More than a decade ago, in an interview with Inlaks Scholarship committee, the chair, who was supposed to be one of the top scientists in India working on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, very arrogantly challenged me if I answered his question correctly (obviously what he thought to be correct) he would guarantee me the scholarship. Since I had also mentioned in my proposal that I was collaborating with a Sanskrit professor from Italy, the question was: “Why do foreigners study Sanskrit? Why do Italians study Sanskrit?” As stupid as I might have sounded to him, I was innocently practical and I started telling him the historical tale narrating a long story that started with Giuseppe Tucci and ended with Francesco Sferra. Very boring indeed. Unfortunately, this is not what he was looking forward to. As I look back, with a certain amount of conviction, I can say that he wanted me to talk about Orientalism. Perhaps he wanted me to quote Colonial Orientalists and explain to him how they feminized the Orient. I hardly knew what the word ‘Orient’ meant then. However, I had often come across ‘Oriental’ while looking for ‘Sanskrit’ on the websites of Oxford and Cambridge universities. There are still a few ‘faculty of oriental learning’ in some Indian universities too. Once in a college book-fair, when I was an undergraduate student, I caught the sight of a book titled ‘Orientalism’ by some Edward Said. I was curious to know what this word meant, but Sanskrit classes in Indian universities hardly touch anything else than Sanskrit as a result of which one ‘may’ know something about ‘Sanskrit culture’ without being able to intellectually talk about it and without developing a skill of being able to think through one’s own thinking and the knowledge one has cultivated over a period of time.
To come back to our topic, the chair of the committee also sounded quite anti-fascist to me. Since the right-wing political party BJP was in power in India back then and the then education minister was glorifying Sanskrit with more emphasis on ancient scientific literature written in the ‘language of Gods’, and since my proposal had the word ‘Sanskrit’ used innumerable times, the chair probably mistook me as a supporter of BJP ideology. As I left the interview room he said to me that I should not have been wearing a tie since I studied Sanskrit. I don’t know what he meant and I still do not understand why he said what he did. Perhaps my modern attire and ‘antique’ brain was an unbearable contradiction to him. How is a man who is supposed to study something traditional, supposed to be wearing a modern dress, he must have thought. Perhaps what he was studying was supposed to be modern enough and what I was studying was labelled as more traditional.
Moreover, it was in itself interesting that my interview panel constituted of lawyers, industrialists, general academics and scientists, but not a single specialist in social sciences or humanities, or if not asking for anything more, but an Indologist. A lawyer asked me if I ever though of comparing the ideas of the theory of relation (I had mentioned of focusing on the Sambandhasiddhi of Utpaladeva and also Abhinavagupta’s ideas on the concept of sambandha in my proposal) as discussed by Utpaladeva with that of Einstein’s theory of relativity and if I ever tried thinking of a possibility that the former could have been influenced by the latter. The only problem, according to me, I said, was that the former existed a bit earlier than the latter. A little difference of almost nine-hundred years is not too much. However, I did say I could try a reverse method.
After spending so many years in Indology I think I do identify with the feeling of the committee chair. On the one hand he wanted to support someone like me who was doing classical studies, more importantly focusing on Sanskrit that in itself was not very usual. But on the other hand he was forgetting that he himself was lacking a social scientific sense. Perhaps he would have been happy if I had said all past Orientalists had the nefarious mission of intellectually subjugating India, (which no doubt many of them did) and the process is still continuing. Fortunately, this is not the case anymore. What we call Indology or Oriental Studies today is not what it used to be a couple of centuries ago. The discipline (object) remains the same while the methodology (subject) has changed completely. So an Indologist or an Orientalist sitting somewhere in Europe today is not studying Indology because s/he wants to colonize the minds of South Asians, but because s/he is passionate about his/her discipline, s/he wants to learn and contribute to our scholarly and scientific understanding of South Asia, its history and philosophy, both pre modern and modern. We live in a post-colonial and post-modern world today. We want to learn from each other and experience each other’s culture of learning. While someone might want to think with a little amount of cynicism that one can sufficiently see the Western influence on everything that we do today, and thus South Asia has lost its ‘cultural moorings’ to the West, I would like to argue otherwise. Is West the same as it was two or three hundred years back? It also has ‘lost’ its ‘cultural moorings’ to the ‘cultural change’. We need to understand that ‘cultural’ is a dynamic concept. If a culture cannot change, it will seize to exist. Civilizations come and go. They are born and they die, but cultures continue to ‘be’ while changing their textures.
Let me speak for myself alone. I am simply arguing that when we talk about Indology and Sanskrit studies in South Asia from an academic point of view, we do observe that it lacks critical approach. This is unfortunately true not only in case of Sanskrit, but of Humanities in general and classical studies in particular. A friend of mine told me once that he often used to observe students seeking admission in master’s level Persian course in a prestigious Indian university because they wanted the facilities of hostel, bus pass etc. This is certainly not completely untrue about the departments of Sanskrit either. One of my Sanskrit teachers in Delhi once told me that even a sabzi-wala (vegetable vendor) could teach me an Upaniṣad, but he was forgetting that I did not go to a sabzi-wala and instead came to him. While I do partly agree with my teacher for even a sabzi-wala can tell you something about the basic metaphysical thinking so deeply inherent in South Asian minds, but a sabzi-wala cannot offer me an academic training, and that it why I was sitting in a university class to study an Upaniṣad with him. I quote this example because I want to emphasize the lack of critical training in humanities and social sciences in Indian universities. A student who comes to study an Upaniṣad or some traditional scripture in a classical language in a university is not a ‘spiritual seeker’, but a ‘student’ who should be trained in a scholarly method of understanding and developing a capacity of making others understand what a particular Upaniṣad is talking about and why is it saying what it is saying. It is easy to become a ‘seeker of truth’ than to be an aspiring student who really wants to understand and digest what this ‘truth’ is all about. And for doing this a serious academic approach is unavoidable. Unfortunately, it is truly possible to study also spirituality from purely academic point of view. My teacher was forgetting that I was not in front of him because I wanted to be blessed by the divine revelation of the Upaniṣadic sermons, but was only seeking a little semi-divine knowledge of the methodology with which I could understand the ‘divine revelation’ and I was happy enough doing that. For a long time even my teacher of Sanskrit grammar gave me the impression that even if I did not understand everything in Pāṇinian grammar, still a little saṃskāra (impression) will be left in my head. As a result I never worked hand enough to learn much Pāṇini.
A scholar of Tantra and Āgama-śāstra as renowned as Pandit Vrajavallabh Dwivedi, in his edited work titled Aṣṭaprakaraṇam (1988), all of a sudden mentions on page 3 of his introduction the following:
When I read these words, I wondered about two things: one, why are these words mentioned in bold characters, and two, the embedded concern of Pandit Dwivedi about Indological scholarship in India. As someone who has known Sanskrit scholars both in India and outside India, apart from the uncritical approach with which Indology is dealt with in India, I have been more concerned about the relations between so called traditional and modern scholars of early modern India. I would sound very orientalist if I say that Indian Sanskrit scholarship is all about traditional scholarship, and the non-Indian scholarship is about modern. There are more modern Sanskrit scholars in India than traditional ones. However, I think what is in question is the quality of research and the methodological approach towards a discipline.
Kashmiris are free thinkers, like Mamaṭṭa: (apāre kāvyasaṃsāre kavireko prajāpatiḥ |). So am I. And like so many of my countrymen, I have often imagined knowledge like a prostitute, as also perhaps Kṣemendra would do. It (knowledge) belongs to none while at the same time it belongs to everyone. If you pamper her, she will be yours, and if you do not, she will not. Sanskrit and allied disciplines of knowledge belong to all while not belonging to anyone at the same time. I am not talking of the spirituality of Sanskrit. I am talking about the academic knowledge of Sanskrit, both traditional and modern. Obviously, you can still only find world’s best pizza in Napoli alone for even though pizza has travelled all over the world, it’s traditional form is still only found in its birthplace. If one is looking for traditional Sanskrit knowledge, you can only find it in the best form in places like Benaras etc. But the question is if we can ignore American pizza (what is called Focaccia in Italy) at all.
apūrvaḥ ko’pi kośo’yam vidyate tava bhārati |
vyayato vṛddhimāyāti kṣayamāyāti sañcyāt ||
A traditional Sanskrit scholar would dubiously be frowning at me if I compare Sanskrit knowledge with a prostitute and not unlike him, with Goddess Bhārati.
“Quann’ nu furastier’ ven’ a Napul’ chiagn ddoj vot’: na vot’ quann’ arriv’ e na vot’ quann’ part’”
“But Neapolitans always over-do everything. So if it’s good, in Naples it is the best. If it is bad, in Naples it would scare the Devil. I never did hallucinatory drugs, but if I did, I bet the experiences would resemble a day in Naples. The food is amazing, the weather is hot, the women are even hotter, the clothes are the best, the city is on the water, Art is in the air Neapolitans breathe and in the blood that pumps through their veins, and the people will befriend you instantly.” (Pizza Life)
Almost everyday for past three years as I walked across the street towards university an old man sitting across the corner of a narrow ally greeted me with a gentle ‘bounjourno’. We did not know each other but yet we are friends of sorts. Unfortunately, in a few weeks time I will not see this friend anymore and I am sure he will feel my absence too. I am leaving Napoli. The lady downstairs who always speaks to me for few minutes very often will miss her ‘English man’. Unfortunately, she was always aware that I did not fully understand her ever, yet I managed talking to her. Can you believe that I already know a lot about her family history. I will miss the children playing and creating tantrums in loud voice in the compound of my building – that little Antonio is so wicked. The fat vegetable seller will not see me anymore – he loved me so much when I always used to go to him for buying vegetables and fruits until I discovered he is cheating me. I will miss the zingari lady and the little boy who sang like divine angels asking for money. I will miss my coffee shop friends who taught me Neapolitan and several times offered me coffee for free. But probably I will not miss my neighbors Mr and Mrs Salvatore Esposito who made every effort to break my balls.
Naples is a carefree paradise and the Neopolitan life can have a long lasting and strong impact on you. Almost a decade back when I had been in Benaras in India, it had a sort of same impact on me. Coming to Benaras from Delhi was a cultural shock as in some way was coming from Montreal to Naples. The antiquity of Naples shattered all my miserable and romantic dreams of the glittering West and its modernity. Life in Naples is like the ‘middle path’ of Buddhists – traditional and modern at the same time. Have you ever seen a little baby with its tiny hands touching its grandmother’s old and deeply wrinkled hand. This is exactly what I felt when I first walked on the ancient streets of this old Greek capital city. In those small ancient streets, life comes alive. It comes alive with the smell of coffee and Crocchè, dorate e fritte, arancine in via Tribunali. The air of Naples is intoxicating with an unparalleled sensuality that one can also feel in its antiquity.
Each place I have lived in during past several years, I have experienced life differently but nowhere have I felt the life and its dynamism so closely as I did in Naples. Delhi, Pune, Oxford, Montreal did not teach me about life what Naples did, and to my astonishment I feel like that doll of salt (as Vedantins say) who when immersed in ocean is no more ontologically capable of describing its sweet experiences. Even though these feelings are inexplicable, but they are certainly sweeter than Sfogliatella and Baba combined. As John Keats said, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard. Are sweeter.” But what are these unheard melodies?
I often wonder what possibly it was that changed something so deep inside Nietzsche upon visiting Naples and its surroundings. So much so that it eventually proved to be the biggest turning point in his life. As he said, “In Sorrento, I shook off nine years of moss”. Somehow I truly identify with what this immortal thinker had to say except that my moss is not as old as his and by no means can I compare myself to Nietzsche. But I am sure our experience as non-Italians has been somewhat similar as far as Naples is concerned (apart from the fact that both of us always want to prove that ‘God is dead’ – Shhhhh….!!! I hope Papa Francesco is not listening). At the age of thirty-two when Nietzsche was already thinking of giving up his well-established career as a staunch Latin philologist, and turning completely to philosophy, I am just beginning my full time academic career confused and struggling to establish if I am a philosopher or a philologist or neither or either. And Naples somehow offers a balming effect to coup up with this subtle struggle within you. The wonder of sensual South is indeed inexplicable.
Have you ever observed the changing colours of Mount Vesuvius clearly visible from your room. Even if it is taking a geological nap, it tells you a hundred thousand tales when you look at it either closely or from little farther. Even though I believe that the whole world is eventually the same, yet Naples is like a wonderland. It is silent, yet it speaks volumes to you. Neapolitan life creates an everlasting joy within you and the best or the worst thing is that the overflowing joy paralyses you to the level that you cannot express it or should I say you do not care to express it. You become a puritan in Naples – the coffee and Pizza anywhere else except the city-centre in Naples is just useless. But I am still famous everywhere for drinking acqua sporca. Friyeriyelli still remains my best food here. Anto taught me the culinary skills of pasta – Pasta e fagioli – the poor man’s food.
Like the motif of Paulo Coelho in the Alchemist “when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true”, the Neapolitan people conspire to make your stay comfortable. Even the people you do not know and probably would never know ever in future, play a role in comforting you. How can I forget that I am officially living somewhere else and practically living in Sanita. When I needed certificato di duso gratuto – even my students were ready to ask their parents to host me. It was like everyone in L’Orientale was conspiring how to manage my problem and everyone telling me – non ti preocuppa. Have you ever heard students taking their teacher to their own doctor because the teacher does not have a doctor – Luca did – not once but several times. And this was a luxury service available along with an English translator – Rosina. Some of my colleagues even conspired to hook me up with either their students or my own – in a hope that I could marry an Italian and be theirs for ever. Magari. I remain theirs for ever and I feel sad that my stark shyness disappointed them.
If one thing that a human being should learn from life, it is to learn how to unlearn and I think Naples teaches you how to unlearn. Perhaps that’s how Nietzsche was able to shed off his moss here. As far as I am concerned, I have a love-hate relationship with Naples. The oxymoronic expression I use for Naples is ‘sweet poison’. The Mount Vesuvius is astonishingly beautiful but it is also wickedly dangerous. I don’t know how many of you have ever felt the experience of loving the dangerous beauty. I feel like Naples is my dangerously beautiful lady.
It is often true that we do not realize the value of what we have. Many Neapolitans are not able to see Naples the same way as Nietzsche and I do. This is not surprising. They don’t know what they have and hence there is nothing to lose. Even many of my students do not like Naples at all. They want to go away from Naples, and I think that is perfectly fine. My love with Naples may be romantic, but I have loved every bit of my experience here. And this is how we learn to appreciate different cultures. My experience of reading Gayatri Spivak’s ‘Subaltern’ came alive in Naples when I often encountered how the parents of children from Vomero bar them from interacting with the so called rough boys of Naples. Often I used to observe while traveling in Circumvisuviana how the little vomero children traveling with their parents got curious to listen to the local Neapolitan songs sung in chorus by a group of local village boys in the train, but how they (vomero children) were discouraged by their parents not even to look at them. Indeed this is true of all dynamic cultures in the world. It is true of Naples and most of the parts of South Asia as well. Naples helped me in observing what I had earlier ignored in India. Life in Naples helped me in becoming more mature and developing more patience. Naples helped me in understanding how to deal with the patters of a certain culture and how to unravel its complicated textures.
If Naples taught me patience, Fra boosted me with enormous levels of confidence. This extraordinary man of exceptional merits is a master par excellence. Thanks, Fra, for making it possible for me to live in Naples. Not only academically, but you have taught me how and why is it more important to be a ‘human’ first. This is why we study Humanities. I can never imagine working with any other scholar of your caliber like I did with you. How could you ignore all those silly mistakes of mine? If I think I am able to call myself a bit of scholar, I owe it all to you. Living and learning with you has made me a better person indeed. Your repeated suggestions and worthy pieces of advice, those after university walks to the train station, repeated jokes while working on Abhinavagupta will be cherished for all time to come. Your frankness and friendship, your trust and teaching – the assets I have earned from you will die with me alone. I salute you in fervent gratitude.
If I was able to survive in Naples, the credit must go to Stefi. This lily-lady is like butter – soft and solid at the same time. I can never return my debts to her in this life, but I will try. She is innocently sweet, and a strongly touching personality. Thanks for spending hours with me in the immigration office, lending money to me without charging interest on it, for guiding me through my teaching profession, and above all for being my awesome boss.
I live in Naples, but I am from Bacoli. Probably the first (and probably also the last) Kashmiri who has ever found a place in the records of officio anagrafia di Bacoli. Thanks to Genna and his parents. I owe a great deal to this sweet family and the love and care they have offered to me. Genna, I can never forget your mother calling me ‘magro’ all the time and stuffing me with enormous amounts of exceptionally delicious food.
Thanks Franche, for showing me Palermo. I wish I could find a job there and live there for the rest of my life. Your family is too sweet and so are you. Thanks for being a wonderful friend. And thanks for being the first one along with Flori to pick me up at the airport and finding me the most fantastic home in centro historico.
Thanks Flori, for everything. Your one advice was life-changing: “don’t let the lifeless manuscripts ruin the quality of your life”. Thanks for getting me here. I still have your passport copies in my computer and I am sure you will also keep the copies of my passport in your computer. ☺ Thanks indeed for organizing this wonderful event for me. I enjoyed every bit of it – sharing my love and leisure with my loved ones.
Thanks Dani (Daniele), for at least paying a couple of visits to me. I have enjoyed your presence in my bed. ☺
Thanks, Gianni for being what I have found in you – an immortal friend. gānd marāo, chole khao.
Thanks Tatiana and her family who made my initial stay memorable for all time to come. I can never forget those numberless lunches and dinners at your in-law’s place. Thanks for all the care and help you offered to me in those initial days. It would have been impossible to manage things without you.
Thanks Dani (Daniela), for taking me to hospital once. I can never forget that dramatic night.
Thanks Chiara for loving me so much. Your love has made me warmer. Thanks Pietro for those innumerable Qawwali sessions. I hope you will continue to send me more.
Khan Sahab, I wish you could be living in Naples and we could have had more time to talk and share our South Asian agony.
Thanks Lukes, for everything, for taking me to your doctor several times and for all little pieces of advice. Thanks for always accompanying me to the Post Office along with Annalisa and Rosina.
Thanks Anto, for those numberless night strolls in Piazza Bellini with Peroni. We still have to look for Estonian girls around and I am sure we will not be hungry for too long anymore. And I do remember how many cigarettes have I stolen from you. It was a sheer joy to share a place with you, Vero and Eugen.
Thanks to all my sweet students. If at all I have been able to pick up a little Italian, all the credit goes to you alone. All of you have been an inspiration to me that I will never forget in my life. Remember a teacher cannot be a teacher without a student. I have learnt from all of you as much as probably you have learnt from me. My students have made a big difference in my life. They have been as much my teachers as I have been theirs. I have been particularly happy to observe the positive intellectual growth of M.A. and III year students. First year and second year students have also been exceptionally promising. I wish all of you good luck and offer you my best wishes for whatever you choose to do in life.
“Quann’ nu furastier’ ven’ a Napul’ chiagn ddoj vot’: na vot’ quann’ arriv’ e na vot’ quann’ part'”
“But Neapolitans always over-do everything. So if it’s good, in Naples it is the best. If it is bad, in Naples it would scare the Devil. I never did hallucinatory drugs, but if I did, I bet the experiences would resemble a day in Naples. The food is amazing, the weather is hot, the women are even hotter, the clothes are the best, the city is on the water, Art is in the air Neapolitans breathe and in the blood that pumps through their veins, and the people will befriend you instantly.” (Piazza Life)
Quas’ ogn’ juorn’ ri ll’urdm’ tre ann’ quann’ ij camminav’ pe’vvij’ pe’ gghì all’università, nu viecchj assettat’ ind’ a n’angul’ i nu vicariell’ me salutav’ ricennem’ “bongiorn'”. Nuj nce canusceven’ ma fovem’ comm’ duj cumpagn’. Purtropp’, ropp’ quacc’ semman’, ij stu viecchj’ nun l’aggj’ vist’ cchiù, ma crer’ ca pur’ iss’ sent’ a mancanza mij’. Ij sto lassann’ Napul’. A signor’ ri scal’ ca parlav spiss cu mmic ce mancarrà u uaglion ingles suj. Ess’ sapev’ ca ij nu capev tutt’ cos’, ma inda nu mod’ o n’at’ Ij riuscev’ a parlà cu ess’. Ce crir’ ca ij saccj nu sacc’ i cos’ ra famiglia soj? M’ mancarrann’ i’ criatur’ ca s’appiccican’ alluccann’ annanz’ a casa mij’ – comm’ er’ cattiv’ un’ i llor, Antonij! U verdummar’ chiatt’, ca me vulev tant’ bben’, mo’ nun me ver’ cchiù; ij jev’ dda’ iss’ a ‘ccattà a frutt’ e a verdur’, po’ m’aggj addunat’ ca me mbrugliav! Me mancarann’ a zengar’ cu criatur’ ca cantaven’ comm’ dduj’ angel’ cercann’ a carità. Me mancarrann’ i cumpagn’ ru bar ca m’hann’ ‘mbarat’ u napulitan’ e spiss’ m’hann’ offert’ u cafè. Fors’ nun me mancarrann Salvatore Esposito e signora ca facevn’ i tutt pe me scassà a uallera.
Napul’ è nu paravis’ senza penzier’ e a vit’ a Napul’ te pò mbrssiunà: quas’ a stessa cos’ m’è capitat’ in India, a Benaras. Ra Delhi a Benaras è comm’ ra Montreal a Napule. L’antichità i’ Napule a rutt’ tutt’ i suonn’ mij de l’Occidente moderno e brillante. A vit’ a Napul’ è comm’ a vij i’ miez’ ri’ buddhist’, viecchij e nnuov’ ‘nziem. Avit’ mai vist’ nu criatur’ appen nat’ ca tocc’ cu i manell’ soj i man’ arrappat’ ra’ nonn’? Proprj chest’ aggj vist’ ij camminann’ pe vvij re’ sta antica città greca. Ind’a sti vicariell’ a vit’ addvent’ viv’. Addvent’ viv’ cu addor’ ro’ cafè, ri’ crocchè, arancin’ a vij ri’ tribunal’. L’aria di Napoli ti inebria con una sensualità senza pari che si può sentire anche nella sua antichità.
Ogn’ ppart’ ‘ddo so’ stat’ fin’ a mo’ maj aggj sentut’ a vit’ comm’ l’aggj sentut’ a Napul’. Delhi, Pune, Oxford, Montreal nun t’zegnen’ nient ra’ vit’ comm’ fa Napul’. Ij me sent’ comm’ na bambul’ i’ sal’ ca ‘nfunn u mar’ nun è capac’ cchiù r’ ricer’ chell ca sent’. Pur’ si chell ca sent’ nun o saccj ricer’, i sicur’ è cchiù ddoc’ r’ na sfugliatell e r’ nu babbà. Comm’ a ritt’ nu poet’ ingles’, John Keats, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard. Are sweeter”. Ma qual’ song sti mutiv’ mai sentut’?
Spiss’ m’aggj maravigliat’, pecché Nietzsche cagnaj accussì tant’ ropp’ vist’ Napul’ e Surrient’. Tant’ ca cagnaj totalment’ ra tann’. Comm’ ricett’ iss’: “A Surrient’ m’aggj luat’ a cuoll’ nov’ ann’ r’ scuorz’ [In Sorrento, I shook off nine years of moss]. Ij me sent’ nu poc’ comm’ iss’, ma i scuorz’ mij nun song viecchj comm’ i suoj e ij nun song cert’ u livell’ suoj, però tutti dduj simm’ stat’ a Napule (e tutti dduj’ vulimm’ pruvà ca Ddij è muort’ – speriamm’ cu Pap’ nun ce sent’). A trentaruj ann’, quann’ Nietzsche abbandunaj a carrier’ i filologo latino, pe ffa sul’ u filosf’, ij sto accumminciann’ a carriera mij e nun saccj si song filologo o filosofo, o forz’ tutti dduj oppur’ nisciun’. E Napul’ me rà nu barzam’ p’adducì sta lott’ rint’ u cor’ mij. A maraviglj ru sudd nun se pò ddicer’.
E maj vist’ i culur’ ca cagnen’ ru Vesuvj’ ra fenest’ ra casa toj? Pur’ si mo’ sta rummenn’, ten a t’ ricer’ centinaj e’ migliaj e cunt quann’ u guard’ ra vicin’ o nu poc’ cchiù luntan’. Pur’ si tutt’ u munn’ è u stess’ a tutt’ part’, Napul’ è n’ata cos’. Sta zitt’, eppur’ te ric’ tanta cos’. A vit’ a Napul’ te rà na gioj ca rur’ tutt’ a vit’ e a cos’ cchiù bell’ o cchiù brutt’ è ca chesta gioj te paralizz’ tant’ ca tu nun può dicer’ o forz’ nun t’ n’ mport’ ru dicer’. A Napul’ tu addevient’ schifettus’: u cafè e a pizz’ si nun song i’ Napul’, nun song bbuon! Ij song ancor’ canusciut’ comm’ chill ca bev’ acqua sporc’. I friariell’ song u mmeglj c’aggj mangiat’ ccà. Antonj m’ha ‘mparat’ l’importanz’ ra past’ e fasul’, u piatt’ ra povera gent’.
Comm’ ric’ Paulo Coelho nell’Alchimista “quann’ vuò ca succer’ na cos’ tutt’ l’universo se rà ra fa pecché succer’ comm’ vuò tu” è [when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true], i napulitan se rann’ ra fa pe te fa sta bbuon’. Pur’ a gent’ ca tu nun canuscj e ca maj canusciarraj se rann’ ra fa pe t’aiutà. Quann’ jev’ cercann’ a residenza, pur i surient’ mij hann’ spiat’ ai genitor’ si me putevn’ ospità. Tutt’ l’università s’è preoccupat’ pe me e ttutt’ quant’ me ricevn’ “tu nun te preoccupà”. I sturient’ mij m’hann’ purtat’ ddu’ mierc’ lor’ pecché u lor’ professor’ nun ten’ nu mierc’ pe iss’. Luca m’ha purtat’ tant’ vot’ e Rosin’ traducev’. I colleg’ mij me vulevn’ fa ‘nzurà cu quaccun’ ri sturient’ lor’ o mij pe rummanì semp’ ru lor’. Magari! I rimang semp’ ru lor’ e mi dispiac’ averl’ fatt’ mmlinà pe’ essr’ stat’ cussì scurnus’.
Si ce sta na cos’ ca n’omm’ s’adda ‘mparà ra vit’, è r’ se scurdà chell’ ca s’è ‘mparat’: Napul’ te fa scurdà chell’ ca t’è ‘mparat’ fin’ a mo’. Forz’ è proprj chell’ ca ha fatt’ Nietzsche cu i scuorz’ suoj. Pe quant’ me riguard’, ij odj e vogl’ ben’ a Napul’. Pe chistu cuntrast’ ij ric’ ca Napul’ è nu velen doc’. U Vesuvj è accussì bell’, eppur’ è tant’ periculos’. Nun saccj quant’ i vuj hann’ mai volut’ bben’ a na cos’ pericolos’, ma bell’. Napul’ è a signora mij, bell’ e pericolos’.
Spiss’ nuj nun ce rendimm’ cont’ quant’ aval’ chell’ ca tenimm’. Assaj napulitan’ nun veren’ Napul’ comm’ a verimm’ ij e Nietzsche. Nisciuna sorpres’: lor’ nun sann’ chell’ che tenen’ e perciò nun sann’ chell’ ca tenen’ nient’ ra perder’. Nu pesc’ s’accorgj ral’acqua quann’ ven’ piscat’. Pur’ assaj sturient’ mij nun apprezzan’ Napul’. Vonn’ ì for’ Napul’ e va bbuò. Ammor’ mij pe Napul’ pò esser’ romantic’ ma ij aggj volut’ bben’ a ogn mument’ c’aggj passat’ cà. A Napul’ aggj vist’ dal vivo chell’ c’aggj leggiut’ in Gayatri Spivak quann’ aggj vist’ i pat’ e i mamm’ ru Vommer’ alluntanà i figlj ra i scugnizz’ i Napul’. Per esempij ind a Circumvesuvian’ i uagliun ru Vommer’ nun putevan cantà cu l’at’ uagliun’. Chest’ però succer’ pe tutt’ u munn’, a Napul’ comm’ in India. Napul’ m’ha fatt’ veré chell’ ca n’aggj vist’ in India. A Napul’ song maturat’ e aggj acquistat’ cchiù pacienz’. Napul’ m’ha aiutat’ a capì tanta cos’ e a sciogòlier’ nurec’ ‘durcigliat’.
Se Napoli mi ha insegnato la pazienza, Fra mi ha incoraggiato con una fiducia ai massimi livelli. Quest’uomo di eccezionale valore è un maestro par excellence. Grazie Fra, per avermi dato la possibilità di vivere a Napoli. Tu mi hai insegnato, non solo accademicamente, come e perché sia più importante essere innanzitutto ‘umani’. È per questo che noi ci dedichiamo agli studi umanistici. Non posso assolutamente immaginare di lavorare con qualunque altro studioso del tuo calibro come ho fatto con te. Come hai potuto soprassedere ai miei stupidi errori? Se penso di potermi definire anche solo un poco uno studioso, lo devo solamente a te. Vivere e imparare insieme a te mi ha reso davvero una persona migliore. I tuoi continui suggerimenti e i tuoi consigli, quei tragitti dopo le lezioni verso la stazione, i frequenti scherzi e battute mentre lavoravamo su Abhinavagupta mi saranno sempre cari per tutto il tempo avvenire. La tua franchezza e la tua amicizia, la tua fiducia e il tuo insegnamento, retaggio che da te ho ricevuto, moriranno solo insieme con me. Ti saluto con fervida gratitudine.
Se sono stato capace di sopravvivere a Napoli, il merito va a Stefi. Questo fiore di donna è come il burro, morbida e solida allo stesso tempo. Non potrò mai ripagare in questa vita i debiti che ho con lei, ma ci proverò. Ella è dolce nella sua innocenza e ha una personalità assai toccante. Grazie per aver speso ore con me all’ufficio immigrazione, per avermi prestato del denaro senza volere alcun interesse, per avermi guidato nel mio lavoro di docente e soprattutto per essere stata un capo meraviglioso.
Io vivo a Napoli, ma sono di Bacoli. Probabilmente il primo (e altrettanto probabilmente l’ultimo) Kashmiro che abbia trovato posto nei registri dell’anagrafe di Bacoli. Grazie a Genna e ai suoi genitori. Ho un grosso debito con questa cara famiglia per l’amore e le cure che mi hanno offerto. Genna, non posso mai dimenticare tua madre dirmi ogni volta “sei magro!” e rimpinzarmi con una enorme quantità di cibo assolutamente delizioso.
Grazie France, per avermi mostrato Palermo. Vorrei aver potuto trovare lavoro lì e viverci per il resto della mia vita. La tua famiglia è tanto cara come lo sei anche tu. Grazie per essere un amico meraviglioso. E grazie per avermi prelevato insieme a Flori all’aeroporto e avermi trovato una sistemazione fantastica nel centro storico.
Grazie Flori, per tutto. Il tuo consiglio mi ha cambiato la vita: “non permettere a dei manoscritti senza vita di rovinarti l’esistenza”. Grazie per avermi accolto qui. Ho ancora copie del tuo passaporto nel mio computer e sono sicuro che anche tu terrai le copie del mio nel tuo. Grazie davvero per aver organizzato questo fantastico evento per me. Ne ho goduto ogni momento, condividendo il mio affetto e il mio tempo con coloro che amo. 🙂
Grazie Dani (Daniele), se non altro per le tue visite. Ho goduto della tua presenza nel mio letto. 🙂
Grazie Gianni, per essere ciò che ho trovato in te – un immortale amico. gānd marāo, chole khao. 🙂
Grazie a Tatiana e alla sua famiglia che hanno reso il mio primo soggiorno indimenticabile per tutto il tempo avvenire. Non posso mai dimenticare quegli infiniti pranzi e cene a casa tua. Grazie per le attenzioni e l’aiuto offertomi in quei primi giorni. Sarebbe stato impossibile gestire le cose senza di te.
Grazie Dani (Daniela) per avermi accompagnato una volta in ospedale. Non posso mai dimenticare quella drammatica notte.
Grazie Chiara per amarmi così tanto. Il tuo amore mi ha dato calore. Grazie Pietro per le segnalazioni riguardo il Qawwali. Spero che continuerai a mandarmene altre.
Grazie Serena, per tutto.
Khan Sahab, vorrei che tu potessi continuare a vivere a Napoli e che noi avessimo avuto più tempo per parlare e condividere i nostri interessi per l’Asia meridionale.
Grazie Lukes, per tutto, per avermi portato tante volte dal tuo medico e per i tuoi piccoli consigli. Grazie per avermi sempre accompagnato all’ufficio postale insieme ad Annalisa e Rosina.
Grazie Anto, per le infinite passeggiate a Piazza Bellini con la Peroni. Dobbiamo ancora cercare ragazze Estoni in giro e sono certo che non saremo più affamati troppo a lungo. Mi ricordo ancora quante sigarette ti ho rubato. Era gioia pura stare con te, Vero e Eugen.
Grazie a tutti i miei cari studenti. Se alla fine ho potuto apprendere un po’ di italiano, il merito va tutto a loro. Tutti voi siete stati per me un’ispirazione che io non dimenticherò per tutta la vita. Ricordate che un insegnante non può essere tale senza i suoi studenti. Probabilmente io ho imparato da voi quanto voi da me. I miei studenti hanno avuto un gran peso nella mia vita. Sono stati i miei maestri quanto io lo sono stato per loro. Sono stato particolarmente felice di osservare la crescita intellettuale degli studenti della “magistrale” e del terzo anno. Anche gli studenti del primo e secondo anno sono eccezionalmente promettenti. Auguro a tutti voi buona fortuna qualunque cosa decidiate di fare nella vita.
A certain man exhibits the best art through his performance;
another has the power of communicating as his special qualification.
He in whom both these qualities are combined
deserves to be the head of the teachers.
(Kālidāsa in Mālavikāgnimitra 1.16)
My teaching philosophy is simple – putting ones soul into what one is teaching. I agree with Kālidāsa above when he says that it is a challenge to be a good scholar (performance) and a good teacher (communication) at the same time. Best teaching method is the simplest way of teaching. Kālidāsa himself, unlike many other ostentatious poets of Sanskrit literature, owes his glory to his lucid style and clear and beautiful expressions. The success of a teacher lies in – as one of my teachers would put it – making otherwise tedious Indian logic understood to a primary school student. Simplicity of style and accuracy of expression is the best policy for a teacher. That said I would like to share some thoughts and concerns.
I am indeed too impressed by the social cause that the newly emerging universities like Azim Premji (APU) in India stand for. I always thought that one thing that would give me an inner satisfaction in life was social service, but I could never indulge into it for the reasons unknown to me. I don’t know if my belongingness to the breed of “children of conflict” has something to do with it. As one of my friends one day said – “your conflicted past is shaping your future where you are questing for resolving those conflicts even though unknowingly.” This indeed is one reason why I think there can be no better opportunity than doing social service through education, especially in case of the conflicted zones like Kashmir. If I can ever help a disadvantaged child living in a remote village bereft of opportunities to think through his/her own ideas and make him/her learn exploring himself or herself, I would be very happy.
There is a gradual, but steady competition emerging amongst the newly manifesting social scientific academies in India. These certainly are the sings of a positive change. At the same time one wonders how the ideas like bringing “Ivy League education here in India” would sound to a student who should learn about Said’s Orientalism in the same “Ivy League of India”. Doesn’t this sound like what Sheldon Pollock would call ‘Deep Orientalism’. It might be easy to be ones own friend rather than being ones own ‘intimate enemy’. Polishing a beautifully carved marble statue is easy. What is difficult is to chisel a beautiful shape out of a crude piece of marble. What potent role does a top class educational institute play in shaping its students who are already the top creamy layer? I do agree these issues are problematic and they deserve deeper thinking. After all higher education in India is going through a process of churning right now.
I think we all agree that education in India has suffered in the past and continues to experience hardship while still trying to make a steady progress. However, India cannot afford to stick to premodern, colonial or nationalistic methods of education anymore. The idea of education was very different in premodern era: guros tu maunaṃ vyākhyānaṃ śiṣyās tu chinna saṃśayāḥ | (“For the silence of the teacher is the discourse [itself] that takes away the doubts (ignorance) of the students”). The idea of ‘transmission of knowledge’ did bring down the Vedic scriptures to us, but today there is no place for the idea of ‘transmission’ in education. ‘Although physically resident in the twenty-first century we cannot mentally inhabit in ancient India with considerable enjoyment.’ I think the idea of education should be perceived through an epistemological insight and not simply inferred from a metaphysical eye.
While APU believes that the focus in India should be making good teachers at the school level, I believe that the priority should be given to students who in turn will make better teachers tomorrow. My first priority has always been students. I have always stood up by my students. I am fanatically caring about students and their academic needs. For producing better students who could be even better teachers in future, while the emphasis certainly should be on education and development, I think there are more dynamic dimensions attached to it. That is to say that I believe disciplines like Education can also be taught and made more stimulating by means of bringing students closer to literary traditions those they are already a part of. Was it T.S. Eliot who said – “Literature is the hand maiden of philosophy”? Here I have the literary traditions of South Asia in mind — the stuff Sheldon Pollock has been discussing in his works, for instance. Besides the classical literary traditions in Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Prakrit etc., I would also like to see students doing a critical study of vernacular literary traditions in India. This, I think, broadens the idea of Education we are talking about.
What has often struck me deep is why the social scientific study of religious traditions of South Asia is not encouraged in India. Here, I am not trying to import the idea of establishing departments of religion in every Indian university following the American model. What I am thinking, instead, is if Indian subcontinent continues to face a huge number of problems emanating from extreme religious ideologies and where diverse religious identities come into a conflict with each other, is it not vital for new generations to have a better, clearer and unbiased understanding of various interpretations of all the religious traditions practiced in South Asia from a social-scientific perspective? The socio-political dynamics of a country like India is so closely connected to the concepts of several religious ideologies and for what reason does India choose to ignore them in academia. Was it after partition India became haunted by the idea of religion and they never bothered to talk about the social scientific study of religion. No one ever cared seriously about humanities and social sciences, as Pollock has repeatedly pointed out in his lectures. Having said what I wanted to, it is my dream to establish two such centers in India in distant future one each for the study of South Asian religions and South Asian literary traditions. This may sound too ambitious at this time, but it is just my dream. I am already happy to see that there are various academic bodies in India coming up with such mandates.
Details of the two Pratibimbavāda Manuscripts in Sayaji Rao Gaekwad Central Library, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), India}Posted: March 26, 2015
When Georg Bühler wrote his famous ‘Kashmir Report’, [Bühler, Georg. (1877) A Detailed Report on a Tour in Search of Sanskrit MSS made in Kaśmir, Rajputana and Central India, Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Extra Number. 34a. Bombay.] he thought the manuscript titled the Pratibimbavāda that was attributed to Abhinavagupta was perhaps one of his separate works, but later Pandey [Pandey, Kanti Chandra. (1962) Abhinavagupta. An Historical and Philosophical Study. Second edition revised and enlarged, Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series, Vol. I. Second Edi- tion. Revised and Enlarged (First edition 1936, Revised 1951, reprint 2003).] noted in his famous book on Abhinavagupta that the work Pratibimbavāda which is often attributed to Abhinavagupta is nothing but a selection of first twenty-two or twenty-three verses (number of verses varies in some manuscripts) of the chapter three of the Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta. There are at least four manuscripts of the Pratibimbavāda of Abhinavagupta available to us. One is obviously what is a part of the Bühler Collection (1875-76) in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute of Pune. This is No. 469 of the Bühler Collection. The other two are a part of Sayaji Rao Gaekwad Central Library in Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. These are Nos. 14/7739 and 14/7740. There is one more uncatalogued manuscript from the Ranbir Sanskrit Research Library in Jammu. This is a part of a bigger bundle of uncatalogued manuscripts titled ‘Works of Abhinavagupta’. The first three manuscripts are written in Śāradā script while the last one is written in Kashmirian Devanāgarī style. Unlike the first three manuscripts where the text of the Tantrāloka is written in the middle of the page and the commentary of Jayaratha follows on margins (not complete in all cases), the last manuscript contains full commentary of Jayaratha and it is not written on margins. Below is the description of the two manuscripts from BHU. Since I have only the scanned images of the manuscripts available to me, I have depended on Tripathi [Tripāṭhī, Ramā Śaṅkar. (1971) Descriptive Catalogue of the Samskrit Manuscripts in Gaekwada Library, Bhārat Kalā Bhavana Library and Samskrit Mahā-Vidyālaya Library, Banaras Hindu University. Banaras Hindu University Samskrit Series 6. Varanasi: Banaras Hindu University.] for their physical details.
Acc. No. 14/7739, C4779
Source: Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta and Tantrāloka-viveka of Jayaratha
Details: This is a collection of first 23 verses from the third āhnika of the Tantrāloka. The -viveka, the only extant commentary by Jayaratha is written on margins.
Begins: (main text) oṃ namaḥ śrī gurave | oṃ prakāśamātraṃ yat proktaṃ……}
(Commentary) oṃ namaḥ śivāya antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī iha}
Ends: (main text ends in) iti bimbapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ śubhaṃ bhavatu ||
(commentary on margins ends in) iti śrī tantrāloke bimbapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ |
Remarks: The commentary on the margins begins with a maṅgala of Abhinavagupta antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī hi…… instead of Jayaratha’s maṅgala and then immediately follows the commentary from TĀ 3.1. prakāśamātramiti prādhnyāt | na hi nirvimarśaḥ ….. skipping the earlier part of the commentary.
Acc. No. 14/7740 C1198
Source: Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta and Tantrāloka-viveka of Jayaratha
Details: This is a collection of first 23 verses from the TĀ-3. The -viveka, the only extant commentary by Jayaratha is written on margins.
Begins: (main text) oṃ namaḥ śrī gurave oṃ prakāśamātraṃ yat proktaṃ……
(Commentary) oṃ antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī iha \\
Ends: (main text ends in) iti bimbapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ |
(commentary on margins ends in) śrī tantrāloke viśvapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ oṃ śubham
Remarks: The commentary on the margins begins with a maṅgala of Abhinavagupta antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī hi..…. instead of Jayaratha’s maṅgala and then immediately follows the commentary from TĀ 3.1.prakāśamātramiti prādhnyāt | na hi nirvimarśaḥ ….. skipping the earlier part of the commentary.
From Aurel Stein, Eugen Hultzsch, John Marshal, Alfred Stratton to George Grierson, all of them were helped in their studies of Kashmir by a man in Srinagar named Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri. In early 1900s, 23 of the 29 books of “Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies” were brought out by Research Department of Jammu and Kashmir under his editorship. Books that are still read and shared in academic circles. And yet, if you Google Image Search, you will find no photograph of Mukund Ram Shastri. You can easily find Stein, Hultzsch, Marshal, Stratton and George Grierson, but no Mukund Ram Shastri. Given here is a photograph of Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri, found in the biography of Stratton, ‘Letters from India, by Alfred William Stratton, with a memoir by his wife Anna Booth Stratton and an introductory note by Professor Bloomfield’ (1908).
(This post is reproduced from Search Kashmir with due permission from its owner).