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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