Archive for September, 2010

One of the iconic stars of yesteryears Tony Curtis died of cardiac arrest in his Nevada home on Thursday. He was 85 which for an actor does not say a thing. All I can think of him is as Josephine Sax in Some Like It Hot. If he could pass for a woman at least while it lasted well age is of no importance. I saw him in many other movies; of his career what better tribute one can give other than his resilience and never-say-die attitude made him survive the stiff competition of being an actor without ending up as a has-been. He reinvented himself as an accomplished artist and as a human being. In the final analysis there is a Sweet Smell of Success about him.
Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925, the son of Hungarian Jews who had emigrated to the United States after World War I. His father, Manny Schwartz, had yearned to be an actor, but work was hard to find with his heavy accent. He settled for tailoring jobs, moving the family repeatedly as he sought work.

“I was always the new kid on the block, so I got beat up by the other kids,” Curtis recalled in 1959. “I had to figure a way to avoid getting my nose broken. So I became the crazy new kid on the block.”

After serving on a submarine during World War II, he enrolled in drama school on the G.I. Bill and was doing theater work when an agent lined up an audition with Universal, where he signed a seven-year contract starting at $100 a week at age 23. He worked in some memorable roles and had to speak some memorable lines and for which I am thankful.
In Some Like It Hot
Sugar is trying to get Joe interested and they are in a yacht. Sugar kisses him as warmly as she could. She waits for his response.
Joe:I get a funny sensation in my toes-like somebody was barbecuing them over a slow flame.’
Sugar is hopeful and kisses again.
Joe (encouragingly): ‘I think you are on the right track.’
Sugar: I must be –because your glasses are beginning to steam up.

Thanks for the memories, Tony. You earned your rest.
(ack: David Germaine-AP movie reporter)

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Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Even when a child, Johnson was noted for his great capacity for repartee and one day when his mother in a burst of anger called him a ‘puppy’ he instantly retorted, “Do you know what they call a puppy’s mother?”
Johnson was noted for his deep seated prejudice against Scotsmen. The first meeting between him and his future biographer James Boswell was arranged by Davis, a common friend. Boswell had instructed him not to divulge his country of origin to Johnson.
But Davis after introducing Boswell to Johnson mischievously added “from Scotland.” Boswell excused himself by saying, “Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.”
Johnson’s retort was, “That, sir, I find, is what many of your countrymen cannot help.”
On another occasion when Boswell tried to defend his country by saying that Scotland could boast of plenty of meat and drink Johnson replied, “Why, yes, sir meat and drink enough to give the inhabitants sufficient strength to run away from home.”
In his eyes the noblest prospect which, a Scotsman could ever see was the high road that led him to England.
Johnson never allowed himself to be nonplussed by his inability to give a logical reply to an argument. He would turn around the discussion to his advantage by giving a witty or sarcastic comment about his opponent, which was summed up by Oliver Goldsmith as thus, “There’s no arguing with Johnson;for when his pistol misses ,he knocks you down with the butt end of it.”
Once the discussion was centered on the efficacy of medicated bath and Johnson had little faith in it. But one gentleman present put up a logical argument in its favor by saying that medicated vapors entered through the pores of the skin and this had a beneficial effect on the sick person. All except Johnson was impressed. Johnson had this to say, Well, sr, go to Dominicetti and get thyself fumigated; but be sure that the steam be directed to thy head,for that is the diseased part.”
When a gentleman remarked to him, “I don’t understand you, sir,” Johnson retorted, “Sir, I found you an argument ;but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.”
When Boswell once remarked that he had listened to a woman’s sermon, Johnson replied, “Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
In 1783, Mrs.Siddons a great Shakespearean actress, a formidable lady in her own right called on him. On arriving she found there was no chair ready for her. Observing this Johnson commented, “You, madam, who so often occasion a want of seats to other people, will the more easily excuse the want of one yourself.”
Dr. Johnson once attended a concert much against his will. During the violin solo, his companion leaned over and remarked to Johnson squirming in his seats, “That is a very difficult passage.”
“Difficult do you call it, sir?” grumbled Johnson, “I wish it were impossible.”
Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson and Sir. Joshua Reynolds were chatting together and Goldsmith said he intends to write a fable. He cited The Fable of the Little Fishes and said the trick was in making them talk like little fishes. As he thought loud of his proposed fable Dr. Johnson could not help laughing loudly.
Irritated Goldsmith referring to Johnsonian bombastic style said, “Why, Dr. Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem to think, for if you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales”.
It was his dictionary that made his name. In the wake of his success many paid him generous compliments for his achievement. Two ladies were all praises for his leaving out naughty words.
“What my dears!” Johnson said, “then you have been looking for them?”

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In the book of Genesis a river flows from Eden;in the book of Revelation(22:3) we read the river flowing from the midst of the thrones of God and the Son. In the first book the river branches into four streams while in the last book the river once again is one.
First of all how did the river originate when God did not cause rains to fall? The mists or moisture percolating from the ground must have welled up to make this river begin its course, watering the Garden on the east. The Will of God controls the events as making of a river is the result of many chains of events. These four streams must be seen as chains of events caused by the divine Will. At the end of the same Will having accomplished his purpose, shall be as one. The Alpha and Omega of his Will, the Beginning and the Last of our cosmos carry within the single, manifold events that we are confronted with. We may rightly speak of various theories as there are four streams drawn from divine Purpose, to explain our experience.
So to deny Science explain these from what is best capable of is a waste of time. Art, Science etc., man’s highest attempts to justify his reason is right in its own way. Our reasoning power and creative power is finite and is right up to a point,according to time and place but divine Will must bear all these. Every division, variation that we have incorporated in our existence must be part and parcel of his Will.

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‘A new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.
Here is a news item from AP news service:
‘Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.’
Marx rightly said ‘Religion is the opium of the masses.’ Why is it an opiate but for the hereafter? The brutes who cannot think for themselves to better their lot and get what rightly belongs to them, they let themselves instead to be led by the hand. If the hereafter is their destination it stands to reason they would know well what are the rules of engagement while they have time. Now is day of their salvation, in the simple act of living,making their home and community thrive in the work of their hands and in the trust,patience and in the warmth of their hearts. Evil of religion is only seen in those who haven’t looked beyond their moral instruction and have ceased to put them to practice. No these fools pride themselves in their religion and and deny even the basic tenets that religion demands of them. The golden rule is golden in so many religious belief- systems. But how many do you think observes that rule freely and with pleasure? Religion of hate is where rascals pride in their hate and make a cesspool of misery for everyone else. The Jihadists who sow terror do not mind if the number of their own brethren were lost in the violence as long as their terror brought them media attention. In Israel the conservative Jews will see that the Palestinians their own brethren from Abraham is made to crawl for water, air and shelter. How did these Orthodox Jews get such callous hearts? Simple. Like Pharisees of old their tradition made them careless of their obligations, simple courtesies you owe to your fellow beings. These sepulchers,- white and gilded, hold in their heart religion to animate them.
Why limit to Americans? Ask in other parts of the world what their religion means to them. They shall certainly come up with a harangue of their saints,monks,sanyasin and glorious tradition. You probe them beyond their impasssioned pleas and seek the basic tenets you will see they are no bigger ignoramuses than the Jews and Moslems.
Religion can only be made glorious by your life,love and service in cause of others who may be of another religion or persuasion. You disgrace Allah, Jehovah,God and your prophets by speaking on their behalf and yet distance from their hearts.

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On the festival eve the slaves gathered together for the Happy Hour, a custom that the master had allowed on special occasions. There they sat around reclining on boards. Before them were plates of meat, vegetables, dry fruits and cheese set on tables. Of course there were plenty of wine to drink. Aesop sat between two slaves who had a running feud between them only put under the lid because of their master. Here they were drinking merrily and trading insults while Aesop sat between. Archilochus who looked after the cellar kept at it while Bolus returned insult for insult. At one point Archilochus hit the floor stone drunk. Instantly Bolus took over and gently guided him out and helped to get over the effects of the drink. It surprised Aesop and he asked Bolus when he returned to the drink. Bolus explained he knew the limit of his enemy. “He can hold it only so much, no more.”
Seeing his puzzled expression he added, “I am subject to fits. When it comes he is the only one who know the signs and he sees to that I do not hurt myself.” Later when Aesop narrated the incident Hesiod said, “It is only good sense to see your best interests above what differences you may have with others.”
(Selected from The Life of Aesop)

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One wintry evening in Ferrara Don Juan Belvidero was entertaining one of the princes of the House of Este. The sumptuousness of the banquet and the celebrated beauties who were present underscored the fabled wealth of the host. He could well afford to spend lavishly since his father who was old and decrepit could die any moment. His father had accumulated wealth wisely and let the only son of his late marriage live as grandly as his expectations warranted. The only trouble was that the old man was in no danger of dying. He lived in a wing of the palace alone as a recluse with only a dog for company. This indestructibility of his sire was well known and over the cups the guests could well tease Don Juan about his father.”Yes, when is that father of yours going to die?” asked one who was too lovely to offend any and the host somewhat drunk replied, ‘Oh! don’t talk about it,” cried Don Juan, the young and handsome giver of the banquet. “There is but one eternal father, and, as ill luck will have it, he is mine.”
At that moment the valet of his father rushed in horror writ large in his face. “My lord, your father is dying!” he said; and at those solemn words, uttered in hollow tones, a veil of crape seemed to be drawn over the
wild mirth.
Don Juan rose to his feet with a gesture to his guests that might be rendered by, “Excuse me; this kind of thing does not happen every day.”Don Juan closed the door of the banqueting-hall; and as he went down
the long gallery, through the cold and darkness, he strove to assume an
expression in keeping with the part he had to play. He became thoughtful, like a man involved
in a lawsuit on his way to the Court.
His father struggling to keep himself alive as though he had a matter of vital import to leave for his son fell back in his death bed somewhat relaxed.”Poor Juanino,” the dying man went on, in a smothered voice, “I have always been so kind to you, that you could not surely desire my death?” “Oh, if it were only possible to keep you here by giving up a part of my
own life!” cried Don Juan.
The thought had scarcely crossed his mind when the old poodle barked.
Don Juan shivered; the response was so intelligent that he fancied the
dog must have seen through his hypocrisy.
“I was sure that I could count upon you, my son!” cried the dying man.
“I shall live. So be it; you shall be satisfied. I shall live, but
without depriving you of a single day of your life.”

“He is raving,” thought Don Juan. Aloud he added, “Yes, dearest father,
yes; you shall live, of course, as long as I live, for your image will
be for ever in my heart.”

“It is not that kind of life that I mean,” said the old noble, summoning
all his strength to sit up in bed; for a thrill of doubt ran through
him, one of those suspicions that come into being under a dying man’s
pillow. “Listen, my son,” he went on, in a voice grown weak with that
last effort, “I have no more wish to give up life than you to give up
wine and mistresses, horses and hounds, and hawks and gold—-”

“I can well believe it,” thought the son; and he knelt down by the bed
and kissed Bartolommeo’s cold hands. “But, father, my dear father,” he
added aloud, “we must submit to the will of God.”

“I am God!” muttered the dying man.

“Do not blaspheme!” cried the other, as he saw the menacing expression
on his father’s face. “Beware what you say; you have received extreme
unction, and I should be inconsolable if you were to die before my eyes
in mortal sin.”

“Will you listen to me?” cried Bartolommeo, and his mouth twitched.

Don Juan held his peace; an ugly silence prevailed. Yet above the
muffled sound of the beating of the snow against the windows rose the
sounds of the beautiful voice and the viol in unison, far off and faint
as the dawn. The dying man smiled.

“Thank you,” he said, “for bringing those singing voices and the music,
a banquet, young and lovely women with fair faces and dark tresses, all
the pleasure of life! Bid them wait for me; for I am about to begin life

“The delirium is at its height,” said Don Juan to himself.

“I have found out a way of coming to life again,” the speaker went on.
“There, just look in that table drawer, press the spring hidden by the
griffin, and it will fly open.”

“I have found it, father.”

“Well, then, now take out a little phial of rock crystal.”

“I have it.”

“I have spent twenty years in—-” but even as he spoke the old man felt
how very near the end had come, and summoned all his dying strength
to say, “As soon as the breath is out of me, rub me all over with that
liquid, and I shall come to life again.”

“There is very little of it,” his son remarked.

Though Bartolommeo could no longer speak, he could still hear and see.
When those words dropped from Don Juan, his head turned with appalling
quickness, his neck was twisted like the throat of some marble statue
which the sculptor had condemned to remain stretched out for ever, the
wide eyes had come to have a ghastly fixity.

He was dead, and in death he lost his last and sole illusion.

He had sought a shelter in his son’s heart, and it had proved to be a
sepulchre, a pit deeper than men dig for their dead. The hair on his
head had risen and stiffened with horror, his agonized glance still
spoke. He was a father rising in just anger from his tomb, to demand
vengeance at the throne of God.

“There! it is all over with the old man!” cried Don Juan.

He had been so interested in holding the mysterious phial to the lamp that he had
not seen his father’s eyes fade. The cowering poodle looked from his
master to the elixir, just as Don Juan himself glanced again and again
from his father to the flask. The lamplight flickered. There was a
deep silence; the viol was mute. Juan Belvidero thought that he saw his
father stir, and trembled. The changeless gaze of those accusing eyes
frightened him; he closed them hastily, as he would have closed a
loose shutter swayed by the wind of an autumn night. He stood there
motionless, lost in a world of thought. When he was sure his father was dead he knew what must be done. Don Juan the sceptic shut the flask again in the secret drawer in the
Gothic table–he meant to run no more risks of losing the mysterious
Don Juan Belvidero was looked upon as a dutiful son. He reared a
white marble monument on his father’s tomb, and employed the greatest
sculptors of the time upon it.
With such fabled wealth he was beyond reproach and knew all those principles that made man obey the dictates of the society and adherance to religion, morals were not for him. Like his father he married late. But of set purpose he was neither a good husband nor a good father. Don Juan had learned wisdom
from the mistakes made by his father Bartolommeo; he determined that
the least details of his life in old age should be subordinated to one
object–the success of the drama which was to be played out upon his

For the same reason the largest part of his wealth was buried in the
cellars of his palace at Ferrara, whither he seldom went. As for the
rest of his fortune, it was invested in a life annuity, with a view to
give his wife and children an interest in keeping him alive; but this
Machiavellian piece of foresight was scarcely necessary. His son, young
Felipe Belvidero, grew up as a Spaniard as religiously conscientious
as his father was irreligious, in virtue, perhaps, of the old rule, “A
miser has a spendthrift son.”
It was on a beautiful summer evening that Don Juan felt the near
approach of death. The sky of Spain was serene and cloudless like the expression
of his son a dutiful and obedient son who sat there watching him with
loving and respectful eyes. Towards eleven o’clock he desired to be left
alone with this dutiful being.

“Felipe,” said the father, in tones so soft and affectionate that the
young man trembled, and tears of gladness came to his eyes; never had
that stern father spoken his name in such a tone. “Listen, my son,” the
dying man went on. “I am a great sinner. All my life long, however, I
have thought of my death. I was once the friend of the great Pope
Julius II.; and that illustrious Pontiff, fearing lest the excessive

excitability of my senses should entangle me in mortal sin between the
moment of my death and the time of my anointing with the holy oil, gave
me a flask that contains a little of the holy water that once issued
from the rock in the wilderness. I have kept the secret of this
squandering of a treasure belonging to Holy Church, but I am permitted
to reveal the mystery in articulo mortis to my son. You will find the
flask in a drawer in that Gothic table that always stands by the head
of the bed…. The precious little crystal flask may be of use yet again
for you, dearest Felipe. Will you swear to me, by your salvation, to
carry out my instructions faithfully?”

Felipe looked at his father, and Don Juan was too deeply learned in the
lore of the human countenance not to die in peace with that look as his
warrant, as his own father had died in despair at meeting the expression
in his son’s eyes.
“As soon as I have closed my eyes,” Don Juan went on, “and that may be
in a few minutes, you must take my body before it grows cold and lay it
on a table in this room. Then put out the lamp; the light of the stars
should be sufficient. Take off my clothes, reciting Aves and Paters the
while, raising your soul to God in prayer, and carefully anoint my
lips and eyes with this holy water; begin with the face, and proceed
successively to my limbs and the rest of my body; my dear son, the power
of God is so great that you must be astonished at nothing.”

Don Juan felt death so near, that he added in a terrible voice, “Be
careful not to drop the flask.”

Then he breathed his last gently in the arms of his son, and his son’s
tears fell fast over his sardonic, haggard features.

It was almost midnight when Don Felipe Belvidero laid his father’s body
upon the table. He kissed the sinister brow and the gray hair; then he
put out the lamp.

By the soft moonlight that lit strange gleams across the country
without, Felipe could dimly see his father’s body, a vague white thing
among the shadows. The dutiful son moistened a linen cloth with the
liquid, and, absorbed in prayer, he anointed the revered face. A deep
silence reigned. Felipe heard faint, indescribable rustlings; it was the
breeze in the tree-tops, he thought. But when he had moistened the right
arm, he felt himself caught by the throat, a young strong hand held him
in a tight grip–it was his father’s hand! He shrieked aloud; the flask
dropped from his hand and broke in pieces. The liquid evaporated; the
whole household hurried into the room, holding torches aloft. That
shriek had startled them, and the room was full of people, and a horror-stricken crowd beheld the
fainting Felipe upheld by the strong arm of his father, who clutched
him by the throat. They saw another thing, an unearthly spectacle–Don
Juan’s face grown young and beautiful once again.
An old servitor cried, “A miracle! a miracle!” and all the Spaniards
echoed, “A miracle! a miracle!”

Dona Elvira, too pious to attribute this to magic, sent for the Abbot of
San-Lucar; and the Prior beholding the miracle with his own eyes, being
a clever man knew how to turn this to profit. He immediately gave out
that Don Juan would certainly be canonized; he appointed a day for the
celebration of the apotheosis in his convent, which thenceforward, he
said, should be called the convent of San Juan of Lucar. At these words
a sufficiently facetious grimace passed over the features of the late
On the day appointed the church was chokeful of people curious and deeply
reverential of the miracle. Above that blazing sea, rose the high altar like a splendid
dawn. All the glories of the golden lamps
and silver candlesticks, of banners and tassels, of the shrines of the
saints and votive offerings, paled before the gorgeous brightness of
the reliquary in which Don Juan lay. The blasphemer’s body sparkled with
gems, and flowers, and crystal, with diamonds and gold, and plumes white
as the wings of seraphim; they had set it up on the altar, where the
pictures of Christ had stood. All about him blazed a host of tall
candles; the air quivered in the radiant light. The worthy Abbot of
San-Lucar, in pontifical robes, with his mitre set with precious stones,
his rochet and golden crosier, sat enthroned in imperial state among his
clergy in the choir.
Te Deum laudamus!

The chant went up from the black masses of men and women kneeling in
the cathedral, like a sudden breaking out of light in darkness, and the
silence was shattered as by a peal of thunder. Even at the moment when
that music of love and thanksgiving soared up to the altar, Don Juan,
too well bred not to express his acknowledgments, too witty not
to understand how to take a jest, bridled up in his reliquary, and
responded with an appalling burst of laughter. Then the Devil having put
him in mind of the risk he was running of being taken for an ordinary
man, a saint, he interrupted the melody of love by a yell,
the thousand voices of hell joined in it.
Te Deum laudamus! cried the many voices.

“Go to the devil, brute beasts that you are! ” and a
torrent of blasphemies fell non-stop.

Deus Sabaoth!… Sabaoth!” cried the believers.

“You are insulting the majesty of Hell,” shouted Don Juan, gnashing his
teeth. In another moment the living arm struggled out of the reliquary,
and was brandished over the assembly in mockery and despair.

“The saint is blessing us,” cried the old women, children, lovers, and
the credulous among the crowd.

Just as the Abbot, prostrate before the altar, was chanting “Sancte
Johannes, ora pro noblis!” he heard a voice exclaim sufficiently
distinctly: “O coglione!

“What can be going on up there?” cried the Sub-prior, as he saw the
reliquary move.

“The saint is playing the devil,” replied the Abbot.

Even as he spoke the living head tore itself away from the lifeless
body, and dropped upon the sallow cranium of the officiating priest.

“Remember Dona Elvira!” cried the thing, with its teeth set fast in the
Abbot’s head.

The Abbot’s horror-stricken shriek disturbed the ceremony; all the
ecclesiastics hurried up and crowded about their chief.

“Idiot, tell us now if there is a God!” the voice cried, as the Abbot,
bitten through the brain, drew his last breath.
The end
Ack:based on the story by Balzac

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Agnes Dei

When God breathed into the nostrils of man something happened to him. He became a living soul. His will came into an active mode. Thoughts, action and emotions that engaged him was not something that was mechanical; but instead it could take flights of fancy. Love for instance. Looking at other creatures (that came into being as a result of an expression of divine Will) man saw they were fine in their own right but nothing was a substitute for woman. Being a living soul his love had to be narrowed down to something that spoke to his soul. It was man’s exercise of his will.
Whereas the Will of God was of another kind. His love made every creature submit to his Will, man and beasts of the field alike. Lamb of God is an imagery that God the Son has used to instruct the man. Holy Spirit in making the lamb a symbol teaches universality of divine love and a particular characteristic man associated with lamb: innocence.
Will of man has his limits but that of God all encompassing.

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Angel Abdiel conducted the seraph to the Gates of Paradise and knocked. Gabriel who manned the Gates wanted to know why the seraph from Pandemonium was there. Abdiel said,’ He is from Pandemonium but he has had a change of heart.’
Abdiel was sure that a look at God, the father would convince him the error of his ways. Gabriel let him in.
Abdiel flew in followed close at heels by the seraph. They went round and round and in the end the seraph asked: ‘Where is God whose image we worship in Pandemonium?’
Abdiel said,’ Why his image?’
‘Man is made in his image. So is written. So he must have an image.’ The Angel replied, ‘You must be really fom Pandemonium. So many sects each interpreting the Word after his fashion can be dizzying. I can understand that.’ But Abdiel was sure that he got it all wrong.
He explained man was created in the nature of God. The seraph shook his head violently as though it were a preposterous suggestion. Abdiel tried another tack. ‘The will of man,- from where did he get that?’
‘You mean man was created in the image of divine Will?
‘Of course.’
But then man was expelled from God?’
‘Why not?’ Abdiel asked,’ Adam thought his will was greater than that of God?
The seraph fell silent. Then it dawned on him and he asked, ‘So Paradise is only for those who remain within his Will?
In the end seraph asked timidly,’ Can I remain then here?’
Abdiel turned to him and fixed his eyes on him. He said,’You really mean it?’
At that there was a whirlwind and it became a light breeze. Abdiel whispered ,’There is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the worlds,- with the book of Life.’ The seraph didn’t know what was going on. He saw nothing.Neither the lamb or Son of man but the luminous outline of a scroll in which he saw his own name. His own name!
‘I see my own name!’ He asked in a bustle, ‘when was this written?’
Abdiel said casually,’Before the worlds began. It was in the will of God, you know.’
Seraph felt a thrill:’So my coming here was determined even before we set out?’
‘Sure.’ Abdiel said,’You coming to see him was,- what shall I say, placing your will subordinate to his.’
‘So the divine Will would have no one perish?’
Angel Abdiel didn’t answer, There was plenty of time for seraph to understand mysteries of divine Will.
Tailpiece: For God Time and Space signifies not in the sense these concepts mean to us. If he were subject to these he would not be Immortal or Omnipresent. Wisdom and Power is the essence of his Will. He willed it and heavens and the earth came into being. Man calls it the Big Bang, Evolution and so on.
‘ ‘

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Sir.Rchard Francis Burton in the autumn of 1852 approached the Royal Geographical Society and offered his services to visit the Central and Eastern regions of Arabia. In his time these areas were left blank since no one had systematically mapped it. Considering the dangers it entailed he was allowed instead a three year leave of absence on special duty from India to Muscat. To smoothen the disappointment of turning down his request his superiors added one more year furlough to pursue his Arabic studies in lands where the language was best learned.
Al-Hijaz was the most difficult and the most dangerous point by which a European can enter Arabia. He had intended,
to cross the unknown Arabian Peninsula, in a direct line from either Al-Madinah to
Muscat, or diagonally from Meccah to Makallah on the Indian Ocean. Another object of undertaking this visit was to find out if any market for horsescould be opened between Central Arabia and India, where the studs were falling in standard. Burton found on the Eastern regions some specimen worth looking into and nothing on the Western, where the
animals, though thorough-bred, were ‘weeds’ and at exorbitant prices. Another reason that took him there was to obtain information concerning the Great Eastern wilderness, Rub’a
al-Khai (the “Empty Abode”) in the West; to inquire into the
hydrography of the Hijaz, its water-shed, the disputed slope of the
country, and the existence or non-existence of perennial streams; and
finally, to try, by actual observation, the truth of a theory proposed
by Colonel W. Sykes, and verify the common origin of
the Arab family.
Burton’s foray into the Peninsula led him to believe there were three distinct races.
1. The aborigines of the country, driven into the eastern and south-eastern wilds bordering upon the
ocean. 2. A Syrian or Mesopotamian stock, typified by Shem and Joktan, that drove the aborigines mentioned first; these
invaders now represent the true and proper Arabian people.
Thirdly an impure Syro-Egyptian clan-we personify it by Ishmael, by his son Nabajoth, and by Edom.
Burton’s noted as follows regarding the simple act of drinking between an Indian Moslem and an Englishman.
‘For what polite Chesterfield says of the difference between a gentleman and his reverse-namely, that both perform the same
offices of life, but each in a several and widely different way-is notably as applicable to the manners of the Eastern as of the Western man. Look, for instance, at that Indian Moslem drinking a glass of water. With us the operation is simple enough, but his performance includes no fewer than five novelties. In the first place he clutches his tumbler as though it were the throat of a foe; secondly, he ejaculates, “In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful!”before wetting his lips; thirdly, he imbibes the contents, swallowing them, not sipping them as he ought to do, and ending with a satisfied
grunt; fourthly, before setting down the cup, he sighs forth, “Praise be to Allah”-of which you will understand the full meaning in the Desert; and, fifthly, he replies, “May Allah make it pleasant to thee!”
in answer to his friend’s polite “Pleasurably and health!” Also he is careful to avoid the irreligious action of drinking the pure element in a standing position, mindful, however, of the three recognised exceptions, the fluid of the Holy Well Zemzem, water distributed in charity, and that which remains after Wuzu, the lesser ablution.
Moreover, in Europe, where both extremities are used indiscriminately, one forgets the exclusive use of the right hand, the manipulation of the rosary, the abuse of the chair,-your genuine Oriental gathers up his legs, looking almost as comfortable in it as a sailor upon the back of a high-trotting -the rolling gait with the toes straight to the
front, the grave look and the habit of pious ejaculations’.(selected:Pilgimage to Meccah and Al-Medinah)

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