Thursday, April 10, 2008

Girl with two faces revered as goddess in India

Indian girl born with two faces (USA Today)
"When I saw my daughter for the first time I was afraid of her but when the doctor said that aside from her two faces she was a normal child I accepted her," the girl's mother, Sushma, tells IANS.
According to this AP wire story (many thanks to Mike Aquilina for emailing me this story), the village sarpanch (chief) wants to write the state government to build a temple in her honor.

But of course! In a way, all this attention is really good for the family -- the baby won't be maltreated or shunned (the fate of many children with disabilities, physical or mental, in India), and they might even get some economic benefit from the situation. Which is probably what the sarpanchji is thinking too -- economic growth for the village of the living Durga! (The cynical part of me can't help but think of the furta sacra, and the trade in relics, of a bygone age in Europe ... which is not to knock relics, but to simply identify this human tendency to want to derive economic benefit from different religious practices.)

It's hard for this Westernized, non-Hindu, English-speaking, sahib not to cluck at the silly superstition of these simple-minded folk. I'm reminded of this Gujarati saying ... ek murakhni evi tev, patthar etla pujay dev. "A fool has this habit: as many stones he sees, those many gods he worships." However, I don't want to align myself too closely to the self-styled, snobbish "brights" who have been Enlightened by the Goddesses of Science and Reason either. It is possible to be somewhat critical of this rush to deify this little child on religious grounds too: such as, the point-of-view which says that no matter what disability or "monstrosity" a child might be born with (and in many parts of India, her gender itself might make it unlikely that she will even be born!), she is automatically deserving of love and respect because she is a human being, and not just because this particular genetic abnormality makes her look like Durga.


Fr. Andrew said...

I was hoping you would bring your insight on this story. It looked a little odd in our local paper yesterday. Thanks for the perspective.

mike said...

And you got it just right.