Sensually Flawed (But We Know It)

Yay, more Kama Sutra.jpg

Look what I found in my GMail this morning!

The Dance of the Kama Sutra
Get this sensual dance fitness video two months before it’s available anywhere else. [Borders]

I hate wincing before I’ve had my morning kappi. When I went to get my normal small-drip-with-egregious-space-for-cream, I sighed and said, “make it a large”. I need all the energy I can get to deal with potential exotification.

Here’s what I discovered about the sensual fitness video which will be released on July 31:

Follow-up to the fun, top-selling Bollywood Dance Workout; Offers a unique workout with sacred sensual moves for your body and soul
Acacia announces the July 31, 2007 DVD release of Dance of the Kama Sutra with Hemalayaa, offering an exciting new program using meditation and playful movements from Indian dance to help women cultivate their sensuality.
The Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text, promotes the cultivation of sensuality as a sacred duty. The need to cultivate and reconnect with our sensual selves—the goddess at the core of every woman—remains as strong as ever, but the din and rush of modern life make the opportunities all too rare. Through playful movements and heart-centered meditation, yogini and Indian Dance expert Hemalayaa takes you on a journey of discovery. Find the freedom and fullness of expression that come from embracing yourself and your body, just as you are. Join Hemalayaa, creator of The Bollywood Dance Workout, in a dance of love and laughter that instills confidence, joy, and poise. Gesture by gesture, swish by swish, we remember that we are—and have always been—divine dancers. [link]

Swish by swish, even!

The “ick” was at a roiling boil within and I cynically wondered who was behind this project…and yes, it’s true, I did not think it was someone brown. Just who was Hemalayaa?

Hemalayaa teaches yoga and Indian dance in Los Angeles and offers frequent workshops and retreats around the world. The daughter of Indian parents, Hema’s yoga training began at home at an early age, and she went on to study yoga, philosophy, and meditation as well as asana. Hema’s in-depth study and practice of classical Indian dance informs how she teaches yoga. A life devoted to yoga and dance animates Hemalayaa’s playful spirit. Many of her retreats and workshops culminate in a night of dance. Hema loves turning her students on to the vibrant styles of Indian dance, from the classical to the latest moves from Bollywood, bhangra, and Indian MTV. [link]

Oh, snap. She is desi. And I’m uber-fond of people named Hema, too. I felt vaguely ashamed, because I was aware of how I had immediately cut her a bit of slack which I clearly wouldn’t have extended to someone unbrown. I am teh suck. The flawed, biased suck. At least I know it, right?

What now? My exoti-dar was still going off, though it had been significantly muted. Should I be happy that homeslice was doing her thang? Or was it okay to cringe, at the title and over the audience this was intended for, if the demographic I was imagining was accurate? What’s your take?

212 thoughts on “Sensually Flawed (But We Know It)

  1. Dark And Disgusting cream

    Rahul, in my world, it’s called Dark and Dreamy!

  2. no. 187

    I’ve been “complimented with “Your English is very good, you know, for an Indian” Oh yeah? “Thank you. Your English isn’t bad for an American, either!”

    Pagla,

    Why get so bent out of shape? It never bothers me. Everybody doesn’t have to have perfect knowledge of everyone else. So what if someone is surprised that you speak English well? Take it as an apportunity to educate this person. Most likely, they didn’t mean any offence.

  3. Ooh yes, that Vikram Chandra Cult of Authenticity essay is fantastic.
    “Oh, poor mean, depressed, pathetic Meenakshi Mukherjee must be so bitter about languishing in India.” is my paraphrasing of one thrust of his essay.

    That essay is indeed superb. The argument it makes of the mongrelized, hybrid culture we all grow up in and the inherent hypocrisy of the authenticity seekers(including myself) is very valid.

    What reading that essay made me think is that, the essay demolishes all opinions(i must admit to some extent mine) that try to paint above efforts by the likes of Hemalayaa as exotification.

    Decrying exotification is a show of the love-hate relationship VC is talking about. Afterall, we dont try to enforce the same standards on Indian publication which truth be told are not different. Sorry Manish/Anna – But I have seem plenty mangoes,mehndi and sarees on covers of Indian books as well. And there are plenty of yoga promotions in India that dont sound very different from the above. Why is it that we seem to devalue western published books exotification only? I know, I know you will probably make the “Well, because we are American and not India” argument. But its not a strong one.

    Secondly, VC’s first argument about the so called pandering to “western/white” pre conceptions sounds silly when you think about the abundance of mangoes during summer time in India or the strong waft of mehndi that fills up households during wedding and the obviously high saree sightings in India.

    I must admit, looking back my own put downs of western “exotification” now seem elitist and intellectually dishonest.

  4. Why is it that we seem to devalue western published books exotification only? I know, I know you will probably make the “Well, because we are American and not India” argument. But its not a strong one.

    I happen to think it’s a pretty strong argument actually. A book with mangoes in the title/cover sold for consumption by Indians in India isn’t likely to be viewed as exotic by the consuming public. A mango (even an Alphonso one) is ordinary in India, not exotic.

    But a book with mangoes, sarees and strange spices in the title/cover sold primarily for consumption by a western audience is likely to be viewed as exotic by a consuming public that doesn’t view those things as ordinary. Whether something is exotic has to be considered in view of the person to whom the book/product is being marketed.

  5. Rahul, I thought this was NAMBLA

    Nope, that’s the book club discussing works by Jim Webb and Scooter Libby.

    Rahul, in my world, it’s called Dark and Dreamy!

    With people like you, Unilever will be doomed! Apropos of anything, I would like to declare that I am tall, dark, and handsome. Well, two out of three ain’t bad, right?

    But a book with mangoes, sarees and strange spices in the title/cover sold primarily for consumption by a western audience is likely to be viewed as exotic by a consuming public that doesn’t view those things as ordinary.

    I think VC’s point is that it’s not a disqualifier by itself. It’s all good if it’s not done cynically, and you are true to your creative impulses. While this is difficult for another person to judge objectively, I think it is usually clear which side of the scale a work tilts towards. As you work, don’t fear the God of Authenticity, for he is a weak god, a fraud, a fake, and–for all his posturing–completely irrelevant. Do your job, and your goddess will protect you and bless you. She is your mashooq, this One who is always absent. You know who she is, this One you follow always, the One who is untidy, elegant, blowsy, impossibly glamorous. She is the goddess Beauty, who has been frozen in liquid oxygen by the party bosses on Mount Restoration of the Righties, who has been declared dead in the Lost Valley of the Lefties. But you know your mashooq, and you can feel her power and her grace, how alive she is. She will always elude you, but you must risk everything for her. At the end of each day of work, the only question she will ask you is, did you write well today? And if you can honestly say, yes, I wrote well today, she will come a little closer to you, and you will sense her presence, and as you caress your mashooq, as she ravishes you with pleasure, you will know how absolutely real she is, this shape-shifting phantom. Then she will flee again. This absence is the only true grace you will ever know, or need. Believe in your mashooq, lose yourself in the dream of Her, and you will be Indian, a good artist or an adequate one, local and global, soft as a rose petal, and as hard as thunder, not this, not that, and everything you need to be. You will be free.

  6. I would like to declare that I am tall, dark, and handsome. Well, two out of three ain’t bad, right?

    Not bad at all…dark ‘n dreamy! so…gimme your digitz!

  7. But a book with mangoes, sarees and strange spices in the title/cover sold primarily for consumption by a western audience is likely to be viewed as exotic by a consuming public that doesn’t view those things as ordinary. Whether something is exotic has to be considered in view of the person to whom the book/product is being marketed.

    And that is what sells.

    I see short, out-of-shape, ordinary balding guys around town everyday.

    I don’t want to see them on book covers.

    Put a tall, toned, thick-curly-haired handsome hot babe on the cover instead. He’s exotic. He sells.

    Ordinary does not.

  8. To flip this around a bit…

    … in addition to my above post – it’s exotification plus sexualization that sells the most. The hot stallion on the book cover (like on all those romance and erotic novels you see in the book stores) panders to women’s sexual fantasies, triggers a deeply-seated, base sexual urge in all of us. He probably comes close to the guy we imagine when we’re making love to our partners half the time. (what they don’t know can’t hurt ‘em).

    I was a little concerned when I came to realize (via cyber cafes and other places, people, things) that alot of the porn that young (and older) Indian men are watching in India is of the American variety. I was told that Indian porn “contains nothing”, and therefore Indian males prefer the American variety because it shows many, many things and the women are way more active participants in the acts than on Indian porn. OK, fair enough. Does this exotify and sexualize American women (both white and black)? Yes. Does it make life harder for me in India? Perhaps that could be argued. But again, this is what sells. This is what free market, capitalism and commercialism has become. Demand and supply – supply and more demand – more demand and more supply. Samsar chakra.

    And this is where alot of Indian youth are getting their “sex ed” from, they argue that without porn they would know nothing. Some might object to exactly what it is they are “learning” from porn, but then that would depend on the quality of the type of porn they are watching and how it portrays the women actors therein.

    I really don’t think this (exotification and sexualization) is something that will ever be mitigated, and certainly not stopped, at least until the next pralaya.

  9. Not bad at all…dark ‘n dreamy!

    Oops, I thought you said dark and dreaming. You know, like bludgeoning hobos when nobody’s looking, and sleeping the rest of the time.

  10. understandably this is not a venue for sidebar conversations

    True that, but the title is “Sensually Flawed”, so to continue…

    I don’t think your friend’s experiences in India qualify him to play Dr. Ruth to desis.

    Why not? He came of age in India, had his first sexual encounters there. Aunties used to confide in him, some even propositioned him when their husbands were away. That’s where he got the idea for the electronic device because he said the women he talked to were unaware of a clitorus and it’s uses (personally I doubted him on that, I mean, what girl by the age of 12 hasn’t figured that out???)

    Interest in sensuality will grow as middle/lower class women start to become educated, assert themselves economically, and play more of a part in selecting their mates.

    Louiecypher, do you really think awareness of one’s own body and what makes it feel good really depends on formal education and finances?

    I would suggest your friend get involved in tourism development/marketing, maybe organizing yoga retreats etc or managing one of the many guest houses/hotels popping up everywhere.

    Would love to do this but isn’t it hard to break into as non-Indian citizens? Wouldn’t there be alot of beauracracy and red-tape?

    Putting on seminars is preaching to the converted.

    Dont’ agree. People are always ready to discuss sexual matters. Look how the sex-therapist business is booming in America, and they have been converted for a long time now.

    I sent him the link you sent me regarding Crezendo and he in turn sent me this link regarding India’s “grey market” for sex toys that are comfiscated when they reach India as international mail packages sent by desis living in the West to their friends and family back in the Desh. Booming business!

    http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=33798&headline=S**~toys~sell,~but~shoppers~won%E2%80%99t~take~them~home