There’s No Place Like Om

tattva.jpgOh no. Hot on the heels of Amrita’s most excellent rant on her visit to the “Gateway of India” themed event at New York’s ABC Carpet & Home, and the subsequent deployment on the same thread of the neologism “Ho-rientalists,” here comes, via the SAJA mailing list, a new development that brings it all together more beautifully than one could have dreamed for. It turns out that if you visit the ABC show, which runs til March 14, you can enter to win one of “Six Unique Travel Experiences” being offered by the Taj Hotels group in conjunction with a desi-owned New York travel agency called Our Personal Guest, and known as Tattva Tours.

Tattva? The term the brochure uses to translate this rather complex mystical concept is essence — as in, the essence of India. The press release explains:

Each 10-day tour explores a distinctive cultural perspective of India; some tours also offer a choice of Northern or Southern India itineraries. They are designed to bring out the essence of an Indian experience and are named after the elements that, according to Eastern philosophy, form the basis of all existence.

For details may I direct you to the tour brochure, which is a marvel of — shit, every single last damn cliché you could possibly round up about the mysterious, mystical, spiritual, romantic, esoteric, and not least, luxurious Orient, all set against glowing ochres and purples and yellows and labeled in the requisite faux-Devanagari script. It offers conceptual summaries of the six tours, which include Agni (“The delicacies by Indian fire – It’s not what you taste, it’s what you spice your memory with”), Vaayu (“A flight of fancy with Indian royalty – It’s not how you fly, it’s how high you soar”), Bhoomi (“The earthy splendour of Indian crafts – It’s not what you touch, it’s how it caresses you within”), Aakash, Jal, and Kham.

If we start quoting the descriptive copy for each of these tours we’ll never get out of here, so let me just offer one editorial gem:

Vaayu – Wind
Knowing no bounds, the royalty of India knew no limits when it came to revelry and celebrations. Without India’s royalty, pink would not have become the navy blue of India.

Now hold on a second. This might sound like gibberish to you, but then again, chances are you just aren’t sophisticated enough to understand it. After all, Our Personal Guest is aimed at a very specific type of client, the OPG Traveler:

The OPG traveler wants the best, and knows how to get it. Typically, our clients are well read, highly mobile and sophisticated in their tastes. The OPG client often believe they know best. They have their own inner time clocks, own sense of what specifically interest them and are willing to read learn and be challenged. They have reviewed the available products in the market and concluded that none of them are suited to their needs.

Testimonial of satisfied clients follows. For instance:

This is just to reiterate how very pleased Lord Moore and I were with our amazing two week swing through India. Your careful arrangements were flawless. Every car was waiting exactly where it should have been, every reservation honored.

As befits his Lordship, contact with the natives is limited to only the most civilized among them:

All Tattva Tours include the expertise of an eminent local host; local greeting rituals; a traditional first night welcome dinner at the hotel, a private dinner with a local family; and a signature spa treatment to encourage relaxation upon arrival.

I wonder what Taj Hotels and Our Personal Guest will do if the winner of the draw turns out beneath the appropriate station. Come to think of it, that gives me an idea. Maybe those of us in New York should all stop by ABC Carpet & Home on Broadway and enter the contest. I could use a vacation myself and what could be more restoring to my body and soul than this chance to reconnect with my glorious ancestral heritage.

41 thoughts on “There’s No Place Like Om

  1. lol, this is precious… the whole of it. But we have to give them some credit, their know their target audience and clients well and they sure are targeting them very well.

    But yeah, what the heck is

    Pink is the navy blue of India?

    Great post!

  2. “Pink is the navy blue of India?”

    i think that’s a quote from diana vreeland.

  3. OK, so this is a formal packaging of Ho-rientalism, but have any of y’all been to one of those Kerala seaside spas aimed at firangs? I’ve never felt so oddly out of place. It’s all spiritual chakra BS and lousy overpriced “ayurvedic massages” and earnest white folks wearing loose hippyish clothes talking about spiritual renewal and doing yoga, while I just wanted to enjoy the beach.

  4. The OPG client often believe they know best. They have their own inner time clocks, own sense of what specifically interest them and are willing to read learn and be challenged.

    It sounds like the same description they use for indigo kids. (Indigo is probably… I don’t know, the green of India?) Maybe these OPG clients are secret “indigo adults,” who (like the kids) are strange visitors from a higher consciousness, and things like “pink is the navy blue” are codes to let the OPG/indigos know where the “take over the world” devices are hidden.

    Creepy.

  5. I wonder why I find this kind of old fashioned Ho-rientalism somehow more tolerable than the above.

    Perhaps because it’s only accessible to the uber-wealthy few, whereas any old middle-class schmo can win the above Ho-rientalist package? Indeed, it becomes a whole ‘nother beast when a high culture trend — vile as it may be in all its pomposity and decadence — becomes low culture. When it reaches the masses, it becomes as easy to contain as a dryland wildfire.

  6. Last time I went on a vacation, some people mistook me for the hotel staff. “Hey, can we get some towels in here?”

    Oh my. You shoulda played along… seen what unfolded. (Not that we don’t already know how hotel workers are treated…)

  7. Last time I went on a vacation, some people mistook me for the hotel staff. “Hey, can we get some towels in here?”

    Oh my. You shoulda played along… seen what unfolded. (Not that we don’t already know how hotel workers are treated…)

    I’m too much of a grouch. I believe I told him to go fuck himself. Poor Lawd Mawr;)

    Temper, temper…

  8. pink would not have become the navy blue of India.

    You mean have the executives in Mumbai and Bangalore offices wear pink suits?

  9. Last time I went on a vacation, some people mistook me for the hotel staff.
    I believe I told him to go fuck himself. Poor Lawd Mawr;)

    Coach, I think you were in a good mood. The guy got off easy … and didnt have to find out that you are a boxer (the hard way) :-)

  10. Always fascinating to see such posts on Sepia from the same people who complain endlessly about how browns can’t get this and that in US, bad media coverage of desis, alleged or real discrimation of browns in US etc – but get all worked up when a prestigious store or travel agency starts something unique highlighting India (or “South Asia” as people here prefer)

    Or is there a standard template from SAJA that all exhibition, sale should follow a format when there is any reference to India?

    Or is this something akin to “Brown man’s burden” that you need to put on your SAJA sponsored defensive shield whenever you see reference to land from where parents came?

    It appears you rather prefer pithy coverage on NY Times, TIME about lofty “brown” issues such as child labor, bride burning, child marriage, AIDS than some exhibition or selling an idea about India (South Asia)?

    Wonder if a photo exhibition in an art gallery of NY or DC about “POVERTY IN INDIA – seen through the lens of Ms.Smith” (Note:South Asia should not be used when the issue in hand is poverty/child labor/bride burning). Only bad things should be associated with India. For good stuff use SOUTH ASIA per SAJA guide) would have warranted such a negative post here.

  11. Last time I went on a vacation, some people mistook me for the hotel staff.
    I believe I told him to go fuck himself. Poor Lawd Mawr;)

    Priceless!

  12. iFob - I see where you’re coming from but you have to admit that this is too awful for words. Take heart, give it a few more years, and I think the AB macacas will begin to realize that the NYT and NPR are as full of crap as ABC. But I don’t think I could choose either one over the other.

  13. Always fascinating to see such posts on Sepia from the same people who complain endlessly about how browns can’t get this and that in US, bad media coverage of desis, alleged or real discrimation of browns in US etc – but get all worked up when a prestigious store or travel agency starts something unique highlighting India (or “South Asia” as people here prefer)

    Something unique?! iFOB, go look up what “latent Orientalism” means.

    Or is there a standard template from SAJA that all exhibition, sale should follow a format when there is any reference to India?

    SAJA’s amusement with this whole thing is that it DOES, in fact, follow a standard template/format in reference to India. In case you don’t know what that template/format is, look up a few Manish Vij posts and you’ll get the idea…

  14. By the way, the sunglass wearing model in the Maldives ad is holding his (her?) yoga pose in a way that would eventually f*#@ the knee. The front knee shouldn’t go past the foot like that–yoga master indeed . . .

  15. We all know there is a faux element to this entire cultural experience, but it is one more step towards our global recognition. Let’s not scoff at the great American marketing machine’s attempts to bottle and sell India, as long as it is not denigrating or patronizing, and this seems to be neither. Perceptions and opinions regarding a race are formed largely by pop culturalization and media coverage, as unintellectual as it may sound.

    I remember when Japan was finally recognized as a powerful, intelligent, cultured nation, which was in the 80′s, there were images and qualities attributed to the Japanese that were slightly gimmicky (highly serene tea ceremonies), somewhat exaggerated (business smarts) and quite false (a land of prosperity for one and all). But the world bought the story. It’s about time we got our share of the limelight.

  16. Let’s not scoff at the great American marketing machine’s attempts to bottle and sell India, as long as it is not denigrating or patronizing, and this seems to be neither.

    Hmmm, I’m not so sure I agree with you on this point. Yes, if desi culture is accepted by the American marketing machine, that does mean a certain level of acceptance. I find this campaign somewhat denigrating and very patronizing. I’ve never seen a travel agency name tour packages of Israel after the apostles, probably because people out there would find it offensive. I’m not even very religious and I’m offended that this company is naming commercial products after deities in hopes of exotifying the culture. I don’t like the fact that these people are trying to reduce an ancient culture into the next “I Love NY” campaign slogan.

  17. “I don’t like the fact that these people are trying to reduce an ancient culture into the next “I Love NY” campaign slogan.

    I’ll wear a “I LOVE VEDAS” t-shirt anyday. Some of these icons, specially agni, is straight out of our vedic tradition, as you know.

    “I’ve never seen a travel agency name tour packages of Israel after the apostles, probably because people out there would find it offensive.”

    You don’t mess with Israel. That’s the world’s, including America’s, deferential attitude to this remarkable nation. I am not sure I consider Israel my role model. From the little I have read, young Israelis have more liberal ideas, and someday they might be promoting tours named after the apostles. Will that be sacrilegous or just a well-intentioned attempt to reach out?

  18. Or is there a standard template from SAJA that all exhibition, sale should follow a format when there is any reference to India?

    iFob, You have unmasked me with your superior Vedic powers. Not only do I absolutely hate, loathe and despise India, but these emotions have been implanted in me by SAJA. It’s a terminal condition. I’m glad you’ve given me the opportunity to clear that up. Now please stop drawing attention to my disability, it’s embarrassing me.

  19. first off. siddartha, i too share your disability and for that i think we should start a support group. self-hating desis.

    all jokes aside, it is inevitable to see that india can be continuously qualified as the colonizable “unique” commodified mystery of the east with its musky smells of incense and so forth. at least there are no promised magic carpet rides. i personally dislike it because it IS as someone said earlier patronizing and incredibly denigrating. no one is trying to sell america as exotic simply because it isn’t. it is the norm and so accepted. consider my friend why india cannot be the norm and a burger and fries with bud/miller/your favorite low cost beer cannot be exotic

  20. technophobicgeek,

    pink would not have become the navy blue of India.
    

    You mean have the executives in Mumbai and Bangalore offices wear pink suits?

    That belongs to the “best of sepia”

  21. Strange, many of the interactors here are folks born in the US, where hucksterism comprises a very substantial portion of daily life – from the systematic upselling of McMansions to middle-class folks, to the bizarre scenes of commercial excess and longing available 24×7 on TV, not to speak of the inflated language of advertising and consumption embedded into the very of marrow of american culture (need to look no further than PBS’s antique roadshow).

    But indians should turn into hustlers and try to make a quick buck? Hell, no, this is disgusting and so on. Sorry, I didnt go to the kind of fancy schools where they teach you words like orientalist and clicheferic and so you will have to make do with my limited vocabulary. But I am disgusted too !

    Gotta run now, we just bought the beamer and are spending the day looking for a modest 2000 sq. ft second home, so see ya around !

  22. consider my friend why india cannot be the norm and a burger and fries with bud/miller/your favorite low cost beer cannot be exotic

    Well, in India, the burger and fries can be exotic (and yes, many of us DID grow up and spend most of our lives in India – the defensive rant of the poster above notwithstanding). It’s a status symbol for a lower middle class family to go to McDonald’s, amusing though that might be for Americans. Even elites fetishize things Amriki, and references to fairly mundane American consumer goods have long been a sign that you’re a (Wo)Man of the World (my favourite: the desi love of Kraft cheese), though with greater exposure that’s changing. But I’ll never forget when McDonald’s opened its first outlet in Bombay and there was a long line of people waiting to get in, a guy who worked in our building related the anecdote of how he stood in line just to see what the fuss was all about (in good Bambaiyya fashion) and then at the end of it when he saw the burgers he was incredulous – they stood in this long line just for vada-pav?

  23. I don’t like the fact that these people are trying to reduce an ancient culture into the next “I Love NY” campaign slogan.

    I, for one, find the I Love NY campaign offensive. The state is reduced to terms like “Finger Lakes” and “Broadway” and “Catskills” and “Times Square” and “Niagara Falls.” They never show outsiders the real NY. ;)

  24. Siddartha, how you made my day! I’m trying to learn Dreamweaver in a hurry, so once I got so much lovely laughter for that post, I was lazy and posted it to my blog with SM reference and links and pictures instead of writing something new…zadeblog.blogspot

    Let’s not scoff at the great American marketing machine’s attempts to bottle and sell India, as long as it is not denigrating or patronizing, and this seems to be neither

    It’s

    Eau d’Orientalisme

    , Floridian, to go with the I heart Vedas T-shirt. I wouldn’t mind the scent so much if it didn’t make the wearer so stuck up from smelling it and of it and so sure that (s)he immediately knows and understands India so much better than I ever could or did.

    Pink is the charcoal-grey

    Sin, I hear Diana Vreeeland calling out to Nayveen Patnaik and rockin and rollin in her grave.

  25. Shruti, SAJA’s amusement with this whole thing is that it DOES, in fact, follow a standard template/format in reference to India.

    SAJA shd reserve its giggles and guffaws for more serious stuff. Professors in the academy have built departments, careers, and schalar-trees dishing out such tripe. By the standards of the current stock in trade this is mild stuff. No need to get hot under the collar.

  26. SAJA shd reserve its giggles and guffaws for more serious stuff.

    I should clarify that no one representing SAJA has to my knowledge guffawed about this stuff. I found out about the drawing via a press release that the organizers sent to SAJA for them to forward to their members. This is common practice and SAJA receives such materials from any number of correspondents seeking to reach desi journalists. As is appropriate, SAJA forwarded the press release without editorial comment. The comments here are mine, so feel free to chide me but leave SAJA out of it. Sorry if this wasn’t clear from my post.

  27. I should clarify that no one representing SAJA has to my knowledge guffawed about this stuff.

    Good point. My bad for sounding like I was speaking for SAJA in my comment. I always assume it’s obvious to everyone why someone would find this Ho-rentalism amusing. I guess that’s really a double assumption… and whatever the case, I shouldn’t me making any. Carry on people :)

  28. When I watch CNN Europe, the travel commercials are just chock-full of Ho-rientalism. (And don’t get me started about the “Willing Native Asian Females” subtext of some ads.)

    “Egypt… Land of the Pharaos!… Egypt – Where Everyone Wears a Smile.”

    Where are the travel ads for places like, say, Iraq?

    “Iraq… Land of the Militias! Iraq – where every suicide bomber wears a psychotic smile.”

    An honest travel ad from the 19th Century:

    “Spend your Holidays in the exotic Colonies — where young British Gentlemen can do the things that are frowned upon back home! Remember, what happens in Asia stays in Asia.”

    (SATIRE)

  29. They’re selling an India most of the Indians cleared out of it, judging from the brochure. Lots of big empty rooms, and the Mumbai pic is carefully just far back enough that people vanish. There’s a bearer-boy in one photo, though.