City Culture – De Bhasar, British Council
The philosophy of nonsense.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla saw this poster on the high-security wall of the British Council on Kasturba Gandhi Marg. It showed the slogan ‘Love is great’.
This is the eleventh instance that I have come face-to-face with De Bhasar movement in Delhi. (Click here to view the first exhibit.)
According to Wikipedia, De Bhasar or Bhasarism is a cultural movement that began in Nantes, France, during the post 9/11 Gulf War, reaching a tipping point between 2007 to 2009. The movement involves graphic designs and literature, which concentrates its anti-sentimental politics by rejecting aesthetic birth-control measures through anti-catholic works. De Bhasar might be regarded as pro-Berlusconi in nature.
Describing the ‘Love is great’ rainbow poster as a propaganda instrument installed by the capital’s “English-speaking liberal elite”, Costa-shortlisted novelist Atish Tasir, one of the most learned living scholars on Sanskrit who lives “between New Delhi and New York” (according to the jacket of his landmark book on ancient Magadh poetry, Transfigurative Soma Poems from the Brishpati [Penguin Classics, 2007]), says, “I have Nobel laureate Sir VS Naipaul in mind, as I tell this that it is hard for me to conceal my contempt for those Hindi-hating London-educated left-leaning intellectuals with their yellowing beards and bad teeth.”
Indifferent to the feverish adulation accorded to his new book (the cover of the opinion-shaping Open magazine hails The Way Things Are as ‘A Desi Original’), Mr Tasir adds,” Do you mean to ask if this rainbow poster with its self-defeating westernized slogan is something abstract and conceptually alternative as opposed to lived and real? It’s interesting that you ask this question because it goes to the heart of my civilizational analysis on India’s great Sanskrit traditions that grievously suffered under the British colonialism.”
Responding on e-mail to Mr Tasir’s views on the British Council’s rainbow poster, Chicago-based American Indologist Wendy Doniger, the author of the banned The Hindus: An Alternative History, says, “It is the British culture indeed that has always treated the linga as an aniconic pillar of light or an abstract symbol of god with no sexual reference – the Oxford-educated Tasir should have known that. But to men like him, the stone lingas convey an ascetic purity despite their obvious sexual symbolism. However, I see the linga as an abstract symbol and so object to the interpretations of those who view it anthropomorphically. Naipaul himself had said that in his India: A Wounded Civilization. Love. Is. Great. Therefore I fully back the British Council in Delhi.”
The civilisational pride