I know I’m like weeks behind, but I just read the article in the New Yorker on Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, where $20 billion worth of treasure was just discovered. And that’s in the single vault that has been opened. There’s another one of equal size that has yet to be uncovered.
It’s all pretty crazy, Indiana Jones type shit. Jake Halpern, the reporter on the piece, wrote a great story. But more than anything, I think he did a good job highlighting why I think that religion in India, almost more than anywhere else is the world, is used as a method of control to keep people uneducated, poor, and faithful to a feudal way of living. That probably wasn’t his intention. But that’s what I felt traveling through the country, and I thought it was interesting that my observations came through in the piece.
“A street-food vendor named Suresh spoke with me at his home, a humble concrete dwelling that he had decorated with a small statue of Buddha and pictures of his heroes: Jesus, Mother Teresa, Vishnu, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He said that he did not trust the government to handle the temple’s wealth. I asked him if he had more faith in the royal family. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘They were not like the government officials, who are corrupt. They were foresighted and saved this wealth for the generations to come, like parents who are saving for their children.’”
Of course, one member of the royal family in Tivandrum—where the temple is located—lives in a 106-room palace, and another collects rare vintage automobiles. All evidence points to the fact that they’ve been stealing from the vaults for years. But why dispute those appointed by gods to rule over humble people?
I’m still thinking a lot about who loves India, and who doesn’t, and why it made me so angry. I haven’t figured it out. But I will say that I was at a dinner the other night, and I sat next to a man—unfortunately for him, a stereotypical 2005 sort of investment banker—who thought that I was insane for not loving it. He said that he would go back every year. But then again, he also said that it was ok for him to embrace his female employees without their permission, and that girls who want equal rights can’t reasonably expect that men hold open doors for them. He also loved essentializing poverty.
The article is a good one, and you can read it here. I stole the picture above, taken by Chiara Goia, from an accompanying slideshow on the New Yorker website.