OPINION

Is The Guardian Seeing Pink Elephants?

January 16, 2008
Aditi Nadkarni

Raised in one of the most liberal environments that a child could ask for, I grew up not being overtly conscious of my religious sensitivities and consider myself quite open to cultural critique. Even now as an immigrant, faced with intensely curious examination, I have always been able to address some of the more blatantly ignorant questions about Hinduism with a calm front, a straight face and the kind of dignity which only tolerance can bestow. Despite my allowances, there are times, I admit, when my undisturbed exterior of leniency leaves me seething from within. In recent times I have finally come to realize when and how my usually libertarian stance towards religious scrutiny takes a sudden curb towards a rigid and unforgiving disposition.

A recent encounter over the internet has caused me to conclude that my own intolerance towards ignorance and disregard for other religions boils over when it is a popular media form that is propagating the balmy inaccuracies and misinformation. Those in media, I firmly believe, should have the sense of responsibility to know the extent of their outreach. Ignorance is bliss for only those who indulge in it. Which makes it inexcusable when a media form chooses to propagate ignorance.

I come out of my two-month hiatus from DC today and step out from under the tightening noose of work schedule to vehemently criticize "an excerpt" by Chris Madigan that appeared in this month's Guardian Unlimited. Following is the discussed abstract that may leave the culturally savvy readers, completely incredulous and the religiously sensitive ones among us foaming at the mouth:

"Ganesh has always been non-Hindus' favourite Hindu deity, as he is most commonly represented in the incarnation of a jolly rotund elephant boy. He is particularly revered by the gay community in Mumbai during his festival in September, because he represents the removal of obstacles – and it's an occasion for them to express themselves as idols are plunged into the sea at Chowpatty beach. Self-expression for gay Mumbai usually comes – as it does at Mardi Gras and Pride parades worldwide - in the form of outrageous outfits and pounding disco. Only here, the pink pop songs are given a Bollywood cover version treatment."


Mr.Madigan has somehow managed to find a connection between Ganesh Chaturthi and get this, homosexuality. Why, you ask? Apparently, Mr.Madigan, inspite of his credentials and extensive travel history, has a relatively narrow outlook when it comes to the use of the color pink. A picture of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations accompanies this journalistic piece and is titled "The Pink Parade". Now if this casual connection were to be made in context of lets say films such as Pink Panther or Pink Cadillac, we could've all mustered at least a reluctant laugh at the sickeningly stereotypical humor in this association. However, Mr.Madigan chooses to make this far-fetched connection within the context of a Hindu god merely because the deity in question wears colorful garments and a pink crown. Literacy and even education, I now sadly infer, do not confer cultural sensibility. Mind you, I make this statement not against the alleged homosexuality association but in objection to the false and utterly misleading information being peddled in a unnecessary attempt to sell Mumbai's travel potential.

Picking September as the month to travel to Mumbai (Bombay), India, Mr.Madigan, explains how Ganesh Chaturthi is comparable to Mardi Gras and Gay Pride Parades. And yet, apart from the pink turbans and dhotis worn by the beloved Hindu diety, nothing about the religious festivities of Ganesh Chaturthi even remotely approaches the ambiance of a gay pride parade. While the Ganesh Chaturthi festival can be a culturally uplifting and festive experience for any visitor to India, it most definitely does not need to be marketed as a gay pride parade.

Mr.Madigan's ignorance itself is quite disturbing and yet what is even more reprehensible is The Guardian's complete lack of censorship when it comes to a piece that is not just hurtful towards religious sentiments but is deceptive information. Especially since "The Guardian's editorial code" unequivocally states the following:

"A newspaper's primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted."


It is at times such as these that I wonder what role media actually plays in confirming or denouncing our biases, false prejudices and untrue generalizations. If a popular online news source such as the The Guardian can provide a platform for such a grave cultural misrepresentation, one wonders how educational our search engine exploits over the internet truly are.

As for Mr.Madigan, it may be interesting to note that the euphemistic phrase "Seeing pink elephants" describes drunken hallucinations resulting from alcohol withdrawal.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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#1
Deepti Lamba
URL
January 16, 2008
01:23 AM

Ganesh Gay god?? Mardi Gras? Whaaaaat? No, I am not offended - its too ludicrous. Nothing wrong with gays being part of the celebration but ..I am laughing so hard I cannot finish what I was saying above.

Mr Madigan - sure has been seeing too many pink elephants - add some flying pigs too;)

#2
smallsquirrel
January 16, 2008
01:42 AM

it is ...um... really something else. jeebus. wow. well, seems he is a total idiot. am laughing too. a lot.

now about all these guys I see in skirts in india holding hands.... ;)

#3
Fleiger
URL
January 16, 2008
01:57 AM

Oh, I am afraid it is not just limited to pink elephants. "Maharashtra Times" (the Marathi newpaper by TOI) ran an article about the same, and asked readers to send mails to Guardian about the article explaining the real meaning of Ganeshotsav. Guardian's response?

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your email. We have looked into this, but do not feel that the article, which simply said that the gay community like to attend the Ganesh festival, needs correcting.

Best wishes

Andy Pietrasik
Travel editor
Guardian Unlimited


Original article, and followup (both articles are in Marathi)

I guess this goes beyond just plain ignorance.

#4
kerty
January 16, 2008
02:10 AM

All key Hindu male deities are associated with female deities, except Ganesha. Now one could raise a question about Ganesha as to why it is so. But to assume that he is gay and state it as a matter of fact - may be Mr. Madigan knows something that rest of Hindus do not.

#5
blokesablogin
January 16, 2008
02:10 AM

This is beyond funny! I am still a littl stupefied as to how I should respond to this- Laugh it off or send a thundering email to the author of the article. Here, in America, it is ludicrous with the use of colors. I read in the Dear Abby column a few months back, how in the earlier part of the 19th century, baby boys were dressed in PINK (as it was considered a strong color owing to its root in red) and girls in BLUE as it was a calming color!!!) Aah! the politics and language of color.

#6
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
January 16, 2008
12:34 PM

Hi Dee, SS, blokesablogin: Thanks for your comments. I personally couldn't find this association funny. I was very angry. And my rage had absolutely nothing to do with the homosexuality associaion but due to the fact that a religious holiday was being peddled as a Mardi Gras/ gay pride parade like event. I think we have seen the humor in things and laughed off stuff for way too long. Had someone refered to the holy hajj as Mardi gras there would've been hell to pay. I am starting to wonder if maybe the media has figured out that it is easier to get away with mocking Hinduism....a few people will go on a customary rampage in Bombay/ Maharashtra and thats it. No other repurcussions.

Besides, I think there are plenty of things that the writer could've said about Ganesh Chaturthi apart from the fact that gay people can be a part of the celebration.

I think there is way too much ignorance in the world already for The Guardian to now start propagating more.

Fleiger: I have sent my own scathing email along with a link to this article to the readers' editor. Lets see if that gets their attention.

It does go beyond plain ignorance. They were caught putting their foot in their mouth and are now pretending there is nothing wrong with having it wedged in there.

kerty:

"All key Hindu male deities are associated with female deities, except Ganesha."

I'm not sure if Mr.Madigan knows something about Hinduism that we don't, but from your above statement I am starting to think that maybe you don't know a few things about Hinduism that some of us do. Depending on which Ganesh form and mythological story you are refering to, Ganesh has been associated with Riddhi, Siddhi and Saraswati and in the Shiv Purana has two sons, Kshema and Labha. Regardless of that, Ganesh Chaturthi is MOST definitely not similar in any way to a gay pride parade. Cross-examining a Hindu deity's sexuality is irrelevant in this context.

If Ganesh chaturthi were to be compared to a carnival, Thanksgiving day parade or a satygraha I'd still be this annoyed at the incorrect comparison. It is not about homosexuality but about misrepresentation. There are a lot of festivals in India where, I'm sure, homosexual men and women can join in the festivities but that is NOT what defines Ganesh chaturthi; it isn't the primary reason for a tourist to hop on a plane and visit Mumbai in September.







#7
XYZ
January 16, 2008
01:52 PM

FYI Mardi gras is a religious festival too, it's the last day before Lent.

Maybe the homosexual community does celebrate this festival with more gusto than others. The author saw an aspect that others who celebrate it annually don't. I don't see what the big deal is here.

I could go off on a rant about how certain other religious festivals have become an excuse to engage in hooliganism etc but I'll spare you for now. :)

#8
Aditi Nadkarni
January 16, 2008
02:27 PM

XYZ

"Maybe the homosexual community does celebrate this festival with more gusto than others. The author saw an aspect that others who celebrate it annually don't. I don't see what the big deal is here"

Maybe?!

Having been part of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Mumbai for at least 20 years I can vouch (and so can a million others who have taken the time to write Maharashtra Times about this slight by the Guardian) that the homosexual community in Bombay has no particular interest worthy of being singled out in Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. Ganesh Chaturthi is primarily celebrated by Maharashtrian households, families and people of all ages irrespective of their sexual orientation.

The author probably ran into a few gay men and instead of taking the time to find the cultural relevance of the procession just very casually compared it to Mardis gras and a gay pride parade.

You spared us your rant, wish you could've spared us your nonchalance and conjectures about Ganesh Chaturthi as well. This post isn't about whether there is hooliganism involved in Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at all! The point remains that a travel diary on an international newspaper has compared Ganesh Chaturthi to a gay pride parade where homosexuality finds expression. This is untrue. Period.

#9
Shayani
January 16, 2008
03:36 PM

I have read the original text, and I do not see where so many readers get the impression that Chris Madigan calls Ganesha gay. Madigan simply says that the gay community in Mumbai celebrates Ganesh chaturthi with particular fervor because Ganesha represents the removal of obstacles. NO WHERE does Madigan make the claim that Ganesha is gay. My being a Bengali Ganesha worshipper does not make the Lord a Bengali. Similarly, His having gay worshippers does not make Him gay. Aditi Nadkarni's article is more egregious than the original article in the Guardian. Particularly ironic for someone who blows her own trumpet about liberalism, libertarianism, englightened and many similarly elevated qualities.

#10
kerty
January 16, 2008
03:41 PM

Aditi..

I stand corrected about Ganesha. Although I am not sure if Saraswati would be associated with Ganesha as she is considered a better half of Brahma. Nonetheless, Ganesha is one deity that is accessible to one and all without any distinctions or special penance, whose worship cuts across many diverse traditions - and I am told, revered in Jainism as well. I do not pretend to know everything about Hinduism and its diverse beliefs, and I thank you for pointing out my factual inaccuracy.

#11
Fleiger
URL
January 16, 2008
03:42 PM

@XYZ: A quick, short hop to Wikipedia would have corrected Guardian, and would have cured you of your "maybe"s.

The point of this article, and the underlying issue is not who participates in the festival (in fact, in many places in Maharashtra, people from other religions also take part in the festival), or what direction public festivals, neither this one nor "certain other ones", are taking.

The point was the ignorance shown by Guardian (to put in mildly) and the crazy antiques they are pulling to get out of it now.

---------------------------------------------
@Aditi: I don't think you are going to get any better response than others got, but you can still have some hope. Their response seems like everybody but them got it wrong.
And I was going to respond to Kerty, but you did it well.

#12
Fleiger
URL
January 16, 2008
03:53 PM

@Shayani: Well, the original article does not mention that particularly, but anybody who knows English will get the tone of the article. Your comment is same as the "defence" Guardian is putting up.

Do you mean to tell us that Guardian's "particularly revered by" and other such phrases, or the complete lack of anything about the actual meaning of the festival was just a slip?

#13
Aditi Nadkarni
January 16, 2008
04:03 PM

#9 Shayani:

You have succesfully demonstrated that you have not read my article except maybe the first paragrpah or so.

Whilst I will not respond to your comments about the "blowing my own trumpet"...you do have a point there, I AM EXTREMELY proud of my liberatarian views when it comes to religion. And hence you will notice, if of course you take the trouble of actually reading the article, that I do NOT EVEN ONCE suggest that Madigan's piece alleges that Ganesh is gay. So I don't quite fathom your rant.

My objection is NOT to any sort of allusion towards Ganesh's sexuality. That is a dumb extrapolation.

My article criticizes the Guardian's piece because it markets a religious festival using misinformation. Ganesh Chaturthi is NOT a travel highlight because it is a platform for gay expression BUT because it is a culturally uplifting experience. In fact by singling out the role of homosexuals in these celebrations, Madigan's piece loses out on capturing the very essence of Ganesh Chaturthi, which is indulgence in pure, wholesome fun and festivity for all those who want to participate. In Bombay sexual preference, age or even religion do not act as determinants for who gets to partake in the celebration.

Also, I had no idea that only homosexuals look for a remover of obstacles. Heterosexuals do have obstacles of their own, you know.

kerty: "Ganesha is one deity that is accessible to one and all without any distinctions or special penance, whose worship cuts across many diverse traditions"

Yup, exactly. And you said it so well! And this is precisely why it bothers me that sexual orientation would even come up in the context of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.

Thanks Fleiger. I really do hope that The Guardian rectifies this error.

#14
Shayani
January 16, 2008
04:32 PM

Aditi, I refer you to your own text: "However, Mr.Madigan chooses to make this far-fetched connection within the context of a Hindu god merely because the deity in question wears colorful garments and a pink crown."

Perhaps you did not mean that your interpretation of Madigan's words were that Ganesha is gay. In that case, I have misunderstood your words, much as, in my opinion, you have misunderstood Madigan's.

Madigan does not claim that ONLY homosexuals in Mumbai celebrate Ganesh chaturthi. Here, I quote the phrase that Fleiger so particularly objects to: "[Ganesha is] particularly revered by gays." The wording does not preclude other groups of devotees, indeed, directly implies that there are other, non-homosexual devotees.

Finally, true libertarianism is a thing to be proud of. Sadly, no where in your critique of Madigan's article do I find the Jeffersonian tolerance of other people's opinions that is so key to libertarianism.

To everyone offended by the Guardian article, I'll only ask whether in an increasingly fractious world, it is ideal to get so het up, use up so much time and space arguing with and berating each other over something that does no real damage? Why can't calmer heads prevail?

#15
Aditi Nadkarni
January 16, 2008
04:58 PM

Shayani: Lets do this logically, systematically, shall we?

Mr.Madigan's statements include the following:

1. "He (Ganesh) is particularly revered by the gay community in Mumbai"

Untrue. First of all, the "gay community" in India isn't a cult and don't have like a favorite god or something. That is a highly stereotypical and narrow perception (in terms of both culture and sexuality) that oversimplifies the relationship between a cultural figure and a section of society whose religious beliefs should not be confused/ correlated with their sexual orientation.

2. "He is particularly revered by the gay community in Mumbai because he represents the removal of obstacles"

Please explain to me (since you seem to understand Mr.Madigan better than the rest of us), what is the logic between "remover of obstackes" and homosexual following? Hetero/ Bi sexuals do not have obstacles or don't need a "remover". I can't even believe you would insult your own intelligence by jumping in to defend something as dumb and culturally unsavvy as this.

3"....and it's an occasion for them (homosexuals) to express themselves as idols are plunged into the sea at Chowpatty beach"

Why do homosexuals need Ganesh idols to be plunged into the ocean to express themselves? I am confused.

4. "Self-expression for gay Mumbai usually comes - as it does at Mardi Gras and Pride parades worldwide - in the form of outrageous outfits and pounding disco"

Is this really an apt description of Ganesh Chaturthi? I have lived in Mumbai for 21 years, celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi, walked to the beaches for all the immersions. I have never seen "outrageous" outfits that warrant comparisons between a "gay pride parade" and Ganesh Chaturthi! What is he talking about?

Lastly,

5. The picture accompanying this piece has a picture of Ganeshas taken for immersion...with a caption, "The Pink Parade". The Pink Parade is a phrase used to describe the Mardi Gras celebrations. So in order to increase the saleability of a Hindu religious celebration we now need to interpret/ market it as a Mardi Gras festival or gay pride parade?! Are we this desperate?

And let me just say, it is just plain stupid to be marketing this as Mr.Madigan's right to his "opinion"!!! What if I were to write an article and sell the religious pligrimage of hajj as a gay pride parade? Would that be my opinion? An "opinion" is with regards to views, values, concepts, something that is open to perception...NOT factual details!!!

See, Shayani,if you would just like to be the devil's advocate, fine by me but please don't claim to somehow see the true essence of Madigan's assinine article that none of us do.








#16
Shayani
January 16, 2008
05:57 PM

Aditi, your job description says you're a cancer researcher. To me, that is great, rather noble, and more important than harping over what someone else did or did not mean.

I have no idea what Chris Madigan meant by writing this little blurb, except for the very direct meaning that the English words convey to me. In those words, I just do not see anything inflammatory. I do not see how having homosexual devotees insults Ganesha, I do not see how their considering him a remover of obstacles means no one else has obstacles, I do not see why I should waste any more time discussing this.

Finally, I do not like reading between the lines, because words have a dictionary meaning and I don't see any need for going beyong that. That, for me, is more than enough.

#17
Aditi Nadkarni
January 16, 2008
06:17 PM

16 Shayani: Were you so impressed with my "cancer researcher" tag that you ignored all my other mentioned creative interests and occupations? I have been a free-lancer and a social commentator for longer than I have been in the field of cancer research. If you feel that commenting on and pulling attention to current social ongoings that fall through the cracks while our media is busy discussing Bollywood gossip is any less benevolent of an occupation than being a cancer researcher than I would ask you to think again.

Media and its portrayal of the facts is at times even greater in magnitude than the facts themselves. Commenting on and making my opinion known about media information, may it be through the medium of films, newspapers, books or blogs is also my occupation.

With all due respect, I do not remember soliciting advice from my readers about how I should invest my time.

With regards to the topic of discussion, my comment #15 has addressed every one of your rebuttals and has not really left anything to the imagination, perception of the English language or otherwise.

#18
santosh
January 16, 2008
06:24 PM

shayani

"do not see how having homosexual devotees insults Ganesha, I do not see how their considering him a remover of obstacles means no one else has obstacles, I do not see why I should waste any more time discussing this"

all people who wrote to maharashtra times and to the guardian regarding this did so not becoz they were upset about the homosexuality connection but becoz the information was untrue and misleading.

also this article by aditi very clearly states that it is not the homosexuality association that is disturbing at all. it is of course every person's right to be a religious person or have devotion towards a certain deity irrespective of sexual orientation. but that is not the hallmark of ganesh chaturthi. that is not what makes it a tourist attraction. is this so hard for you to understand?

the point is ganesha may have homosexual devotees but that is not what the ganesh chaturthi celebrations are about.

you said you were bengali, is durga pooja equivalent to a mariah carey concert or a gay pride parade?

stop arguing for the sake of arguing.

#19
Man Singh
URL
January 16, 2008
06:44 PM

One more thing my freinds,

Lord Ganesha represents mooladhar chakra , the very first to be penetrated by Kundlini shakti while moving up. For a Yogi a disciplined sex life is one of the basic requirement `Homo sexuality or hetro sexuality'.

Hence any refernce to sexuality while describing a religios spritual event in unfair and mischevious.

Second issue is that Indian sprituality related to any diety requires a `atmabhimaani' attitude that means a tendecy of devotee to identify creatures by its soul and not dehabhiman(temdency to identify creatures by physical body). based on this second criteria, all creatures including Homosexuals are to be treated as sexless `souls' and hence the mentioned report is inaccurate and sort of making fun of the festival.

people are laughing at us if fine. making public fun is really unacceptable and Shayani need to give a second thought on her viewpoint.

Still if we want we can give a benefit of doubt to the crooked writer and need to write to editor for their future enlightenment.

#20
Anamika
January 16, 2008
07:00 PM

Shayani, I am intrigued by this extreme protectionism of Guardian's obviously ignorant article on your part. The original post was neither intolerant as you suggest or needlessly mud-raking. It was quite balanced and indeed (for my taste) almost non-committal.

Labelling Ganesh Chaturthi as a "pink parade" - which you may not realise is an accepted euphemism for gay pride parades in Europe and North America - is misleading, factually wrong, and provocative, especially in the hands of a self-avowedly "leftist" paper like the Guardian.

Let me put this in context: do you think the Guardian will EVER label a Moharram procession as a "pink parade"?

I remember from my childhood in Lucknow that the "tazias" had pink paper streamers and many of the men wore virulent coloured transparent shirts with checked "skirts" (lungis) - yes this was in days when Akbar Allahabadi of AAA was the Muslim fashion icon in UP. Does that mean that tazia processions are of "special import for gay men" who "celebrate it with campy/garish outfits"?

Btw, I was one of the many who emailed the paper to register my protest but as in the past - and especially when it comes to India - Guardian's line is a particularly colonial one.

After all, this is the same paper that devoted acres to Dalrymple's hysterical claims that the next great INDIAN writer would come out of the UK and then refused to publish a countering article by many major INDIAN writers (who were relegated to massively slashed letters to the editor). It was the Guardian that got Germaine Greer to write on how it wasn't "racism" but "class" that was the issue in the Shilpa Shetty episode last year despite the fact that most of the expletives were specifically racist.

So the Ganesh Chaturthi piece was very much in line with their general editorial stance on India and the former colonies (look at the bulk of their reporting on Australia-India cricket controversy). As btw was their rather arrogant response - they have reacted exactly the same way in the past.



#21
temporal
URL
January 16, 2008
08:15 PM

adi:

welcome back:)

ana:

very well put

btw anyone knows of chris' 'orientation'?

#22
Anamika
January 16, 2008
09:12 PM

Temp: re: Chris's orientation, methinks its anti-Indian. Would that make him a choleric or cowardly yellow instead of white or pink? :-)

#23
blokesablogin
January 17, 2008
12:15 AM

He got the color wrong too- it is sindoora- RED!!! That would make Ganeshji a commi!

#24
blokesablogin
January 17, 2008
12:15 AM

He got the color wrong too- it is sindoora- RED!!! That would make Ganeshji a commi!

#25
PH
URL
January 17, 2008
12:35 AM

I pinched myself. I mean, here I am a Ganesha-loving Mumbaikar with memories of modaks and "Jaidev Jaidev"s, trying to get some bedtime reading done and what do I see? Begum Britney Ghalib and Ganesh Chaturthi as a gay parade? I bet I've fallen asleep at my computer and am dreaming...

On a serious note, there is something orgiastic abt religious parades; in that and only that sense there is some connection to Mardi Gras. But please, gay pride? I bet Chris Whoever was enjoying some prashaad (bhaang) when sending in his entry to the Guardian.

#26
bd
URL
January 17, 2008
01:22 AM

Ganesh is married but he is married to the banana tree. Which is why you would see a banana tree dressed up in the typical bengali white sari with a red border propped up next to the Ganesh statue in a bengali durga puja. There are two reasons which I have heard. Both oral traditions. The first is that he was so busy writing the mahabharat that he said he did not have time for a bride and when his mum insisted, he said, ok, I will get married to a banana tree.
The second is more philosophical and goes back to the story of him going around his mum and claiming that that was the world for him while kartikeya went around the actual earth. Given this feeling for his mum, he claimed that since his mum (as a personification of Shakti) was in everything, he was already in a deep relationship and any other woman will just be the same. Hence, no need to get married.

#27
Deepti Lamba
URL
January 17, 2008
01:25 AM

Having a banana for a bride or being a mama's boy ...hmm ...now which is worse?;)

#28
Sujai
URL
January 17, 2008
01:52 AM

About Madigan, That's irresponsible journalism - agree.

You write:
that is not just hurtful towards religious sentiments but is deceptive information.

Ludicrous? Yes.

But, hurtful?

Hmm... Are we going back to 'we get hurt too easily' syndrome?

#29
Anamika
January 17, 2008
09:50 AM

Sujai, I agree completely. We Hindus need to get over our "get hurt too easily" syndrome and start developing "get angry and frighten everyone" syndrome.
:-p

#30
Chandra
January 17, 2008
10:10 AM

Shayani

A simple analogy should help--->

Durga has always been non-Hindus' favourite Hindu deity, as she is most commonly represented in the incarnation of fiery witch. She is particularly revered by the gay community in Kolkata during her festival in October, because she represents the removal of obstacles - and it's an occasion for them to express themselves as idols are plunged into the Hoogly. Self-expression for gay Kolkata usually comes - as it does at Mardi Gras and Pride parades worldwide - in the form of outrageous outfits and pounding disco and dawdy decorations. Only here, the pink pop songs are given a Bollywood cover version treatment.

#31
Chandra
January 17, 2008
10:15 AM

Aditi

I am stunned that you are the author of this and not the usual suspects. This piece with all its defenses is still not consistent with your writing record. It is like Hillary opposing abortion!! :-). Please leave all this 'sentiments' and 'religion' business to the right wingers.

rgds

#32
commonsense
January 17, 2008
10:15 AM

Yes, who knows? Maybe Chris is a gay activist, trying to spin it his own way. There are bad journalists and there are good journalists. There are journalists who read too much into what they report on. This is not so hard when reporting on social issues, especially religous parades. With such a huge gathering, it is possible that he focussed what was dear to him and missed the larger significance...(not making excuses for him here!). Such parades, religious or not, are literarlly "open texts" ripe for bizarre interpretations. Maybe the gays of Mumbai have indeed adopted it for their own purposes. Maybe Chris had more bhang he could handle etc. etc. etc.The best way to respond is of course to write letters, write another piece in response or not to make a big issue out of it...pretty soon nobody will even remember that he ever wrote this...

Agree with Sujai (yet again! do read his nice piece on "our sentiments are hurt" on his blog)

#33
kela
January 17, 2008
11:21 AM

I really wonder who's suffering from withdrawals here.I went to the guardian site and nowhere does it say pink parade infact the caption says elephant parade.Btw is the author homophobic ? I agree with Shayani here inthat there's just too much reading into a otherwise harmless article.

#34
Man Singh
URL
January 17, 2008
11:34 AM

kela # 33

You will get answer if the newpapers dares to write similar things about haz pilgrims as man and women are not allowed to intermix in Islam and this injunction if interpreted as is islam promoting homosexuality not allowing hetrosexuals come togather?

You have seen the answer when Mohamed's cartoon were printed in a non significant magazine in sweden.

salman Rushdies also did not wrote anything wrong and so was da winchi code which was banend in india under presure of mullas and misisonreis.

Think over it kela learn to treat Hindus also `humans' as days of imperilaism are gone and so is true fro their local associates who surrendered to those invaders and converted to their way of life.

#35
kela
January 17, 2008
11:55 AM

Man SIngh ,if someone were to say that Sita eloped willingly with Ravana and produced lots of babies whose bloodline still exists in Sri Lanka ,how would you react ?
This is hardly that,the writer is merely saying the Gay community in mumbai especially love Ganesh,nowhere does he liken it to a gay festival.To draw such a conclusion is completely moronic

#36
Man Singh
URL
January 17, 2008
12:26 PM

kela # 35

"Gay community in mumbai especially love Ganesh"
Yes this is exactly what point it.

the writer never highlighted that Ganesha is Pratham Poojya devta because he respected his parents more then anything else.

why he never wrote that ganesha represents Mooladhara Chakra for Yogis and hence Yogis especially love Ganesha?

Clearly writer wanted to ridicule the whole festivity by ignoring spritaulity behind it and highlighting what you have rightly quoted.

Hindu spritual tradition treats all creatures as sexless souls and hence its nonsense to say that people of some sexual bent up `especially love ganesha'.

This is mentality of imperilaist to ridicule everything belonging to their ex-slaves. They can'nt simply digest any great messages from their slaves.

It seems you have surrendered to those enslavers permanenetly and hence dun mind as slaves become habitual of digesting insults.

But there are still some people who have not fully surrendered to tyranny and still struggling for their dignity in spite of that fact that soem of theor own brotehrs and sisters have surrendered to them and associated with them and stopped feeling shame for associating with invaders and converting to their culture and religion.

If you dun feel pain of slavery kela, please enjoy it. But please allow those to cry who are being beaten and trying to voice their concern even today.

#37
commonsense
January 17, 2008
12:35 PM

Man Singh wrote:

""haz pilgrims as man and women are not allowed to intermix in Islam and this injunction if interpreted as is islam promoting homosexuality not allowing hetrosexuals come togather?""

Man Singh Bhai (look, we are back to disagreeing with each other again!! seems like old times again!): from what I have read and the documentaries I have seen, during haj not only is the intermingling between men and women allowed, but in fact it is mandatory! Anyone who has been on haj will confirm this for you...

#38
commonsense
January 17, 2008
12:37 PM

Man Singh Bhai,

Apologies due to you! I misread what you were writing and misinterpreted your intent: I think you were saying that during haj, men and women do intermingle...

#39
Aditi Nadkarni
January 17, 2008
12:43 PM

I wish I had the time to respond to all the individual commentators, however let me just makea generic statement for now:

My article has absolutely nothing to do with a right-wing religious/ sexual orientation issue. It is about as Sujai puts it "irresponsible journalism". My statement about "hurt religious statements" is also worded such that it distinguishes what the popular interpretation of this article will be (and believe me there will be hurt religious sentiments) from my own take on why it is a poor choice of words on part of this author.

The accusations of homophobia by kela are daft and baseless. I state categorically in my article that I am not at all bothered by the "homosexuality" association but moreso by the misrepresentation of a cultural event that takes over Mumbai in September.

I would also like to say this (especially to Sujai): I personally don't think that a complete lack of religious sensitivities constitutes liberartarian views at all. My religious sentiments are never easily hurt. But just because mine are not does not mean nobody's should be. I think it is important for people to take a stand about what they believe in. Not by rioting, leading morchas, beating up an artist, setting fire to effigies but by expressing themselves constructively. After all our religion does to a certain extent define the things we believe in. To be jingoistic and reactionary about religious issues is extreme but to display a complete and unmoving lack of religious sensitivities is according to me, noncommital, neutral and unconcerned.

If this were an issue that was open to interpretation such as a view, a creative expression form, an opinion, I would welcome it and I have in the past. But it is the distortion of a factual detail.

To describe Ganesh Chaturthi as a mardi gras festival is just as I said "culturally unsavvy" especially when you are using this description as part of a travel diary. By the way If I were a part of the gay community in Mumbai I would be insulted to read that piece because it makes them sound like some cult with like a favorite deity. The gay community in Mumbai, let me just say, I personally think, has plenty opportunities to express themselves and are very diverse in their religious beliefs.

By the way, for kela's information, the caption of the photograph WAS INITIALLY titled Pink Parade. After numerous emails to the Guardian by people which included my own email with the link to this article apparently certain changes have been made :) The Guardian would have never done that unless they knew something wasn't right with that caption.

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and comments.

#40
commonsense
January 17, 2008
12:48 PM

Aditi wrote:

""but to display a complete and unmoving lack of religious sensitivities is according to me, noncommital, neutral and unconcerned.""

Sounds really good to me, but then, that's just me!

#41
kela
January 17, 2008
12:48 PM

Man Singh,the writer is a layman and you should remember homosexuality seems to be the in-thing in europe but that doesnt imply he had any malicious intentions of distorting facts.

#42
Man Singh
URL
January 17, 2008
01:33 PM

#41 kela
"the writer is a layman and you should remember homosexuality seems to be the in-thing in europe"

If this is the case then such correspondent to such a reputed newpaper should be fired immediately from covering internation events.

Layman's should do laymnan's job my dear. let guardian say these words what you are saying.

Such ignorant and unprofessional people deserve to be put on right place and not a place requiring coverage of international events.

#43
kela
January 17, 2008
01:38 PM

Man Singh,the writer was not writing a treatise on the Ganesh Utsav,he's a mere travel writer

#44
commonsense
January 17, 2008
01:45 PM

Man Singh Bhai wrote:

"Such ignorant and unprofessional people deserve to be put on right place and not a place requiring coverage of international events"

How about a big parade for unprofessional journalists, complete with pink guardians etc?

#45
Man Singh
URL
January 17, 2008
03:04 PM

#43 kela
"the writer was not writing a treatise on the Ganesh Utsav,he's a mere travel writer"

so in your opinion `travel writer' is free to write whatever sh'''t he/she wants to write?

Great logic. I am amazed?

Bhai CS #44 No comments from myside. readers to judge.

#46
Aditi Nadkarni
January 17, 2008
04:13 PM

kela: A travelogue has an often understated responsibility of representing and chronicling the tourist attractions of a city.

Being from Mumbai here is what I would want prospective tourists to know that about Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai:

"In September, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations take over the city for not just 1 or 2 days but for the whole 11 days. Communities celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi welcome people irrespective of age, caste, religion or sexual orientation. Tourists can enjoy the visual delights of the painted and sculpted Ganesh idols made by local artisans. Local Ganesh idols are placed amidst awe-inspiring pieces of entertaining art that include life-sized and hand painted replicas of the Taj Mahal, Eiffel tower, the Niagar falls and other such wonders. The festival is also the time for cultural activities such as songs, dramas and community activities such as blood donation camps, charity for the poor, etc. The Ganesh idols are immersed into the ocean on the last day of this festival by happy crowds of men and women and children and the beaches flood with people who sing devotional songs, beseeching the lord to return next year"


In my descriptive above I have not only described Ganesh Chaturthi more accurately than Mr.Madigan ever could have, I have highlighted the travel potential of the city during this season for families, teens, children, people belonging to all ages, cultures and SEXUAL ORIENTATION (unlike a Gay Pride Parade where one would have to be a homosexual in order to participate).

Instead of trying to find parallels with mardi gras or gay pride parades, a travel writer bears the delicate responsibility of chronicling his/ her own experience of Ganesh Chaturthi to help tourists decide if they want to be a part of such a festive season where art, culture and communal sense all blend into one big celebration.

And if that is what a travel writer is supposed to do: use his/ her own visual/ cultural experience to aid the imagination of the reader and help himdecide whether he would like to travel several miles and see this place: Mr.Madigan failed miserably.

Even a fifth grader can write an essay describing a visit to the zoo, city, museum...one doesn't have to be any kind of expert, in fact a layman probably can do a better job of describing a festive season.


#47
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
January 17, 2008
04:25 PM

Dear Aditi,

I agree that Chris Madigan is being a little silly in this article. But I couldn't understand the reason for your outrage. Has our religion become so fragile that a mere article could hurt our sentiments? We always point fingers at muslims and ridicule them for their stupidity in reacting strongly to every joke or caricature of their prophet. If we can't take a little satire or misunderstanding or a deliberate insult on someone's part as a community, we need to re-examine our avowed broadmindedness and maturity.

Regards,

Ravi

#48
Aditi Nadkarni
January 17, 2008
05:03 PM

Ravi Kulkarni:

I am trying to fathom how many times I need to clarify that my outrage isn't at any "religious' offense per say but against irresponsible journalism and faulty portrayal of a city's salient festival. I am not doing this for Hinduism, but in criticism of ignorant and careless journalism on part of The Guardian.

Is is it so hard for people to understand that my outrage is not at the subject but the context...

subject being: ganesh chaturthi, gay pride parade

context being: a travologue propagating false information about a city's most significant celebrations.

They could've written false information about Bollywood, the chowpatty, the Durga pooja, Chaar Minaar or Taaj Mahal etc. and I would've been equally outraged.

We love these festivals, we celebrate them, these cultural epitomes, buildings, rituals, they represent the history of our civilization and the uniqueness of our culture. I am amazed at how many people think that standing up for these things is somehow against being liberatarian.

Have people somehow assumed that liberatarian or broad minded means not standing up for anything and assuming a casual disregard not matter what is misrepresented in press?

#49
commonsense
January 17, 2008
05:46 PM

Dear Aditi,

I must say I have to agree with Ravi Kulkarni here.

At the bottom of it all, there appears to be a major blow to some sensitivity that Chris seems to have inadvertently or deliberately delivered. And of course, our senstivities are heightened further when we live out of India.

Chris happens to be journalist, writing for a major newspaper. He is not writing a PhD thesis on the origins, texture and future of Ganesh Chathurti. There is a certain element of journalistic license at work that of course sometimes devolves into irresponsibility. Now, if he were to write about the Juhu Beach or the Taj Mahal, surely we cannot expect him to write what is necessarily the accepted image of these places. He is providing a particular take, and he is also driven by the ground realities of a journalist and a newspaper trying to sell its story. Obviously he has overplayed his journalistic licence, perhaps dramatically so, but I really do not see the point in making such a big issue out of it. For example, he did not write that the Ganesh festival is actually a commemoration of the landing of aliens or something like that...Did he deliberately go about denigrating the festival, calling us Indian names etc. etc. I did not see that.

Perhaps its just my robotic, cyborgian unemotional take on such issues. The point has been made, the Guardian changed the caption after emails, people have taken notice etc. etc. Time to move on, right?

Bhai Man Singh please note: I would say exactly the same thing if there are Muslim protests about injured sensitivities about cartoons etc. ie. please don't look at those cartoons if it offends your sensibility. Please don't read the Da Vinci code but please let others enjoy it. Please don't read the Satanic Verses if you don't like it. Of course, to state the obvious, politicians in India cave into the pressures asserted by the self-appointed thekedaars and dalaals...damn, I repeat myself yet again!



#50
commonsense
January 17, 2008
05:49 PM

Aditi wrote:

""Have people somehow assumed that liberatarian or broad minded means not standing up for anything and assuming a casual disregard not matter what is misrepresented in press?""

I agree that one should not be so open-minded such that our brains fall out. However I'm not sure that what Chris wrote somehow denigrated and insulted my sensitivity to a point that I cannot function as a human being...I read the piece a few times...

#51
commonsense
January 17, 2008
06:18 PM

Aditi wrote:

""They could've written false information about Bollywood, the chowpatty, the Durga pooja, Chaar Minaar or Taaj Mahal etc. and I would've been equally outraged.""

Aditi, I may be wrong, but I suspect that now you are being sensitive, unnecessarily so, to the misperception that others are accusing you of being defensive about Hinduism or being homophobic. I don't think any commentator here intended to suggest that.

Moreover, if everytime some journalist wrote some "strange" stuff about Bollywood, Charminar, Chowpaty or the Taj Mahal etc., two things would happen:

1. There would be a lot of ruffled, sensitive feathers all over.

2. Few journalists would dare write about anything.

Bottom line for me: Did Chris present the Ganesh festival as something for travellers to avoid at all costs or something to look forward to? I believe it was the latter, not the former. That being the case, he was not researching the matter, but writing about it from a particular perspective, under strict deadlines etc. etc. He was not exactly covering some major conflict and providing a deliberately biased perspective, blaming one community at the expense of the other etc...OOps, I am infected yet again by the verbal diahhorea bug...

#52
Anamika
January 17, 2008
07:09 PM

CS: I am going to step into this particular quagmire and point out that as a journalist, one's FIRST responsibility is to report ACCURATELY. That is something that did not happen in the Ganesh Chaturthi article.

Second, even in pieces that are "colour" or "lifestyle" pieces, the same standard holds, ie, there must be accuracy. Again the article did not meet this standard.

Third, these journalistic standards are not meant to be applied piecemeal as in "conflict situations" only as you suggest. They must apply at ALL times.

Yes, he isn't writing a Phd about the ORIGINS of Ganesh Chaturthi but to present the festival as a particularly gay celebration is factually wrong and ethically unacceptable by all journalistic standards.

I realise that Fox News style of journalism (Aaj Tak/NDTV style in India) has meant that journalistic standards are abysmal these days, but that is no reason NOT to expect journalists to meet that standard.

I dont think Aditi is being oversensitive btw. False information, inaccuracies, oversights, elisions and exclusions are all forms of manipulating images and ideas of particular issues/images/people/lands. These all have REAL world consequences and are thus sites of power struggles.

For too long - during colonial period - western nations were able to exercise a monopoly on how colonized nations were perceived, judged and therefore treated. That has changed slowly over the past 60 or so years (and continues to be contested and changed even now). However in many parts of the world that colonial power imbalance still exists and thus the way western media presents these places is challenged less frequently. In other cases - political Islam thanks to its military/geo-strategic influence and China/India thanks to a national economic/political growth are prime examples - this is challenged and rectified.

In a way, the Indian reaction to the Guardian article is a version of what happened after the Sydney test or in the Shilpa Shetty case. All too frequently now, Indians are refusing to accept the status quo on public discourse and power imbalances quietly, especially when it comes to how we are represented by foreigners and are claiming the power to represent ourselves.

Look at some of the more reasonable discussions (and I am sorry to say that not all your contribution falls in this category as sometimes you seem too keen on baiting other posters or being purposefully argumentative/obtuse) here on DC - its part of the same process.

#53
temporal
URL
January 17, 2008
07:33 PM

cs #49:

...certain element of journalistic license...

(in addition to ana's #52)

....the invisible and unstated quotient in addition to "accuracy" is "integrity"

it is difficult to acquire and easy to lose


ana: good observation

Indians are refusing to accept the status quo on public discourse and power imbalances quietly

it is long overdue in coming and the economic clout helps!

#54
Aditi Nadkarni
January 17, 2008
08:24 PM

commonsense:

I have addressed in some of my above comments practically everything you bring up in yours. Also Anamika I think does a good job of offering rebuttals to some of your statements. So it would be a waste of time to state things all over again.


By the way:

You say

"Bottom line for me: Did Chris present the Ganesh festival as something for travellers to avoid at all costs or something to look forward to? I believe it was the latter, not the former"

Ha! How many families do you know that want to visit a gay pride parade with wife and kids or friends? When you look for exotic travel options do you look for "gay pride parade"?

This is just beyond ridiculous and is one of the reasons why Goa is now known as a "hippy city" all over the world when it should've been in the same league as Hawaii or Bali.

#55
commonsense
January 17, 2008
09:07 PM

Aditi and Anamika,

I don't disagree! I did not say that it was a storm in a tea-cup...

However, Hawaii is also known as a "yellow-cab" city, for Japanese women to allegedly pick up "black" men and Bali is known as a playground for Australian men to pick up Southeast Asian men...

#56
Aditi Nadkarni
January 17, 2008
09:17 PM

commonsense:

"However, Hawaii is also known as a "yellow-cab" city, for Japanese women to allegedly pick up "black" men and Bali is known as a playground for Australian men to pick up Southeast Asian men"

There are plenty of bad things known about each place but that is NOT how a majority of travelogues portray the aforementioned places.

You wouldn't find a travel diary that uses the descriptives you've listed.

Give us a break and while abandoning your own "commonsense" please don't insult ours.

#57
PH
URL
January 18, 2008
12:48 AM

In a way, the Indian reaction to....claiming the power to represent ourselves

Very perceptive observation, Anamika.

I'm somewhat on the fence here leaning (to my own surprise) a bit to Aditi's side. I'm not the least offended by mis representations of my culture unless it is done with shady motives (don't ask how you can tell bcos most of us have sensitive internal compasses that can guess motives). This Chris guy amuses me more than offends; the best I can muster is mild annoyance at such balderash.

Yet, I think Aditi's irritation isn't religious (sorry Aditi, don't like to speak for you so correct me if I'm off), it is mainly cultural. Even to an unbelieving Mumbaikar such as myself, Ganesh festival is an event too romantic to so completely mis represent.The biggest factor separating me from those who wildly dance and drink in processions is class-not sexual orientation. The typical middle class family does not drink, dance and eve tease in Ganesh processions.
So what do I like abt Ganesh? He is one religious icon who finds diverse expression in art all across Maharashtra ( I don't know abt other states). Artists aren't afraid to experiment with his form. Many a miniature depiction from Deccan hinterlands has left me speechlessly gawking at the vivid colors, the light and shadow play and deft brushstrokes-and I am an art ignoramus! So much wonderful music and lyric flows in his name (Wadkar's Omkaar Swaroopa is a household song).

An analogy comes to mind; some prominent Sufis, it is said, were homosexuals fleeing orthodoxy. Is all qawwalii then to be understood as homo erotic( or if you're a Bollywood fan, is it the way Muslims flirted en masse?) Is all Urdu poetry about booze and sex? No. Those are simplistic bluffs that must be called by those who care abt such things.


All this by no stretch means that bozos such as Chris should be banned; it simply means that we, knowing better, will call spades spades. Aditi may differ in being outraged where I am simply annoyed, but she does have a point.

#58
Aditi Nadkarni
January 18, 2008
01:15 AM

PH: Thank you for adding your thoughts. I do not mind your speaking for me at all (especially when you do it so articulately and with such maturity)...I think you've managed to grasp the sentiment of my article and the reason of my being irked by Madigan's article. Most people are driven to believe that it has something to do with my religious zeal or my apparent homophobia, which is laughable. But its simply the urge to stand up for what I care about when something foolishly ignorant is claimed about it in popular media.

I would also like to add that had I found out about this article when it was first published by The Guardian I would've been probably annoyed, amused etc. too. My reaction wouldn't have been quite as pungent. What outraged me is that it took them millions of emails and criticism from 3 newspapers and my own critique above to change the caption of "Pink Parade" to "Elephant Parade".

Their initial response was not even sensitive and was in fact unapologetic and casual to the point of being insolent.

You know something, PH? Do you see that response that Fleiger has in his comment #3, I personally know at least 50 people who received that response and those 50 know some more and so on. The complete lack of regard on part of The Guardian when so many educated people were expressing their displeasure and annoyance at the misrepresentation got me even more upset than Madigan's ignorance. I address this in my article in the last paragraphs. Now THAT is what got me to the "outraged" stage.

#59
kela
January 18, 2008
02:32 AM

i choose to see it in a different way,the writer was just trying to say how even the minorities in India ,non-hindus and homos,love to celebrate this festival

#60
commonsense
January 18, 2008
05:08 AM

Aditi wrote:

""Most people are driven to believe that it has something to do with my religious zeal or my apparent homophobia, which is laughable. ""

This is exactly what I tried to say, in #51:

"Aditi, I may be wrong, but I suspect that now you are being sensitive, unnecessarily so, to the misperception that others are accusing you of being defensive about Hinduism or being homophobic. I don't think any commentator here intended to suggest that.""

Of course, I appeared to be speaking for you and did say other stuff too...

#61
RAD51D
January 24, 2008
11:47 AM

Aditi,

I think you need to worry more about E233G than these blogs.

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