Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The post I could get killed for

Note: Please be patient with this post. Its long, but do read the point.

I cannot remember names. Just cannot remember them. Who came up with what theory, who said what... no names! I know Einstein invented the electric bulb and Edison the theory of relativity, but that's about it.

I like to think that it is genetic to Indians. All our paintings, even as recent as 300 year old ones, do not carry the landmark signature. Though I left my history long ago, (what hope did I have with such spectacular memory of names. My memory with dates is even better), I do remember that in India, it was considered sacrilegious to attach your name to a creation.

To us, all creation is nothing but the message of Saraswati, the goddess of learning and wisdom, and repository of universal Gyana (wisdom). We are but messengers. And therefore, how can we claim credit for creating something that we are merely delivering? In our tradition, we don't even know who wrote the vedas!

Books are identified, even today, by the method of the writer including his name, if at all, in a devotional passage to the god/dess of choice, terming him/herself as the "das" (servant) asking for blessings before embarking on the task ordained. Most poets and writers do not put it, and then we depend on references made by other writers to their work, to identify who the writer was. That was how the original name of Vatsyayana was discovered - ONLY through references in other works. That is also the way we found out about Aryabhatta and Leelavati Beej Ganit - the fore-father of all algebra books.

Ustad Mansoor, the legendary painter in Jahangir's court, also did not sign his paintings. That is our tradition. Ideas do not belong to anyone. They are just things we pick up from the ocean of universal wisdom. Some of us present them to others as messengers.

Now, my question is, name one original idea in the world today. The Monk Who sold his Ferrari is plagiarised from the Geeta. As are a lot of Shiv Kheras and the rest. Of course, the fact that Buddhism presents the ideas of detachment that I also found in the Geeta makes the whole concept of plagiarism a little... well, historic.

Given this, does Kaavya Vishwanathan deserve what she got? In a book full of .. What? 2000 paragraphs or so, we are raising a storm about 40 passages? Are we saying that these ideas have NEVER been written about by anyone else? If they have been, does that mean that the "original" authors raising a hue and cry themselves deserve to be pulled up for plagiarising? What is the similarity between a girl who discloses all to a man in a plane, and a girl who decides to get a life to get into Harvard? The opportunity to create a little issue, and to sell some more copies of the book, that's what!

Well folks, be very careful, bcs the first person to put "Don't give me gyan" to his college buddy, over a cigarette in the college canteen, in a novel is going to sue you for similar passages if you write a book - ever! It doesn't matter that chicklit can depend on some very familiar themes.

Incidentally, I have found a project: Am going to look for plagiarised content in all the Mills and Boons series. And I am going to find out all the passages where Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys have borrowed from the Famous Five. AND, I really MUST find out who else has stolen from the Geeta and the Vedas.


Vasu said...

But thats the truth... No idea in the world is truly original. Everything is a copy of a copy..
Sort of like mimesis..


Chiya said...

If I read your point correctly, it is that there is UNNECESSARY hue and cry over Kavyya's book on plagiarism.
Accordnig to you it is unnecesary becoz this is what a lot of people do and get away with.

My viewpoint is genesis of this hue and cry is not plagiarism but the amount of money invovlved. To make things easier for the initiator of this issue there are actually some passages PRESENT which are too identical.

If you will strat finding copies you will find many but exactly the same thing copied word by word, will you really find it somewhere?
Yes, Monk Ferrari is borrowed from Gita, but unless one has read Gita very throughly and also this book nobody can point this out. Atleast no body can say it is copied word by word.

True that nothing is original but I believe in copying also one can be creative.

Chiya said...

Incidentaly, you have truly found a great project, you can get back to your M.B and Enid Blyton days....:)
Try Lotpot and chnadamama also, even they might have something of your interest.

How do we know said...

Hi Vasu: Exactly my point! So spare the girl!

Hi Chiya: hmm.. so exactly why are we punishing Kaavya Vishwanatan, or the concept of "plagiarising" - for copying, or for not being creative enough in her copying? :-)
btw.. that project.. it wont take off.. i have never read an MB in my life and probably never will. Chandamama never says it is not reflecting stories from the Puranans, but give me Chandamama and Nandan anyday!!

Chiya said...


I am not good with words so probably was not able to convey what I actually wanted to say.

Kavya Viswanathan's controversy actually has nothing to do with writing. It just the forefront.
Just that her copying without being creative has given the base and fuel to this controversy.
There is more than what meets the eye.

Good to know your chndamama and nandan tastes..:)

Aradhna said...

Wow, what a great idea to encourage plagiarising.

Now I can confortably own up all the poetry written by lesser known poets, including the one which have just posted on my blog.:)

Wriju said...

Very interesting :-)
I noticed that you don't sign your name too. How do we know who you are?

There is a thin line though between plagiarism and inspiration. Original ideas are a rarity - It is quite forgivable to be inspired by ideas of others. Indeed when we write a lot of this happens subconsciously. However, Copy-Paste of passages is downright blasphemous! Especially when its done without acknowledgement.

Aradhna said...

By Ruchita Sharma

"Quiet a valid point made here, infact I think it is not even fair to give credit to Geeta here. Geeta is supposed to be “Niti ka saransh” so effectively it is summarization of key learning by the mankind during that time and as there was not too much which could be written people relied on stories, proverbs, idioms, songs and pictures to carry the messages.

Somebody had been smart enough to convert it into Geeta and Publishers are making money without any royalty to pay for so much of gyan;

Bollywood gets so many climax dialogues without worrying on any copyright issues!!

Had we been like US I am sure Lord Krishna would have sued the nation to bankruptcy by now. Even if his being God is a myth as so many think so, with so much money he would not be less then a God in today’s world…….

And Bush would have focused on him instead of Osama!! Now now I am not saying Osma is anything like that but then to his (Osama’s) people what is he…….I don’t know. After all “what is there in a name” and I know Shakspere said it :)."

How do we know said...

Chiya: I completely agree. There is more to question is, what?? i really do want to know! (and am too dumb to figure out).

Hi Aradhna: :-) I don't know how to answer that. Esp after the fact that my post indicated that to attach a name to a message and to claim it as your own, is in itself, pretty vain.

Wriju: Well, you made me research the next post thoroughly!

Ruchita: I Love you already! :-)