Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Secure your flock, Reverend - The Da Vinci Code will release soon in India!

The Da Vinci code is a famous novel by Dan Brown. I use the word famous as that is what it is - famous. I read it almost two years ago and I did not consider it spell binding for all the hype it had. I even have my own hard cover edition - gifted to me, of course. It is a good story and quite well written - I must say. But it definitely does not deserve so much hype.

This novel garnered more media attention when Ron Howard decided to direct the movie and guess what - Tom Hanks would be playing the key role of Robert Langdon. Isn't that a winning combination at the box office? I too was looking forward to this movie - in spite of my having read the novel.

But wait! We have our government in India which is supposedly secular but actually uber-religious! The recent tendency began most notoriously with Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses". Many years after this nATak, I managed to get the book from my library in the US and read a few pages from it. I really didn't find it all that offensive - but since I am no Muslim - which Muslim will pay heed to me?

Since then, fatwas have been the order of the day. Because Muslims got easily offended, Hindus too thought (they were partly right too, I feel) that they too were being offended by so many things in the world. So they began their processions to censure MF Husain whenever the chance arose. While painting sarasvatI in the nude is not a wise thing to do for a person living today, we must see that sarasvatI as well as other manifestations of the Divine Mother have been celebrated, clothed or not. Many of the verses in our purANas and tantras would invite the wrath of the puritanical and simple minded VHP type folks. But one thing has to be mentioned here that the underlying feeling was that of deep devotion towards the Divine mother. I don't know if MF Husain deliberately painted Goddess sarasvatI in the nude out of malice. If he has not, I don't think he should be vilified.

Coming to the current case, the Catholic Church in India has decided to edit parts of "The Da Vinci Code" before screening it. Look guys, as everybody understands, this is a fictional work. Even if it is loosely based on history, there is no reason for it to be banned. The clergy can just warn (or even threaten) its flock to stay away from the screening of this movie. I am sure this is what is happening in the US where a hue and cry was raised when Da Vinci code was first released as a book. Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus Christ was discussed ad nauseam everywhere - in print, on the Internet, on TV and even on the radio. When the same book was released in India, why was this not raised? They could have done a Satanic verses on this book as well, right? I think the difference is subtle but significant. The NDA government was ruling at that time and so it would seem to the clergy that their voice would go unheeded. But now we have the lady originally from so close to the Holy See wielding unquestioned power in India that even the normally silent Catholics are getting vociferous. Even in America which is more of a Christian country than India will ever be, this movie was screened without edits. Now why on earth are we indulging in this kind of useless activity? When there are millions of people who wouldn't give a damn (oops..) about what movie you're screening, why should these guys even bother? Keep your flock out of it, Reverend - I say.

But I must say that intolerance of all forms is steadily growing in India. Hindus feel that they are subject to unfair treatment (being a Hindu, I too feel some of it). Historically, muslims have always felt a feeling of persecution. And it is not new to Christians at all, whose ancestors also were persecuted by the Egyptians et al. All of us feel that we are being victimized and each one feels that their faith is in jeopardy. Who is responsible for this? The media, I think, has a pretty big role as without them, nobody would know of any possible 'injustice'. Sometimes I think Marx was right about something being the opium of the masses. But an irreligious society becomes colorless, bland and uninteresting. Religion, organized or not, offers a lot of color and variety to life as a minimum, if not wellness in the life after. Instead of celebrating this diversity, I don't know why people are at each others' necks.

But, as a Hindu, I must say that we have never proselytized. We don't have that kind of zeal to reap a "harvest of souls". We also do not impose jizya on our non-Hindu brethren. We have never converted unwilling people by the strength of the sword and neither have we ridiculed other religions, though simple-minded and primitive they may be (this is my addition). Both the other semitic religions have done everything the Hindus haven't done. The Hindus (I must clarify, the advaitins) also recognize that all paths lead to the Supreme.

Now what or who a Hindu is, is quite a different question and has been answered quite well in one of the links featured in one of my previous postings.

So "the Da Vinci Code" must really be a non-issue to all parties concerned. But only if they pay heed to the little voice in their heads...

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