Desperately seeking the indigene: nativism and
The Village is our library
I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.
M. K. Gandhi
I would like to begin by telling you an urban parable. It is about a peasant and a painter. Actually it is based on an incident that U. R. Anantha Murthy, the Indian writer and critic witnessed at an academic conference. In fact the painter in the parable was also at the same conference. This painter was narrating his experience of going around villages in North India studying folk art. Near one of the villages he was attracted by a lonely cottage at the foot of a hill. Approaching the cottage, he saw through the window a piece of stone which caught his attention. The stone was decorated with kumkum – the red powder that Indian women wear on their foreheads as an auspicious mark. The painter wanted to photograph the stone that the peasant worshipped and asked if he could take it outside where the light was better. After taking its photograph, the painter felt uneasy for having removed the stone that the peasant had revered and worshipped and expressed his regret. However, he had not been prepared for the peasant's reply, which astonished him: 'It doesn't matter, ' the peasant told him, 'I will get another stone and anoint it with kumkum. ' The painter was staggered by the hermeneutical implication of his reply: any piece of stone on which the peasant smeared kumkum became God for him. What mattered was his faith, not the stone. Overwhelmed by the