You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Sunday, May 23, 2010


3. Ascetics are often irascible and prone to utter curses.

9. The moon.

10. The lion.

32. The Dandaka was a vast region of forests stretching between the rivers Yumuna and Godavari in central India, inhabited and ruled by the very first nations of India, so to speak. Janasthana was a powerful kingdom, part of an empire ruled by Ravana, probably lying on both banks of the Godavari. Khava and his brother were governors of Janasthana and generals in Ravana's mighty army. Marica was Ravana's uncle who took the form of a golden deer to trick Rama so that Siva would be abducted (see note 48). Surpanakha, literally "sharp-nailed," was Ravana's sister. She fell in love with Rama in exile in the forests of Dandaka; Rama rejected her and passed her on to his brother. who, enraged, cut off her nose and ears.

33. (See note 32.)

42. Sweet, round balls made of milk, butter, sugar, nuts, and flavored with spices.

54. The lotus is the symbol of the blossoming world.

62. Lack of cleanliness in the physical and moral senses.

70. Disgraced and banished; this is a form of punishment meted to both men and women that we see in tales, especially tales whose provenance is southern India. The wrongdoer is seated on a donkey often facing the animal's tail, and chased out of the city gates. An added detail is sometimes present: the culprit's face is painted with black and red dots.

77. A deep, sunken navel is a mark of beauty in India; a protruding belly-button is not.

91. The phrase is rather obscure. Perhaps it means settling or cultivating.

103. Worship of the Kalpaka tree, that grants wishes.

122. Spring creeper, a variety of jasmine; it bears white, fragrant flowers.

126. Fortune pesonified.

133. Milk, melted butter, curds, urine, and dung; the cow is sacred.

143. The god of love, Kama, tried to tempt Lord Siva Himself, who was seated in single-minded meditation on Mt. Kailasa in the Himalayas. The Lord opened his Third Eye (the eye of wisdom and of visioning) and a spark flew out and burnt Kama to ashes. From that time, Love was known as the Bodiless.

150. A contemptuous word for the mouth.

151. Illusion, magic, sorcery.

(From The Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie by Sivadasa. Penguin Classics edition, translated by Chandra Rajan.)

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