HAVANA TIMES — The Taj Mahal was a love offering made by the Muslim emperor Shah Jahan to Mumtaz Mahal, his favorite wife, who died during childbirth. The imposing splendor of this palace attests to the endurance of the emperor’s feelings.
George Harrison was captivated by a book about reincarnation. Later, he met the Yogi Maharishi Mahesh and musician Ravi Shankar. The English musician became incurably enamored of that land, and these influences led him to convert to Hinduism and to regularly practice the mantra chant. He even went on to produce the single Hare Krishna Mantra, performed by worshippers from the London temple of Radha Krishna. Harrison learned to play the sitar and practiced meditation as a form of spiritual elevation, helping others and seeing his love requited in these enterprises.
As for me, the peculiar sound of Indian music, the country’s dance traditions, the texture and colors of its fabrics, the sari (a garment worn by women), the delicacy of its pottery, these are the beautiful things I like about the country.
I also love that great pacifist, Mahatma Gandhi, who said that humanity could only rid itself of violence through non-violence, and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote: “How happy you are, child, sitting on the dust, amusing yourself all morning with a broken twig!”
Many friends have told me about Indian food, about their exotic dishes and use of spices, India’s history and its gods, the Kama Sutra, etc. However, there is something ugly in India’s culture, a dark side to India that I abhor: its caste system, based on a religious system, which is perpetuated down the generations, particularly in rural areas, a system that subjugates many human beings and denies them all manner of opportunities for social development, a form of power that persists.
Bollywood films seem vacuous to me. It is a film industry for the masses. The singing, the music, the dancing and the love triangles make up a kind of empty amalgam for those who content themselves with such clichés.
The terrible and denigrating aspects of Indian society are portrayed by independent artists who dare challenge this entertainment industry. A case in point is director Deppa Mehta and her tetralogy Earth, Fire, Water and Sky, which shows us the true, dark zones of Indian society, the rape and murder of women, male chauvinism and the inequality among genders.