Monday, September 22, 2014

Who is a Socialist? Mahatma Gandhi's concept of Socialism [1947]

In an editorial entitled, "Who Is a Socialist?" Mahatma Gandhi wrote:
"Socialism is a beautiful word and, so far as I am aware, in socialism, all the members of society are equal—none low, none high. In the individual body, the head is not high because it is the top of the body, nor are the soles of the feet low because they touch the earth. Even as members of the individual body are equal, so are the members of society. This is socialism.
"In it, the prince and the peasant, the wealthy and the poor, the employer and the employee are all on the same level. In terms of religion, there is no duality in socialism. It is all unity. Looking at society, all the world over, there is nothing but duality or plurality. Unity is conspicuous by its absence. This man is high, and that one is low, that is a Hindu, that a Muslim, third a Christian, fourth a Parsi, fifth a Sikh, sixth a Jew. Even among these there are subdivisions. In the unity of my conception, there is perfect unity in the plurality of designs.
"But, in order to reach this state, we may not look on the things philosophically and say that we need not make a move until all are converted to socialism. Without changing our life, we may go on giving addresses and forming parties and, hawk-like, seize the game when it comes our way. This is no socialism.'

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Hero by W. H. Auden

He parried every question that they hurled:
"What did the Emperor tell you?" "Not to push."
"What is the greatest wonder of the world?"
"The bare man Nothing in the Beggar's Bush."

Some muttered: "He is cagey for effect.
A hero owes a duty to his fame.
He looks too like a grocer for respect."
Soon they slipped back into his Christian name.

The only difference that could be seen
From those who'd never risked their lives at all
Was his delight in details and routine:

For he was always glad to mow the grass,
Pour liquids from large bottles into small,
Or look at clouds through bits of coloured glass.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Autumnal Day by Rainer Maria Rilke


Lord! It is time. So great was Summer's glow:
Thy shadows lay upon the dials' faces
And o'er wide spaces let thy tempests blow.

Command to ripen the last fruits of thine,
Give to them two more burning days and press
The last sweetness into the heavy wine.

He who has now no house will ne'er build one,
Who is alone will now remain alone;
He will awake, will read, will letters write
Through the long day and in the lonely night;
And restless, solitary, he will rove
Where the leaves rustle, wind-blown, in the grove.

[I am looking for another translation I once read--the third para in this begins 'The homeless man finds it too late to build/ The lonely man will keep his loneliness' would appreciate it if anyone has this version and can send it to me]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ten more books--The Second List.

In the first list of ten best books, I missed out some really important ones. Here are ten more favourites, some of which should be in List 1.
1. Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; also The First Circle, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by the same author.
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig.
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
6. All the plays of Henrik Ibsen.
7. The Mahabharata.
8. The Ramayana of Tulasidasa.
9. Manimekhalai
1o. The Golden Treasury [F.T. Palgrave]
[I'll add another ten soon]

Friday, August 29, 2014

The ten books I like best...

It is really not possible to reduce the books one likes to ten. But because of a request on facebook, I gave it some thought and came up with this list. The first two on the list, I can certainly reread a hundred times.
My best books
1.The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse.
2. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.
3. Most other books by Hesse and Mann [but not Siddhartha].
4. The Morning and the Evening by Joan Williams.
5. A Multitude of Sins by J A Cuddon.
6. Dibs—in Search of Self by Virginia Axline.
7. Place Mill by Barbara Softly [a children’s book]
8. The Synthesis of Yoga by Sri Aurobindo.
9. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
10. Europe: A History, by Norman Davies.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sixty-seven years ago

W.H. Auden

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on the land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
"Time," they had briefed him in London, "is short. It's too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we've arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you."

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

The next day he sailed for England, where he could quickly forget
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Storehouse of Ageless Wisdom [published in The Hindustan Times, October 30, 1994] by ROSHEN DALAL

I wrote this article in 1994---twenty years have passed, but the bookshop still exists and looks much the same. The owner, S P Chowdhuri is no more, and the shop is run by his son.


In a corner of Shankar Market, in the centre of Delhi, all the secrets can be discovered at Piccadilly book store. Here, one can find an account of the 18 unrecorded years of Jesus’ life. According to the ‘Akashic records’ of the Gospel of the Aquarian Age, Jesus wandered through Egypt, Greece, Persia, Tibet, and India. He spoke on the banks of the Ganga and visited the Jagannath temple.

On the next shelf is the Materia Medica of Tibetan Medicine and Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, written by Gurdjieff. There are many more books by Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Osho, J. Krishnamurti, U. G. Krishnamurti, Chinmayananda, Gibran and a host of others writing on religion, philosophy, and the mystic world. There are packs of Tarot cards and I-Ching cards, do-it-yourself books on gem therapy and astrology and of course several versions of the ancient texts, the Upnishads, Puranas, and others.

There is a select display outside, but inside the small shop, books are piled high in stacks and thee is scarcely any place to move. But this is a place where one is free to spend as much time as one likes, to browse through books in a leisurely way, or just to sit outside drinking tea and conversing with like-minded people.

The owner, S.P. Chowdhuri, is polite, helpful and knowledgeable. He can locate books on any topic in this sphere, even if one has no idea of either title or author. I once asked about books which dealt with the relationship of the inner “chakras” and the notes of music. In a few minutes there was a heap of books before me, each of which had a few pages on the esoteric theme.

People visit this bookshop from all over the world. In fact there are invariably more foreigners than Indian visitors. The shop has been in Fodor’s Guide, the Lonely Planet’s travelers series and even in Geeta Mehta’s Karma Cola. Many visitor’s record their impression in a book kept for this purpose. By now Chowdhuri has a collection of several such visitor books and one can spend interesting hours going through the profound or often amusing comments in them. The comments are in different languages including Hindi, English, French, German, and Japanese.

Indira Gandhi often visited the shop and on the 5th of January, 1980, she wrote, “The world of books is the most fascinating and enriching to be in. What an attractive shop it is!” Other eminent visitors have been Nirmala Devi, Girilal Jain, Arun Shourie, Lama Govinda, and several well known gurus and swamis. A visitor from Holland wrote, “To find the books on Buddhist art and philosophy, I come all the way from Holland and find them here”.

Some like to write the nuggets of their own philosophy, for instance, “If you are hungry, this is the best place to fill yourself. Dine, be filled, then you may become empty”, or “To be known to oneself is to read the books and throw them away”. Another happily recorded, “Each man I marry, I’ll spend his fortune here”. But Chidananda – of the Shivananda Ashram simply wrote, “God bless this bookshop”.

This unique book store was gifted to the present owner by his elder brother in 1957, and is the oldest book store in Shankar Market. Now Chowdhuri and his son run it. “I look for quality not quantity” says Chowdhuri. He is not referring to the books, where he has both quality and quantity, but to the visitors to his shop.

He does not cater to the readers of pulp fiction, fast-paced best sellers, or popular magazines. All his visitors are drawn there by a search for something, for truth or whatever one may call it. With his regular customers, Chowdhuri develops a personal relationship and many spend more time with him discussing life and philosophy. When I visited his shop after an absence of nine years, I was immediately recognized and offered a cup of tea.

Even if you come fifty years later”, he said, “and I am here, I’ll know you”. At that moment one had a vision of time standing still. While new technologies multiply in this world and people rush to keep pace with change, there is, in the middle of all this, a peaceful unhurried corner, where people still search, as some have always done, for ageless wisdom.