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author, 'The Dharma Forest' gmail: abhidhammah@ columns: subscribe 👇
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28 Feb
Kind of surreal to take a photo of the singularly inspiring Bhagat Singh -- a revolutionary voice in 1920s India, who was hung by the British in 1931, at the age of 24 -- run it through the Heritage AI algorithm, and see him reanimated.
Swami Vivekananda probably would have laughed at such algorithmic efforts to reanimate photos, but as a great believer in the powers of science to improve material aspects of human lives, he would have probably wanted to understand the details of how it all works.
It was hard to find a quality photo of Lokmanya Tilak, but this worked. Tilak urgently deserve a new reappraisal as one of the founding fathers of the modern Indian mind. A reformist & revivalist of traditions, a believer in the power of mass media before most Indians could read.
Read 6 tweets
13 Jan
Podcasts for 2021 -- a running thread:

[For a similar thread on 2020 -- see here: ]
1. If you love cricket or have admired the writings of C. L. R. James -- a wonderful first of a three part series abt his life.

Derek Walcott on CLR James: "sentences of a great prose writer contain light, natural light...the feeling of approaching dusk."…
2. On the extraordinary & violent rise Chinese intelligence and counterintel capacities under Mao (& Zhou en Lai) to the present when State Security divisions try to hoover up CPU/GPUs for supercomputers on American export control lists.

Read 4 tweets
3 Jan
For 2021, a new thread of sentences, I have found of interest/provocative/moving
Read freely, quote happily, attribute with caution. For a similar thread from 2018-20, see below:

“I’d never say this in public – I still love beautiful books and believe in them.” -Jacques Derrida
“I have sometimes been troubled by a doubt whether what is true in one case may not be true in all. Then, when I have reached that point, I am driven to retreat, for fear of tumbling into a bottomless pit of nonsense.”

– Socrates (Plato, Parmenides)
“I perceive that in Germany as well as in Italy there is a great struggle about what they call Classical and Romantic, terms which were not subjects of Classification in England – at least when I left it four or five years ago.”

— Byron, 14 August 1820
Read 14 tweets
13 Dec 20
Farewell John le Carre, thank you for all the extraordinary books and the immortal George Smiley. It was no doubt very hard work, but you made it look so effortless, made it all so human.

[proofs of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy']
Read 20 tweets
4 Dec 20
9. Richard Lloyd Parry narrates his deep & perceptive essay on Japan, Japanese royal family, & the greatly admirable previous Emperor Akihito & his efforts to make the monarchy & Japanese society more sensitive to harm done in his father's name. [mp3]… Image
10. An excellent long conversation with Stephen Kotkin on the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, conservative, anti-Communist, and a terrifying moral presence.… ImageImage
11. Excellently fun & insightful conversation w/ Pratap Bhanu Mehta who talks to two Pakistanis who probe what does it mean to be Indian, what is the Indian project, where does it fall short -- a great many interesting & open questions discussed.… [.mp3] Image
Read 24 tweets
22 Oct 20
if you know Malappuram in Kerala & the dynamics of its Islamist politics, 'Halal Love Story' on Amazon Prime is very interesting & good -- about two guys (from Jama'at e Islami) who set out to make a film. Image
it speaks to a deep truth: even the orthodox enjoy cinema.

how then can they go about participating in a modern art that has its own grammar of presentation & aesthetic which doesn't efface the moral ambitions of their self-consciously fashioned antimodern views?
understandably, the filmmakers argue -- religion is not the opium of the masses. cinema is.

all this is done in a light, spoofy sort of way.

plus, good to see Malabari Malayalam spoken on the screen without caricature.
Read 4 tweets
8 Oct 20
Louise Gluck: on the myths of originality versus, that ‘lesser thing’, uniqueness....
Earthworm — Louise Gluck
Read 7 tweets
8 Oct 20
wonderful use of, what sounds like, Brindabani Sarang. such joyous sketches...
In a different valence, another kind of Brindabani Sarang by Aarti Anklikar | द२स् बिना...
another version of Brindavana Saranga

excerpts from a verse composed during the Sangam era, 100 CE to 300CE, reimagined by the genius of Anil Srinivasan (piano) and Sikkil Gurucharan (vocals)

Red Earth and Pouring Rain
Read 4 tweets
30 Aug 20
88. How is it to be living in a world where the old Gods are yet to recede and the new God is yet to fully emerge and take form? Chaos, violence, fundamentalism, tradition -- a great Gore Vidal novel about an age when Christianity froths from the margin & becomes state religion. Image
89. To see man for who he truly is--a monster, a moron, & a miracle-- requires courage. But life is also love, betrayal, & unsteady virtues. Machiavelli's life was filled w/ all even if his diagnosis of man was called evil. He was a good husband, a doting father, & a kind friend. Image
90. Where does science happen? For many, scientific knowledge is an unsullied quest for empirical truths. But courtesy Steven Shapin, I learnt that what gets acknowledged as "scientific knowledge" is also subject to all that influences how humans ascribe authority & credibility. Image
Read 4 tweets
27 Aug 20
I was thinking about this play yesterday, and thought I'll make small thread for those interested.

1. This play ('Urubhangam', 'The Shattered Thighs') -- for which I've made a cover -- is a one-act [vyayoga] play by Bhasa, inspired from the Mahabharata, that ocean-sized epic.
2. First things first, this was the original Penguin cover -- of the plays in case any of you want to buy a recent translation of 6 plays.
3a. Set on the18th day of the Kurukshetra war, the Kaurava warlord Duryodhana who hides in a lake, wounded, then dies at the hands of Bhima thanks to Krishna's cunning, the blind king Dhritharashtra heads into the forest, & Ashwathamma sets out for the night-massacre of Pandavas.
Read 20 tweets
18 Jul 20
Vedic Names of Powers of Ten

VS = Vajasaneyi Samhita (SMH)
TS = Taittiriya SMH
KS1 = Kaathaka SMH 17.10
KS2 = Kaathaka SMH 39.6
MaitS = Maitraayanii SMH
PB = Panchavimsa Brahmana
JUB = Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana
SSS = Saankhyaana Srauta Sutra
Names of Decimal Places by Hindu mathematicians

AB = Aaryabhatiya
LP = Later Paulisiddhanta
PG = Patiganita
Tr = Trisatika
GT = Ganitatilaka
L = Lilavati
GK = Ganitakaumudi
Names of Decimal Places by the Buddhists

LV = Lalitavistara, chapter 12
AKB = bhashya (commentary) on Abhidhammakosha
Read 7 tweets
1 Jul 20
over the past few days I have been reading the great Colin Thubron's travels in China of 1985-86, just as it was opening up. It is a largely forgotten book about a lost in-between time -- a melancholic period after Mao's insanities but before McDonalds arrived.

Some excerpts.
1. A city of cycles
2. 'Flying Fairy Brand Fireworks'
Read 11 tweets
12 Jun 20
over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about covers of books that i have enjoyed/admire/learnt from. and so i asked, what do i take from the text, how did it make me see the world, and how can it be represented? so, i did some experiments.

a running thread. hopefully fun.
1. English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee

the sly ennui that Agastya Sen experiences is overwhelming, but it slowly it seemed tome that beneath all that urban Indian cynicism is a slow recognition that India is a strange, strange place.

[photo from a Satyajit Ray film] Image
2. The Legends of Khasak | O. V. Vijayan

The master wrote a fable abt the borderlands of Kerala-TN; but inside it are tightly wound historic, erotic, & folk anxieties, coiled up as legends, that somehow stay in place, till one day they stop playing ball w/ history.

[my photo] Image
Read 29 tweets
2 May 20
a thread:

Satyajit Ray at work...

[all photos by Nemai Ghosh, who documented Ray for over thirty years]
Read 11 tweets
25 Apr 20
Sri Krishnan Temple, Waterloo St, Singapore
Chamundeshwari temple, Mysore, Karnataka
Pura Lempuyang temple, Bali, Indonesia
Read 20 tweets
28 Feb 20
"At 71, Peter Piot is a rock-star virologist, the Mick Jagger of microbes. The man who helped discover Ebola when he was 27 & who led the fight against HIV-Aids is a legend in global health."…
“In 2002 UNAIDS issued the “Titanic Peril” report, which argued that China had many more cases of HIV than it was admitting. “It’s the only time that my then boss, Kofi Annan, called me on a Sunday. He said, ‘Peter, you’re a brave man, but nobody has ever won against China.""
"I remind him of @Laurie_Garrett's book The Coming Plague. In our arms race with microorganisms, are humans destined to lose? Piot quotes Louis Pasteur: “‘Messieurs’ — because they were all men in those days — ‘microbes will always have the last word.’”
Read 8 tweets
1 Feb 20
An excellent essay by Laura Spinney on how the Spanish flu of 1918 changed India ~ around 14-20 million people were killed, and laid low many others including Mahatma Gandhi who wrote when ill: “all [my] interest in the living had ceased”.…
The Global Spread of the Spanish Flue ~ 2nd wave, 1918

[see the figures of estimated mortality: ~6% of Gujarat’s population died; see South Africa and Alaska]
“Emergency hospital created to accommodate Spanish flu patients at the US Army’s Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918”
Read 9 tweets
9 Jan 20
on the occasion of Shri K. J. Yesudas' 80th birthday this year, a running thread of photos from his life...
as a young playback singer

[D. M. Pottekkat, Devarajan master, Vayalar Rama Varma, KJY]
Ravindra Jain, KJY &, P. Bhaskaran
Read 21 tweets
3 Jan 20
Husain and his newspaper at Nizamuddin in Delhi, Parthiv Shah, 1994 Image
from ‘jana aranya’, directed by satyajit ray, 1975-76, photo by nemai ghosh Image
'Portrait of Space', Siwa, Egypt, Lee Miller, 1937

[on this image…] Image
Read 136 tweets
25 Dec 19
since it is the christmas holidays, something fun:

here is a Sanskrit verse from 15thC Kerala in south India by a mathematician Madhava (~1360-1420)

vibudhanetragajaahihutaasanatrigunavedabhavaarannabaahavah I
navanikharvamite vrrtivistare paridhimaanam idam jagadur budhaah ||
what does this mean?

"Gods, eyes, elephants, snakes, fires, three, qualities, Vedas, the constellations, elephants, and arms -- the wise say that this is of the circumference when the diameter of a circle is nine hundred billion."
a while ago, i had tweeted a thread about the Katapayadi system [if interested see here: ]

lesser known is the 'bhootasankhya' system -- which refers to the 'bhootanam sankhya' or 'numbers linked to (spectral?) beings'
Read 12 tweets
14 Sep 19
A short thread on the Katapayadi schema which I mention in the essay below, wherein numbers are concealed/correlated in words. Hiding numbers in words, traditional cryptology, transmuting words into numbers — all have a long & obscure history. Katapayadi is one such system.
But first, let’s talk about sex.

Per the Kamasutra, among the 64 arts a courtesan ought to know: 45th is “secret writing” [‘mlechchita-vikalpa’]

Two types exist: one, is called ‘kautilyam’ (letter substitutions), another is ‘muladeviya’ (interchange a for k, t and p etc).
I had learnt the Katapayadi schema as a child in my obligatory Carnatic music lessons. In it 7-note “main” ragas were arranged thus [see image].

Then, I forgot about it all, till recently.

Amusing how one’s past hides in the bushes, awaiting an opportunity to reappear.
Read 19 tweets