“Namaste, brother” says Chaitanya, a pudgy, rosy-cheeked man from Charlotte, North Carolina, smiling broadly at me and my friend Alison. He wears a sleeveless orange tank top and white cotton balloon pants. He tells us the moniker was bestowed on him after an elaborate naming ceremony conducted on the banks of the holy river Ganges, in the north Indian city of Rishikesh. He paid 10,000 rupees to a Hindu priest for the conversion from Keith to Chaitanya. “Only a $150 for a whole new life man! It’s a steal if you think about it.”
Author: Vikram Zutshi
Vikram Zutshi is a writer-producer-director based in Los Angeles and edits SUTRA JOURNAL. After several years in indie film and network TV production, then a stint as Creative Executive at 20th Century Fox and later as VP, International Sales/Acquisitions at Rogue Entertainment, he went solo and produced two feature films before transitioning into Directing. His debut feature was filmed at various points along the two thousand mile US-Mexico border and has since been globally broadcast.
He is a passionate Yogi and writes frequently on Buddhism, Shaivism, Sacred Art, Culture and Cinema. As a photojournalist, Vikram often travels on expeditions to SE Asia and Latin America and is involved with a number of charities that empower and educate street children in India, Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam and Indonesia.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organizations that fall under the umbrella of the Sangh Parivar have grown roots in the United States and have become active in fundraising and propaganda activities. Taking advantage of their status as an ethnic minority, these groups nakedly pursue a majoritarian Hindu agenda in the west and lash out against institutions and individuals that critique India’s Hindu nationalist government or it’s leader Narendra Modi.
A few months back as I was laying out the table of contents for a magazine I publish on Asian art, culture and spiritual traditions, I inserted the names of two Sufi writers. On spotting the Muslim names, one of the volunteers, a white woman in her late sixties launched into an unhinged rant, claiming Sufi writers were in fact Jihadis in disguise, and accused me of enabling terrorists to invade and conquer Hindu lands.