Original URL: Varsha Bhosle Column on Rediff
Shittin’ Gritty by Varsha Bhosle
By now you’ve all read about Sittin’ Pretty Designs’ toilet seats bearing images of Ganpati Bappa and Kali Ma, who are the only two deities featured in the company’s “Sacred Seat Collection” suite. Meaning, only Hindu deities are sacred, or, only Hindu deities deserve to embellish toilet seats, or, only Hindus take affronts lying down, or in this case, sitting up.
Interestingly, the company’s website went to great lengths to prevent the casual visitor from downloading the images, by splitting each, like a jigsaw puzzle, into several parts. I presume that the owner of the company, a well-known tattoo artist and a leading lesbian activist named, appropriately, Lamar Van Dyke, has either created the images herself or has the copyrights, haha. Of course, I love puzzles and so here they are; maybe you’d like one on your Hindu sandaas, too:
Kali Ma and Ganpati Bappa
The website describes Kali Ma as “the fierce Hindu goddess who slays demons and liberates you from the constriction of your negative thoughts. She destroys all obstacles and frees you from the darkness of your fears.” While Ganesh “removes all obstacles, destroys evil and provides you with protection on your journey.” I’m sure all you Hindus out there in God’s Own Country appreciate the freely flowing puns.
On Saturday, the California-based correspondent for The Asian Age reported that the outraged Hindu community in the US “plans to stink”. He probably meant “to raise a stink”, but with Mr M J Akbar’s ultra-secular stable of reporters, one can never be sure if that was Freudian or intentional or accidental. Still, I’m grateful that the newspaper reported it at all, since no other publication picked up the story — till the politicians jumped on the bandwagon.
Thanks to TAA and rediff.com, your favourite psycho heard the views of some “outraged” leaders of the Hindu community in the US: Ajay Shah, convener of American Hindus Against Defamation, said that “I don’t want to attach any labels to her [Dyke] right now. For all we know, she might be Hindu. She may think it’s something really cool and it propagates Hindu dharma. We just want to give her a chance to explain herself and maybe withdraw this product. Unless we learn otherwise, we must assume that is being done out of ignorance and not malice… What people might be trying to do is cash in on that popularity without considering what kind of affect it will have on the Hindu community at large.”
Vijay Pallod, a Houston-based community worker, said, “What is really offensive is that these two are the only images that have been listed in the Sacred Seat Collection. Why didn’t the manufacturers have the guts to put pictures of Gods from other religions on the same toilet seat covers? They know that if they did this with any other community there would be a huge public outcry.”
Beth Kulkarni, a member of the advisory council at the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Houston, the president of the VHP of America’s Houston branch, and described as “a pillar of Hinduism in Greater Houston”, disagreed with her “rakhi brother” Pallod’s contention that Hindus had been picked on: “I don’t know why they did such a thing. Maybe they thought they’d be able to sell their product,” for it might just be an “innocent act by uninformed people”.
Hmm… Am I the only one who thinks that something’s terribly wrong with this scenario? Am I the only one who feels that the aforementioned Hindus need to be administered a nice Islamic-style whipping…? Knock, knock… anybody there????
Let’s begin with Ajay Shah, who doesn’t want to pick on Dyke in case “she might be Hindu”. My eyes rolled up when I read that… Are all the secularists and pinkos of India non-Hindu? Are the ranks of the Kangress Parti Roman Catholic? Is the Samajwadi Party entirely made up of Muslims? Aren’t Hajpayee and his Bandar Hindu? But more significantly, if a Hindu had done such a thing, shouldn’t s/he have received a far stronger punishment than an offender of another denomination…? Can you see any logic in Shah’s statement? From where does it arise if not from the ingrained Hindu obsequiousness? What’s there that Shah needs explained by Dyke? That even after projecting Kali Ma as “the fierce Hindu goddess”, she went ahead and put Ma on the bottom of a toilet lid…?
Even so, Shah implores us to assume that Dyke may have acted out of “ignorance”. In Shah’s lily-livered world, an outspoken member of Seattle’s lesbian community, who also contributes to sociology journals, could have no clue about what causes offence to communities. Like, gays, a hounded minority everywhere, could be unaware of public scorn — and gay activists, more so. But Shah doesn’t think Dyke could have done it on purpose; perhaps, she mistook “sacred” for “scarlet”. You see, gay activists don’t have a history of extreme, in-your-face behaviour to draw attention to their community’s cause. Like, integrity’s gonna stop one from employing the same tactics when it comes to business.
However, the dipweed’s goal tops it all: Ajay Shah will be content if Dyke is persuaded to “maybe withdraw this product”. I wanna vomit. After incurring the cost of nothing more than laminating four toilet seats with the images and uploading the pictures on her website, Dyke will be let off without a scratch. No matter that the publicity she’s gained from the email campaign and the news reports is enough to make any PR firm salivate. So, even if Shah is awake to the possibility that Dyke might be trying to “cash in on the popularity” of the Hindu ethos, she’ll still be excused. For there’s no “malice”, if you please. Shah apparently believes that a well-known activist, who’s also been the subject of documentaries, may be so naïve that she’d put Ganesh and Kali Ma on toilet lids to “propagate Hindu dharma”… Don’t you just wanna aim your gun at, not Dyke, but this apology of a Hindu?!
And yet, I could have condoned Shah’s tender, loving, forgiving policy if not for this: “Attempts by The Asian Age to contact officials at Sittin’ Pretty Designs for a comment were not reciprocated.” Ajay Shah: “I’ve been patiently waiting, but I haven’t heard anything from her yet. Everyone is waiting for her response.” Such a naïve babe-in-the-woods, that Dyke.
The problem is this: Ajay Shah is not dedicated to Hinduism alone; he’s fanatically devoted to the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, too. Hence his attitude when Hinduism itself is under attack: “The thing that we will do, that we have always done, is to put a moral public pressure on someone who has been offensive.” See what I mean? Since the loin cloth and “moral pressure” supposedly brought India her independence, Jockeys and toadying are gonna vindicate Ganesh in the US. Arrrrrrggghhhhhh….
Now let’s take the other Hindu worker: Vijay Pallod is offended because “these two are the only images” in the collection since Dyke didn’t have the guts to desecrate non-Hindu Gods. Vomit-time, again. Suppose if Dyke responded by putting Mohammed and Jesus on toilets, would Pallod and his acolytes be satisfied? WHAT is the relation between what Hindus want of their religion and what others want of theirs…? Will Pallod’s indignation be assuaged if the Virgin Mary, too, decorates a toilet — along with Kali Ma? Sheesh! Where do these dipweeds drop from?!
And then we have that “pillar of Hinduism’, Auntie Beth, telling us that “this might just be an innocent act by uninformed people”. When the Southern Baptists published “prayer guides” deriding Hindu Gods, this former Methodist and acclaimed VHP leader’s response was: “Generally speaking, Hindus always have a siege mentality with regards to Christians, anyway.” Auntie claims that her key mission is “to continue encouraging Hindus to let their self-respect and self-esteem grow” — while her own two children, born of a Hindu father (I’m gonna expand on the Marathi Brahmins of the US another day), do not identify themselves as Hindus… Why have you, O Shiva, placed me in such a nauseating community? The malaise is symptomatic of the Hindu “flock” everywhere — in India, we have our Auntie Sonia.
With Hindus like these, it’s no wonder that any dork gets up and sticks our deities anywhere s/he wants. In July, a California-based shoe manufacturer stuck our Gods on a range of footwear; America’s Hindus did exactly what they’re doing now — email campaigns followed by a loving “god-speed”. Read my lips, you morons: If you don’t hurt Americans where it hurts the most — their pockets — they will keep pushing at the boundaries of your limits. Instead of filling the coffers of the Democratic Party, you’d do well to invest far less in a legal suit. No pain, no gain: sittin’ pretty at your PCs and dashing off emails is not how wars are won — make the offenders shit slow and painful grit.
And now, Ajay Shah’s coup de grâce to finish Hinduism for once and for all: “I think the origin of much prejudice and discrimination against Indians in this country is the denigration of Hindu symbols. When people can ridicule your symbols, what stops them from ridiculing you?” What he’s saying is, because people are prejudiced against Hindu symbols, they discriminate against Indians; because they ridicule the symbols, they ridicule Hindus. Meaning, the entire exercise against the toilet seats is designed to stop people from ridiculing America’s Hindus! It does not rise from any particular devotion to Ganesh and Kali Ma, and it has little to do with any affront to the deities, LOL!!
These are dipweeds supreme, yuck! But the rest of you — the silent majority of Hindus who do get raving-mad at the slights to our Gods — I say this: Do not repose your faith in these so-called community leaders. Shah wrote Dyke, “I am not certain you realise that this has already caused tremendous hurt in the community” — limp words from a wimp. Do not get “hurt” — get even! Leaders are all alike — see where the BJP has left the kar sevaks of Ayodhya. If there’s no fiery Hindu organiser in America, fight individual legal battles against those who attack Hindu icons. For empowering the intellectually and morally corrupt will never get Hinduism the respect it richly deserves.