An Alternative History of 2011

Posted by sepoy on December 19, 2011 · 11 mins read

I like to think I wrote a fair amount this year - maybe not as much as last year but still, a fair amount. But I also have a bunch of posts stuck in the "Draft" view. Gonna delete them, but here are the snippets for what-might-have-beens.


Yesterday, I went to see Schätzes des Agha Khan at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. Later, on the U-Bahn, I tried to rationalize why I was rather disappointed in the curator-ship. Most of the list which formed - think Africa is not a country, chronology is not a suggestion, objects have uses etc. - led back to a discussion I witnessed on the future of Museums in Berlin in early 2010. I had meant to write about it, but clearly I missed
link, link...


Sir Alexander Cunningham and the Beginnings of Indian Archaeology (Dacca: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 1966), 53n.Schmidt, Richard. (1898) Śrīvara's Kathākautuka. Die Geschichte von Joseph in persisch- indischem Gewande. Sanskrit und Deutsch. Kiel.


Roma, Zigeuner, Tzigane, Gitanos, Zincali, Zutt, Jats.
In Johann Zedler's 1749 Lexicon aller Wissenschaften und Kuenste they are wicked and godless. In Denis Diderot's 1750 dictionary they are vagabonds who will trick you. "c'est ainsi qu'on appelle des vagabonds qui font prosession de dire la bonne aventure, à l'inspection des mains. Leur talent est de chanter, danser, & voler." By 1783 they were connected to India - philologically - as in Johann Rüdiger's Von der Sprache und Herkunft der Zigeuner aus Indien


The soundtrack to my recent trip: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


I haven't actually read Mohsin Hamid's short story, Terminator: Attack of the Drone.

I joked on twitter about Hamid confusing two movie franchises.

I also commented that he was channeling Toni Morrison's Beloved. In terms of the patois.

Ok, I read the first paragraph.

I was totally turned off his short-story in Granta: Pakistan issue which was some first-person account of a beheading.

I didn't like it.

And I didn't like his essay on how Pakistan is teh Awesome in an edited volume I reviewed.

Like is a flimsy word. I was angry at that essay.

I have not read his novels, except that first one.

Given all that, I am not going to say anything about the Mohsin Hamid short-story. I want to rant however on the idiocy that compels us to theorize all around the issue of the drone except to the basic point: they are a form of illegal warfare that eliminates human beings without any specific criminal judgement. Let alone civilians, the drones kill members of a violent group itself without any


Much "academic" work taunts and haunts, but some rabbit holes are just too enticing. One is the moon.

The light streaming down from the moon has no part in the theater of our daily existence. The terrain so deceptively illuminated by it seems to belong to some counter-earth or alternate earth. It is an earth different from that to which the moon is subject as satellite, for it is itself transformed into a satellite of the moon. Its broad bosom, whose breath was time, stirs no longer; the creation has finally made its way back home, and can again don the widow's veil which the day had torn off. The pale beam the stole into my room through the blinds gave me to understand this. The course ofmy sleep was disturbed; the moon cut through it with its coming and going. When it was there in the room and I awoke, I was effectively unhoused, for my room seemed willing to accommodate no one besides the moon.
- Benjamin, Berlin Childhood around 1900, p. 115

(my thanks to KP)

From KāvyamÄ«māṃsā (found in Bhojaprabandha — later text/collection), p.46, Dalal, Sastri edition, (transl. mine, feel free to improve if you wanna use it)
For men who are together with beloved, long night is diminished to a moment,
when they are separated the coolest moon is heating like fire.
Since I have neither a beloved nor separation, for me, in both situations
the moon shines in a form of a mirror, neither cool nor hot.

An Anthology of Sanskrit Poetry, Vidyākara's Subhaṣitaratnakoṣa, tr. by Ingalls
You have not seen my mistress' face, cakoras,
its charms arranged by Love himself;
for had you seen its perfect loveliness,
how could you relish still the taste of moonlight? [Rājaśekhara] p.170 v.411

Cast your glance beyond the hedge and guess
what cool-rayed orb is this
that wanders on the earth without its deer.
The cakoras of the park, who feed on only nectar,
follow as she scatters moonlight
white as ripened parrot-plum. [Rājaśekhara] p.175 v.447

You listened not to words of friends,
you heeded not your relatives' advice;
but when your dearest fell before your feet
you struck him with the lily from your ear.
So now the moon is burning hot
and sandal paste turn into fire,
the nights each last a thousand years
and the lotus necklace weighs like iron. [Amaru?] p.231 v.702

“Like to a fire surrounded by sharp rays —
a very wonder. Can the sun my friend,
be rising even now at night?”
My sweet, it is the moon.”
“But how should moonlight bring me fever?”
“Ah, what is not contrary, child,
to one without her husband!” [Puṣṭika] p.238 v.738

At me the bow of Love shoots arrows fiercely,
the humming of the bees brings pain
and the moon casts rays of fire;
but these being shamed by the alluring beauty
of my darling's brow, her sweet-toned voice, her face,
I fare not think what angry measures
the three may take with her. [Śāntākaragupta] p/247 v.776

Your birth was from the sea of milk;
Śrī was your sister, the kaustubha jewel your brother;
your friends are waterlilies and your beams
flow with ambrosia, while your face
is rival to the lotus face of women;
how then, oh moon, crest jewel of God,
should you poor forth on me these painful fires? [Rājaśekhara] p.250 v. 799

Drink all this sea, cakora birds, of moonlight
darting your beaks out as you raise your necks,
that the moon thus reft of brilliance spare the lives
of those who pine in separation from their loves. [Rājaśekhara] p.250 v.800

The moon was born of the same womb as poison;
the sandalwood is known to shelter snakes;
pearls are raised from the salty sea
and lotuses are lovers of sun.
How then could anything exist in these
to assuage the flames of love?
But by mistake of their appearance
we forget the truth and are deceived. [Rājaśekhara] p.250-1 v.801

Grieve not, oh earth; the darkness will not last.
Be happy, lily pond; do not despair cakoras.
The moon now rises, a lamp to all the world,
sole mountain from which flow
all streams of moonlight nectar. [Rājaśrī] p.273 v.899

The cat, thinking its rays are milk,
licks them from the dish;
the elephant, seeing them woven through the lattice of the trees,
takes them for lotus stems;
the damsel after love would draw them from her couch
as if they were her dress:
see how the moon in its pride of light
has cozened all the world. [Bhāsa?] p.274 v. 905
*(I know it's not exactly what you need but I like this verse )

The moon, which here has multiplied its light,
checkered with spots of darkness by the beaks
of cakora birds unsteady with intoxication,
constructs a graceful foliage of finger painting
to serve for strewing on the couches
of damsels weary from their bouts of love. p.278 v.929

A palace for the sports of damsels fair as moonlight,
a lake whose waves are nectar,
a lump of butter churned from the sea of milk,
a waterstone for cooling the earth's fever,
forehead ornament of night, sole recourse of those in love:
the moon climbs into heaven, a rain of camphor,
giving its light to the suppliant cakoras. p.282 v.955

Two or three stars are left, the color of old pearls;
the cakoras sleep, inert of limb from drinking of the moonlight.
The moon, pale as an empty honey comb, goes to the Western Hill.
while the east receives the color of a kitten's eyes. [Rājaśekhara] p.284 v. 964


“As the Romans liked to say, Solvitur ambulando! (Solve it by walking.)”
--Edward Casey,




Usman Hamid | December 21, 2011

Not to sound too much like a North American tenure committee but we await news/updates on your publications. We non-specialists await your comments on the Maclean/Wink debate.

sepoy | December 21, 2011

Um, as far as I am concerned I solved it in my diss. Ahem

Qalandar | December 22, 2011

"Rabbit hole" is apt for the post-that-could-have-been on the moon: amidst a late night at the office (no moon in sight, only tube-lights), I was charmed and bewitched...

[Not Actually On] Sunday Reading [Because It's the Last One of the Old Year] « zunguzungu | December 31, 2011

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