Archives for india category

Sunday May 1, 2005

Hate, lies and perverted racism

This made my day. I think it is in fact the first hate mail I've received about my website. It vaguely implies that the person has read something I wrote about India on my website but I have no idea what they've read. I looked up their IP and apparently, they sent this from Bryan, Texas. I've never been there but I'm sure there's the same mix of tolerant and ignorant folks as they have in India. I think this Mofo is definitely in the ignorant camp...

Subject: Hate, lies and perverted racism.
From: "matador little"
Date: Sun, 01 May 2005 21:37:32 +0000

You racist idiot,

Why the hell do you have to go all the way to India to put your racist ranting online??

Freaking idiot, understand this.... what you see there is a result of white christian liars and terrorists like you stealing other people's resources. Look around in your soceity and see what you can do to change it, you mass murderer of red indians!!!!

What is there to say about it? It's a perfect piece. If you're reading this, you probably like me more than this guy so I'm assuming you'd be on my side. (which I don't mean to imply is necessarily the side of "white christian liars and terrorists" although, I do admit to living in their midst) Anyhow, a blog isn't a place to defend yourself against an angry e-mail. I just wanted to post it because I was so proud of it. I'm sure a lot of people see my site and think this but never e-mail me. So this is my prized possession. Touché, little matador!

Friday August 8, 2003

I got a letter yesterday from Thomas P John:

Dear Dave, Listening to the file , I couldn't help but send you the english translation. Here it is:

<music> The Kerala State Kairali Weekly Lottery draw [which is due] every Thursday is [taking place] tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow... 10 Lakh (1 Million) Rupees first prize <music> Maruti car as second prize tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow ... almost sold out, almost sold out, almost sold out... Only few lottery tickets are left <music> tomorrow's kerala [lottery], tomorrow's kerala, tomorrow's kerala, tomorrow's kerala, tomorrow's kerala ... almost sold out, almost sold out, almost sold out... come fast, come fast... Kerala state Kairali weekly five rupee lottery draw [is] tomorrow 1 Million rupees first prize <music> Maruti car second prize <music> <name unclear> agency's tickets are now available for you, buy now and buy from here. Where there are tickets from <name unclear> agency, there is luck and prizes

<...> Comments, Background music
[...] Not present in original text. Aids comprehension in English
(...) Explanation of terms

It is not a radio broadcast. But a recorded promotion (+ jingle ;-) from a Lottery vendor's tape recorder + battery + loud speaker combination.

Sunday June 29, 2003

"Fuck softer toilet paper, where’s the Darwin dividend? We eat food pellets and wear water bottles like better rats, what happened to our early promise? When we were ugly and died all the time, all anyone talked about was salvation, family, overcoming desire, throwing off these chains and more dessert for the guests. Now that everyone’s a king—aren’t we even interested? "
-- a quote from The T hree Manifesto.

My favorite song of late has been "Fool" by Cat Power. Number six on the new album. In a lilting, sarcastic and sad way she sings about an "Apartment in New York, London and Paris" and then later says, "Why can’t we see as fortunates see? Living as legends have lived." And that last line explodes into so much for me. It's beautiful and comforting to know that I have been living as legends have lived. That my life is legendary when I take just a tiny little step outside my solipsism. And this is no stupid exaggeration. I'm talking about a historical context (pluck a random person from the first half of the 20th century to observe our lives and watch their jaw hit the floor) but also a geo-social one.

I don't need an apartment in New York, London and Paris to be a legend. And I don't want to see myself as an ordinary. I am humane but not ordinary. (Oh, get a hold on your democratic disgust. This is hubris for the sake of making a point.) I was talking with some friends the other day who had traveled to the 3rd world and some who hadn't, and they both said that they must have it exactly the way they have it now. Meaning that even though they know how superior their current lifestyle is to those poor fuckers, they would not tolerate being treated in a superior way. That they are more or less equal to the persons they deal with on a daily basis (as one would want it to be, I agree) and that they would not play a part to any unequalizing forces if they were to travel in, say, oh I don't know, in India.

They would not feel comfortable with maids, cooks, porters, drivers or any of the other symbols of a ruling class. How about a guy to shave you every day? The idea of someone taking care of them is also offensive to their sense of independence. What struck me is that this is selective anti-colonialism when it really doesn't matter. If you go to the trouble of spending more money than a person makes in 10 years to fly all the way around world, leaving your life of leisure to visit them, don't you think they'd be amazed and puzzled? Why try to act like you're equal? You might even see how it would be offensive to someone; even appear to be condescending to that poor fucker, when that person who is fabulously wealthy and exotic tries to play out some fantasy of equality.

And it's parochialism clothed in good old fashioned decency. And it's white guilt. Is it so hard to remember that every day of our life is a wondrous fairy tale to 90 percent of the other people on the planet? If someone puts you on a pedestal, you can try to climb down, but then they'll wonder why their statue would be so unmagnanimous as to self-destruct. Why don't they throw down their Chinese takeout right into that designer wastebasket and toss those American Spirits off their weather-treated wood deck? How can they put up with subjugating the entire earth for all that shit? Because the plain fact is that nobody is going to give up what they got without a fight. No matter how much they got.

"We’ve become gods, so now we must create or we will destroy." - 3

Nobody I know is more hedonistic than me (except for my friend Miguel I guess) so I don't want to put on that I'm some "sustainable living" nut. I'm kinda saying the opposite: That you need awareness first of your wealth and position and privilege. (By the way, I recommend getting it first hand, not reading about it on some website.) You need to give thanks for it, not in the weak-ass protestant way of "Yes Holy Father, I'm a sinner and I don't deserve it", but in the "bless these genes" absurdly lucky way that it is, and get on with taking advantage of your advantage. I brought those poor fuckers back with me and they ride around in the hip pocket of my $140 jeans.

The obvious response to this is that I am rationalizing plain, old, boring, over consumption. That I'm on Oprah explaining why I have to drive my Escalade down the freeway to Target and no one is listening. That even the awareness and thanks that I spoke of makes no difference. I say awareness and thankfulness is the only difference.

Read The T hree Manifesto again, even if you read it 5 years ago when I posted it first on It's mostly for college-age kids but older people enjoy it as well.

"Cool people advertise a playground to sell their ghetto." -- 3

Thursday May 8, 2003

So, I was going to tell you about the little eagle with a mohawk and nicely developed pects that will fit on the end my little finger. But then, while looking for crap from the web that would help me explain what I just said, I found this Hindu anti-defamation website that is sad and funny at the same time. It mentions my "Handy Hindu" and says, "This is another insult to Hinduism and its followers, the Hindus. Hindu gods as finger puppets is indeed making a mockery of Hindu beliefs and sentiments." Try out other western bo-bo's at Hindu Focus and tell me if they aren't ridiculous.

Here's a straigt up insult hurled at the Hindus: I love my Handy Hindu Garuda. Nay, I WORSHIP it.

Some company in Seattle made toilet seats that have Hindu gods on them. Hindu's love their iconography but not the same ways as westerners do. They (and I must admit that I've got to believe what I've been told about this by Hindus) actually think that the icon is the thing. In an undiminished way, little cast porcelain gods are capable of receiving their devotion and putting their spiritual deposit in the big karma bank. This makes almost no sense to westerners who have been told repeatedly that god cannot be rendered in physical form and any attempt to do so is a blasphemy. Ok, whatever. You can argue about Virgin Mary and Swastikas and all that. What's really going on here is that POP culture is the new god of the west and these Hindu guys do not see the humor in losing a holy war to POP.

What is POP, after all but applied postmodern aesthetics and philosophy? Hindus have woefully inadequate tools to fight this holy war and they will lose. Their attempts at defense are sad, and in the end, laughable. And I do not feel sorry for them.

The little finger puppet I have, and which I truly love, is Garuda. It's a Hindu god and the national symbol of Indonesia, an Islamic state. Hella long ago Indonesians got a dose of early Hindu mythology and really got into the Garuda dude. Way more than the Indians, I'm guessing, because they liked birds a lot. So, when they were conquered by the Muslims in the 15th century, the Muslims had to keep all the symbols that the people got off on, even though Muslims generally don't dig deified icons, so Garuda stuck around. Then, when Indo went indie in 1945 they gave it a western coat-of-arms and made it the national symbol.

Why do I mention this? It's old news. Because I don't know how to lecture on semiotics and it's the best I can do. Basically, we got a whole new understanding of how signs and symbols work in the 50's and 60's that caused western minds to bend away from the strict representational view of the world that these Hindus are in. In POP art icons became almost completely divorced from the things they represented so that the symbols themselves were the things they signified. Reciting from the holy Baudrillard on the successive phases of the image:

  1. It is the reflection of a basic reality. - Hindus
  2. It masks and perverts a basic reality. - Muslims, Jesuits and Iconoclasts
  3. It masks the absence of a basic reality. - Sorcery, Astrology, Occult
  4. It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum. -- POP

Baudrillard "quotes" from Ecclesiastes:

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth--it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.

These upside down ideas are catching on. A lot of people under 40 already understand and accept them implicitly. They even co-exist in the same person with old-world representational ideas like love of sports teams and rock and roll. That's one reason why I live my Handy Hindu and why I won't take it off my finger.

Tuesday October 29, 2002

I found this: A LETTER TO A HINDU: THE SUBJECTION OF INDIA-ITS CAUSE AND CURE By Leo Tolstoy with an Introduction by M. K. GANDHI because of a link on and I'm posting an excerpt as well as encouraging you to read it.

Never read any Tolstoy before but I'm impressed with this little ditty. He pretty much nails it right in the beginning and I've quoted that part. And all he says is applicable today. Just replace The British East India Company with television.

The reason for the astonishing fact that a majority of working people submit to a handful of idlers who control their labour and their very lives is always and everywhere the same-whether the oppressors and oppressed are of one race or whether, as in India and elsewhere, the oppressors are of a different nation.

This phenomenon seems particularly strange in India, for there more than two hundred million people, highly gifted both physically and mentally, find themselves in the power of a small group of people quite alien to them in thought, and immeasurably inferior to them in religious morality.

From your letter and the articles in Free Hindustan as well as from the very interesting writings of the Hindu Swami Vivekananda and others, it appears that, as is the case in our time with the ills of all nations, the reason lies in the lack of a reasonable religious teaching which by explaining the meaning of life would supply a supreme law for the guidance of conduct and would replace the more than dubious precepts of pseudo-religion and pseudo-science with the immoral conclusions deduced from them and commonly called 'civilization'.

Your letter, as well as the articles in Free Hindustan and Indian political literature generally, shows that most of the leaders of public opinion among your people no longer attach any significance to the religious teachings that were and are professed by the peoples of India, and recognize no possibility of freeing the people from the oppression they endure except by adopting the irreligious and profoundly immoral social arrangements under which the English and other pseudo-Christian nations live to-day.

And yet the chief if not the sole cause of the enslavement of the Indian peoples by the English lies in this very absence of a religious consciousness and of the guidance for conduct which should flow from it - a lack common in our day to all nations East and West, from Japan to England and America alike.

Friday May 31, 2002

I got some stuff from Brian today. Brian Hallett, the fashion photographer, if you don't know. My host on the subcontinent. I think I know what he feels like, to be marooned from sanity, to have to reach out, if only through email, in hope that people will feel just a little portion of the lunacy and bless your presence in it.

Here's an email from Brian about being in India. Couldn't have done it better myself.

Dear friends,

I'm sitting in a little internet cafe outside of my studio in the old business district of Mumbai writing to you. Honestly the last few days I have been filled with anxiety about the brewing war over here. It's not just fear of war, because I have been here during a war. It's more a feeling of complete lack of involvement with the political process with people seemingly bent on blowing themselves up with nuclear weapons. We (x'ers) grew up with the concept of mutual annihilation so the notion that someone would actually use a nuclear bomb was not really a possibility. But here, nobody seems to grasp the enormity of the situation. NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT!!! It's like something happening very far away. There are no protests, no peaceniks, no rallys, no marches, no big articles or speeches calling for restraint. The feeling is more like, "oh well, we've been fighting for so long, let's just get it over with and blow the suckers up." People on the ground don't want war. But they feel too completely powerless against the tidal wave that's happening to do something, let alone to talk about it. There is a lot of political force working towards war as well. And it's freaking me out. But I am very torn about the idea of leaving to be safe. I have lived here for a long time and to leave is to escape when the going gets tough. I often think about the guilt I would experience if I ran away and something happened to my friends and family here. Survivor guilt.

I must also add that it is extremely frustrating to know that the US has treated Pakistan as an "ally" and "trusted friend" to help wage its war against the Taliban, all the while turning a blind eye to the fact that Pakistan is the source of trained Islamic militants. This has forced India's hand by creating a situation where India must allow the situation to escalate to make its case against Pakistani infiltrators. Only now is the US beginning to change it's tune against Musharraf, and I fear it is far too late. India has its own culpability, not the least of which is that India has absolutely no intention of creating a situation where the Kashmiri people could "self-determine" themselves into a Muslim state. India is not about to go to the talking table with that as a possible outcome. I suppose that centuries of foreign domination including 700 years of mughal (Muslim) rule by outside forces has created the Indian psyche of today. India is a country where Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis live side by side, not always peacefully, but under a common law that allows them to not only worship as they please, but actually exercise their own relgious laws (India has separate courts for different religions). The solution to the crisis is not self-determination for the Kashmiri people. Kashmir is a state and part of India. India is not occupying Kashmir. It would be like giving Texans self-determination. The answer for Muslims cannot and should not be separate Islamic regimes throughout the world. Muslims must live within pluralistic societies that protect all people's relgious beliefs and values. And terrorism, infiltration, and nuclear blackmail are clearly not answers to resolve this conflict. Tremendous pressure must be put on Pakistan NOW to back down. It is the only way I see out of this conflict.

It is estimated that a limited nuclear exchange would kill 3-4 million people, and leave another 1-2 million people seriously injured. This is unfathomable. Frankly, I don't fear dying in this exchange, I fear surviving it.

Peace and love


Monday May 6, 2002

I got a nice mail from a guy who had some info about some stuff I wrote a couple years ago while I was walking along the canal in Aleppey. I'm posting this here because I wanted to put it somewhere except over top of what I originally wrote. For reference, listen to this crazy shit. Someone corrected me a while ago and told me that all that yelling was a lotto ticket seller but I don't go back and revise stuff on my website. If I did that, I could take out all the initial impressions that I had that turned out to be uninformed and wrong. I decided that they're good primarily because they're immediate and unrevised. So I'll post on my blog and leave the original in its bewildered state. Some people, mostly Indian, who are dismayed at my speedy judgments, don't really get this and think I'm writing a serious essay. They are serious thoughts and I think hard about them, but I also want to record the process of understanding and that includes a lot of guesses.

Hey Dave

This is about the Aleppey Newscast mp3 you have on your site on /november/kerala_and_back_to_bangalore.html.

I think I recognize what it is you heard - not a newscast, gossip or an auction, but a promo for lottery ticket sales! I don't know if you noticed, but the guy who was playing the stuff prpbably also had a bunch of lottery tickets you could buy and get in the running for the 'Who want to be a millionaire' big one, almost. What the guy's saying roughly translates to

"The Kerala Weekly Lottery draws tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow! Don't miss your big chance folks. The first prize is 10 lakh rupees, (1 million). The second prize is a Maruti car. Its only 5 rupees come try your luck. Its your day dude, the draws tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow" and pretty much the same thing over and over interspersed with the sounds of Darth Vader zapping the universe...!

I'm from Trivandrum, about five hours south of Aleppey, and these lottery ticket guys are a way of life.

I thought you did a good job on your website... your impressions of India are pretty damn accurate! To quote a line from a hit movie starring Govinda, "it happens wonly in India..."

Keep up the good work!


Sunday April 28, 2002

I gotta kick this little monk's ass up on to the net. Recently I spent an entire day evaluating every moment of my existence in relation to the afternoon I spent on top of this hill in Pelling, Sikkim. I listened to the cicadas making their racket, I played with the dirt and stones, I took pictures of monk kids, and I stood there with my hands on my hips. I tried to keep going on through the sickness.

What I kept thinking in-between day-dreams was how insignificant that day will be in the sweep of my life and how pivotal the day in Pelling was. This monastery has some crazy shit that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world -- like the only sacred murals of Buddhisatvas having sex. I have a little bit of it here for you. I wanted to tell my friend David about it that day, but it was really just sentimentality and I was the only one who possessed it. I wanted to tell him, while we were at the burger shop, about the little kid sleeping in the grass while another kid bashed cymbals over his head. That I wandered around what was essentially an abandoned ancient outpost, staffed only by a few deformed children.

Now, watch as this monk kid tries to whistle for the cameras. I had to get setup with my camera, and by the time I was ready, he couldn't whistle. I tried to whistle to get him to start but I think it was me turning the screen around on my vidcam so he could watch himself that got him going. Every single second of footage I shot on this day is worth public viewing. I think I'll do the chattering, ringing cymbal thing that this kid can do next.

click for monk action
the whistling monk kid
1:07 minutes
or download 2.6 megs

Thursday September 13, 2001

Don't know where this is but I think it's in front of Dave Farsan near Babulnath Chowk. Bombay.

I just watched Gandhi for the first time since 1985. It was very moving and relevant. Gandhi was killed by a Hindu extremist who thought he was giving too much away to the Muslims during the shaping of independent India.

Indians today know almost nothing of Gandhi nor do they care. They learn about his political role and his philosophy is brushed aside as naiveté or extremism. While I was in India, I was very curious about this mass amnesia of the ideas of the father of their country. I lived on his street for a while. It's something similar to our society still playing the music of the late sixties on the radio all the time but the ideas that went along with it are derided old "hippy daydreams" -- naked, dirty failures of the "Age of Aquarius". They will say, "Gandhi is ours" but he is not theirs any more. I will not let them have him. They just want him, so when it's convenient, they can flash a cardboard cut-out of him to the world and say, "this is our great father, our ancient culture deserves your respect". This is the most disingenuous crap I can imagine. I could go on forever about all the conflicting and countercultural ideas that got Gandhi killed but I won't.

I felt really bad yesterday. I'm sure everyone did. I watched too much TV. You shouldn't watch too much TV I think. I say that as Peter Jennings streams live on my laptop.

I tried to get a handle on why I was feeling so bad. I felt the immediate pain of the scene -- imagining falling 1000 feet inside a crumbling, flaming office building. But my own brand of fear was not a feeling of vulnerability -- that it could happen to me, but hopelessness that the attack would not further polarize the earth. I was in India when the nuclear standoff with Pakistan was at its most insane. Many people who've been to Israel have witnessed the brand of intolerance that I saw all over India. Hindus and Muslims have been killing each other for a thousand years there. Actively and enthusiastically killing, stopping only for brief periods when they faced a greater enemy, such as the British Raj.

These two groups were so similar to me (at least relative to a westerner). They were all Indian and I was confounded by their hatred of each other. The differences between Hindus and Muslims are not as great as their difference from the west and Christianity but the hatred and fighting is more intense because of proximity. While I've never been to a purely Muslim country, the northern region of India is very traditional and has had less multicultural and modern influence than the south. To my untrained eye, the Hindu areas of the north resembled traditional Islam more than they resembled the Hindu areas of the south.

Sure, for a thousand years Muslim conquerors had swept down from the north into the Indian Subcontinent. Temple desecration is a favorite sport of both groups. They have different views of God, Islam is more exclusive and Hindus are supposed to think that every God is holy, but so many other things are similar. Some of the cultural differences that make Muslims hate the west so much -- the debasing sexually explicit conduct, personal selfishness and independence, the secularism, moral relativism, equal rights for women -- all are equally opposed by traditional Hindu culture. These are things that worry all Indians as the west begins to erode their culture. "MTV is ruining my daughter."

Their society cannot battle the new temptations that the media imports. Commercials make people ashamed that they don't have sparkling white smiles but nobody can buy toothpaste. Why the ads? It seems like a most cruel form of punishment and I don't blame them for the rage that boils out of their helplessness. They want to fight but they don't even have the skills to combat the media. We fight media with more media but what do you do if you don't want more media and aren't very good at making it in the first place?

Most Indians, Muslim and Hindu distrust the west and its "we're superior, so of course you want to be like us" smugness. (Although I must admit that, naturally, most of the people I spoke to were enthusiastic about becoming "westernized and modernized". They were businessmen and convent-educated upper-class urbanites, but these people were a very small minority.) Living in that climate has made me feel that I understand the mindset of our "enemy" in a way that is not possible if you've never been to that region. It made me feel the pain more. This is my home but I know what people are like over there. I know a little bit of what they respect and respond to. And I think I know why they did it. It was more painful because it wasn't so random to me. It was as if I'd seen threats made into reality.

This was very hard for me to take but even harder was the thought of what we would do. I know that subtlety will be completely lost on these people. We watch in-depth coverage for 10 hours a day but they get at most a sound byte from the President. I'm afraid that we can do nothing short of annihilate them to achieve the kind of safety we want. Completely spiritually breaking these people, so that they do not raise all their young to one day become suicide bombers, is a gruesome task. The American people are ready for carnage I'm sure, but snapping the backs of every country in the region until they all become happy democratic capitalist outposts is going to require a lot more killing than we did in WW2. I'm very pessimistic.

We can do nothing also. I saw how Hindus and Muslims can coexist. The week I spent in Ajmer is an example. Ajmer is predominantly Islamic. I was taken by Hindus to one of the most holy Islamic shrines and was welcomed there. I was shocked that my Hindu friends acted like it was their own church. They knew the rules and they were devoted worshippers. What happened to me in the Dargah was the most profound religious moment of my stay in India. It was religious for me because of the tolerance I witnessed.

This was an example of the pacifying aspects of religion. I think there are too few of these to sustain the people. I saw a lot of prejudice (prejudice like we Americans are not allowed to express). Our country was founded on religious freedom and even though people generally don't want to behave, those rules do have some restraining properties. Hindus and Muslims trash talk each other and think nothing of it. "They're dirty" or "They cannot be trusted" are common asides whispered by a new confidant. Almost every person I met tried to win me over to their side. I was shocked to see very caring and rational doctors say stupid racial things as a matter of fact. This is where I noticed the caste system kicking in. It's perfectly "holy" to act as if someone else is genetically inferior to you.

If we do nothing we will look like fools to half the world. I'll bet dollars to donuts that Indian Muslims will not pull out the words of Gandhi, (There is no way to peace, peace is the only way), who once was their protector -- and died for it, and praise us. They will mock us as incompetents. There is no great leader to pour higher meaning on this situation and have it penetrate into Islam. Gandhi could do it but what have we got? George Bush? Fer crissakes. He keeps saying "good" and "evil". Those words suck so bad. George, Mr Christian, listen to what Gandhi has to say about Christianity in the West:

It is my firm opinion that Europe today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity, but the spirit of Satan. And Satan's successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips. Europe is today not nominally Christian. In reality it is worshipping Mammon. "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom." Thus really spoke Jesus Christ. His so-called followers measure their moral progress by their material possessions.

It is a very curious commentary on the West that although it professes Christianity, there is no Christianity or Christ in the West, or there should have been no war. That is how I understand the message of Jesus.

Consider this when you strike back in the name of God. And also consider what Gandhi said on avoidance of anger:

I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world.

I spare neither friend nor foe when it is a question of departing from the code of honor.

It is not that I do not get angry. I do not give vent to anger. I cultivate the quality of patience as angerlessness, and, generally speaking, I succeed. But I only control my anger when it comes. How I find it possible to control it would be a useless question, for it is a habit that everyone must cultivate and must succeed in forming by constant practice.