March 21, 2013
A must-read and strongly recommended: Sanjay Subrahmanyam does a fabulous job of summarising what the book is all about in the last two paragraphs:
… In adding one more to the many contested portraits of Vasco Da Gama, this books has intended to make an implicit plea for a rather more nuanced, indeed ironical, look at the history of `European expansion’, … No dramatic shifts of paradigm have been proposed, merely the careful sifting of mass of tangled materials, to which the continuing research of other historians will doubtless add over the years. For the task admits of no easy solutions, with perhaps the greatest of our burdens being the historian’s classic sin: anachronism.
In a recent essay, a well-known Portuguese historian (…) begins by quoting Spinoza: `Concerning human actions, I have tried not to laugh, not to weep, not to detest them, but to understand them.’ To the reader of this volume, I hope the message that I have conveyed has been somewhat different, and rather less `Christian’: concerning past human actions, to laugh when they are ridiculous, to weep when they are tragic, to detest them as they were often detested by those who were their victims, for how else would we ever come close to understanding them?
February 28, 2013
Bharadwaj Rangan has a few words of wisdom:
Over the past few years, I’ve been speaking in various colleges and institutions, and the thing they always want me to talk about is how I left engineering and carved out a new career for myself. It makes me laugh, because most of these colleges are engineering colleges, and the kids want to know how to get out of engineering. So along with the usual spiel about how I went about the whole thing, I also tell them this — that following your passion, your dream, is fine, but just keep in mind that one day it becomes a job.
That’s one thing you’re not really prepared for when you begin to “follow you passion,” that one day it will become a job, and the pieces you used to write at your leisure, for fun, for a break from the daily grind, now come with deadlines. No one tells you that, one day, the passion becomes the daily grind.
Take a look!
February 17, 2013
Sister Devamata’s Days in an Indian monastery and Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold. Recommended.
January 23, 2013
T T Ram Mohan calls for strengthening of public broadcasting. I also agree with him about the quality of Doordarshan programmes. Podhigai and Bharathi give so much of music, for example, with very little interruptions for advertisements, if any. Their news coverage is also much better and well balanced. So, these days, DD is one of my first flips before I start browsing channels.
January 22, 2013
Arunabha Deb’s profile is nice, and it captures the same feeling that we had when we listened to him first a couple of years ago:
First-time listeners share a common confusion: a man in his fifties, singing as well as any other reigning maestro of the day, but relatively unknown. Why hadn’t they heard him as an upcoming star?
Take a look!
January 15, 2013
A musical antidote to regional chauvinism:
It was around 1930. In Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra, a play was being performed. An actor came on stage and began to sing in a unique voice. There was a commotion amongst the spectators, and someone called out: “Kaanadi appa” (a derogatory term used for Kannadigas in Maharashtra). Others picked up the cry. The accompanying instruments stopped playing. The actor came to the front of the stage, and said: “You are showing this intolerance because I am from the Kannada desh. Show me someone amongst you who can sing as well as I do, and I will engage him in a contest.” Having said this, he sat down for a baithak. He sang for a good three to four hours. The spectators fell silent. As the man ﬁnished singing, garland after garland was heaped around his neck. Everyone began to praise his display of erudition. The actor who conquered Marathi intolerance with the light of his knowledge was Sawai Gandharva.
From Tejaswini Niranjana’s Music in the balance: Language, modernity and Hindustani sangeet in Dharwad at EPW. A must-read!
There are more interesting stories too — like the one about Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur and Ustad. Bade Gulam Ali Khan (which also involves Ustad Alladiya Khan) and the role of chillies in promoting Hindustani music in Dharwad. Have fun!
December 23, 2012
Here is Pais on Whittaker’s book on the history of relativity:
His treatment of the special theory of relativity in the latter volume shows how well the author’s lack of physical insight matches his ignorance of the literature.
Pais has good things to say about the first volume of the book though:
This work covers the period from Descartes to the close of the nineteenth century. Colleagues more knowledgeable on this period than I, confirm my impression that it is a masterpiece.