Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Casanova,a cognomen,attributed to a flirtatious personality, takes its name from Gian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, a 18th century Venetian,who, during his lifetime, allegedly slept with about 200 women. He was born on April 2, 1725 in Venice to Zanetta Farussi, a theatre actress and actor Gaetano Giuseppe Casanova.His biological father is generally believed to have been Michele Grimani, a member of the patrician family who owned the San Samuele theatre where Zanetta and Gaetano worked for a time.
A troubled childhood, death of his father when Casanova was barely 8 years old, after which he was sent to a boarding school left him with no emotional attachement with his family. So when he came out with a Doctorate in Law from University of Padua at the age of 17, he was a young man on his own ready to take 0n life. He was a naturally quick witted man having intense appetite for knowledge and a perpetually inquisitive mind. These qualities would help him immensely in future during his various occupations and disguises. All these qualities coupled with his charming personality,tall and dark, his long hair powdered, scented, and elaborately curled made him irresistible for women. He lost his virginity at the age of 16 in arms of two sisters.He travelled extensively in his lifetime throughtout Europe, mostly to avoid his creditors and husbands of women he had slept with or to run away from the grasp of law.
Though he was a womanizer certainly there was much more to his personality and ignoring that part of his persona would be injustice to Casanova's qualities. He was a businessman,having founded the scheme of lottery in Paris, he made a huge fortune and then founded a silk manufactory.Here also he wasted his fortune on the female workers working in his factory. Soon he headed towards bankruptcy. It is not difficult to get an idea of Casanova's reckless and prodigal nature if we take into account a fact that on one night he lost 4000 Louis in gambling which by modern standards amount to approximately one million Euro.
Apart from a business acumen he possessed remarkable literary skills too.He translated Voltaire's comedy L'Ecossaise for Pietro Rossi's troupe of actors in Genoa. In 1772 he wrote, in Italian, the well-documented History of Unrest in Poland,"Istoria della turbolenze della Polonia".He also published verse, translation of the Iliad, a satirical pamphlet on Venetian aristocracy, and an utopic novel L'ICOSAMERON, where brother and sister spend 81 years inside the Earth, meet strange creatures called Mégamigres, and mate in the new Eden. The novel occupies 5 volumes, and was probably influenced by Voltaire's Micromégas and Ludvig Holberg's Nicolaii Klimii Iter Subterraneum (A Journey to the World Underground). However his most famous work till date remains his autobiography, which he wrote in his last days at the Castle Of Dux, Bohemia(now Duchcov Castle, Czech Republic), Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life). Apart from describing his romantic and sensational life, his memoirs provide an authentic and intimate portrait of the ethics, norms and the European social life in 18th century.
His captivating personality helped him in making disguises and pretend himself as royal member of the society and allowed him to socialise with many prominent personalities of his time, like Voltaire, Pope Clement XIII, Catherine the Great, Frederick the Great, Benjamin Franklin,Mozart and many others.In 1760, Casanova started styling himself the Chevalier de Seingalt, a name he would increasingly use for the rest of his life. When Pope Clement XIII presented Casanova with the Papal Order of the Eperon d'Òr, Casanova was overjoyed that he could at last honestly call himself a Chevalier. In 1761, Casanova represented Portugal at the Augsburg Congress, which France had organized in an attempt to end the Seven Years' War.
Many of his contempararies considered him a lot more than just a paramour. Prince Charles de Ligne, a great Austrian statesman who knew most of the prominent individuals of the age, thought that Casanova was the most interesting man he had ever met and said of him, "there is nothing in the world of which he is not capable". Count Lamberg wrote that he knew "few persons who can equal him in the range of knowledge and, in general, of his intelligence and imagination".
Though more than twenty books and several plays are credited to his name, he remained away from work for most of his life and relied on his quick wit,social charm and the money given freely to him by people he knew for his living.
His indulgence in drink and women, however, according to his memoirs, never stirred his belief in the existence of the Immortal God. In his autobiography he quotes: "What assumes me that I have never doubted Him is that I have always counted on His providence, turning to Him through the medium of prayer in all my moments of distress, and finding my entreaties always answered."
Judith Summers, his biographer,puts forth a different perspective. Instead of showing Casanova in the light of a playboy, she describes him as a person who was attracted to strong-minded women who presented him with an intellectual as well as a romantic challenge. He did not pursue sex for its own sake and if he had nothing to say to a woman, rarely wanted to sleep with her. She also puts forward the theory that among his 200 plus conquests were many women who took advantage of his kindness, generosity and vulnerability. Among such women there we find two women who influenced him and his life very much. First is Henriette,as he called her (her real name was most likely Adelaide de Gueidan), according to Casanova, his greatest love. She just used him to her advantage and enticing him in use his connections for her. He also madly in love with her spent a large part of his fortune in hiring maids and language teachers for her.Casanova said:"People who believe that a woman is not enough to make a man equally happy all the twenty-four hours of a day have never known an Henriette." However when she left him for her family, he described it as one of the saddest moments of his life. In agony he compared love to an incurable illness and divine monster.
Other women, Marianne de Charpillon was a fresh-faced courtesan of sixteen around.She teased, tormented and tantalised him, being set up in a house in Chelsea along the way yet still not succumbing to his physical advances. Yet when he would attempt to distance himself she pursued, lavishing gifts on him. He smashed the house up before being reduced to a penitent submissive in a matter of minutes by this teenager, despite being a supposedly worldly man in his thirties. Ultimately she ruined his confidence in women and in himself, which goes some way towards explaining why the man whose name would become synonymous with lovers spent the last sixteen years of his life as a broken man working as a librarian in a remote corner of Bohemia.
This forms an extremely contrasting portrayal and in itself becomes a fitting example of a phenomena described by Casanova himself in his autobiography: "I saw that everything in the world that is famous and beautiful, if we rely on the descriptions and drawings of writers and artists, always loses(it's shine and magnificence) when we go to see it and examine it up close."
Unusually for his time, Casanova was egalitarian towards the sexes. He accepted women as his equals and was non-judgmental about their behaviour, according them the same status to do as they wished as he did to men.
He died on June 4, 1798 in the castle of Dux, Bohemia after spending his last 16 years as a librarian to Count Joseph Karl von Waldstein, a chamberlain of the emperor. His last years were extremely dull,painful and frustrating. He was often ignored by Count and disliked by inhabitants of the Castle.
Gifted with a multi-faceted personality, Casanova never settled in any one profession. However, his extraordinary romances and the amazing tales of his sex life have given him a permanent place in the history books and over the centuries his legend has only become more colourful,more interesting and that's why more intriguing.
Source: Google.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gajbhiye And The Art Of "Tiger" Maintenance.

No no,Gajbhiye is no Jim Corbett and "Tiger" does not refer to any deadly predator. How titles can be misleading....right. My aunt Manorama was once telling me the story about one of her distant relative by marriage.He, an innocent child of 15, while wandering across the town, entered a cinema hall showing a movie named "Victoria's Secret" anticipating it as some kind of a thriller. To much of his embarrassment the movie turned out to be one of those works of celluloid which they suggest to have "mature content". Poor little soul!!!
However I can assure you that you are not up to any such kind of embarrassment here. This man Gajbhiye,born Arvind Gajbhiye, is probably the only person in the world of sports who is a curator of a cricket ground, maintains tennis courts,volleyball courts,basketball courts,table tennis tables and what not. And all this he does with distinction. (and exasperation of the students.) By the way,I forgot to tell you the "Karma Bhoomi"(place of working) of Gajbhiye.
He is the head groundsman at the Visvesvaraya National Institute Of Technology,Nagpur.
Now you must be thinking who the hell is this "Tiger". "Tiger" is the giant roller with the help of which our man ,Gajbhiye, carries out his duties.
Just like a ringmaster has complete command over every movement of a Tiger in his custody, Gajbhiye also exercises complete control over his "Tiger".Yes,it is his "Tiger". Without the consent of its master this mighty "Tiger" completely refuses to co-operate and won't move an inch until you have won the confidence of his tamer. Now this is a bit tricky because it takes a lot of tact to win the confidence of Gajbhiye. You should be able to decode the signals transmitted by this man. If you are able to do so,you can tell accurately whether the pitch will be watered at 4.00PM if you have practice at 4.30PM, whether the mighty "Tiger" will run out of Diesel just a day before your practice match and a lot many things. So all you need to do is ,from time to time, replenish Gajbhiye's stock of the restoratives and share your snacks with him at the cricket ground. That's it. He is indeed a man of simple tastes.
Once you win his confidence then just sit back and watch the master at work. He can provide with any type of cricket pitch, be it a belter, a seaming track, a crumbling wicket..anything. You just have to ask for it. He makes the practice wicket ready when you want it...not only the strip but the crease markings and stumps and everything is in place (here he needs a bit of exhortation from Madan Kaka...a senior member of college ground staff...more on him later). Indeed once a senior and experienced umpire(a respected member of the region's panel of umpires) told me that he hasn't seen a marker as deft and accurate as Gajbhiye. Now that takes some skills and quality to win the admiration from such a senior professional. His dedication and discipline is truly worth following.He turns up at exactly 7 o'clock in the morning on the day of a cricket match. And makes the ground ready for play before the scheduled start. This may seem a trivial to you if the word cricket means only International cricket to you. However on the local circuit it is very common of having wet pitches, groundsmen not turning up on time and thereby delaying the start of the game. Sometimes you have to go to the groundsman's house, wake him up, place him on your vehicle and bring him to the cricket ground. In the light of all such experiences one can easily understand why Gajbhiye deserves accolade. I still remember on the occasion of Diwali a lot of our seniors(who came to their homes to spend the holidays) turned up at the cricket ground and expressed the desire of arranging a cricket match between the current bunch and the alumnis. However there was a problem. Gajbhiye was on leave and next day,as I still remember, was about to leave for attending the marriage of his sister-in-law. We went to his home and one of our seniors requested him to prepare the wicket. Deeply moved,this man Gajbhiye, he promised to put in best of his effort. True to his word,before he left(along with the restoratives) to attend the marriage, he had prepared an extremely decent pitch and we were able to have our practice match. I really felt very bad and I could see the disappointment in his eyes when ,only because of some weird decision taken by college authorities, he could not accompany the college squad to the Inter-NIT Sports Meet at Warangal. The fact that earlier he was assured a berth in the squad only to be denied later added to his agony. But he took it in extremely right "spirit" and the issue was over.
I have practically spent my four years of engineering doing nothing but playing cricket and occasionally TT and volleyball. I can tell from my experience that because of such men of quality like Gajbhiye and those monsters of machines called "Tiger" the sporting culture has thrived in my alma mater and over the years has provided young men with the opportunity to leave their hostel rooms(where they sleep whole day), the boring classrooms(here again they are found sleeping) and enjoy their college life in true sense.Long live Gajbhiye and his "Tiger"!!!