March 21, 2009 — drsubrotoroy
In Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona the three American men, and especially the seemingly insufferable Doug, are drawn in stark contrast to the two or three Spaniards. Woody Allen often writes his movies too and has apparently written this one, so the lengthy monologues that might be emerging from a character and seem to be spoken by a Johannson or Hall here might just as easily have been spoken by Allen himself in an appearance in one of his previous movies.
But not in case of the WASP-men. What is Doug made to talk about throughout? Domestic nesting behaviour, shopping, how to please parents and society: all conventionally, stereotypically, feminine, not masculine, subjects of conversation. His fellow male WASPs are no better. The most that comes out by way of masculinity is talk of a little sports or a little gadgetry. That’s it. On balance, the WASP-men in Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona are made to come across as effete hedonistic characters – though ones holding elite expensive jobs.
Contrast that with Juan Antonio and his father who can talk about or enact nothing but creative deeds whether painting in case of the son or poetry in case of the father or making love to women in case of both.
Of course this is fantasy and there is dramatic license being taken here because creative artists possessing the kind of masculine integrity these two men portray tend in reality to be hungry and impecunious and angry and unkempt, not living in marvelous clean mansions that attract the Marie-Elenas of the world to their beds. If they had inherited wealth they might have tended to squander it rather than find artistic genius and good taste, not merely in one generation but over two.
Furthermore, the integrity is all a bit far-fetched – Antonio is uncouth enough to propose to Vicky she jeopardize her engagement by making love in a threesome as a last fling in a bachelor-party before getting married, yet the same character later proclaims he is not someone to come between husband and wife (having already been with the wife). The threesome he instantly proposes to Vicky and Cristina, who are strangers to him, is entirely vacuous in comparison to the threesome he ends up being in with Cristina and Marie-Elena; in the former, he is almost a cheap tour-guide who wants to get paid in kind for an interesting day of tourism, something Vicky naturally resists. Besides, his paintings do look unexceptional, which allows an alternative interpretation that perhaps father and son are merely two rich lonely wasteful men imagining themselves to be leading the artistic life.
The four American women also come off as pallid in comparison to the central dominating character of Marie-Elena – a point made most bluntly when Cristina fetches the aspirin for Antonio only to find Marie-Elena administering him a neck-massage instead. Cristina has at most a talent at photography, Marie-Elena is a genius at whatever she touches.
Even the silent Spaniard kissing Judy is portrayed doing more by way of masculinity than any of the WASP-men. Doug with his laptop and his well-gymed body in shorts epitomizes Ivy League undergraduate success while remaining clueless about human nature or the outside world. He is a modern American Karenin, and the theme we are left with of Vicky being besotted with her dashing Spaniard even while starting the dullest and most tedious married life with Doug, would, as it were, become Anna Karenina except she has yet to dutifully bear Doug and his family a child.
In fact it is the absence of such a child that makes the movie possible – if Vicky had instead visited Barcelona after she and Doug were married and had a child or two with them, would she have spared a second glance at the dashing Spaniard, no matter how boring and tedious Doug turned out to be? The great lacuna in Woody Allen’s great oeuvre thus far may be his inability to depict anything but adult conversations – has he ever managed to describe families with children seriously?
FR Leavis once suggested that DH Lawrence may have failed to grasp Anna Karenina, perhaps the greatest novel ever written, for supposing Anna and Vronsky could survive on love alone. Woody Allen may have failed similarly in his much smaller-scale characterization of the Antonio-Vicky-Doug triangle. Does he have the patience to read Leavis’s masterly essay, I wonder, besides the novel itself? A Woody Allen production of Anna Karenina – now wouldn’t that be something else?
December 12, 2008 — drsubrotoroy
The crime of murder is that of deliberate homicide, that of mass-murder is the murder of a mass of people. There is no doubt the lone captured Mumbai terrorist, “Kasab”, has committed mass-murder, being personally responsible for the murder of probably 20 or 30 wholly innocent people he had never met. He killed them by machine-gun fire and grenades at CST/VT railway station on November 26 2008 before being shot and captured by police. He is also a co-conspirator in the mass-murders carried out by his associate at the railway station and those elsewhere in Mumbai. There is no doubt he should serve rigorous imprisonment for life in an Indian prison for his crimes.
And yet…. And yet…
If the Government of India is sensible, it needs to describe and comprehend the moral subtleties of the circumstances surrounding Kasab’s life, especially during the last year. Here was a stupid, ignorant, rather primitive youth misguided by others first into becoming a petty robber, later into becoming a terrorist-trainee in hope of advancing his career in thievery!
Bakri-Id 2008 has just occurred – it is on Bakri-Id a year ago in 2007 that Kasab reportedly first ventured into volunteering for terrorist training as a way of learning how to use firearms! It is almost certain he had never met a Hindu or an Indian in his life before then, that he knew absolutely nothing about the subcontinent’s history or politics, that he would be ignorant about who, say, Iqbal or Jinnah or Maulana Azad or Sheikh Abdullah or Mahatma Gandhi ever were. Within less than a year, that same youth had been brainwashed and trained adequately enough by Pakistan’s terrorist masterminds to become a robotic mass-murderer in Mumbai’s railway station. Now having been caught and treated humanely by his captors, he has confessed everything and even expressed a wish to write a letter to his father in Pakistan expressing remorse for his deeds.
If I was the judge trying him, I would sentence him to a minimum of twenty or thirty years rigorous imprisonment in an Indian prison. But I would add that he should be visited in jail by a few of India’s Muslim leaders, and indeed he should be very occasionally allowed out of the prison (under police supervision) in a structured program to offer Namaz with India’s Muslims in our grandest mosques. He should learn firsthand a little of the lives of India’s Muslims and of India’s people as a whole. Perhaps he will become a model prisoner, perhaps he may even want to become in due course a potent weapon against the terrorist masterminds who ruined his life by sending him to murder people in India.
It bears to be remembered that in an incredible act of Christian forgiveness, the widow of the Australian missionary Graham Staines forgave the cold-blooded murderers who burnt alive her husband and her young sons as they slept in a jeep in Orissa. The family of Rajiv Gandhi may have done the same of those who assassinated or conspired to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi. This is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, who had woven a remarkable moral and political theory out of the Jain-Buddhist-Hindu doctrine of ahimsa as well as Christian notions from Tolstoy and Thoreau of forgiving the sinner.
Of course there cannot be forgiveness where there is no remorse. Kasab’s behaviour thus far suggests he will be remorseful and repentant; there are many other thieves and murderers in the world who are not.
Reported statement of Mohammad Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’, 21, to police after arrest: “I have resided in Faridkot, Dinalpur tehsil, Ukada district, Suba Punjab state, Pakistan since my birth. I studied up to class IV in a government school. After leaving school in 2000, I went to stay with my brother in Tohit Abad mohalla, near Yadgar Minar in Lahore. I worked as a labourer at various places till 2005, visiting my native once in a while. In 2005, I had a quarrel with my father. I left home and went to Ali Hajveri Darbar in Lahore, where boys who run away from home are given shelter. The boys are sent to different places for employment. One day a person named Shafiq came there and took me with him. He was from Zhelam and had a catering business. I started working for him for Rs120 per day. Later, my salary was increased to Rs200 per day. I worked with him till 2007. While working with Shafiq, I came in contact with one Muzzafar Lal Khan, 22. He was from Romaiya village in Alak district in Sarhad, Pakistan. Since we were not getting enough money, we decided to carry out robbery/dacoity to make big money. So we left the job.
We went to Rawalpindi, where we rented a flat. Afzal had located a house for us to loot… We required some firearms for our mission… While we were in search of firearms, we saw some LeT stalls at Raja Bazaar in Rawalpindi on the day of Bakri-id. We then realised that even if we procured firearms, we would not be able to operate them. Therefore, we decided to join LeT for weapons training. We reached the LeT office and told a person that we wanted to join LeT. He noted down our names and address and told us to come the next day. The next day, there was another person with him. He gave us Rs200 and some receipts. Then he gave us the address of a place called Marqas Taiyyaba, Muridke, and told us to go to there. It was an LeT training camp. We went to the place by bus. We showed the receipts at the gate of the camp. We were allowed inside… Then we were taken to the actual camp area. Initially, we were selected for a 21 days’ training regimen called Daura Sufa. From the next day, our training started.
The daily programme was as follows: 4.15 am — Wake-up call and thereafter Namaz; 8 am — Breakfast; 8.30 am to 10 am — Lecture on Hadis and Quran by Mufti Sayyed; 10 am to noon – Rest; Noon to 1 pm – Lunch break; 1 pm to 4 pm – Rest; 4 pm to 6 pm – PT; instructor: Fadulla; 6 pm to 8 pm – Namaz and other work; 8 pm to 9 pm – Dinner
After Daura Sufa, we were selected for another training programme called Daura Ama. This was also for 21 days. We were taken to Mansera in Buttal village, where we were trained in handling weapons. The daily programme was as follows: 4.15 am to 5 am – Wake-up call and thereafter Namaz; 5 am to 6 am – PT; instructor: Abu Anas; 8 am – Breakfast; 8.30 am to 11.30 am – Weapons training; trainer: Abdul Rehman; weapons: AK-47, Green-O, SKS, Uzi gun, pistol, revolver; 11.30 am to Noon – rest; Noon to 1 pm – Lunch break; 1 pm to 2 pm – Namaz; 2 pm to 4 pm – Rest; 4 pm to 6 pm – PT; 6 pm to 8 pm – Namaz and other work; 8 pm to 9 pm – Dinner.
After the training, we were told that we will begin the next stage involving advanced training. But for that, we were told, we had to do some khidmat for two months (khidmat is a sort of service in the camp as per trainees’ liking). We agreed. After two months, I was allowed to go to meet my parents. I stayed with my parents for a month. Then I went to an LeT camp in Shaiwainala, Muzaffarabad, for advanced training… We were taken to Chelabandi pahadi area for a training programme, called Daura Khas, of three months. It involved handling weapons, using hand grenade, rocket launchers and mortars.
The daily programme was as follows: 4.15 am to 5 am – Wake-up call and thereafter Namaz; 5 am to 6 am – PT; instructor: Abu Mawiya; 8 am – Breakfast; 8.30 am to 11.30 am – Weapons training, handling of all weapons and firing practices with the weapons, training on handling hand grenade, rocket-launchers and mortars, Green-O, SKS, Uzi gun, pistol, revolver; trainer: Abu Mawiya; 11.30 am to 12 noon – rest; Noon to 1 pm – Lunch break; 1 pm to 2 pm – Namaz; 2 pm to 4 pm – Weapons training and firing practice; lecture on Indian security agencies; 4 pm to 6 pm – PT; 6 pm to 8 pm – Namaz and other work; 8 pm to 9 pm – Dinner
There were 32 trainees in the camp. Sixteen were selected for a confidential operation by one Zaki-ur-Rehman, alias Chacha, but three of them ran away from the camp. Chacha sent the remaining 13 with a person called Kafa to the Muridke camp again. At Muridke, we were taught swimming and made familiar with the life of fishermen at sea… We were given lectures on the working of Indian security agencies. We were shown clippings highlighting atrocities on Muslims in India. After the training, we were allowed to go to our native places. I stayed with my family for seven days. I then went to the LeT camp at Muzaffarabad. The 13 of us were present for training. Then, on Zaki-ur-Rehman’s instructions, Kafa took us to the Muridke camp. The training continued for a month. We were given lectures on India and its security agencies, including RAW. We were also trained to evade security personnel. We were instructed not to make phone calls to Pakistan after reaching India.
The names of the persons present for the training are: n Mohd Azmal, alias Abu Muzahid n Ismail, alias Abu Umar n Abu Ali n Abu Aksha n Abu Umer n Abu Shoeb n Abdul Rehman (Bada) n Abdul Rehman (Chhota) n Afadulla n Abu Umar. After the training, Chacha selected 10 of us and formed five teams of two people each on September 15. I and Ismail formed a team; its codename was VTS. We were shown Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Google Earth’s site on the internet… We were shown a film on VT railway station. The film showed commuters during rush hours. We were instructed to carry out firing during rush hours — between 7 am and 11 am and between 7 pm and 11 pm. Then we were to take some people hostage, take them to the roof of some nearby building and contact Chacha, who would have given us numbers to contact media people and make demands. This was the strategy decided upon by our trainers. The date fixed for the operation was September 27. However, the operation was cancelled for some reason. We stayed in Karachi till November 23. The other teams were: 2nd team: a) Abu Aksha; b) Abu Umar; 3rd team: a) Abdul Rehman (Bada); b) Abu Ali; 4th team: a) Abdul Rehman (Chotta); b) Afadulla; 5th team: a) Abu Shoeb; b) Abu Umer.
On November 23, the teams left from Azizabad in Karachi, along with Zaki-ur-Rehman and Kafa. We were taken to the nearby seashore… We boarded a launch. After travelling for 22 to 25 nautical miles we boarded a bigger launch. Again, after a journey of an hour, we boarded a ship, Al-Huseini, in the deep sea. While boarding the ship, each of us was given a sack containing eight grenades, an AK-47 rifle, 200 cartridges, two magazines and a cellphone. Then we started towards the Indian coast. When we reached Indian waters, the crew members of Al-Huseini hijacked an Indian launch. The crew of the launch was shifted to Al-Huseini. We then boarded the launch. An Indian seaman was made to accompany us at gunpoint; he was made to bring us to the Indian coast. After a journey of three days, we reached near Mumbai’s shore. While we were still some distance away from the shore, Ismail and Afadulla killed the Indian seaman (Tandel) in the basement of the launch. Then we boarded an inflatable dinghy and reached Badhwar Park jetty. I then went along with Ismail to VT station by taxi. After reaching the hall of the station, we went to the toilet, took out the weapons from our sacks, loaded them, came out of the toilet and started firing indiscriminately at passengers. Suddenly, a police officer opened fire at us. We threw hand grenades towards him and also opened fire at him. Then we went inside the railway station threatening the commuters and randomly firing at them. We then came out of the railway station searching for a building with a roof. But we did not find one. Therefore, we entered a lane. We entered a building and went upstairs. On the third and fourth floors we searched for hostages but we found that the building was a hospital and not a residential building. We started to come down. That is when policemen started firing at us. We threw grenades at them.
While coming out of the hospital premises, we saw a police vehicle passing. We took shelter behind a bush. Another vehicle passed us and stopped some distance away. A police officer got off from the vehicle and started firing at us. A bullet hit my hand and my AK-47 fell out of my hand. When I bent to pick it up another bullet hit me on the same hand. Ismail opened fire at the officers in the vehicle. They got injured and firing from their side stopped. We waited for a while and went towards the vehicle. There were three bodies in the vehicle. Ismail removed the bodies and drove the vehicle. I sat next to him. Some policemen tried to stop us. Ismail opened fire at them. The vehicle had a flat tyre near a big ground by the side of road. Ismail got down from the vehicle, stopped a car at gunpoint and removed the three lady passengers from the car. Since I was injured, Ismail carried me to the car. He then drove the car. We were stopped by policemen on the road near the seashore. Ismail fired at them, injuring some policemen. The police also opened fire at us. Ismail was injured in the firing. The police removed us from the vehicle and took us to the same hospital. In the hospital, I came to know that Ismail had succumbed to injuries. My statement has been read to me and explained in Hindi, and it has been correctly recorded.”
August 4, 2008 — drsubrotoroy
Tolstoy has been admired by many millions, and I shall plan to upload when I can some rare photos of him with his family and contemporaries from a Russian book in our Library which my father had given my sister in 1962. Here is an interesting excerpt from his On the Significance of Science and Art translated by Isabel F. Hapgood and published in the Project Gutenberg edition.
“The thinker or the artist will never sit calmly on Olympian heights, as we have become accustomed to represent them to ourselves. The thinker or the artist should suffer in company with the people, in order that he may find salvation or consolation. Besides this, he will suffer because he is always and eternally in turmoil and agitation: he might decide and say that which would confer welfare on men, would free them from suffering, would afford them consolation; but he has not said so, and has not presented it as he should have done; he has not decided, and he has not spoken; and tomorrow, possibly, it will be too late, — he will die. And therefore suffering and self-sacrifice will always be the lot of the thinker and the artist. Not of this description will be the thinker and artist who is reared in an establishment where, apparently, they manufacture the learned man or the artist (but in point of fact, they manufacture destroyers of science and of art), who receives a diploma and a certificate, who would be glad not to think and not to express that which is imposed on his soul, but who cannot avoid doing that to which two irresistible forces draw him,—an inward prompting, and the demand of men…. It is possible to study out how many beetles there are in the world, to view the spots on the sun, to write romances and operas, without suffering; but it is impossible, without self-sacrifice, to instruct people in their true happiness, which consists solely in renunciation of self and the service of others, and to give strong expression to this doctrine, without self-sacrifice. Christ did not die on the cross in vain; not in vain does the sacrifice of suffering conquer all things. But our art and science are provided with certificates and diplomas; and the only anxiety of all men is, how to still better guarantee them, i.e., how to render the service of the people impracticable for them.
True art and true science possess two unmistakable marks: the first, an inward mark, which is this, that the servitor of art and science will fulfill his vocation, not for profit but with self-sacrifice; and the second, an external sign,—his productions will be intelligible to all the people whose welfare he has in view. No matter what people have fixed upon as their vocation and their welfare, science will be the doctrine of this vocation and welfare, and art will be the expression of that doctrine. That which is called science and art, among us, is the product of idle minds and feelings, which have for their object to tickle similar idle minds and feelings. Our arts and sciences are incomprehensible, and say nothing to the people, for they have not the welfare of the common people in view. Ever since the life of men has been known to us, we find, always and everywhere, the reigning doctrine falsely designating itself as science, not manifesting itself to the common people, but obscuring for them the meaning of life. Thus it was among the Greeks the sophists, then among the Christians the mystics, gnostics, scholastics, among the Hebrews the Talmudists and Cabalists, and so on everywhere, down to our own times….”
October 3, 2007 — drsubrotoroy
Phoenix was a volume published in 1936 edited and with an introduction by Edward D. McDonald containing the posthumous papers of D. H. Lawrence, including the bulk (possibly all) of his known non-fictional writings. Lawrence was born on 11 September 1885 in Victoria Street, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, and died on 2 March 1930 in Villa Robermund, Vence, Alpes Maritimes. He was perhaps the greatest novelist, writer and literary critic of the 20th Century, and his genius is manifest in Phoenix.
I bought my copy of the book, a first American edition, in Washington DC, in the summer of 1992. It has been a source of depthless pleasure and wisdom ever since. It does not appear to be available in print nor is it even known by those who pretend to be authors, novelists, writers and literary critics today.
How I came to Lawrence’s work is briefly as follows. When I was about 23 or 24, in 1978 or 1979, I was in a conversation at a restaurant opposite Kings College, Cambridge (the Copper Kettle?) with a friend at the time, John Lyon, later of the University of Bristol. I was a Research Student in Economics under Frank Hahn, John was a Research Student in English under Q D Leavis. Both of us were members of Corpus Christi College, and lived at Lekhampton. There would have been others present at the conversation, probably Robert D. Fluharty, lawyer of West Virginia, but I cannot recall who they may have been. John was arguing or perhaps mentioned that he had come from the Leavis home where it was mentioned that Anna Karenina was the greatest novel that had been written. I recall thinking this to be an inane point of conversation, and it would be years before I realised that I had thought this because I had been still at the time someone who thought excessively highly of modern economics.
John may have been referring to FR Leavis’s masterly essay on Anna Karenina, which too I came to read decades later. The name of FR Leavis was faintly familiar, and I think I once saw him at Heffer’s bookstore shortly before his death. Leavis’s name and work then appeared again in the work of the philosopher Renford Bambrough, whose influence on my own work has been described elsewhere here.
A decade later, in 1988-89 in Honolulu, I read War and Peace for the first time, and some years later read Anna Karenina too. In Washington and New York City in 1992-1996, and also in Pasadena and Honolulu in 1989-1991, I collected the work of the Leavises and also Lawrence, all of which has been a source of much pleasure since. In all that, Phoenix has been paramount.
July 15 2007