Thursday, April 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.29: Old Age as a Cure for Vanity? Or for Intoxication?

vivarNita-shmashru valii-vikuNcitaM
vishiirNa-dantaM shithila-bhru niSh-prabhaM
yadaa mukhaM drakShyasi jarjaraM tadaa
jar"-aabhibhuuto vimado bhaviShyasi

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White whiskered and wrinkled,

With broken teeth and sagging brows, lacking lustre:

When, humbled by age, you see your face grown old,

Then you will sober up.

The dictionary defines vimada as (1) free from intoxication, grown sober; (2) free from rut; (3) free from pride or arrogance

A case could be made for each of these three translations of vimadaH in line 4 of today's verse, viz:

(1) The next verse, 9.30, compares being intoxicated by one's own strength, looks and youth with being intoxicated by alcohol. In that context, "free from intoxication" or "grown sober" fits.

(2) "Free from rut" is consistent with the other usage of the word vimada, four verses from the end of the poem, in line 4 of 18.61:
paarshvaan muneH pratiyayau vi-madaH kar" iiva
He left the sage's side like an elephant free of rut.

(3) Since the striver is specifically discussing in this verse the lack of youthful good looks on an aged face, "free of vanity" also fits.

I argued before that we haven't seen any evidence of vanity on the part of Nanda, even though his good looks were praised by others; we have only seen evidence of vanity on the part of the striver himself, who thinks he understands how to heal human minds even though he doesn't seem to know any skillful means by which to help Nanda. On reflection, there are a couple of verses which falsify this view of mine regarding Nanda's vanity or lack thereof.

First the description of Nanda's attire in Canto 4 points to a certain vanity:

Hearing that the great seer had entered his house and departed again without receiving a welcome, / He in his brightly-coloured gems and garments and garlands, flinched like a tree in Indra's paradise shaken by a gust of wind. //

Second, at the beginning of this canto Ashvaghosha himself describes Nanda as being caught up in his good looks:

And so seeing him caught up as he was by strength and by looks and by youth, /Seeing him all set to go home, the striver chastised Nanda, in the name of tranquillity.// [9.4]

In view of the amount of money spent by old people on face creams, hair dye, cosmetic dentistry, cosmetic surgery and the rest, is old age is a cure for vanity? Hardly. A sobering experience, however, and a sobering thought, old age undoubtedly is.

I had thought to translate vimado bhaviShyasi as "you will be free from vanity," and then to argue that the striver's prediction was not necessarily true -- that old age does not necessarily lead to freedom from vanity.

But on further reflection, with apologies to the striver, I have veered in the direction of sobering up.

EH Johnston:
When you see your face faded with white moustache, covered with wrinkles, with its brilliance gone, teeth broken and eyebrows with their curve lost, then you will find yourself overcome by old age and your intoxication will vanish.

Linda Covill:
When you behold your face grown old -- lusterless, lined with wrinkles, with a white moustache, broken teeth and sagging eyebrows -- then, beaten by age, you will be free of vanity.

vivarNita-shmashru (acc. sg. n.): with discoloured whiskers
vivarNita: mfn. dispraised
vi- √ varN: to discolour
shmashru: n. the beard , (esp.) moustache , the hairs of the beard (pl.)
valii-vikuNcitam (acc. sg. n.): creased with wrinkles; wrinkled
valii: f. a fold of the skin , wrinkle
vikuNcita: mfn. contracted , crisped , curled , knitted (as the brow);
vi- √ kuNch: to contract , draw back (the ears)
vishiirNa-dantam (acc. sg. n.): with broken/missing/decaying teeth
vishiirNa: mfn. broken , shattered &c; fallen out (as teeth)
vi- √shR: to be broken or shattered or dissolved , crumble or fall to pieces , waste away , decay
danta: m. tooth

shithila-bhru (acc. sg. n.): with sagging brows
shithila: loose , slack , lax , relaxed , untied , flaccid , not rigid or compact
bhruu: f. an eyebrow , the brow
niSh-prabham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. deprived of light or radiance , lustreless , gloomy , dark

yadaa: ind. when
mukham (acc. sg.): n. face
drakShyasi = 2nd pers. sg. future dRsh: to see, behold
jarjaram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. infirm , decrepit , decayed , torn or broken in pieces , perforated , hurt
tadaa: ind. then, at that time

jar"-aabhibhuutaH (nom. sg. m.): beaten by age
jaraa: f. aging, old age
abhibhuuta: mfn. surpassed , defeated , subdued , humbled
abhi- √ bhuu: to overcome , overpower , predominate , conquer , surpass , overspread ; to attack , defeat , humiliate
vimadaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. free from intoxication , grown sober; free from rut ; free from pride or arrogance
bhaviShyasi = 2nd pers. sg. future bhuu: to be, become

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