Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Baroda Blues

I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.

The very fabric of our existence is under threat, some good people Get Out There and DO Something about it, and we call them Fascists? Very Bad. Because Fascists are a Bad Thing, and surely nekkid pictures are Bad Things too. Being against nekkid pictures must be a Good Thing, therefore people against nekkid pictures cannot be Fascists. Right? Far right.

All this hoo-ha, you know, all this secular shekular, very bad only.

I came across this programme on the telly on Sunday night. Barkha Dutt and a load of Wise People talking about the incident at the Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad University of Arts, where a student named Lunar Enticer was arrested for threatening the national identity. Many wise things were said, the gist being that we must not say or do anything that could cause offence to anybody. Very nice, in fact the sort of thing I learnt at my mother’s knee, or at least the sort of thing I would have learnt if I had not been busy being a wise-acre.

I fail to understand why some people (Bloggers, This Means YOU) do not understand. This depraved boy Chandramohan produced paintings where religious icons were shown in conjunction with (gasp, sorry!) nekkid figures. Very bad. One Wise Gentleman pointed out that this was the Thin End of the Wedge – if people can paint religious icons nekkid (for example, a naked cross! Even a naked Shivlinga!), they could even paint his mother nekkid! Considering that the said gentleman is in his fifties and his mother is presumably in her 70s, I entirely agree that such a picture must NEVER be painted. I must, however, caution the gentleman that his mere mention of this possibility could offend not only me but also his mother.

(Warning – Long Digression)

What’s more, if this kind of thing is allowed, people might even suggest that the gentleman’s parents HAVE been naked at some point of time. This, of course, cannot be true of Traditional Indian Parents, who are always Fully Clothed. They might even suggest that his parents (shudder) Had Sex. This would strike at the roots of our Ancient Civilisation and Culture, because we all know that not only are Indians Never Naked, we Do Not EVER Have Sex.

Indians hold the proud honour of being the world’s second most populous nation without ANY SEX WHATSOEVER, because ALL Indians are born through parthenogenesis. Some Indians are born from nodding flowers and raging fires, as clearly shown in Indian films, but not one is ever born because his parents Had Sex (or ‘did’ sex, to use the Orkutian idiom). This proud truth is under threat from Indians residing Abroad, so the Guardians of Our Culture should give serious thought (which is the only kind of thought they are capable of) to attacking all the educational institutions that Corrupt Students’ Minds by suggesting that Indians can and do Have Sex.

Some stupid people have suggested that Indians Know About Sex, because they have seen Women Worshipping Shiv Lingas. Such people do not realize that this is a Demonstration of Innocence. These women have never seen a non-Shiv linga (even though most of them are mothers themselves) and therefore approach the holy phallus Entirely Unaware of its anatomical significance. In similar fashion, the temple at Kamakkhya has NO sexual or anatomical significance whatsoever.

(Now back on the main line …)

A group of Morally Responsible Citizens stormed the MSG University, called in the police, roughed up a few students and faculty and closed down the exhibition. Fine upstanding citizens these, demonstrating effective democracy in action. For what is democracy but the will of the greater number? There were more of them (the Outraged Citizens), so they were democratic. Tomorrow or the day after, we may witness a few thousand artists enraged at the Loss of Freedom descending upon these corporators and rending them limb from limb (or other portions of the anatomy, perhaps even those portions that Do Not Exist In Indians except as Spiritual Depictions). That would also be democratic as long as there were more rend-ers than rend-ees. (Though very unlikely, given the wimpish attitude of the intelligentsia so far – no fires, no broken furniture, not a single weapon in sight. One despairs of their democratic ability)

Then the students and some faculty did Something Very Bad. They set up an exhibition that purported to show Indian erotica through the ages. This, of course, was intolerable. India has NEVER had any erotic art. Ajanta, Ellora, Khajuraho, Orcha do not exist. Or if they do, there are no artefacts there. Or if there are, Somebody Else Did Them. Or even if we did, we don’t know anything about that. Just shut up. ShutupshutupSHUTUP. (This is Good Democratic Reasoning.)

So anyway, there was some to-ing and fro-ing and then the Dean suspended the Head of the Arts Faculty. Serves him right – he was actually trying to Support the Students. He is now in hiding, which of course is sufficient proof that he must have Done Something Wrong.

There has been some criticism of the police. Totally unwarranted, in my humble opinion. The police were very prompt in arresting the student. They have not, of course, registered an FIR against the corporators for their alleged ruffianism on campus. This proves their Fixity of Purpose. I mean, being Guardians of Morality, they cannot be seen to waver and Accommodate More than One Point of View. As for being Guardians of the Law, give the poor cops a break, will you? They’re busy enough Guarding Morality, they’ll get around to Upholding the Law sooner or later. Or some time.Like early 2009.

So all in all, this has been an enormously reassuring excise in Defending Civilisation. Next week, we’re going to Burn some Books. And if we get lucky, some authors as well. (The tenets of Guarding Morality are not clear about Burning Critics. This might be Seen as Weakness).

**** ****


Anonymous said...

Wotta luverly rant. And to think that the people ranted against would not understand a word of it. Sigh.

Anon E. Mouse

bongopondit said...


Bhery brilliant ! We must uphold our Kalchaar and prevent Apo-sanskriti at all costs!

Today we will beat them up, tomorrow we shall burn the books.
Well done.

- the humble pondit.

enjay said...

Ahh..perfect. We like this new one-post-a-day thing. Very much indeed.

Shreyasi Deb said...

Interesting read and an interesting page!
Don't tell me this is another bong at work.....

Dreamcatcher said...


First Rain said...

What a lovely striptease of the fully clothed mindset... now every one can see the nekkid truth!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

I myself was created when a bee visited a blossoming flower. Sex? Never heard of it.

CuriousCat said...

Superb. We need more advocates of Morality like you. And yes, God Gave Me and my brother to My Parents. No obscenity was involved.

rossoneri said...


Anonymous said...

Theres a long history of desecration of hindu religious icons by people who wanted to 'show the hindus their place'.

If this incident is seen in light of Indian history, it can be easily understood that 'art' of this kind is seen by many practicing hindus as merely hindu baiting.

All other comments harping on how stupid and how backward the protesters are, are widely off the mark.

The problem of violence ofcourse, is inherent to the way Indian politics is practiced. Nothing new there, unfortunately..

shampa said...

It would be in total consonance with our bhelues and kaalchar if such exhibits are covered with a cloth. Then whosoever is interested can go lift the cloth, look around surreptitiously, and take a quick peek.

Deaths Head Roy said...

WTF?? How can you even make fun of our culture this way?? I was brought home by a swan...errr, but that is the western way of thinking....LOL

haha, beautiful post...

Nilu said...

Dear people who comment here,

If you want to try your hand at sarcasm in the comment space, there is just one requirement. That you do better than the original post. That is common sense. In this case, that's rather impossible. So, you should really shut up. OK?

Matt said...

Preaching to the choir.

What do we do about the non-choir?

mumbaigirl said...

Wonderful...Love the way you've dealt with the parents factor, which is always brought up.

Anonymous said...

sarcasm is nobody's realm - Nilu. Great post - sadoldbong.


Random Doodler said...

You hit the nail on the head. How perfectly moral, you be.

SloganMurugan said...

u made us all nekkid saar

Nitya said...

Or if there are, Somebody Else Did Them. Or even if we did, we don’t know anything about that. Just shut up. ShutupshutupSHUTUP. (This is Good Democratic Reasoning.)


Anonymous said...

Elitist grandstanding.
Now that the applause from the admirers of your satire is over, maybe you can try to take a closer look at why so many people of your country think differently.
Maybe you can start by getting down from your pedestal.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

AE Mouse, one endeavours to educate them, then.

Pondit Moshai, bhee shall obhaarkaam.

Enjay, sadly enough, between the conception and the reality falls the shadow.

Shreyasi, Bong yes, but at work?

Dreamcatcher, thank you.

FirstRain, 'striptease' is a dirty word (especially in the absence of Demi Moore)


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

ShoeFi, CuriousCat, DH Roy – I believe you. Or something.

MumbaiGirl, Karthik, Doodler, Murugan, Nitya – ‘umble thanks.

Matt – you have a point. But I gave up preaching about two decades ago. Oh OK, ONE decade ago

Nilu – are YOU being sarcastic here? If not, I am overwhelmed.

Shampa – good plan. Have you been practicing?

Anonymous 1 – I agree with your point about our politics. I can’t say much about ‘art of this kind’ because I haven’t seen it. Have you?

Anonymous 2 – my sincere thanks for visiting and for providing a pedestal. ‘YOUR’ country – does that usage mean that you are not an Indian?


Anonymous said...

I did come across some descriptions and a camera phone shot on sandeeps blog, I think.. though I am not sure. One painting was described as a nude with the head of a newborn emerging from her womb, with a large caption saying 'Durga Mata', another a large cross with penises embedded inside it, with semen dripping from the penises into a commode.

While freedom of expression is a common thread running through civilized societies, most societies take into account their historical experience and forswear such expression that is reminiscent of crimes against humanity.

What will it take for Indian elite to reach such a happy medium ?

I dont think sex or anything else is an issue here. We have plenty of that in popular culture today.


Rimi said...

Only two representatives of the non-choir. I declare myself disappointed.

Uncle J, accept superlatives. I shall now have to delete my draft which is along similar rhetoric. Which is a Small Price.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Anon1 - dripping semen or unattended birth might offend your sense of propriety, of aesthetics, of hygiene. But describing them as 'crimes against humanity' seems a bit over the top.
Can you give us the link to 'Sandeep's blog'?

Rimi - such praise (one assumes it is such) from such an unexpected quarter. We are not worthy.


coggle said...

um. ur post appeared word for word in the op-ed page of HT today. Atleast in Mumbai.
Which is cause for concern maybe, unless you are a reporter called Mousumi Sengupta...

Anonymous said...

>> Anon1 - dripping semen or unattended birth might offend your sense of propriety, of aesthetics, of hygiene. But describing them as 'crimes against humanity' seems a bit over the top.
Can you give us the link to 'Sandeep's blog'?

sure.. sandeepweb.com.

The paintings and structures may well be described as crimes against humanity ;-) but that wasnt what I was referring to when I used that phrase.

In many minds, such works of 'art' are associated with hindu baiting, and are reminiscent of the desecrations of hindu religious icons one finds in history. This desecration and the concomitant blood baths and genocide is what I was referring to when I used that phrase.

Now one can say, you are backward, you are intolerant or that your idea of history is entirely wrong, but what matters is how commonly this opinion is held, and what can be done to assuage these feelings.

The other question is what exactly is being achieved by the works of 'art' in question ? If its a rebellion against sexual repression, ash and hrithik swinging their arses in dhoom2 does that far better than this 'art'.

Freedom of speech is not universal you know.. For e.g. you cant use the N word and escape censure in the US.

What will it take for Indian elite to realize that such art is the same for many practising hindus, as using the N word would be for an African American.

Anonymous said...

that was me - anon1 :-)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Coggle - I am not a reporter named Mousumi Sengupta. If HT get around to paying anybody, however, I will get the payment.

Anon1 - I agree with you. As with the oft-cited precedent of the Danish cartoons, I believe some things are best left alone. (I'm not an advocate of democracy, really - I believe in benevolent despotism. Preferrably mine)
Two points to make here -
(1) these paintings were not in the public domain, so to that extent their potential for offence was less.
(2) no matter how offensive they may be, it does not give N Jain & Co the right to march in and cause alarm and dismay, nor does it condone the biased stand of the police. (I think we agree on this one as well?)
Good analogy about the N-word.


Sense said...

- a child of immaculate conception, also having conceived immaculately herself!!

"sen"sational said...

Ahh, 'crime against humanity'?

*ponders* :P

Anonymous said...

>> (1) these paintings were not in the public domain, so to that extent their potential for offence was less.

But they were, from what I know, the paintings/sculptures were displayed in a publicly funded university and the display was open to anyone who wanted to walk in.

>> (2) no matter how offensive they may be, it does not give N Jain & Co the right to march in and cause alarm and dismay, nor does it condone the biased stand of the police. (I think we agree on this one as well?)

Sure.. at the same time, violence to make your voice heard is not something thats practiced by Mr Jain in this country.. We have a long history of coercive politics, starting right from Mahatma Gandhi and his hadtals, gheraos and boycotts.

Police always take the shortcut out to maintain peace.. If they feel that they can get a mob of 1000 people back in their homes by putting xyz in jail, theyll do it :-)


Anonymous said...

Ahh, 'crime against humanity'?
*ponders* :P

I wonder what you ponder.. :-) What is so difficult to understand in what I said :-D


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Sensor and Sen, tankee for joining the fray.

Anon1, Gandhi and violence for protest? Take 2 Aspirin and DON'T call me in the morning.


Anonymous said...

dear prufroc,

I wasnt planning on calling you anytime soon, but can I still comment on your blog ? :-D

The last comment should read:

>>>> Sure.. at the same time, violence to make your voice heard is not something thats practiced by Mr Jain alone in this country.. We have a long history of coercive politics, starting right from Mahatma Gandhi and his hadtals, gheraos and boycotts.

In my defense, I didnt mean to say that Mahatma Gandhis politics was violent, only that the politics we see today is an organic growth of the agitational politics of those times. I may be wrong.. but then so what :-)

In Mahatma Gandhis own words..

"None of us knew what name to give to our movement. I then used the term “passive resistance” in describing it. ... A small prize was therefore announced in Indian Opinion to be awarded to the reader who invented the best designation for our struggle. ... Shri Maganlal Gandhi was one of the competitors and he suggested the word sadagraha, meaning “firmness in a good cause.” I liked the word, but it did not fully represent the whole idea I wished it to connote. I therefore corrected it to “satyagraha”. Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase “passive resistance”, in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word “satyagraha” itself or some other equivalent English phrase.[2]"

Its not violent, but its coercive alright.. One may argue that this was the only language that worked with the ruthless rulers we had at that time, but thats doesnt detract from the point I was making.

anyhoo.. we digress. Whatever be the roots of this kind of politics, its certainly not productive.


iz said...

I'm convinced I'm convinced. In fact I'm knitting a decent sweater for the shivalinga right now. One that does not reveal the shape but makes it look like a heart. ooops! Heart is also against indian culture.

Madhavan said...

just dropped in to say that this is not limited to india.
i read a report the other day that a chocolate shop owner put up a naked chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ and was forced to remove it, right here in New York. (I did see the sculpture too)..
If the country that considers herself the epitome of freedom, is it a big surprise that this can happen in India?

"sen"sational said...

@anon - Well, to a certain extent, difficulty depends on perception, Doesn't it?

Pragya said...

That was a delightful read!


Sue said...

We don't need to shut up about it. We are educated and follow modern thought. The aliens did it. All those offensive sculptures etc. We should just shoot them out into space and thus protect our future generations.

panu said...

hmm, amra sabai Ma mary r moto jonmechhi je.

kishto kothay laage??

Australopithecus said...

This was all because of a misunderstanding involving acronyms..someone read MSG and thought it sttod for monosodium glutamate...that allegedly bad for the brain.(i cannot comment not having been issued one) so in thier 'josh' to rid the world of dangerous food additives they raided the university...

The Aunt said...

The world is full of images I find offensive. I don't go to places where they are to be found. I don't visit porn sites or go to those very frank cinemas downtown. I avoid violent or horror movies. And I skip some of the modern art in our Musée des Beaux Arts.

But I don't go around saying other people can't look at them. I think much less of them for doing so, but it's their right.

The exception that always holds of course is when the image has damaged the person it is of - as in child porn.

ys said...

Hello! Thought you resolved on 13th May to write everyday??? What came of it???

And regarding the topic on hand, yet to visit sandeepweb to see the pics, but in general me very liberal with artistic expressions. Sensitivity of artists and sensibility of audience evolve together, well done if this happens peacefully!

udayan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
udayan said...

Guru-gambhir bishoye bistarito alochona.

I actually liked your digression quite a bit.

On a completely selfish note, could I claim a small bit of copyright infringement damage for the title of the post?

And no, I am not paying Anjan Dutta anything :)

the Monk said...

Deeee-yoode. Awesomeness wonly, yuwar post was.

priya said...

i suppose you were innocent of this one fact - the guy who filed the FIR was not a far-rightist, he belonged to one of the minority communities. he was deeply gravely incensed by the painting of jesus's second coming.

Arthur Quiller Couch said...

Weird. Where does it say a minority type can't be a far-right loony?

priya said...

i was using the term in the way it is used in India, in the popular media.