Monthly Archives: December 2015

Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 18, 2015

Caste Cannibal

A newlywed couple from Varanasi were arrested over claims they dined on the
Genitals of the woman’s alleged rapist after her husband murdered the alleged

rapist and excised his privates. The victim’s mutilated body was found in a
burnt-out tuk-tuk on a Varanasi sidestreet after the revenge attack, sparked by

claims the new wife, age 20, made that she was raped just three days before her
white wedding in cheery Varanasi. The husband, 26-year-old Hari Pippal,

an untouchable, or Dalit, who became prosperous via his latrine
supply business, has admitted murdering the man after discovering his wife,

also untouchable, was not a virgin on their wedding night in atmos-
pheric Darjeeling, the former British hill station, where they spent

their honeymoon. “I was outraged,” Pippal told the swarming Indian
media after his arrest, adding that his decision to eat the victim’s

genitals was made instantaneously “to cure my heartache.” Police
say that after murdering the man, Pippal transported the victim’s

severed genitals wrapped in butcher paper to his house, ordered his
20-year-old wife to cook the genitals, and the pair then ate them

together, along with rice masala and dahl. The mutilated victim, with
whom the wife formerly consorted, was an elephant handler in a

small dingy zoo four kilometers southwest of Varamasi. Sarasvati, a
local police spokesperson who goes by the one name, told the

swarming Indian media that “the case is still under investigation but
we strongly suspect that this is a premeditated murder.” The

husband is accused of carrying out the murder, with the wife acting
as a willing accomplice. The victim was found dead in a burnt-out

tuk-tuk in the Manikarnika Ghat sector of Kashi. Pippal had ordered
his wife to contact the victim and set up a liaison in a butcher shop

owned by the wife’s brother. When the victim arrived at the butcher
shop, he found only Pippal, who then allegedly hacked him to

death, hung him upside-down from a meat hook, severed his
genitals, removed the mutilated cadaver from the meat hook and put

it in the tuk-tuk which he set on fire. VV Subramanian, the
prosecutor, insists that the brutality of the crime is yet another

reason for maintaining, even “refining,” the much disputed caste
system in India.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 18, 2015

Saint Mother

Pope Francis has endorsed a second medical miracle attributed to
the late Mother Teresa, clearing the path for the beloved nun to be
elevated to sainthood next year, the online Roman Catholic
newspaper Avvenire reported Thursday.

Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II in a fast-tracked
ceremony in 2003, in the Vatican, attended by some 300,000
pilgrims.
Beatification is a first step towards sainthood.

Celebrated for her work with the “poorest of the poor” in Kolkata
(Calcutta), Mother Teresa is expected to be officially canonized in
Rome on September 4, 2016, as part of the Pope’s Jubilee Year of
Mercy, according to online Avvenire’s Vatican expert Stefania
Falasca.

The move comes after a panel of Roman Catholic experts (namely
cardinals, taking a break from pederasty) convening three days ago
in the Vatican, officially attributed the miraculous healing of a Muslim
man from Agra with multiple brain tumors to Mother Teresa,
Avvenire reported.

Mother Teresa, along with her posse of nuns, was touring northern
India and had just emerged from the Taj Mahal, in Agra, when a
sickly man pushed to the front of the crowd and petitioned her.
Mother Teresa saw at once that he was gravely ill and wiped his
perspiring brow with her own cotton head covering.
She then blessed him.
The man was instantly cured.
So the story goes.
This miracle occurred in April 1985, and the man is still alive and
cancer-free, living in Agra.
He is married to his fourth wife and has fathered at least nine
children.

India has been faulted for delaying the process of Mother Teresa’s
canonization because the man is Muslim, not Hindu.
India has vehemently denied the accusation, which it attributes to its
long-time enemy, Muslim-dominant Pakistan.

Teresa, born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje in
Macedonia, was known across the world for her charity work in the
name of Christ.
She died in 1997 at the age of 87.

Nicknamed the “Saint of the Gutters,” she dedicated her life to the
poor, the sick and the dying in the slums of Kolkata.
Tenderly, she touched the untouchables.
She succored them
She baptized them, but never against their will.
Allegedly.
She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 13, 2015

SuicideBomb

I am a female Untouchable.
You prefer Dalit to Untouchable.
You do not like the name Untouchable for public relations.
Even as you kill us and flog us without touching us
The munitions strapped across my body touch me.
West of Manikarnika, the burning ghat, is the Golden Temple
devoted to Lord Shiva.
Barefoot, I will enter the Golden Temple devoted to Lord Shiva.
Because I am a female Untouchable I am forbidden from worship to
Lord Shiva in the Golden Temple.
Upper caste Hindus will flog me if I enter the Golden Temple to
worship Lord Shiva.
I will enter the Golden Temple with munitions strapped across my
body.
You cannot hold me back.
You cannot fill my blackened head with pieties.
You cannot distract me with devotion.
With hatred for Muslims.
Like Lord Shiva, I will destroy to create.
Call me freedom fighter.
I will create the order that Mahatma Gandhi imagined when he
named the Untouchable Harijan, Child of God.
When Mahatma Gandhi scrubbed and cleaned the privvies of the
Harijans.
Whoever is worshpping in the Golden Temple will be destroyed and
recreated as all-loving, loving the Dalit, loving the cow that Hindus
have pledged to love, loving the dogs and donkeys and goats.
Loving the cunning monkey.
Loving the Untouchable female.
It is not just poor Muslims who are freedom fighters.
Who sacrifice themselves when there is nothing left.
Why should I despise the poor Muslim when I am despised by
Hindus, my own people.
I will sacrifice myself and sacrifice the higher castes in the Golden
Temple so they can be recreated in the heart of Lord Shiva.
I am thin, black, female, weakened from not eating, from scrubbing
your toilets, from false devotion, from being born Dalit.
Upper caste Hindu wives threw themselves on their husband’s
burning bier in sacfrifice and were celebrated.
Mine is the greater sacrifice.
Hear me.
I am blackened and burning with sacrfiice.
I am penetrated with Shiva.
You cannot hold me back.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 12, 2015

Sacred Geography

I give the beggar-sadhu in his tattered saffron dhoti with open sores
on his arms a 50-rupee note.
He is barefoot; he turns and pads away toward another tourist.
His is not a sacred begging performed in imitation of Lord Shiva.
The Varanasi sadhus who live in and around the burning ghats are
impoverished and neglected.
Nor are they impressive: broken down, sickly, sometimes plainly
–not divinely–mad.

Forty-five years ago, a blip sometimes called The Age of Aquarius,
–embedded in the cruel overarching Age of Kali–occurred.
It coincided with hallucinogens, which enabled many users to
witness different landscapes.
Interiority, dreamspace, what may be called sacred geography,
became intimately familiar.
Young people meditated, read visionary writings, traveled east to
Asia and south to Central and South America to inhabit the sacred
geography at its source.
East Indian sadhus and yogis were at a premium.

Forty-five years later, for intricate reasons, technology has replaced
dream.
Digital geography has replaced sacred geography.
Now young people tend to travel with their fingers.
What Paul Virilio calls “motility” instead of mobiliy.
We access the harshest, grandest catastrophes on our miniature
smart receptors, where they merge with professional football.

Can digital and sacred geography coexist?
With difficulty.
With Mother Earth perishing rapidly, digital and sacred
geography must find a way to coexist for the duration.
Cruelty will continue to dominate.
Death is our heart’s mother.
I envision the collective spirit regaining energy, even compassion, at
the end of the end.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 10, 2015

Chai Twins Monkey

Chai shop. 7:30 PM.
The dhobi’s workday which began at 6 AM is over.
He’s having his customary plastic glass of masala chai, sitting on
one of the stools at the large wooden table.
His name is Mohan, he is of the washerman caste.
His working day is limitless, but today it is merely long because the
upper-caste home-owner and his wife are travelling to Rajastan.

Usually Mohan is having chai and chatting with three or four other
dhobis he has known from childhood in Kashi, but not tonight
because Mohan is early.
Like other dhobis, Mohan is thin and dark with a black mustache.
He is wearing faded, colorless trousers his patron’s son wore then
disposed of, along with a old teflon short-sleeved shirt and flip-flops.

What is he thinking as he sips his chai?
He’s thinking about having a small dinner with his wife and four-
year-old son in their shanty in northeast Kashi, not far from the long
half-moon sandbar east of the ghats, left vacant so that devotional
Hindus can see the sunrise when they do puja.
So that tourists will pay to take a small rowboat on the Ganges at
dawn to see the sunrise.
Mohan’s old bicycle will weave him through the dense traffic for the
forty-five minute trip back and forth from his shanty to his work.

A man about Mohan’s age enters the shop and sits on a stool
alongside Mohan but three stools to the left.
They nod to each other though they do not know each other.
The man orders masala chai.

Though neither seems to notice, the men are about the same age
and look close to identical, except that Mohan is distinctly darker.
Moroeover, the man is well-dressed in well-fitting western clothes
with a white silk scarf tied elegantly at his neck.
He is wearing smart leather shoes; Mohan has never worn leather in
his 26 years.
The man carries a smart phone and is now talking into it in Hindi.
He talks in a way that makes him seem independent, a decision-
maker.

His chai comes and he sips it while talking on the phone.
Mohan scarcely notices; he is tired and sips his chai without
thinking, except remotely of bicycling home to his wife and child.
The man disconnects and immediately makes another call, this time
speaking in Engish with authority.
He disconnects again, has a final sip of tea, leave a fifty-note rupee
on the table, leaves.

Carrying his smart phone in his left hand, he is about to step into his
white Toyota Camry (nearly all the cars in Kashi are white) when a
male macaque monkey suddenly hops down in front of him and
seizes the phone from his hand.
The man utters an oath in Hindi and makes after the monkey into
the dense traffic where he is run over and killedß by a white
Mercedes.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 10, 2015

Untouch

They are blackened. Barefoot. Thin as reeds.
Your untouchables.
–You are not Hindu. You know nothing.

I see them clean your privvies, quarry rocks, balance the burning
upper-caste corpse on the bier with long bamboo poles.
–You imagine seeing. You are not Hindu. You see nothing.

Near the burning ghat, the shrunken untouchable woman in rags
folded on the pocked stone, eyes closed, her blackened child’s arm
extended clasping the small tin pail for alms.
–You are a sentimentalist. You impose your imaginings.

Your devotion is an opiate.
The rupees you spend on festivals to Lord Shiva and to your
promiscuous boy-god Kishna should be distributed to the
untouchables.
The rupees you spend on savaging trees for your high-caste
cremations into the Ganges should be distributed to your
untouchables.
–You are perilously close to blasphemy. Step back.

You take refuge behind the alleged mysteries of Hinduism.
There is no mystery about untouchable chldren born tormented.
That cruelty cannot be obscured, relativized, buried in Hindu
sacrament.
–You are non-Hindu. You see with uncleansed eyes.

You conveniently confuse your religious laws, designed to promote
your own high-caste interests, with justice to the imposed, invisible
underclass.
–Not at all. You are not Gulliver among the Yahoos. You are a do-
gooder non-Hindu dabbler in a culture you cannot comprehend.

Liberation, nirvana, moksha.
How do you attain liberation from samsara in a culture predicated on
slavery?
–You make a privileged tourist’s observation. You are incapable of
seeing with the spirit-eye.

Your untouchable suffers silently.
He services you almost ceaselessly.
When he doesn’t service you he is invisible.
If he protests you efface him.
These are humans not vermin.
–You are blaspheming. You are a privileged caucasian do-gooder,
but you are not outside the law.

Apprehend me.
Put me in chains.
–You are an egotist with a martyr’s complex.
Your expressed willingness to sacrifice has nothing to do with the
so-called untouchables.
Joan of Arc is a western not a Hindu conceit.

ß

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 10, 2015

Turban

He sat next to me in the densely crowded Delhi airport terminal.
I was reading with some irritation a typically over-ornamented
Thomas Mann long short story.
I smelled him before I saw him–a curious odor–stale, dry, camphor-
like.
As though he just retrieved his garments from a lenghty seclusion in
the closet.
He sat to my left and I partially turned to him.

He was a Sikh, with the traces of a black-grey beard, a big man
wearing a black turban and steel bracelet, 2 of the so-called 5 Ks
enjoined on all Sikh males.
In Punjabi the 5 Ks are Kesh, Kanga, Kara, Kachhera, Kirpan.
Which is to say: uncut hair and beard, wooden comb, steel bracelet,
cotton underwear reflective of modesty, and a small sword to be
used solely in self-defence and in protection of the needy.
The turban is to keep the uncut hair in place.
The camphor odor appeared to issue from the turban.

I conceived the ensuing narrative almost at once.
What else do you do in the chaotic Delhi airport, the tedious but
refined Hun,Thomas Mann, on your lap and virtually everyone
shouting into his/her smartphone?

In 1984 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, prideful Nehru’s prideful
daughter, was shot to death by two of her trusted Sikh guards.
In the bloody aftermath, Hindu supporters of Indira Gandhi brutally
murdered up to 12,000 Sikhs, in many instances amputating their
legs, then burning them alive.

The immediate reason for Gandhi’s assassination was her violent
response to a Sikh seccession initiative in the Punjab area in
northwest India.
Specifically, the Indian army’s so-called Operation Blue Star, in June
1984, when they assaulted and badly damaged the sanctified
Golden Temple in the sacred Sikh city of Amritsar.

Many Sikhs felt and currently feel that they occupy an anomalous,
unrespected position in India, especially among the Hindu majority,
but also among the Muslims.
On the other hand Sikhs are India’s principal warriors who have long
been depended on to lead wars against Pakistan, Afghanistan, and
in Jammu-Kashmir.
During the Raj they served as colonizing Britain’s chief defenders of
the faith.

In the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the large scale
Hindu bloodletting, Sikhs went into hiding and/or disguised
themselves, especially the males, many of whom shaved their hair
and beards.
I remember travelling in western Europe in the late eighties and
meeting Sikhs, especially restaurant owners and workers, who were
unidentifable but for their steel bracelet, which represents their
unbreakable bond with God.

It is thirty years after the assassination, the Sikhs have still not
seceeded, but the history of the assassination and its long bloody
aftermath have become a kind of archeology.
Which is the way it happens.
Sikh males are regrowing their hair and beard and removing their
turban from its storage area in the closet.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 1, 2015

Hindus & Jews

After the Warsaw uprising, reporters attempted to interview two of
the Jewish insurgents who survived and were moving to Israel.
The two fighters were so enraged—with a furious cold rage—that
they looked through the reporters without uttering a word.

After the Holocaust, surviving European Jews moving to Israel
underwent what can be called an accelerated Social Darwinism from
a mostly selfless social mindedness to what many of us have
witnessed with distress in Israel.

Sitting in a rare Hindu-owned bar in Varanasi sipping Kingfisher and
looking at flat-screen Bollywood fantasies, I see round-faced Indian
men with mustaches posing as iron-jawed heroes and villains.
I imagine them as children, middle-class, coddled by their parents.

I watch them in real time, often thin with stick-out tummies, round
faces, waggling their heads, gesturing with their hands, but not in
the decisively “masculine” way that southern Italian males gesture
with their hands.

Primarily it is the Punjabi Sikhs who have the stern features of
warriors, tested fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Indian in
principle but also separate, always close to secession.

The hungry, invisible Indian low-castes are gaunt and blackened but
not hardened as African slaves like Nate Turner had to become and,
later, Malcolm X, with his intelligent, enraged, cut features.

Am I suggesting that surviving European Jews had to become
harder to endure?
Yes, though like the surviving Warsaw Ghetto fighters, not like their
European genociders.
Not, that is, at the expense of suffering brother and sister
Palestinians.
Another fatal irony of history.

Am I suggesting that Hindus have to become hardened to win a war
decisively?
No longer.
War in the new millennium is increasingly fought online with deadly
algorithms, and middle-class Indians are expert at electronics.

Previously, states like Israel and India maintained well-equipped,
rigidly organized armies and warred, with variable success, strictly
off-line via a traditional, Euclidian–so to speak–perspective.
That centralized perspective has been put under erasure.
Torqued, ruptured, pulverized.

Now an electronic nerd will often make a better “warrior” than the
fierce survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Think of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks.

I wish, though, that the Untouchables and Indian low castes, who
can’t afford high-level technology, were fierce-minded like the
Warsaw Ghetto warriors and insurgent African slaves, instead of
passively devotional, so they could fight old school in real time for
equal status.

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