Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gotama and Gauss

Gotama and Gauss
I dreamed, Gotama met with Gauss,
And left serenely, when he heard, “Heraus!”
It was a scene that could have seen some drama,
But did not see it, thanks to clear Gotama.

I also dreamed that Nietsche, meeting Gandhi,
Had hurled, at him, whatever then was handy.
And in my mind, this painted quite a picture,
With Gandhi dodging what was hurled by Nietsche.

And Marx was met by none than Sri Chaitanya,
Who chanted, “Charles, I prayed to God to find ya!”
Was Karl then ruffled, or provoked to sparks?
He muttered, “God – and you – get failing marks."

Though Kipling wrote that East and West won't meet,
I saw them meeting, though it wasn't sweet.
But sour or not, the western mind forgot.
The east remembered, as has been its lot.

I wandered then to western Asia, where
The "twain" have met, who each find hard to bear
The other's ways -- and where the prophets cried --
And far too often, via torture, died...

Muhammad meets with Jesus and with Moses.
And each of them has hooked, “Semitic” noses.
And each insists that his is the religion
Of the god they share, who scorns the others legion.

I wonder, should I join in this discussion,
But exercise, instead, a safe discretion.
Can humble folk like I, with these, dispute?
Where blood has flowed,  it's prudent to be  mute.

I bow then to these prophets three and pray,
"I wish you gentlemen a wondrous day.
I hope that humans all will take the best
Of what you offer -- and forgo the rest."

I traveled then to colder, northern climes,
Where things were moving fast, with modern times,
And revolutions and their deaths were seen
In spans so short as seemed, to some, obscene.

And in my dream, I saw that Lenin, he,
With Thatcher and with Reagan, chanced to be.
But Deng had come, with sundry things to sell,
And I awoke, for Mao was roaring, “Hell!”

But then I slept again – and Nehru smiled,
For he, with charm, had Jackie O beguiled.
Onassis then was dallying with Callas.
Michelle and Dubya danced away in Dallas.

So revolutions come and go, but this,
What humans do, to pass their days, persists.
And some say, "This is all." and others, "No!"
But most remain unsure, which way to go.

I tossed and turned in moral indignation,
And snored again in abject resignation.
Confucius and Lao Tse appeared and left,
And I again awoke – of all of them bereft.

I prayed then to the spirit of Tagore,
But saw, beside him, stood rotund Al Gore.
And as the white-beard sang of Nature's smile,
The round one lectured, “Her, we now defile.”

The sight of Nature, smiling, being raped,
Disturbed me much.  Her heaving breasts, I draped,
Within my mind, and slapped our bestial kin
On his behind, for such audacious sin.

But those of finance then arose in fury,
And I was killed, not seeing judge or jury,
By a missile fired from a drone that flew away,
In a sky of blue, on a Himalayan day...

But I survived – or else was resurrected,
Or else my waking was, of dreams, constructed.
And so, unlike the others, killed from high,
I sit and type these verses, asking, “Why?”

Gotama answers clearly, “It's because.”
And Gauss says, “I don't rhyme with words like “gauze”.
And Nietsche chases Gandhi all around,
While Marx cannot, by those who seek, be found.

And now – a spirit, sere -- it is Osama,
Of recent, killed, by order of Obama.
He has the eye, of one who knows that money
Can buy such things, as only he finds funny...

And Saddam too is risen from the grave.
He's spitting curses fit to cow the brave.
And Dubya's dodging shoes like he's a pro.
Yay, Dubya!  That's the way to go!

But Modi glowers fiercely.  He is bearded.
He gives a speech.  The millions, who have heard it,
Are cheering wildly.   I awake, in fear,
And see, it's dusk – and night is drawing near.

And so I huddle back within the covers,
And soon enough, a sprite, returning, hovers.
It's Omar, who has pity on our souls
As we pursue our e'er receding goals...

There are such things, as were, before we came
And will remain, when we have played the game
And left.  And pebbles, such, we find,
Upon the shore, that please our mortal mind.

And when we find companions, for awhile,
Who've seen what we have seen and smile,
The thrill of recognition of the truth
Is briefly shared, by those, whom such things suit.

If Bhaskara and Euler were to meet,
And Ramanujam too was there, to greet
Al Beruni, Gauss –  would Khayyam's wine
Then overflow his cup, in sphere divine?

So Euclid and Pythagoras are seated
With Al Khwarizmi. Talk is heated.
But I can see, they're smiling through it all.
That Eden past, such gentle smiles recall.

So Tolstoy sits with Gandhi and Tagore,
And of such trios, I see more and more.
And Ho Chi Minh has come to Chhattisgarh.
He wishes, there, with others, to confer...

Returning then, to Gauss and to Gotama,
And to that scene that could have seen of drama,
I wondered how these towering thinkers two,
Could be, like us, as errant humans too.

For though Gotama had disposed of ego,
He still was saddened at being ordered out.
And wondering, where a seer could go,
He saw a beer-hall, entered, ordered stout...

And there he sits, while sipping of the brew
Which others, who are bhikkus, must eschew.
Does he remember, still, that meal that led
To illness -- that, which left him cold and dead?

Perhaps.  But as he ponders, Gauss calculates,
And each new finding, quietly celebrates.
So east is east and west remains as west,
And each does that, which surely it does best.

But as it's time to wake, I do espy
That Lear and Carroll, walking, pass me by,
And Ray the father, laughing, walks with them.
But I must leave, and stifle my "Ahem!".

2013 November 15th, Fri. & 16th, Sat.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Note added:  The phrase "Ray the father" in the last stanza is ambiguous.  It was meant to refer to Sukumar Ray  (Xukumar Ro`e), the father of the film director Satyajit Ray (Xottojit Ro`e) -- and the grandfather of  Sandip Ray (Xondip Ro`e), also a filmmaker.  Sukumar Ray died at an early age, but produced several literary works, including Abol Tabol,  a classic volume of playful Bengali nonsense verses.  These are unique, and yet reminiscent of  the  poems of two Englishmen -- Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll (the mathematician Charles Dodgson).  
The Wikipedia article on Sukumar Ray has some insertions that need copy-editing.  A documentary film on him, directed by his son, Satyajit, with Sandip also mentioned in the subtitles, is available as video on YouTube.  It is well worth watching.  

Sukumar Ray also wrote a children's novel, Ho`jo`bo`ro`lo` (Hajabarala), inspired by Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.  It is alleged that  Steven Spielberg's film, E.T., was based on a screenplay by Satyajit Ray, meant for a Hollywood movie that never was.  Satyajit Ray used to illustrate his screenplays with sketches, and it is likely that the appearance of  the extraterrestrial in Spielberg's film derives  from one of these. 

The spelling of the the Rays' names, including the last name,  may be misleading to non-Bengalis, as regards pronunciation.  The conventional spellings (in both Roman transcription and in the Bengali script) are closer to representing how the names would be pronounced in, say, Hindi or (for the first names) in Sanskrt. These conventional spellings do not properly represent how they are currently pronounced in standard Bengali.

 With x representing the sh cluster of English spelling, and  t being a dental, as in the Latin languages, the pronunciations of the names may be better represented as Roy, Xukumar, Xottojit and  Xondip.  I had transcribed the last name, earlier, more systematically,  as Ro`e, but Roy will suffice here -- as there is an English name (as in Roy Rogers) that is pronounced as the Rays' last name should be pronounced. 

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