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Monday, May 14, 2007

Exercise : Defending The Indefensible

Ranjit Hoskote is a name that brings back memories of avariciously looking forward to and eagerly devouring his columns in the Times of India, when it was a respectable old hag ( infantile now, of course ). It is with no small sense of pleasure that you discover someone blogging his views and reactions at MSUDiary on the recent Art fracas.

We are not an Artist, even lesser an Academic ( much as one would prefer to be either or both ), and yet one feels impelled to respond to some of his concerns ...

The first thing that strikes you is the choice of words that comprise the title of the first blog post - 'Hindu Sacred Art Offends Self-appointed Custodians of Hindu Culture'.

To flip the point being made around its axis - 'Self-Certified Artists ( or should that be Artistes / Curators / Purveyors of Hindu Sacred Art ) Take Umbrage At Being Accused Of Indecency And Obscenity By Representatives Of The People ( Or At Least Some Of Them )'.

All these images, among the finest produced through the centuries in the subcontinent, celebrate the sensuous and the passionate dimensions of existence which, in the Hindu world-view, are inseparably twinned with the austere and the contemplative.

Now it would be interesting to note that these are the words of a prominent Art critic and Poet. Not the original artists of the samples of Art that were cobbled up for protest. Interesting also if one were to question what the painters of such, in the regions that they reside and survive ( if they do ), think of what they have traditionally painted and why. We do not know of any such thing and therefore are compelled to take Mr Hoskote's words at face value. As the Truth ( whatever it might be ).

It appears that the champions of a resurgent Hindu identity are acutely embarrassed by the presence of the erotic at the centre of Hindu sacred art. As they may well be, for the roots of Hindutva do not lie in Hinduism. Rather, they lie in a crude mixture of German romanticism, Victorian puritanism and Nazi methodology.

Fair Enough, you would say - so the mixture must be. But then if Hinduism has been all-embracing, all-inclusive, all-encompassing, it has to have been ever-changing, and since religion has no existence outside of the people who adhere to it ( and not ), this is what has been borne as fruit. For us. Now. Here. And it is not necessary that this is how it will be for all time to come. ( Why does one start thinking of VS Naipaul? ). However, to start fearing it as one did the Nazis, would be to necessarily create such. When was it that you realised that you create that which you fear?

Why do you feel that the emergence of Hindutva and its attempts to gather media space, political mileage and the approval of the majority of the people of this country ( educated or literate as they might be ) are the consequence of perceived elitism of those who feature prominently in such domains and their lifestyles which they sell? The Hindutva Brigade wants some of the space too and some measure of control over the media - this is the so-called Information Age, right?

It has been difficult enough for people to eke out a living with ( or without ) the support of the strictures and scriptures that govern their lives. Why does the possibility escape the mindspace of the Intelligentsia that that which is capable of garotting people is also capable of binding / drawing them together ? If religion has been considered to be divisive, then I beg to submit that things are not worse than they are in this fractured society, yet to form a cogent and pervasive National Identity, also because of Religion and all else that it breeds. Talk to the people who, seemingly, are baying for your blood. Pay a visit to their homes. Stay with them for some time. Why do you shy away from doing any of those? Are you afraid of what you might be compelled to learn and accomodate in your perspective?

Why do you not ask yourself the question - if it is merely this form of Art that is offensive to the Hindutva / Christ Brigade, then why is it that they have not managed to throttle the Traditional Sources of such Art? ( Assumedly, they still survive ). Is the protest against the Art or is it against ( perceived ) vandalisation of Religious Iconography in the hands of those not considered appropriate to handle such. Popular perception is always such a Bitch - no matter who you focus upon.

Yes, some are acutely embarassed - this is not how they would have desired their religions to mutate. Do you wish to take away such a Right from them? How do you deal with such Sentiment? How do you allay their Fears since you are, ostensibly, fearless yourself?

~ Advocatus Diaboli

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