Saturday, 29 September 2007

Dancing Ganesh

“Ganesh”, Lingaraj Temple (c. 1000), Bhuvaneshwar, Orissa:
Graphic by Remigius de Souza, Pencil on paper (7.00” x 10.00”)

Dancing Ganesh

Ganesh in this graphic is of a deep relief carved in stone, on the side wall of Lingaraj Temple. He is larger than full (human) size. While watching the sculpture I was so moved that for a moment I felt Ganesh was moving: I called him “Dancing Ganesh”.

There, of course, are number of dancing Ganesh statues in metals, stone, ivory, wood, glass, and now mass produced in synthetic materials. The folk artists have made them in clay in great numbers. For the annual Ganesh festivals, the folk artists make the clay idols for generations that may count in thousands of tens of thousand.

This very action, of making an idols in clay by pouring their soul, heart and labour by the folk artist, bringing the idols home by the devotees, living with Ganesh, bidding farewell chanting ‘O, Ganesh, come next year soon’, and finally the immersion of the idols in water, is like singing and dancing in eternity. One can’t catch the mystery of this action in words or reproduction in a movie.

The whole action described above is not like a copy in CD/DVD of dance and music or on a cinema or TV screen. The original graphic is in pencil on paper, which after decades has yellowed, shall crumble. What we see on the monitor screen is not the real one; it’s dead; it’s magic.

This action dates back in antiquity. In the backyard of Mumbai, the Warli tribe worships their “Vaghdev” – tiger god, where the older idol is replaced every generation (See: Warli Housing and Art). Strange it may seem to compare with the ancient traditions of Ganesh or Vaghdev with the peasants’ action in farming: they prepare an entire year for the season to sow seeds, care and cultivate the farm, and then comes harvesting. Then the next cycle begins. The three are synonymous, which is beyond and above faith, belief or religion.

Dancing Devotees

VATSALA BHOJANE, a young daughter of Janaki-mami and Zilu-mama, was my neighbour next door at my native village. She was called Vachcha. Every Ganesh festival she would sing and dance before Sri Ganesh at another neighbour’s house. She would lead other women, and they danced in circle. We children huddled around against walls of “Majghar” – living room. Women and girls also played “Fugadi”, “Zimma”, “Kombada”, which are vigorous dances, before Ganesh.

These have been my memorable nights, and days. There was no electricity then. In the quiet light of the vegetable oil lamps, along with the dancing women, their shadows also danced on the lime washed mud walls. Vatsala’s melodious voice would filter through the adobe abodes and plants in the neighbourhood in the quiet of the night. We never realised when the midnights passed.

Vatsala, in her songs, recited mythological stories of Damayanti–Nal, Shankuntala–Dushyant, and Raja Harishchandra etc. I don’t know from whom, from where she got these songs, or whether she composed them on the spot, which is likely, like the thousands of folk artists all over the country. There were no books of these songs.

Her voice has been the most melodious I ever heard. I don’t compare the popular and celebrated singer Lata Mangeshkar, because I have heard her only on the loudspeakers and electronic gadgets. She, being a woman from the elite class, has her own place. I heard the late Pundit Kumar Gandharv live (without loudspeaker). Kumar Gandharv and Vatsala, both are unique. Kumar Gandharv has acknowledged her status, though indirectly, by listening to the folk singers of Malava for years, when he was forbidden to sing.

Like Vatsala’s voice, her skin had lustrous healthy shine on dark tan colour. I have often heard her singing popular Marathi songs from plays and cinemas. But she never sang those pop songs before the deity. Well, there was no radio or gramophone in our village then. Once in a year or two a passing circus or touring talkies or a touring theatre group would camp near a market place, when we heard the records of songs on their loudspeakers run on a generator.

Does Vatsala continue to sing at her ripe age? Though I don’t know, I am sure she does wherever she is. It is intrinsic in her nature to sing and dance. Do her children or grand children inherit her gift? Or are they caught up in the dragnet of Bollywood–Indipop music album pop-songs like those in the cities?

One of Vatsala’s brothers played flute. Vatsala, her sisters and brothers have been literate and like their parents, hardworking peasants. They cultivated their small farm holding. The yard and the live hedge around their house were full of various flower, fruit and medicinal plants, like other peasants.

There are millions like Vatsala, who are gifted in various arts and crafts, who enrich the living of the community members with such joys and comforts, far away from the market. Would they survive the onslaught of the parasite that is market? How long could they resist it?

Vatsala, perhaps, is the last link of the chain of meme pool – the mother’s mother, her mother’s, and her mother’s… legacy – from where she received her talent and the songs! I remember the “African Eve” hypothesis.
The change, which is taking place to convert the cohesive community to decadent modern mass society, is neither Darwinian Evolution nor the Supreme being’s Creation but Market Explosion grafted by the ruling minority of the First World India, and their colonial masters – the British baniyas, and the neo-colonial masters. It obviously spreads from urban centres to rural areas.

Ganesh festival, like Durga Puja in Bengal (now West Bengal), comes at the end of monsoon, when it is time for harvest. Indian festivals coincide with seasons. These are days for leisure for the peasants in Indian agrarian society, who work hard throughout the year. They rejuvenate the peasants’ strength and courage for the new beginning. People follow lunar calendar, not Gregorian calendar, which though is officially recognised.

Benevolent Sri Ganesh

People in Konkan, my native place, have faith, which does not deny effort, in Sri Ganesh. For example, a woman, who has no child, invokes Ganesh, ‘if blessed with a child she will dance naked before him’. Romantic may it sound, it means shed entire ego. The peasants, however, worked hard instead of waiting for the boon – of child or harvest. A Marathi movie “Navara maza navasacha” – literally “My husband born blessed” (by Sri Ganesh of Ganapatipule, a pilgrim place in Konkan) – is produced based on this faith. Isn’t it better to have faith in a deity rather than even a most trusted leader or authority in politics, religion, statesmanship, science, technology, economy etc.?

Whatever, Evolution or Creation, the modern scientists may believe, Sri Ganesh is super real. He is neither reality in the society nor virtual reality of the animated computer games. When the modern scientists create a clone, Dolly, it is merely magic.

There are many legends, myths, and stories about Sri Ganesh. One of them goes thus:
Sage Vyas wanted a writer to take dictation of epic Mahabharata. Someone suggested about Sri Ganesh. He agreed on a condition that the sage must dictate non-stop. Vyas put a counter condition that Ganesh must not write anything without absorbing the meaning or without understanding it.

Epic Mahabharata is timeless. The myths have enduring meanings for all ages, whether one believes in this God or that God or does not believe in God except the Dogmas that mushroom now and then fade away.

The above myth has a message even for this age of information bombardment and fanaticism of every kind – religious, secular, scientific and technological, regional or territorial chauvinism; for every occupation and profession, experts and specialists. There is no superior or inferior culture. Peasants, who cultivate their farms, do so at highest risk, know better without being verbose about it: the reasons may be their way of living is holistic way with the element of contemplation. It also tells that people – peasants or prime ministers – must absorb and understand before accepting any theory or hypotheses or nuclear energy or whatever, without faith or belief.


In the mid-1950s when I came to Mumbai, there were public Ganesh festivals. Tilak initiated them during the Independence Movement to motivate people to take the public platform. I saw, then, besides “Bhajans” and “Kirtans”, there used to be plays, poetry reading, music recitals, mock parliament etc. Lata Mangeshkar used give a recital at her former house at Nana Chowk.

Now in fifty years it has all changed. Now the records or CDs of devotional – Indipop – pop-cinema songs are constantly relayed on loudspeakers throughout the day until 10.00 pm. No Bhajans. No Kirtans. No Fugadi. No Zimma. Now there are mass produced Plaster Of Paris (POP) Ganesh idols. Now there are more and more public festivals, and more and more new communities /people join the traditional devotees. Now there are sponsors from trade-market-industrial houses, besides the residents of the neighbourhood. More and more commercialisation!

Mumbai (30-09-2007)
Remigius de Souza
Post Mail: 69-243 S. B. Marg, Mumbai 400028, INDIA

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Third side of coin

by Remigius de Souza

Third side of coin:

Aesthetics, Ethics and Economics

‘Two sides of coin’ is a common idiom in currency. ‘Aesthetics’ and ‘ethics’ could be the two sides of occupation, profession or vocation of architecture, or others. Yet there is a third side – the ‘edge’ – that is personal or collective on which the coin rolls or spins.
Economic currency in aesthetics of architecture, or built environment, in the capitalist society is a visible factor. Larger the currency denomination lesser is the edge. Hence a person or an establishment may strive to fatten the wad to gain the edge, where both the esthetic and ethical values diminish in reverse proportion that results in madness.

FLW’s mile high ego
Casts the shadow...

A missed target of 9/11.
Where do the pigeons dwell?

(14 October 2004)

(Mile high Tower by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Source: Google Image)

Remigius de Souza
Post Mail: 69-243 S. B. Marg, Mumbai 400028, INDIA

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Sanjay Dutt’s adversity

by Remigius de Souza

Sanjay Dutt’s adversity

Adversities also bring new or unknown opportunities. Sanjay Dutt has been acting and entertaining Bollywood box-office and masses. He also has been providing spicy stories to media time to time.

I wouldn’t judge his Bollywood career in virtual reality; it is judged by the box-office bottom-line, which is reality. As for his TADA, or whatever, case, the judgment has been delivered, or is awaited further hearing. Hence no Bollywood-style sentimental melodrama needed.

As an actor, I suppose, he is an artist in his own right. Many artists are rotting in jails, in many countries, even without trial, for their work of art which has humanitarian value. There are many instances of prisoners, from M.N. Roy to Sane Guruji, who turned out literature from the jails. A criminal such as Jean Genet, who is also called Saint Genet, became an acclaimed writer. Remember Sage Valmiki!

In the jail, Dutt will be provided with work, wages, food and shelter; which are denied to the millions of people outside, here in India – either by fate or by the state. Dutt is lucky.

How to turn the adversity – an imprisonment – into an opportunity? It is in the Dutt’s hands.

So far, Sanjubaba has been acting according to direction and talking the script. If accessible, Dutt may have an advantage of first hand experience by real contact of various criminals, from petty to hardcore, and witness their dispositions. Besides the jail may offer him some time to reflect or contemplate.

Hopefully it may be an opportunity for Sanjubaba to grow up in real whorl, and grow beyond acting “Bhaigiri” and “Gandhigiri” in virtual world, where even Gandhibaba speaks Munnabhai’s dialect. Indeed who or how any of the casts of “Lage raho Munnabai” is touched by Gandhi?

We all know that Dutt’s mother was Muslim. Hence, it is possible that all Muslims could be “Mamus” and Hindus be his “Chachus”. In real life, with his resources, his celebrity status, his fan-following, Dutt could become a great bridge to achieve communal amity between Hindus and Muslims. It is time, rather than brand Gandhigiri, by his own “Sanjugiri”, we are sure, Sanjay Dutt might work wonders. Of course, to be oneself is harder than imitation or role-playing because one is answerable to oneself in the first place.

I reflect for a moment

With my statement above, indeed, I am exposed!
What if I, whoever, whatever, vanish from the face of the earth?
What if Gandhi – Nehru are no more?
What if the billionaire become paupers overnight in the Depression of 1930s?
What if several villages flattened in the earthquake of Bhuj?
What if two lakhs mill workers and eight lakhs of their dependants deprived of their livelihood by the closure of textile mills in Mumbai?
What if Harappa - Mohenjo-Daro are buried several times in the Earth?
What if the megalometropolis Angkor Wat vanishes?
What if a few hundred die in terrorist attacks?
So on and on and on…
What if Bollywood vanishes from the face of the earth? People wouldn’t loose a moment of wink. They shall find their own alternatives for much needed leisure – not the elitist pop-art but the revival of folk-arts, once relieved from costly entertainment market!!!

A Gond poem, from Central India

What is man’s body? It is a spark from the fire
It meets water and it is put out.
What is man’s body? It is a bit of straw
It meets fire and it is burnt out.
What is man’s body? It is a bubble of water
Broken by the wind.
(Re: Jaffrey Wainwrite, “The Basics: Poetry, Routledge, 2004)


Remigius de Souza
Post Mail: 69-243, S. B.Marg, Mumbai 400028 India

Thursday, 6 September 2007

A far cry – Voice in Wilderness

A far cry – Voice in Wilderness

Remi steers his alfa-craft from his alpha point
through the maze of hurdles endless
while trying the turns takes hurts and bruises
in the urbanity of chaotic wilderness
that live on perpetually on the external aids,
that sucks the energy from every molecule
of water, air and soil to choke life to the hilt.
On his way – any moment may be his omega point –
Remi seeks some tranquillity, some peace
in solitude. Alas! No solace.


(Society – urbanity – city is a work of only the human hands.
Mumbai has witnessed, within a span of few decades, mass killings of humans. In the 1960s, 105 persons were shot dead by the Government of Maharashtra, during the agitation of the unarmed citizens who protested against the proposed formation of the state. In the 1990s, several events of terrorism and riots, including a riot by police who went on rampage, took place. These are apart from the reported or unreported cases of crime, epidemics, house-collapse road accidents etc. besides the pollution of every kind – social, political, economic, environmental and ecological.)


Remigius de Souza
Post Mail: 69-243 S. B. Marg, Mumbai 400028, INDIA

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Kabir and Industrial Society

Kabir and Industrial Society

by Remigius de Souza

Kabir says (circa 1500):

Sun sinks, day fades,
dusk has fallen.
From screwing too many lovers,
the whore is barren.

(The Bijak of Kabir, Trans: Linda Hess and Sukhdev Singh, Motilal Baneasidas,Delhi., p. 94)
An event in 1950s

“Why the prostitutes don’t have children?” A boy asked his grandmother.
“On a pathway there is no grass, because many people walk on it.” She replied.

A college mate, who came from a small town nearby Mumbai, told us this event. The old woman, like Kabir, was perhaps even illiterate. But that’s Indian mind, not that of the industrial society.

An event in 1960s

“Institutes are prostitutes.” — Louis Kahn
The late Louis Kahn, architect, often visited to his project, “Indian Institute of Management that was under construction in Ahmedabad. Once during his lecture at the National Design Institute, he said, ‘Institutes are prostitutes’. P. S. Rajan, architect and one of our contemporaries, at once stood up and asked, ‘Then why do you teach at Penn?’ Kahn was very angry at the question or perhaps the interruption.

We are now accustomed to the intrusion of various institutions in our personal and collective autonomy that we never question.

An event in 1990s

“Take a baby off the shelf.”
We were at the faculty’s common room during a break. The talk among the professors was drifting from practice to getting married to career to ‘have or not to have babies’… Then some one said “Take a baby off the shelf”, as if picking up a toy. These women and men belong to elite profession, most of them had travelled abroad or educated in the US or Europe.

Qualitatively there is no difference between the statements of the old women and Kabir.
The reference point is “culture”. After five hundred years, or even after fifty years, what Kabir says, or what the old woman said, is still relevant. Though Kabir refers to a woman who is a prostitute, in the present global circumstances it applies to the industrial society, wherever it exists. The pimps and prostitution are now prevalent in almost all occupations and trades, even though under different garbs, in the industrial society.

There are no prostitutes and prostitution in many communities, particularly adivasis – the tribal. Prostitution is a feature of civilised societies. Now the elite identify the prostitutes as “sex-workers”, thus legitimise the flesh trade. This, of course, is shameless hypocrisy of the high society or the elite class.

As I quote Kabir, who is illiterate, above, it is obligatory on my part to mention the translator. How far am I enlightened by Kabir? It is a matter of speculation?

Sowing seeds of hybrid culture

The industrial society behaves as if it has no posterity.
Hybrid seeds of food grains came later. By then industrialization had successfully bred the hybrid culture through the assembly lines of mass education to produce mass society in the First World, now known as the ‘virtual global village’. The result: hybrid culture, like hybrid seeds, has no second/third generation, no posterity, no community.

With technological advances when sex-change, genetic modification, surrogates father/mother, clones etc are possible, sex and gender loose their sheen, of course, in the industrial societies. What remains is the colonisation of the weaker and poor classes and communities by the egocentric elite a sheer greed for possession and power, by giving charities.

Take for example. The farmers in India have been committing suicides for some time and elsewhere peasants are displaces for the development projects. The only thing the government can do is to distribute cash dole, but no sharing the skills in finance and technologies relevant to them.

No wonder, for the likes of the Gandhi, the Schumacher… there are no takers on the assembly lines, no germination either. They rest in archives, except for the ‘quotes’ in the discourses, a part of the past such as, socialism, radical humanism, modern, post-modern, Art Nouveau, construction, deconstruction… but no action. As is this article.

Kabir refers her not to a woman but to the whole society, with its many loves, is out to destroy the insects, the “other” people, ethnic communities and aborigines, biodiversity on one side and talk-talk-talk about “climate change”, which might lead to the devices “to control power and add to the profit” further. It is leaving the Earth barren.