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Monday 25 March 2019
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Commentary

The jhandi in the Carnival fete

Recently some friends and I were discussing posts by women that seemed to us conservative viewers slightly inappropriate. My group are all women who identify as feminists.

One friend said outright, “I think it is inappropriate behaviour.”

Another remarked thoughtfully, “Ah! See I am going to be judgemental now.”

She paused and in her characteristic deliberate manner of speech said, “I suppose it’s a case of representation. I identify as feminist and believe, because I am more conservative, that there is a particular way that a woman should present herself in public. This is their way of representing but not mine. And nothing is wrong with that. What about you? What are your thoughts?”

My opinions were the same as hers. It wasn’t my way of representing and given that I hold the view that people are entitled to their own beliefs, and have rights to their own bodies, I didn’t feel it appropriate to judge. But despite saying this and having such beliefs, some part of me still felt the public displays inappropriate and when I thought back on it I realized that a part of my disapproval had more to do with the opinions I had formed about the individuals through some interaction with them. The visual representation came as no surprise therefore. So the matter was a little more complicated in my case. It wasn’t about the appropriateness of the representation but also about how I felt about the individuals that I was adding to the representation.

Many times when we form a judgment of people’s actions – whether it is the clothes they wear, the music that they listen to or their lifestyle – it is influenced by many other factors personal to us. And many people rarely question why they feel strongly about some issues versus others.

This week when I heard about the Machel Montano episode, I was tempted to ignore it mainly because I am generally tired of the very old issue of “my religion being desecrated.” I figure if we were so focused on desecration of religion, we should be talking defiance of the commandments when a murder is committed or when we accept corruption as our norm. The books dictate certain behaviours that we defy on a daily basis yet we choose to overlook them.

I read with great interest, Dr Vedavid Manick’s commentary on the matter. And as another writer who identifies as Hindu, my position is similar to his. It was a fairly balanced argument from a young person and his evident understanding of his religion sets the foundation for such an argument.

Not to repeat his ideas I shall simply reiterate here that Hinduism accommodates every way of being.

And therefore, the views of one Hindu, are not necessarily the views of another because they may both be coming from two different angles of perception.

As a way of explaining my meaning, earlier this week, I suggested to a friend who was anxiously looking for a fig tree for her devotions, “Well why don’t you do a manasik puja if you can’t find a fig tree?”

She understood my reference because her education had also come from a similar background like mine.

Two friends sitting in our company laughed and said to me, “We have to keep an eye on you. You always coming up with some kinda thing.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, having assumed that most Hindus knew the concept of manasik puja (roughly translated these are pujas done via the imagination). I had forgotten that we had come from different traditions.

“I’m not making that up! I grew up with that way of worship,” I said indignantly when they continued laughing. The friend to whom I had made the suggestion, backed me up.

This is all to say basically, that like the feminists and the Hindus, it is all about how we each represent. As an artiste, Machel Montano alone knows why he chose to sing Hindu devotional songs at a Carnival fete in Chaguanas. I propose a hypothesis here now for consideration. From a viewer’s and musician’s perspective, it seemed that what Montano did was articulate what he assumed to be perhaps one identity of a Chaguanas crowd. But, the audience spoke and reminded him that a fete wasn’t the place for bhajans and they weren’t in the mood. As artistes, we all know that there are contexts for our music and if he were testing the waters as it seemed, the audience’s lack of motivation provided answers enough.

Given that we are all entitled to our own manner of representation, certain actions come with consequences because sometimes the context in which we articulate and represent those beliefs are not in sync with each other. But each error in judgment is a learning experience.

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