Got this amazing link (via Rahul Bhatia) On the Road in India. Why you must read it, if not for anything else is for the thousand cliches it uses about India.
Todays post starts with the high sounding, "So far on the road, I’ve only seen two places that bring Indians from all parts of this country’s multi-layered society together: the ocean and the temple."
Eh, are you sure? The army brings people together, for instance, especially after a bad fight. Cricketers do too, as do cricket stadia and electronic stores when an India match (or IPL) is on. The Mumbai local does too, for varied reasons. How about trying Rajini? As for temples, well, they dont always get people together. Well, we will let that pass.
Then theres the cellphone cliche. The simple way to write about the cellphone in India is to add it at the end of any random sentence. For instance, As the autorickshaw driver wove in and out of the traffic, with a cellphone, works. Or ...man in business attire with a cellphone strapped to his waist sat cross-legged with eyes closed, fingers counting out prayer beads. Adding the cellphone to any random thing has an effect, see. Didn't you read that piece about the toddy tapper with the cellphone?
Indians worship animal headed gods. Hey, you woke up atleast 5000 years late. Monkey headed Hanuman, Lion headed Narsimha are other examples you may want to use. Actually we not only worship animal headed gods, we worship animals too. Sometimes our object of worship is a tree or a mountain or a rock or a pond. But, you would not know, would you?
And people, if you want to qualify as a secular writer, there is only one way to write about temples. Like this.
Inside the temples, I’m a mess. ...But I haven’t performed any of the rituals in years. Now, in a country where almost everyone else with brown skin is familiar with proper religious behavior, I stand out like a sore thumb. Bravo!
Saying that you know your religion, is well, sort of infra dig, except -no I wont say when - go figure. As far as I know, in no temple are you expected to offer obeisance that takes the form of rocket science rituals, unless you count joining your hands and lowering your head. To think that anybody who has been to a temple once, will forget to do that much is as good as saying I dont know what to do if food is placed in front of me. But thats how you are supposed to write about it, in any case.
As in any religious country, spirituality has its downfalls and the potential for abuse.
Basically, the giant statue is an abuse. Perhaps the Ajanta, Ellora and the other big temples are an abuse too.
Anyway, WSJ, thanks for updating my definitive guide to writing about India.