Friday, November 04, 2005

Too "Hindu looking"

(Via Amy Welborn)

The Royal Mail apologises for issuing a Christmas stamp, part of a series featuring representations of "mother and child" from different cultures, which was considered by some as an insult to Hindus!

"We thought it insensitive and inappropriate," said Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain.
"The markings on the foreheads immediately say the male person is a Hindu Vaishnava (one who worships Vishnu) and the lady is a Hindu lady and they are worshipping Jesus Christ," he told BBC radio.

"In India, the conversion agenda of evangelical Christians is a major emotive issue."
The Royal Mail as part of an international evangelical Christian conspiracy to convert unsuspecting Hindus who get Christmas cards this winter from Britain. Gimme a friggin break. And enough already with this "we're offended" bullsh**t. What next, angry mobs of British Hindus marching on the neighborhood post-office? (Remember the Behzti flap?). Maybe those peaceniks in the VHP or the RSS will get wind of this and burn a bus or two in front of the British Council Library in Nariman Point. SHEESH

According to the Royal Mail, the image is from a 17th century Mughal painting. It's in the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay (oh good lord, they've change it's name to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum. Is everything in Bombay to be named after him?). Quite intriguing, and makes me wonder what the historical context of its painting would be. Maybe it was an evangelical conspiracy. Just maybe, you know, Christian Indians can worship their Lord and be painted doing so. Be assured I'll be checking it out on my next trip ... :) Besides, I've not been to the Museum in ages.

For anyone across the pond -- could you send me a postcard with this offensive stamp please? :)

:: Update ::
Ok, now that I've calmed down after my initial apoplexy, I have a few other thoughts. I posted theese comments on Amy's blog:

Anyway, now that I've seen the BBC article, I can also see the point, a little. About the tilak, at least. Though, I don't agree that it's insensitive to 21st century tastes.
Besides, I can imagine many a Hindu lady, tilak and all, praying to an image of Christ, or the Cross, in her household pooja, along with other gods. I don't have to imagine it. I've seen it. That's just the Hindu sensibility. But not, apparently, as far as the Hindu Forum in Britain is concerned.


assiniboine said...

Check my upcoming posting on the Minstrels poem-a-day website regarding St Jean de Brebeuf's Huron Carol. Come to think of it, I will email it to you with the illustrations which they can't include.

Gashwin said...

What is the Minstrel's poem-a-day website? I did get the text -- and will reserve it for blogging around the time of the Nativity. :)

assiniboine said...

And for the (not-quite-daily) poem-a-day:

assiniboine said...

Here: a sample from the Minstrels, albeit wholly irrelevant to your original item.

"Further in Summer than the Birds"

Further in Summer than the Birds
Pathetic from the Grass
A minor Nation celebrates
Its unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen
So gradual the Grace
A pensive Custom it becomes
Enlarging Loneliness.

Antiquest felt at Noon
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify

Remit as yet no Grace
No Furrow on the Glow
Yet a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now

-- Emily Dickinson

It is a compliment to the Wondering Minstrels when a standard of the canon has not yet appeared, but so it is and I here remedy the default, prompted by the recent other Dickinson offerings.

It is easy to patronise "Emily," as her academic critics invariably rather astonishingly call her - not "Dickinson"; not even "Miss Dickinson" or "Emily Dickinson" - does one ever hear of "Twain" or "Whitman"? Nope: they are always "Mark Twain" and "Walt Whitman"; fair enough, but why is Emily Dickinson always "Emily"? Well, she had a sheltered, sequestered, small-town Old Maid Yankee existence. And her poems are all in 86 86 Common Metre, like the 19th century hymns that would have been familiar to her at Sunday Congregational church meetings. So one wonders just how wide her reading could have been, not to speak of her acquaintance (which in fact was as limited as one might suppose): she might, after all, be simply an astonishingly sensitive and acute original. Certainly her real life experience was extremely straitened; she took her reclusiveness very seriously - her poetry was mostly found after her death sewn up in "fascicles," as she called them; in 20th century terms she would doubtless be regarded as a pathological case and have been locked up like Robert Lowell; and in, say, 4th century terms she would perhaps be enrolled among the saints.

But in her poetry - it is most certainly not mere "verse" - she pushes CM to its outermost limits: she makes me think of William Cowper and John Newton
with their very fine CM hymns a hundred years earlier ("God moves in a mysterious way/his wonders to perform"; "Glorious things of thee are spoken/Zion, city of our God"; "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me"), and Wordsworth's reverie on the disciplining confines of the sonnet form in "Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room."

The thing that's so amazing about her poetry is, continuingly, "How did she know?! How COULD she know?!" A queer old maid Yankee just couldn't have known, among other things, about Catholic liturgical and exegetical niceties, but yet, astonishingly, she did. (T.S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins, with backgrounds not wholly dissimilar to hers, went whole hog into small- and large-C catholicism, respectively, but Emily Dickinson seems to have grasped everything they did and found that route unnecessary.)

And so the hum of grasshoppers on a hot, dry August afternoon is the celebration both of insubstantial quiddity and a sacramental rite. The "Grace" that is imparted to faithful (well, say, to Boston Irish Catholics in Emily Dickinson's world) in the Mass, some time after the "gradual" (ie not just slowly-slowly, but also the scriptural tract recited or sung between the epistle and the gospel) - in the case of the August insect liturgies isolates and excludes rather than gathering and including. But HOW did she know all this? An "antiquest"? It's "most antique," obviously; but perhaps also an antiphon - the responsory chanted by a monastic choir, but here a vain endeavour to find involvement in nature and obviate loneliness and isolation. A "canticle"? It's the liturgical term for the biblical hymns chanted in the monastic office - magnificat, nunc dimitis, benedictus, benedicite and so
on; but again, how did she know? And they typify repose: they represent rest; but "typology" is the hermeneutical term for supposed Old Testament anticipations of New Testament fulfilments, such as the rod carried aloft before the Israelites in the wilderness and the cross of Jesus. And yet
again, how DID she know? But clearly she did, for her closing reference to a "Druidic difference" means, certainly, that she has considered all these liturgical resonances before rejecting them as the appropriate metaphor; nature is certainly sacramental, but the appropriate sacerdotalism is pagan. And exclusionary.

"Further in Summer than the Birds," it seems to me, is a companion to, an amplification of, that splendid other nature poem of hers, "A narrow Fellow in the Grass," whose arresting concluding image of feeling "zero at the
bone" comes to mind - as Wordsworth (to return to the opening of this little discussion) with his sentimentality about nature certainly does not.

[this poem is archived, accessible and awaiting your comments at]]