Asanas for Auction

Pop Culture

Asanas for Auction

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

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ver the past year, yoga has become one of our country’s coolest exports. It’s been accepted by the hip kids over at Madison Square Garden and infiltrated more conservative Muslim countries like Qatar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently joked in his speech to the US Congress that more people bend over for yoga than to throw a curve ball. And well, can’t blame our prime minister for using something so popular, and so Indian, to improve the image of India abroad.

World Yoga Day was a big success in India too with a host of think-pieces, trending hashtags, yoga drives, and other astounding decibles of noise. Corporates have breathed in the benefits of yoga, and are using it to sell products with “spiritual” themes. Take for instance the Times of India-sponsored “Yoga by the Bay” on Marine Drive in Mumbai. Some company decided it would be a good idea to vend its free pisswater to all the people offering Surya Namaskars. The result was a thousand cans of some “relaxation drink” called Tran Quini discarded all over the promenade. Very yogic, all this littering.

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“India’s leading holistic wellness ambassador” Mickey Mehta also used the event to the max, installing standees urging people to take “Wellfies” with his cutout, so as to get “Mickeymized” after their Surya Namaskars. This megalomaniac is so full of shit, he has a “Mickeypedia” on his website where he offers gems like: “Be someone’s partner in karma, that will also fulfill your own dharma”. I’d have said this is where verse goes to die, but it is actually just a very Indian way of saying, “Watch me laugh as I make money off ya bitches.”

Apart from these amazing experiences, yoga also took a backseat to <insert rando starlet here>, because nothing sells in this city without a celebrity apparently. Someone named Tara Sharma and the other other Khan, Arbaaz, rubbed shoulders with regular South Mumbai plebs to show their love for yoga. Later, over a hundred police officers gathered to take post-yoga selfies with Arbaaz, just like Iyengar would have wanted it.

Meanwhile, in the midst of a raging debate over appropriation of yoga abroad, beheading-threat aficionado, Baba Ramdev, has used yoga to create a consumer product empire worth ₹3,000 crore.

There’s no denying it: Everyone wants a piece of the yoga pie. Modi might have stopped short of claiming intellectual property rights over yoga during his address, but several members of his own party, and other right-leaning outfits, have jumped to claim yoga as validation of India’s glorious contribution to mankind, a concept that is partially based in history and mainly in myth. As BJP and its right-wing allies try to change India from a secular nation into a Hindu country, yoga has also been shoved down our throats. There are plans to make it compulsory practice in all schools, universities, and government departments across the country despite the fact that they’ve moved to drop all religious symbols from yoga.

Meanwhile, in the midst of a raging debate over appropriation of yoga abroad, beheading-threat aficionado, Baba Ramdev, has used yoga to create a consumer product empire worth ₹3,000 crore, humbly turn down a cabinet position in Haryana, and claim to cure homosexuality. Which doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of yoga that the Vedas spoke of. At the Gateway of India, where the National Port Trust was celebrating International Yoga Day this morning, Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali had a stall to sell insta-noodles.

When we speak of Baba Ramdev, can that other spiritual stretching guy, Sri Sri, be far behind? The much-maligned cultural festival organised on the banks of the Yamuna, was to promote the benefits of yoga. Now, admittedly, I don’t personally know much about Sri Sri, but that event didn’t leave the best impression. He held what can only be called a gala on the banks of one of our most polluted rivers, featuring yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers, and a VIP audience in attendance. Sri Sri was given prompt clearances to host the jamboree by the National Green Tribunal, despite the latter noting in its report that the floodplains had been “drastically tampered with”.

So in the midst of all this appropriation why should we care about our intellectual property, or worry that attractive foreigners put on yoga pants, drink chia-seed juice, get “Om” tattooed backwards, and interpret yoga in their own way. We already have boxing yoga, naked yoga, rave yoga, hot yoga, doga, and voga that combines yoga with vogue… whatever that means.

So go ahead, appropriate away, everyone’s doing it anyway.

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