Indian American woman slams New York pub for decorating bathroom with Hindu gods

A worker at a jewellery showroom displays gold idols of Hindu elephant god Ganesh (L) and Hindu goddess Lakshmi in Kolkata August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

Hindu gods have been appearing in the most inappropriate way in the United States, but according to an India Today report, Indian American Ankita Mishra saw something even more horrifying.

When Mishra visited House of Yes, a pub in Bushwick, New York a few weeks ago, she noticed that the walls of their VIP bathroom, “were papered with bejeweled images of Hindu gods like Ganesha, Saraswati, Kali and Shiva,” she wrote in a blog post after.

She then wrote an email to the pub on October 3.

In the email, Mishra explains how she is “a queer woman of color with a hyphenated identity in 2018 America,” and is “used to silencing my voice in the service of keeping peace in public.”

She felt a need to directly approach House of Yes after posting her horrifying experience there because she knew it was “a venue where I might actually be heard, and where change for the better can occur.”

Though she has had many special and good memories at the pub, her recent one became the worst one when she “had the privilege of accessing the private bathroom behind the DJ booth by the stage.”

“At first when I reached for toilet paper from the dispenser, it did not register that I was looking at Mahadev. Slowly I raised my eyes to take in the room and noticed all of them- Ganesha, Saraswati, Brahma, Shiva, Radha and Krishna, Lakshmi, and inexplicably right above the toilet, Kali. I was inside a temple but it was all wrong- I was wearing shoes, I was peeing, and my a** was out,” she wrote in the email.

Knowing that one might be confused by her email, Mishra listed the following points to explain her case:

  • Cleanliness and purity are obsessive rules in an Indian household and around Indian deities it is a very basic form of respect, one that you learn as a child.
  • Hinduism does not believe in eternal damnation. It has not also, conquered, traumatized and converted whole civilizations and countries as part of its mission. It does not have the same history as, for example, Christianity.
  • Hindu, Buddhist and South Asian culture continues to constantly be exploited through Western capitalism in the name of spiritual awakening and sexual exploration. Our culture is not a ticket to your self-discovery.
  • I only saw this because it was a private bathroom reserved for those customers paying over $600 for a bottle of Grey Goose.
  • I have spent 3 days (now 4) thinking of every angle that could have led someone to make this tone deaf mistake. I sat on the toilet thinking “Is it possible that my culture is again being dehumanized and treated like an accessory of white culture, here on Jefferson Street?”

“I am going to go home to my parents house in November to celebrate Diwali, a holiday commemorating each deity featured in your bathroom. This is an active religion, practiced today. My true desire is to see the bathroom taken down. My parents would not have had the courage to stand up for what is right, but I as their daughter, do. Your mission statement is one that touts inclusivity, positivity and safety. Please don’t make me lose faith in the ability we all have to right some wrongs and truly hear each other out,” she wrote, concluding the letter.

Luckily, Mishra received an apologetic email from Kae Burke, the pub’s co-founder/creative director, who is “the one that created, conceived and made the deity bathroom. I am fully responsible for making the tone-deaf and completely ignorant decor choice,” she wrote.

Burke continued to write that she was “sorry for not taking the time to fully understand and research the deep history of the culture I was inspired by before using it to decorate,” and is willing to re-design the whole bathroom.



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