In the myth of Krishna and the fruit seller, an old hawker woman selflessly satisfies the god child’s desire for her ripe and aromatic produce, even though he seems to offer her practically nothing in return. In folk representations of this allegory of desire (kama) and devotion (bakthi), such as the terracotta icon described above, the sublime mango often stands, metonymically, for the cornucopia of fruit in the old woman’s basket, which in turn represents the desires and delectations of the material life.
This kama is redolent, or indeed ripe, with soteriological promise in that it can be transmuted into the bakthi of a selfless offering to the Lord. To return to the story … One day a fruit seller came to Vrindavan, the village that is young Krishna’s abode. She was a simple woman, old and poor. Little Krishna heard her call and he ran out to her with a handful of grains to trade for his favorite mango. As he was running, the grains fell out between his little fingers and as he made his offer to the fruit seller, there were hardly any left in his hands.
The poor old lady was, however, so charmed by Krishna’s beauty that she freely gave him all the fruits he desired. On the way home she noticed the basket was heavy and when she arrived she found that the lord had filled it up with celestial jewels. Thus it is shown how love (bakthi) of the greater self (Brahman), recognized metonymically in the more tangible beauty of the young Lord Krishna has great soteriological effect. It is this salvation by selfless giving that is both the theme and the message of the myth of Krishna and the fruit seller.
So we did it! My fellows at The Camp With No Name, my family and I – we realized the image I had visualized for Cowboys and Indians at Burning Man. We did one performance on the evening of the 31st August at camp where I presented the Krishna icon, the Thalaivar banner, and the Indian Cowboy image and 40 perfectly ripe mangoes. I told Krishna stories of love and truth to the gathering. Tara played an improvisation on the melody of Joe Ely’s Indian Cowboy on the Cello and Jane read her Poems on the Megaphone. Durga took photographs for future editions of the Koboi Project. The next day on the 1st September, Jane, Tara, Durga, Lucas, Guy, Saren and I took Cowboys and Indians onto the playa. This time we distributed 80 mangoes and interacted with burners as they came by on the their vehicles, their bikes and on foot. We shared love and truth … and mangoes till the sun went down on the Playa.
Going in to Burning Man equipped with my ‘Cowboys and Indians’ boots. One of the unspoken ironies of living in the Americas for Indians of the great subcontinental diaspora is the coincidence of signifieds for the generalizing signifier ‘Indian’. I remember arriving in Vancouver to find that I was referred to as an ‘East’ Indian. I wondered if it was a reference to the historical East India Company that managed that far end of the British empire while this end was being run by the Hudson Bay Company. Yes … its always been a corporate universe … but that is another story! No quite simple I believe that I am ‘East’ Indian in ‘North ‘America’ to to distinguish me from the other Indian – the ‘native Indian’ or as I know them from a childhood of \Cowboys and Indians’ play, the Red Indian’. Indeed, living in the Americas is living with both the nominal and significant consequences of the original hubris and error of Columbus and his ilk.