The boutique features elaborate Indian designs on bikinis, toilet seats, shoes, lunch boxes and T-shirts. Customers eagerly buy these decorative objects, but some of the items outrage the Hindu community.
What does it mean?
To non-Hindus, the colorful illustrations are simply attractive artwork--an elephant's head on a man's body, a young man playing a flute--but to Hindus, they are manifestations of deities.
Commercialization and lack of reverence for a spiritual tradition offend them. Gods displayed on bikini bottoms are sacrilegious. Even worse is the appearance of the gods Krishna or Kali on toilet seats, which because of pressure from the Hindu community have now been removed from the market. One representative observed that no Madonna or Star of David appears on a toilet seat.
Equally disrespectful is the appearance of deities on shoes. Shoes cover the lowliest part of the body and are not allowed inside Hindu temples. Wearing shoes adorned with deities and then walking on dirty streets besmirches the holy depictions.
Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.