James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe’s Forgotten Conversation About Beauty, Morality, and the Political Power…

first_img“Art,” Jeanette Winterson told an interviewer, “can make a difference because it pulls people up short. It says, ‘don’t accept things for their face value; you don’t have to go along with any of this; you can think for yourself.’”On April 9, 1980, exactly a decade after his legendary conversation with Margaret Mead, James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) sat down with Chinua Achebe (November 16, 1930–March 21, 2013) for a dialogue about beauty, morality, and the political duties of art and the artist — a dialogue that continues to pull us up short with its sobering wisdom. Later included in the 1989 anthology Conversations with James Baldwin (public library), this meeting of titanic minds touches on a great many of our own cultural challenges and friction points, and radiates timeless, timely insight into how we might begin to stop accepting a deeply flawed status quo at face value. Achebe begins by defining an aesthetic as “those qualities of excellence which culture discerns from its works of art” and argues that our standards for this excellence are mutable — constantly changing, in a dynamic interaction with our social, cultural, and political needs:Aesthetic cannot be fixed, immutable. It has to change as the occasion demands because in our understanding, art is made by man* for man, and, therefore, according to the needs of man, his qualities of excellence. What he looks for in art will also change… We are not simply receivers of aesthetics … we are makers of aesthetics.Art, Achebe argues, arises out of its social context and must always be in dialogue with that social element:Art has a social purpose [and] art belongs to the people. It’s not something that is hanging out there that has no connection with the needs of man. And art is unashamedly, un-embarrassingly, if there is such a word, social. It is political; it is economic. The total life of man is reflected in his art.In a sentiment evocative of what Adrienne Rich has called “the long, erotic, un-ended wrestling” of art and politics, Achebe considers those who chastise artists for making their art political. All art is inherently political, he notes, but what such critics consider the artist’s objectionable “politics” is simply opposition to their politics and their comfortable alignment with the status quo:Those who tell you “Do not put too much politics in your art” are not being honest. If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is.And what they are saying is not don’t introduce politics. What they are saying is don’t upset the system. They are just as political as any of us. It’s only that they are on the other side.Most art, Achebe argues, arises out of the status quo because — and perhaps this is a version of civilizational confirmation bias, with undertones of the backfire effect — we like to be affirmed in our values:If you look at our aesthetics you will find … that art is in the service of man. Art was not created to dominate and destroy man. Art is made by man for his own comfort.He turns to African art — particularly the tradition of his own heritage, the Ibo people — to illustrate the central concern of all art:Our art is based on morality. Perhaps this sounds old-fashioned to you, but it is not to us. The earth goddess among the Ibo people is the goddess of morality. An abomination is called an abomination against the arts. So you see in our aesthetic you cannot run away from morality. Morality is basic to the nature of art.Using, as he tended to, the word “poet” in the larger sense of any artist, any person of poetic orientation, Baldwin responds by affirming this core moral function of art and enlarges its human dimension:When Chinua talks about aesthetic, beneath that world sleeps — think of it — the word morality. And beneath that word we are confronted with the way we treat each other. That is the key to any morality.Invariably, this question of how we treat each other turns to race relations. But then, as if to illustrate the urgency of Baldwin’s point, the conversation is interrupted by a voice that had somehow hijacked the auditorium speaker system. The hostile male voice comes pouring out of Baldwin’s own microphone: “You gonna have to cut it out Mr. Baldwin. We can’t stand for thiskind of going on.” At this point, a riled but composed Baldwin speaks authoritatively into the microphone before a shocked audience:Mr. Baldwin is nevertheless going to finish his statement. And I will tell you now, whoever you are, that if you assassinate me in the next two minutes, I’m telling you this: it no longer matters what you think. The doctrine of white supremacy on which the Western world is based has had its hour — has had its day! It’s over!As the audience enthusiastically applauds Baldwin, the moderator — a Sri Lankan-American professor of Ethnic Studies named Ernest Champion — rises and makes the perfect remark to restore order:It is quite obvious that we are in the eye of the hurricane. But having this dialogue is quite important so all of us in this room will take it seriously.With this, the anonymous antagonist vanishes just as he had appeared and the conversation continues, returning to the central duty of art. Achebe observes:An artist is committed to art which is committed to people.Baldwin nods in agreement:The poet is produced by the people because the people need him.Echoing his earlier thoughts on how the artist’s struggle for integrity illuminates the human struggle, he adds:I know the price an artist pays… I know the price a man pays. And I am here to try to say something which perhaps only a poet can attempt to say… We are trying to make you see something. And maybe this moment we can only try to make you see it. But there ain’t no money in it.In answering an audience question, Achebe builds on what that “something” is:There is something we [black artists] are committed to of fundamental importance, something everybody should be committed to. We are committed to the process of changing our position in the world… We have followed your way and it seems there is a little problem at this point. And so we are offering a new aesthetic. There is nothing wrong with that… Picasso did that. In 1904 he saw that Western art had run out of breath so he went to the Congo — the despised Congo — and brought out a new art… He borrowed something which saved his art. And we are telling you what we think will save your art. We think we are right, but even if we are wrong it doesn’t matter. It couldn’t be worse than it is now.Considering the implications of the latter statement, Baldwin makes an observation of chilling resonance today:We are in trouble. But there are two ways to be in trouble. One of them is to know you’re in trouble. If you know you’re in trouble you may be able to figure out the road.This country is in trouble. Everybody is in trouble — not only the people who apparently know they are in trouble, not only the people who know they are not white. The white people in this country … think they are white: because “white is a state of mind.” I’m quoting my friend Malcolm X … white is a moral choice… I can write if you can live. And you can live if I can write.Responding to another audience question about the notion that “there can be no great art without great prejudice,” using Joseph Conrad as an example, Achebe echoes his central conviction about the role of the artist and readjusts the moral compass of art:Great art flourishes on problems or anguish or prejudice. But the role of the writer must be very clear. The writer must not be on the side of oppression. In other words there must be no confusion. I write about prejudice; I write about wickedness; I write about murder; I write about rape: but I must not be caught on the side of murder or rape. It is as simple as that.Quoting the Ibo proverb that “where something stands, something else will stand beside it,” Achebe argues that great art is built on pluralism and comes from the artist’s ability to embrace — to borrow Walt Whitman’s wonderful phrase — her or his multitudes:Single-mindedness … leads to totalitarianism of all kinds, to fanaticism of all kinds. And I can’t help the feeling that somehow at the base, art and fanaticism are not loggerheads.[…]Wherever something is, something else also is. And I think it is important that whatever the regimes are saying — that the artist keeps himself ready to enter the other plea. Perhaps it’s not tidy — perhaps we are contradicting ourselves. But one of your poets has said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well.”Conversations with James Baldwin abounds with abiding wisdom on art and life from one of the fiercest minds of the past century and a number of his venerated peers. Complement it with Baldwin on the creative process, freedom and how we imprison ourselves, his advice to aspiring writers, and his forgotten conversation with Nikki Giovanni about what it means to be truly empowered, then revisit Achebe on the writer’s responsibility to the world.* 1980 was still well within the era in which every writer, every artist, every human being was, as Ursula K. Le Guin noted in her timelessly brilliant commentary on gendered language, “a man.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Planet Formation: Just Add Water?

first_imgThe Spitzer Space Telescope found evidence of water in a dust disk around a star.  Does this mean we understand how the earth, with all its water, formed?    Using the Spitzer infrared instrumentation, John Carr (Naval Research Laboratory) and Joan Najita (National Optical Astronomy Observatory) found spectra of organic molecules and water in the planet-forming region of star AA Tauri.  Reporting in Science,1 they said this extends the water-bearing region out to 3 AU (astronomical units), previously observed only one-tenth that range (0.3 AU).  Earth, by definition, is 1 AU from our sun.  The presence of water is important not only for oceans but for the oxidizing state of the gas and minerals that might make up a rocky planet.    Commenting on this paper in the same issue of Science,2 Fred Ciesla of the Carnegie Institution of Washington was excited.  His excitement centered not so much on finding answers as much as sorting out possibilities.  Chondrites (meteoritic material) support a wide range of isotopic ratios.  This means they are not much help defining the conditions in planet-forming regions.  “Although agreements of this type between the models and the chondrites hint that we are beginning to understand how our solar system formed, they are far from definitive,” he said.  “Alternate models have been proposed and have equal success in explaining the properties of chondritic materials.”    The debate remains unsettled, even though it is important: “Identifying which of these models is correct is critical to furthering our understanding of how planetary systems form because it has implications on other issues, ranging from the origin of cometary grains to the manner by which giant planets form.”    So does the news about water at AA Tauri settle the question?  Not exactly.  Dust disks around other stars show a wide range of available water vapor, from wet to dry: “Interestingly, water appears to be depleted in SVS 13 relative to what is predicted in stagnant disk models,” he said.    Does the degree of observed variation confuse models of planetary evolution or constrain them?  It depends on one’s optimism, imagination, and creativity:To date, these observations do not distinguish which of the models developed for our solar nebula is correct but rather lend support to recent models for the dynamic evolution of water and other volatiles in protoplanetary disks.  However, as the techniques used by Carr et al. are applied to other disks, correlations between their chemical compositions and their physical properties can be identified.  Models for water evolution predict that the enhancement of water in inner disks should be followed by periods of depletions, so systematic variations with age are expected.  Also, larger disks would provide more water ice to drift inward and thus would produce greater enhancements in the inner disk.  Searching for such correlations will thus allow us to test models developed for our own solar nebula and determine whether it evolved in a similar way as other disks in our galaxy or if, instead, our planetary system is the result of one or multiple unique circumstances.  Right now, these new results, combined with the discovery of high temperature grains in comets and in the outer regions of protoplanetary disks, suggest that the manner by which our solar system formed may have been the rule.The presence of high-temperature grains in comets, he didn’t mention, was a complete surprise (01/25/2008, bullet 1, and 12/27/2007).1.  John S. Carr and John R. Najita, “Organic Molecules and Water in the Planet Formation Region of Young Circumstellar Disks,” Science, 14 March 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5869, pp. 1504-1506, DOI: 10.1126/science.1153807.2.  Fred Ciesla, “Planetary Science: Observing Our Origins,” Science, 4 March 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5869, pp. 1488-1489, DOI: 10.1126/science.1155858.May, might, would, could, should – perhaps water content goes up and down; maybe planets form by core accretion and then again, maybe they don’t; maybe earth formed by one (or more) unique circumstances or maybe planet formation is common, maybe there is a rule here and maybe not – but we are getting warmer!  “Observing our origins,” Ciesla calls this.  Any number of models can be “developed” that fit the same observations or any new ones that come along.  There are enough holes in this line of reasoning to drive a starship freight transport fleet through.  Ciesla has a case of ingrown eyeballs.  The only thing he is observing is his imagination, projected on the back of his skull.(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

More Body Wonders

first_imgHere are more facts you probably didn’t learn in anatomy or physiology class.Neurons in the human eye are organized for error correction (Science Daily): “Seeing is believing,” but only insofar as it is accurate. This article discusses “Cells that send visual signals to the brain act collectively to suppress noise and improve accuracy.”Understanding X-chromosome silencing in humans (Science Daily): If females didn’t silence one of their X-chromosomes, they would have an imbalance of gene expression. “X-chromosome silencing is essential for proper development,” this article begins. Researchers add another protein to Xist involved in this operation. It’s called Xact. Interestingly, it appears in humans but not in mice.Super-you: Your body is a nation of trillions (New Scientist): It’s enough to give you the creepy-crawlies all night, just looking at the photo of an alien-like dust mite, then hearing that thousands of these eight-legged arthropods live on your face and skin. Indeed, Daniel Cossins writes, “Legions of creatures inhabit the cracks, contours and crevices of your body — and they all contribute to who you are.” You can take some comfort that it’s not just your problem. According to one Stanford biologist, “Each of us is really a complex consortium of different organisms, one of which is human.” Now back to sleep.Your left hand knows what your right hand is doing (Science Daily): Experiments at Tel Aviv University showed that when “people practiced finger movements with their right hand while watching their left hand on 3D virtual reality headsets, they could use their left hand more efficiently after the exercise.” The opening of the article says that “the saying” goes, “your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing.” If that was an off-hand reference to Jesus, the actual quote from the Sermon on the Mount does not make such a claim. He said, “when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret” – implying that both hands are in communication. The metaphor was not intended as a statement of science, but as a figure of speech to make a point about almsgiving.Why we walk on our heels instead of our toes (Science Daily): A barefoot runner at the University of Arizona wondered why humans land heel-first when walking instead of ball-first. His analysis showed that “Walking heel-to-toe gives humans the mechanical advantage of longer ‘virtual limbs’.” James Webber explains:“The extra ‘virtual limb’ length is longer than if we had just had them stand on their toes, so it seems humans have found a novel way of increasing our limb length and becoming more efficient walkers than just standing on our toes,” Webber said. “It still all comes down to limb length, but there’s more to it than how far our hip is from the ground. Our feet play an important role, and that’s often something that’s been overlooked.“Webber makes up a story about how humans evolved this heel-first habit based simply on the observation that barefoot runners tend to land on the middle or balls of their feet. But he acknowledges that the Laetoli footprints show the pattern of heel-first walking began early.Laetoli Footprint NewsSpeaking of the Laetoli footprints, a new trackway has been found. Reported in eLife, it shows a modern gait with basically modern human feet, according to New Scientist. The problem is there should not have been any modern humans around 3.66 million years ago, when evolutionists believe these prints were made in Tanzania. But instead of focusing on that problem, the news reports latched onto the scientists’ supposition, based on the print sizes, that a fairly large male (5’5″, large for a presumed Australopithecus) was accompanied by several smaller females. That’s all that popular news reporters needed to go ape:“Ancient human ancestor was one tall dude, his footprints say” (Phys.org)“Oldest early human footprints suggest males had several ‘wives’” (Collin Barras in New Scientist)‘Lucy’ Species May Have Been Polygynous (Charles Q. Choi in Live Science)From prints to polygamy; that’s one giant leap for mankind. One can only wonder what such reporters would concoct from footprints left by a teenage boy leading his younger sisters to the beach.For all Choi or Barras know, the prints were made by children walking to Sunday School. That’s the danger of letting Darwinians into the science business. Their speculation knows no bounds.Speculation drops the more you focus on details. Let these evolution-drunk reporters tell us about evolving a foot by mutation and natural selection. Let them tell us the specific accidents that yielded an efficient center of gravity below ground as they walk. Let them tell us what mistakes led cells to cooperate to improve accuracy of vision. Let them explain how two different proteins cooperated to silence an extra X-chromosome, or how a blind natural process figured out it needed to be done in the first place.The devil is not in the details; that’s where the angel is. The devil lurks in the blurry figures the imagination conjures up in Darwin’s crystal ball when the lights are turned low.(Visited 54 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Joburg ramps up for Fashion Kapitol

first_img5 May 2008Johannesburg is to have the world’s first public outdoor fashion ramp, to be opened as the Fashion Kapitol in July this year. So says fashion writer and consultant Adam Levin.And, adds Rees Mann, the person driving the revamp of Johannesburg’s fashion district, what is happening in the district is not displacing anyone, as happened in Newtown, but is rather bringing people to live in the area.Things are moving fast on the eastern edge of Johannesburg’s CBD; initially they were held up by buying properties and then getting permission from the provincial heritage authority to demolish buildings. Now that permission has been obtained and two buildings have been demolished, the fashion ramp is rapidly taking shape in the Fashion Kapitol.The kapitol will take up most of a block in the heart of the fashion district. It will consist of 30 shops, offices, studios, a restaurant, a small square, a ramp, an amphitheatre, and an arcade linking Pritchard and Market streets.“The feel of the kapitol is that of a sexy new metropolitan centre,” says Mann.“In time, the streets surrounding the kapitol will bustle with beads and buttons, models lugging their portfolios to casting sessions, and the city’s fashion pioneers strutting their uniquely personal styles.” It will become Africa’s fashion capital.Joburg’s Fashion Kapitol will take its place alongside international capitals. New York’s Fashion Avenue is home to 5 000 fashion merchants; Antwerp’s ModeNatie or Fashion Nation boasts a fashion museum; while Los Angeles has a fashion district of 94 blocks with an annual turnover of $6-billion.Mann says the kapitol has three target markets: fashion-conscious suburban shoppers, downtown shoppers who work in the CBD, and tourists. Its African flavour will be a draw card for tourists.He is the third generation of garment entrepreneurs in the fashion district – his family having set up shop there in 1948. Mann has planted three trees in the square, in memory of the three generations.26 city blocksThe district incorporates an area of some 26 city blocks on the eastern edge of the CBD, with its core bordered by Polly, President, Troye and Pritchard streets. It houses over 100 fashion-related businesses, including cut, make and trim operators, a budget clothing retail industry and studios of several emerging and established designers like Clive Rundle and Bongiwe Walaza.Rundle has booked his place in the kapitol, taking one of the old buildings as his upstairs studio, with plans to open a coffee shop on the ground floor. Walaza has taken one of the shops fronting the square.Mann emphasises that the kapitol is not just for the fashion industry, but he hopes it will be seen as a space for product launches, for artists and their exhibition space, poetry readings, training and meetings. “This is not just garments, it is about lifestyle and anything related to the arts industry.”It will also house the offices of the Fashion District Institute, a section 21 company of which he is the acting executive director. Mann says the kapitol has been a dream of 10 years, which is finally coming to fruition. “Ten years ago I went to the City of Johannesburg with a proposal to renew this area.“It’s amazing to see a part of Johannesburg that is so close to my heart come full circle – but while the bustling rag trade of my childhood had a distinctly Eurocentric feel, its rebirth will be pan-African and cosmopolitan.”He is using bold colours in the kapitol, like lime green, orange and pink, to emphasise that it is a vibrant place. He also hopes to hold lunch-time fashion shows, run by student and emerging designers. The square could also double as a market place.The row of shops along President Street has being identified for international designers, so that it will become an “international walkway”, with flags denoting the countries represented. “It has been 10 years from getting the ball rolling,” he says with a broad smile. “The kapitol has exceeded my expectations.”Three heritage buildingsThe three heritage buildings are two houses dating back to 1892 and 1895, and a two-storey cabinet maker’s workshop and furniture store, built in 1928. The houses consisted of verandas, bedrooms, sitting rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and outside toilets. In 1992 all three buildings become a restaurant and tavern, with a fast food section, offices and storerooms, with the two-storey structure becoming the dining area.Heritage consultant Herbert Prins says in a report that the buildings were “typical of urban living”, with the verandas allowing social interaction between the owners of the houses and passers-by.The original building materials are still visible: burnt brick, interlaced with clay or dagha as mortar, tar and sand for the damp coursing, rubble stone masonry for the foundations and galvanised iron for the roofing.Prins says the buildings are significant because they are some of the city’s earliest inner city dwellings, showing what materials were used for construction, how the houses were positioned on the street, and finer details like outside toilets.“Although the internal structure has been largely destroyed, the extant plans point to the social relations of public and private spaces, family and individual spaces, entertainment and service spaces, work and living spaces, and the ways these were arranged and linked to each other in the early days of the mining town of Johannesburg.”JDA sponsorshipThe development is sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), which is pumping R9-million into the kapitol and a further R26-million into the revamp of the greater fashion district precinct.This involves paving 20 blocks over the next several years, replacing the mosaic stitching pavements, adding street furniture like benches, bins and trees, and giving the district a distinctive feel with new lighting. The plan includes artworks to be placed in the square by June, says Claudia Mahlaule, a development manager at the JDA.The plan is to link the recently revamped high court precinct with the fashion district by means of new paving and lighting. The JDA has also recently revamped jewel city, just south of the fashion district, and work continues on the Ellis Park precinct.The fashion district is also in the early stages of applying for city improvement district status.Property boomProperty in the fashion district is experiencing a boom as a result of the developments. Two major property development companies, City Properties and Afhco, have bought derelict blocks of flats and offices, and are converting them into B-grade offices and residential units.Max Katz of City Properties says the company started buying in the district two years ago. It bought Fashion Art Court and Fashion Art Place on the corner of Pritchard and Troye streets, and are in the throes of renovating the two buildings.The small businesses that occupied the buildings will be re-instated, together with offices and bachelor, one-bedroom and two-bedroom flats. With smart finishings, the flats will have prepaid electricity meters, an intercom system and 24-hour security. There will be an entertainment gallery, a braai area and a drying port, so washing is not hung on balconies, he emphasises.Neighbouring Registry House has also been bought and the first few storeys have already been converted. The Malalaituka Grill is doing brisk business, while retail space is ready for occupation. An internet cafe, a training centre and a college have already taken office space.City Properties has also bought the 23-storey Splendid Place in Pritchard Street, at present an eyesore with washing on balconies, rubbish accumulated above the retail-level roof, and broken windows. The company paid R22-million for the building, and will spend R45-million on revamping it.Tayob Towers, slightly further east but still within the district, was also recently purchased, and will be converted into 360 residential units. Katz says his company has bought some 70 buildings in the city centre and converted most of them into 1 200 residential units, while upgrading office spaces.“The company is tapping into the emerging middle-class market.”Lebo Mashego of Afhco says the company owns 11 buildings in the district, and it is busying buying another five. Three of them have already been converted into residential units, while work on the others continues. Most units are bachelor or one-bedroomed, confirms Mashego, in line with the demand in the precinct.Afhco has bought and converted some 45 buildings in the inner city. He says that the eastern edge of the CBD is still thought of as a dangerous area but things are changing, with the help of the JDA and the private sector.“The unique pan-African ambience reflects the character of the new Johannesburg and will make the kapitol an accessible and lively destination for tourists, suburbanites and the fashion community we intend to establish in the area,” confirms Mann.Source: City of Johannesburglast_img read more

Military Caregiving–The Essence of Communication

first_imgThe single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. –George Bernard Shaw Lack of communication can be an underlying problem in caregiving relationships with their wounded warriors, health care providers and family and friends. While you are unable to fully treat your service member’s injury as a caregiver, you are able to improve the rehabilitation process through effective communication.Through the course of your caregiving journey you must rely on your communication skills with your loved one to obtain and share information, grow and adapt to change, to understand your warrior’s needs, and to stay connected with others.Communicating with your wounded warriorAccording to the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, communication is significant to your long-term relationship with one another. Caregiving demands can make it difficult to balance other roles of being a husband, wife, partner or parent. Do not be afraid to ask questions for fear of offending your service member. Talking about your concerns with your wounded warrior offers support and provides an opportunity to reassure each other.Allow each other to talk about what you are feelingShare the things you each do to cope with overwhelming emotionsIdentify topics that are stressful for youTry to not judge each otherDiscuss issues of intimacyTalk with a counselor or clergy memberProtect your time togetherTalk about hopes that you each have for the futureCommunicating with Health Care ProvidersMedical appointments can be stressful. It is important to learn about your warrior’s medical conditions and understand the information you receive. Preparing for an appointment ahead of time can help you, your family member and his/her health care providers obtain important information you each need.Jot down key questions or points you want to discuss with the doctor.Keep a folder of your family member’s medical information. Bring it to each visit.Talk to the doctor or nurse case manager about your worries.Report any major changes you observe in your service member’s symptoms, mood, abilities or daily activities.Take notes during medical visits.Meet with your service member’s Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) and their Triad of Care or health care team to discuss ‘next steps’ in the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) or care plan.Communicating with family and friendsYou may feel alone in your caregiving duties and that no one else understands. Asking for help is not easy but it may be the best way for you to stay healthy and continue giving care. Help others to understand by letting them know what they can do to help out–and how often you want their assistance.Be honest about what you can and cannot do. Think about all the things you do each day. What tasks can others do to free up some of your time or to ease your work load?Fix a mealCleanRun errandsDo yard workProvide childcareHelp with financesGive you opportunities to talk or share feelingsDrive family members to appointmentsCaregiving can be both challenging and satisfying. Learning how to effectively communicate is the essential building-blocks to your journey ahead.If you are a veteran caregiver, what advice could you offer to our younger generation of caregivers to improve their relationships with their wounded warriors?last_img read more

Laxman set to draw the curtains on a ‘Very Very Special’ career

first_imgVangipurapu Venkata Sai Laxman, the stylish Hyderabadi cricketer, is all set to call it a day.The 37-year-old middle-order batsman is likely to quit international cricket soon after the two-Test cricket series against New Zealand, commencing on August 23. The first match of the series will be played in his home town of Hyderabad.Laxman is expected to make the announcement on his retirement in a day or two.The “Very Very Special” batsman, who has been out of form for the last two seasons, reportedly told his close friends in the field and a couple of sports correspondents on Friday that he had decided to retire from international cricket and would like to make an announcement to this effect before the commencement of the India-New Zealand Test series for which he was picked up.”I would take a final call after discussing with my parents, wife, well-wishers, coaches and other friends,” he is learnt to have said.Laxman did not respond to the calls and text messages when Mail Today tried to contact him to get confirmation about the reports on his retirement. Sources close to him, however, confirmed that he made up his mind to bid adieu to cricket.Laxman, who made his debut in 1996 against South Africa, has played 134 Tests scoring 8,781 runs, including 17 centuries and 56 fifties, at an average of 45.97. He has also played 86 ODIs, scoring 2,338 runs with six hundreds.Sources said Laxman had, in fact, decided to announce retirement much before the selection of team for the two-match Test series against New Zealand. “The retirement of Rahul Dravid brought a lot of pressure on him to follow suit, as he had not performed well in both the Test series in Australia and England. Since then, he was toying up with the idea of quitting international cricket,” sources said.In fact, Laxman’s average during the four-Test series against Australia was 19.38, and before that, he had just averaged 22.75 in the series against England. In between these two series, however, he had put up a good show against the West Indies in a three-Test home series by scoring 298 runs with a stupendous average of 99.33.Following the pathetic performance in Australia, Laxman was under pressure to quit, as there was criticism against him that he was blocking the chances of youngsters. He was apprehensive that he might not be picked up for the series with New Zealand, but the selectors have thought otherwise. They picked him up for the squad as they apparently thought a senior cricketer like him would be the backbone of the team in the absence of Dravid. As a result, Laxman decided to play for the last time for the country.”Obviously, he wants to retire with grace by putting up a decent performance in the home series,” sources said.advertisementlast_img read more