|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | FRANCOIS GAUTIER|
January 18, 2001
The Kumbh Mela which is taking place at the moment in Allahabad, demonstrates once again to which extent Western journalism, when it is applied to India, harps on the anecdotal, the superfluous, the derogatory, deforms everything and transforms what is beautiful and noble into a show of freaks and fanatics. And wasn't that the headline of The Independent of London "A freak fair? "
News agencies in Europe and the US are only interested in the photos of Hollywood stars (Madonna, Demi Moore, Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan, etc) who are going to descend on the Kumbh Mela, even if they will be totally lost amongst the millions of (real) devotees. Western newspapers and magazines do not know by which end to take this gigantic mela and and are content to talk about uninteresting angles: sadhus and mobile phones, luxury tents for foreigners in search of spirituality, or the "Indian nationalists " trying to capitalise on the mela.
Isn't it strange that at the time of globalisation and standardisation of the whole world, at a time when the civilisation of Coca-Cola And MTV reigns supreme from Rio de Janeiro to Manilla, from Paris to Shanghai, at a time when man's collective consciousness is universally lowered to an idiotic level by American television soaps -- Bold and Beautiful or Friends -- nobody in the West finds it extraordinary that 80 million souls converge by plane, by car, on horseback, on foot towards a place which they consider sacred, to pray to That which is beyond us, to this immanent Force towards which men have aspired to since millenniums?
But not at all! What does the Western press do? It publishes photos of naked sadhus, or stretched out on beds of thorns; it harps on the ban of Cox & Kings's unethical marketing of the Mela, or speaks of the VHP's fundamentalism. Always these images which denigrate India, always this colonial superior spirit which perpetuates itself in the negative vision which Western journalists have of the Indian subcontinent.
O sadness, O despair that at the beginning of this third millennium, the West remains obsessed by the caste system, or the rise of Indian 'nationalism' (which does not exist) and does not realise the extraordinary miracle that is India, which not only is becoming a great power in Asia, but maybe holds within herself the key to French writer André Malraux's famous (and accurate) prediction: 'the 21st century will be spiritual or will not be.'
Design: Dominic Xavier
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