New Year, new memo to Hindu insult rage gurus: Please stop this nonsense

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 12, 2014
The Ganesha hot pant. But it's hard to discern the elephant-headed God on them

The Ganesha hot pant. They bear the name but it’s hard to discern the elephant-headed God on them

A year ago, a so-called “Hindu statesman” based in the US was getting all steamed up about the Latvian parliament denying a request to begin the day with Hindu prayer. (Read my blog here on why a modicum of common sense must dictate this sort of competitive outrage.) Now, Rajan Zed, who seems to spend much of his time outraged at alleged insults to the Hindu faith, is back at it. This time, he’s been protesting against the Jason Bateman comedy “Bad Words”, registering his disapproval of a trailer that addressed “an Indo-American kid as ‘Hey Slumdog’ and (used) the words ‘curry hole’.”

This “smelled of xenophobia and racism” he complained.

Mr Zed’s complaint comes hot on the heels of another grievance, against for selling allegedly  “inappropriate” trousers named Lord Ganesha. The garments include the Ganesha’s Dream Hot Pants, priced anywhere between $65.95 and $69.95 and Ganesha’s Dream Bell Bottoms, a steal at a starting price of $74.95.

I’m not sure why Mr Zed is focusing his anger on Amazon when it appears to be Teeki, a company that describes its products as “fashion created from recycled plastic bottles” that is responsible for the Ganesh garments. Teeki describes the Ganesha Hot Pants as “designed by visionary artist Jesse noemind (sic)” and goes on to suggest wearing them to “hot yoga or a night out on the town.” They’re specifically meant to allow the wearer “to reach the highest peaks,” it helpfully adds. And are antibacterial as well.

But Mr Zed seems less than impressed. According to his press release, “Lord Ganesha is highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be worn around one’s legs, crotch and hips. Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees.”

It’s true that Lord Ganesh is very appealing to many people, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain. He is considered the remover of obstacles, patron of the arts and sciences, the God of beginnings.

But Mr Zed’s rage on behalf of the elephant-headed God is curiously unbecoming. And irritatingly repetitive. What about  the funky Ganesh tattoos promised here and elsewhere? Ganesh across one’s back,  “Om with a Ganesh trunk” to ornament any part of the body. What about cartoon representations?

There are all sorts of uses of religious outrage, as Kirby Farrel, PhD, wrote in Psychology Today after the September 2012 mob attacks on US embassies in protest against a crudely propagandistic film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’, which deliberately insulted Islam. Mr Farrel says that outrage can be “an enabling fiction opening up all sorts of possibilities. It can signal demands for recognition and justice. As threat display, it can intensify solidarity and personal resolve.” But mostly, he says, it’s “become a style…(and) the underlying dynamics of insult rage are as widespread and familiar as the rageaholic talkshow on your radio dial.”

Are the gurus of the Hindu insult rage industry listening?