Goethe’s visionary eye detects the same point, which the Hindu pundits and Rishis had observed hundreds of years ago. In this strange way they had resolved the conflict between authority and freedom or, in other words, between coercion and responsibility. Undoubtedly, their creative ability is worth admiration, in pa…

Plastic Kashmir and general apathy of Indians

A man who cannot endure dirt, dust, stench, noise, ugliness, disorder, heat and cold has no right to live in India...
The Continent of Circe by Nirad C. Chaudhuri
A friend of mine took this photograph while on a visit to Kashmir. Kashmir is supposed to be the heaven on earth and the fact is that it is beautiful. But, are the doors and roads of heaven made of plastic. Can’t we humans leave anything beautiful? Do we have to perform plastic surgery on everything? We tend to close our eyes to all things ugly. It is in front of us and yet we don’t see it. We move around, enjoy the beauty, praise the splendor of nature and yet we litter away.
Our roads and railway tracks are like arteries spreading this disease of ugliness. Everywhere we go, we take our ugliness with us and yet we refuse to see it. May be one day we would wake up and realize that we all are living in a big garbage dump of our own making.

Many years ago an American professor, faced with asphyxiation after paying a visit to Sa…

Eklavya Goes to Oscar

The film chosen this year as India’s entry to Oscar is Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Eklavya. The movie didn’t make any mark at the box office. It was thumbed down by people here and barely managing to pass the critic’s verdict that too thanks to Chopra’s technical capabilities. At least it didn’t lose its thumb at the game where Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag managed to lose its whole body and people who saw it lost their mind and blamed Ramu of trying to kill the soul of Sholay (which in fact was breathed to life by Spaghetti western movies about wild wild west of America but in fact made by Italians).
Eklavya didn’t have as much of a plot or story as my last sentence, instead what it had was: Chopra’s extensive attempt to create patches of well thought out shots and planned scenes, camels and train in whirling sand storms, extensive screen time to the Royal Guard’s mastery at throwing daggers blind folded at flying white pigeons and an even more extensive screen time to plain blank screen.
The peo…

India's Oscar Mania Starts

Mother India made by Mehboob Khan lost to Federico Fellini’s Night of Cabiria by (it is said) only one vote for the Best Foreign Language film award at the Oscars (1958). Now, we may go on and on discussing about the un/importance of Oscars Awards but the facts is that Oscar does stand for something. If not for brilliance in Cinematic effort, at least it is given for diplomatic prowess at selling the film. Frankly, I don’t think either Mehboob Khan or Fellini had sent their cronies to warm up to various Media agents and Movers and Shakers of Hollywood…the studios.The fact that Mother India went to Oscars does mean something. It’s like a holy orb around the movie. It’s after this orb that Indian film makers pretend to be running after but actually they are after the silverware to be found in the house of Hollywood studios. The holy orb for them translates into unholy better economic prospect for the movie…newer bigger movie deals.
I think sending a movie like Anurag Kashyap'sBlack …

Indian Films and Foreign Film Festivals: A List

A list of Indian Films that made their mark at Foreign Film Festivals.

1936:
Amar Jyoti by V. Shantaram becomes the first Indian film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival. Sant Tukaram by Vishnupant Govind Damle wins the Special Recommendation Award at the Venice Film Festival of 1937.

1946:
Neecha Nagar by great Chetan Anand(1915-1997) wins the prestigious Cannes Film Festival ‘Grand Prix’. The inspiration for ‘Neecha Nagar’ was the Russian literary giant Maxim Gorky’s ‘Lower Depths’. While being influenced by Russian literature in its content, the maker’s film craft and technique bore the stamp of socially-conscious Hollywood moviemakers such as Frank Capra, King Vidor and John Huston. A highlight of the film was Pt. Ravi Shankar's debut as a film composer.

1947:
Ram Rajya by Vijay Bhatt made in 1943, is premiered in U.S.A. in 1947 at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Cecil B Demelle, makers of historicals and mythologicals movies like Ten Commandments, Sampson…

Meena Kumari: Story of a Poetess and an Actress

The book Meena Kumari was written by Vinod Mehta in the year 1972. Vinod Mehta was 31. He went on to be the editor of Debonair Magazine, India first real girlie magazine that also used to have a section about current affairs. Many years later Vinod Mehta became the founding editor-in-chief of the The Outlook Magazine.

Vinod Mehta’s previous book, Bombay: A Private View, was a success. But the book Meena Kumari was ill received. However, I don’t think it was ill-conceived. For some one like me, born ten years after the book was written, it means a lot. When I was a little boy, I knew Meena Kumari thanks to the ditty, which had the line, quite memorable actually:
Meena Kumari ka laal dupatta,
us-se nikala ullu ka paththa...
Occasionally, I might have watched some old movie of hers on Doordarshan. Never must have I given much thought to her. But, then a few years later, I saw the book Meena Kumari on the book shelf of an elder cousins of mine whose books I often ‘borrow’. The cover…

'Kashmir: A tragedy of errors' by Tavleen Singh

The author of the book, Tavleen Singh blames the Congress and NC for failing to recognize the discontent in the local Kashmiri Muslim population of the valley. Although the writer has given a seemingly accurate description of what went wrong with Kashmir, the thing that bothered me is the color in which it seems to paint the pandits.
It talks about Muslims being discriminated at jobs and pundits having all the top jobs. This is a very common misconception, a reasoning that seems natural but in fact flawed nevertheless.

The book also talks about how Indian newspapers hired pandit scribes who were blindly loyal to the Indian establishment and how they were planting false news in the media. Sadly, the writer has not given their names. About how Jagmohan although an honest administrator, was not the best choice as the governor and he was to be blamed for most of the turmoil that followed.
Now when you read the book you would realize that the writer is not biased or anything in fact at tim…

Truly Madly Deeply: Pakistan and Rahmat Ali

It was in the upper deck of a London bus that the name ‘Pakistan’ or ‘Pakastan’ first flashed before the eyes of Choudhry Rahmat Ali. He finally settled for ‘Pakistan’, which meant ‘land of the pure’ and doubled as an acronym of Punjab, Afghan(meaning the people of the North-West Frontier Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. These were the areas of north-west India where Muslims were in a majority; Bengal,in the east,did not come into the equation at this point. In 1933 Rahmat Ali published a pamphlet under the title ‘Now or Never’. Although its proposals grew out of Iqbal’s speech,it was the first conception of total national separation. The new nation, he wrote, symbolized ‘the proclamation of our freedom from British-Bania domination; the release of our nation from the bonds of Minorityism’
Little is known about Rahmat Ali, who vigorously pursued his ‘Pakistanian’ campaign from a bessit in Cambridge, bombarding politicians and dignitaries with pamphlets. Some reports say he wa…

Test your Intellect. Really?

Google Custom Search Engine of this blog is working fine ( the one not at the top in the header but the one below this section). I typed in the word Intellectual in it. One of the result I got was an interesting debate between Noam Chomsky and George Steiner about:

What Shall the Responsible Intellectual Do?

This dates back to The New York Review of Books, March 23, 1967

In October 2005, people voted Chomsky as the world’s top public intellectual (Umberto Eco came second in the voting). Guardian covered the story.

Then in November, the professor of Linguistics was involved in a minor controversy with the Guardian. Funny thing is that the controversy was triggered in part, by a problem of linguistic nature.
The problem arose over an interview he gave to Emma Brockes and published in G2, the second section of the Guardian, on October 31.

Here is what happened:

Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?

A: My only regret is that I didn't do it s…

"Black Poem" by Jack Kerouac

Self be your lantern,
Self be your guide -
Thus spake Tathagata
Warning of radios
That would come
Some day
And make people
Listen to automatic
Words of others

and the general flash of noises,
forgetting self, not-self. -
Forgetting the secret. . . .

Up on high in the mountains so high
the high magic priest are
swabbing in the deck
of broken rib torsos
cracked in the rack
of
Kallaquack
tryin to figure yr way
outa the calamity of dust and
eternity, buz, you better
get on back to your kind
b o a t

~Jack Kerouac:
Heaven and Other Poems

‘Prologue’ and ‘Inscription on a Book’ by Anna Akhmatova

‘Prologue’ by Anna Akhmatova



That was when the ones who smiled
Were the dead, glad to be at rest.
And like a useless appendage, Leningrad
Swung from its prisons.
And when, senseless from torment,
Regiments of convicts marched,
And the short songs of farewell
Were sung by locomotive whistles.
The stars of death stood above us
And innocent Ruissia writhed
Under bloody boots
And under the tires of the Black Marias.


-From the collection Requiem (published in 1963 in Munich)

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‘Inscription on a Book’ by Anna Akhmatova


From beneath such ruins I speak,
From beneath such an avalanche I cry,
As if under the vault of a fetid celler
I were burning in quicklime.
I will pretend to ne soundless this winter
And I will slam the eternal doors forever,
And even so, they will recognize my voice,
And even so they will believe in it once more.
-Written by Anna Akhmatova in Leningrad in 1959.

Also read,
'In Memoriam, July 19, 1914' by Anna Akhmatova

‘And when we had …

‘And when we had cursed each other’ by Anna Akhmatova

And when we had cursed each other,
Passionate, white hot,
We still didn’t understand
How small the earth can be for two people,
And that memory can torment savagely.
The anguish of the strong — a wasting disease!
And in the endless night the heart learns
To ask: Oh, where is my departed lover?
And when, through waves of incense,
The choir thunders, exulting and threatening,
Those same eyes, inescapable,
Stare sternly and stubbornly into the soul.
-From her first collection Evening (1912)

Also, read her poem 'In Memoriam, July 19, 1914' from her third collection, White Flock(1917)

Information Overload: Meta Data and Data to Email and Spam.

According to David Shenk’s book Data Smog (1998), The amount of words a typical business manager reads in a week: 1000,000.

Number of words in the Bible: approximately 770,000.

Number of words in the United States IRS code: approximately 2.8 million or more.

Number of pages in United States IRS code: 17,000 pages. War and Peace: 1,444 pages and the Bible: 1,291 pages.

Paper consumption in the US per person at the close of the last century: 2000 pounds.

Amount spent on information technology in the year 2000: more than 1 trillion.
In 1999, a Corpus fund of Rs.700 crores is step up to address the Year 2000(Y2K) Problem in India.

The world’s total yearly production of print, film, optical, and magnetic content in 2000: 1.5 billion gigabytes.

The estimated capacity of the human brain: 1 billion megabytes.

The amount of Information in the New York Times on Sunday: 1 MB.

Amount of Information a 19th century human was exposed to in a lifetime: 2MB.

Information per person for each man, woman,…

A brief history of Role Playing Games

The first strategy game that attempted to realistically model conflict was the Kriegspiel, developed by a Prussian staff officer, von Reisswitz, in 1824. Kriegspiel, from the German for wargame, was a system used for training officers in the Prussian army. The first set of rules was Instructions for the Representation of Tactical Maneuvers under the Guise of a Wargame, produced in 1824 by von Reisswitz, a lieutenant in the Prussian army, based on earlier work by his father. Today it is considered the grandfather of modern wargames.

In 1913, Little Wars, a slim set of miniature rules written by H G Wells published. Little Wars is recognized today as the first recreational wargame and gamers and hobbyists regard Wells as "the Father of Miniature War gaming."

In the 1930s, Fletcher Pratt, a Civil War historian and fantasy author, developed a set of rules for naval engagements, known by the title Fletcher Pratt’s Naval Wargame.

In 1938, children’s book The Hobbits written by J. …

Lines from the final scene in Ingmar Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night"

I promise! Just let go of my ears!

Promise first!

I promise!

Swear by everything you hold sacred!

I swear by my manhood!

Then we can consider ourselves engaged.

May Frid rest in peace. He’s on his way to hell now!

Up you get, fatty. Time to groom the horses.

There is no better life then this!

And the summer night Smiled for the third time!

Oh, yes, my little sugar plum. For the sad and dejected, for the sleepless and lost souls, for the frightened and the lonely.

But the clowns will have a cup of coffee in the kitchen!

-End
Click here to watch the final scene of Ingmar Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night"

Collage from India of the 80s

Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi released and Gandhi became an International star. Later the movie would be shown on Doordarshan every Independence Day from many many years to come. Doordarshan went national in the early 80s. Salma Sultan was reading News. Sitting in front of T.V sets, people used to reply back to her Namaskars. Ustad Bismillah Khan was on the shehnai every Independence day. Along with national broadcast came: the Antennas on the T.V set and on the rooftops. Color T.V came to India in 1982 with the Asian Games held in Delhi. Then we had serials like Hum Log of 1984 and some years later we got the megadrama: Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan ran from 1987 to 1988. Soon cameMahabharatthat ran from 1988 to 89 - the story of 23 day war was told the entire year and people developed an interest in history. A serial named Kille ka Rahasya made me a claustrophobic that I am. However, that is another story. Surf and Lalitaji were names that glued themselves to consumer's br…