Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

gross bisons

So apparently people want to know about the gross bisons, why they're gross, and why i'm talking about them.

To all these people, i have this to say:
Write it, really fast, and see what you get

its like this. Several years ago, i lived next to a friend called Emmanuel... well, in the interest of truth i would have to say that i lived over him, and my footsteps, and taste in music plagued him for a year, but well, we basically lived in each other's pockets. It was great.

Emmanuel had the most amazingly neat and well organized house, so after i'd succeeded in reducing my own house to the pigsty that was its natural state, i'd go hang out at his. Now, his mother, in France, sent him lots of very pretty postcards, which would be kept on his dining table, until he got around to organizing them, putting them up etc. So i would sit at this table and talk with him, and occasionally look at these postcards in fascination.

The pictures were always beautiful (they were usually pictures of the french countryside, around the areas Emmanuel grew up, and where his mother still lived), but it wasn't really the pictures i was interested in. It was the writing, which was in french, and so almost completely alien to me. There's something truly fascinating about handwriting in another language, its like a code that is lost on you. And Emmanuel did not mind my fiddling with the cards, so this became something i'd do whenever i visited him.

The only thing that mystified me was the signature line on most of these cards. It seemed like his mother always mentioned the gross bisons before she signed off.

This was somewhat surprising to me. But i am urban after all, and i grew up in a largely brick and concrete area in South Kolkata. What did i know about bisons, gross or otherwise? Perhaps cows or other bovine livestock were called bisons in french? perhaps they were getting into a garden of some sort, where they had no business? perhaps they were very dirty? I mean, who knows? What i saw in the postcards was this verdant green countryside, in Europe. A world so entirely different from any i had known that it was unwise, in my mind, to be surprised by anything that may be ordinary in that world.

But still, the meaning of the recurrent and apparently filthy bisons continued to elude me, and in the consistent nature of unsolved mysteries, haunted the margins of my imagination. So one day, i asked Emmanuel. And i report on my memory of this conversation, which took place almost half a decade ago.

Me: so, sweetie, what are these gross bisons?

E: Which ones? aren't bisons extinct in North America? (very well informed boy, this)

Me: No, not here, the ones your mum keeps talking about

E: My mum keeps talking about bisons? How do you know? (His mum speaks only French)

Me: (quite embarrassed now, wishing i hadn't started this, but still plagued by the bison mystery) In the postcards

E: (clearly totally confused) My mum talks about bisons in the postcards? which ones?

So I pick up a representative bison signature and take it to where he is standing, at the stove.

He took one look at it and laughed for about ten minutes, really hard. His face went red. I stood there, postcard in hand, feeling, well, very stupid. Then he could finally speak, still choking

E: Thats french, debo, its not 'gross bisons'. its 'gros bisous'

Me: (unwilling to commit any further) um

E: It means many kisses. She's my mum, see, so thats how she signs off. Its not cows. You're such an idiot (informed, as i said)

Me: hm. I see. ok, that makes more sense. (Quickly diverting topic) Do you have anything i can eat?

E: (unwilling to let this go) You thought my mum was signing off about bisons? Really, debo.

Me. um. food?

And thats the story of the gross bisons:)

BTW this ones for Emmanuel, who i haven't seen in WAY too long. E, gross bisons to you.

is it worth it?

Actually, i see all the information available about her and conclude that engaging with her ideas will make me so angry that it wont be worth it.

i'll give you a sample. Apparently she came across the Jeffrey Kripal piece about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda maybe being sexually involved, and this shattered her world view because she's worshiped them since she was a child (i.e. people you feel strongly about must never behave in ways that you will disapprove, particularly historical figures who have minds the size of the universe and basically, and rightfully, in my opinion, don't give a shit what you think)

I quote the piece to which i refer:

"Invading The Sacred - By Aditi Banerjee

In college, I was exposed to Jeffrey Kripal's "theory" of Sri
Ramakrishna as a homosexual who had homoerotic feelings about (and possibly abused) Swami Vivekananda. It was presented to me not as speculation but as an academically established and authoritative truth. All my life, I had looked upon Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda as holy saints who had revived Hinduism during colonial rule in India. I had a picture of Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi to which I daily offered aarti, and I eagerly read Swami Vivekananda's complete works--one of the few compilations on Hinduism widely available in English that is written from a Hindu perspective. They had been my portal to Hinduism, but I felt shaken by these academic allegations. Instinctively, I knew such claims were baseless, and yet, these claims were made and vouched for by bona fide professors with Ivy League credentials, so they could not be completely wrong.

Could they?"

Ok, shes:

1. Definitely NOT like me

2. Believes sex (possibly homosexual sex?) is dirty

3. Does not believe that gods should have sex (odd, since she's a Hindu, seems to me thats a lot of what our gods do, and good for them too)

4. Still believes that challenging ideas with Ivy League credentials is a subversive act. No, seriously, this is a little shocking, considering the rest of the planet does it on a regular basis, with thought and action.

Also, she inhabits a very self-congratulatory community, favoring hindutva, on which such ideas are bandied around, with a deep seriousness:

And i quote again:

"Tavleen Singh wrote a nice little piece on Invading the Sacred in todays IE Like Tavleen, I am a sceptical of Indians starting the fight back in India
I re-emphasize - if this is going to be turned around it will have to start in the West. Even Herculean intellectuals such as Sita Ram Goel or Ram Swarup could not turn the tide in their own life-time. The following problems apply

1- In India - there is institutional sanction to certain beliefs - aka 'JNU Knows Best'
2- Institutions that propagate said 'only truths' have all been taken over by leftist intellectuals- e.g the ICHR, NCERT etc.
3- Leftist intellectuals believe in two essentials - no original intellectual endeavor on their part;and verbal terrorism on anyone doing original thinking (KS Lal, SR Goel, Ram Swarup, Arun Shourie, Gurumurthy, Bhyrappa - need I go on?)
4- To keep their own backsides stuck to gilded chairs in said institutions - the leftist borrow heavily (also known as 'inspiration' to the likes of Anu Malik) from Hindu studies in the West. They rehash the same works - with many footnotes added to make it look scholarly
5- The Western gurus of Hinduism are prejudiced (by missionary cant) when not hampered (by lack of growing up Hindu). It is easier for them to walk the easy path and merely keep repeating nonsense.

Hindus in the West have some advantages.
1- They are educationally more accomplished having come through the immigration sieve (Rajeev calls it the Innumeracy of the Indian Leftists vs. the Numeracy of the IIT-ians).
2- They are more susceptible to organizing under one umbrella - given that they are a mionority.
3- They have access to a better judicial system from which to launch the challenge.
Once you get a critical mass of successes there - it will inspire the millions back home to take up arms. Heck the ones back home - they love to celebrate Sunita Williams- so I am sure they may like it when Hindus start being anti-establishment rebels."

These comments caused much congratulation for the writer, and serious discussion.

Oh and on a funny note, she's worried that if she does not embrace her status an an 'American Hindu', Hinduism will die:

"Why? Why have and adopt a Hindu-American identity? First, because it is necessary for the survival of the religion. Religions that are stagnant and refuse to change with the times, to adapt to the society in which they are living, die away."

um, theres the population figures. How many people do you think are afraid that hinduism will die out?

No, i am not going to engage with this person. It would be a waste of my time.