In an amoral universe (is it ?) where does morality stand, and whose morality is it anyway ? Allow me to share a story..
Years ago, a struggling actor, and my first trip to LA. Went with a friend to check out a cheap Motel he had an address for. His aunt and uncle were arriving in LA.
Guess who owned the Motel ? You got it, Mr Patel and his wonderful family.
A charming host, Mr Patel insited on us sharing in some great Gujarati food. The whole family was there sitting on the floor, on beautifully laid out mats in the family kithchen. The walls were surrounded by paintings and idols of every Indian God you could think of, but primarily of beautiful gold inlaid paintings of Krishna and the Gopi’s. There in a corner was a temple devoted to Krishna. The family had obviously just finished an ‘aarti’ before dinner.
At the end of dinner we got down to bussiness, as my friend and Mr Patel began the negotiating of room rates. Patel’s gentleness totally belied his negotiating skills. I wanted to see the rooms, to see if some of the traditional decor had leaked into the rest of the Motel. Mr Patel sent his 14 year old daughter to show me around.
It was an interesting room. Spacious. But a bit overdone.Nothing Indian. Predominently browns, but still, something I could not put my finger on.
Till I sat on the bed. As I almost toppled over I realized this was Water Bed ! Looked around and realized there were too many mirrors in the room. And then on the roof right above the bed was a large roof mirror. This was a room designed for sex ! Quick as a flash I looked at the 14 year old girl standing impassively on. And averted my eyes quickly. She did not blink. She had been asked to show me the room and that was what she was doing, impatient to get back to her dinner.
The mind reeled at the thought of my friend’s old aunt and uncle trying to sleep in a water bed, surfing for for Zee TV and finding only naked copulating couples. I rushed back to warn my friend before he handed in his credit card.
There,a beaming Mr Patel, asked me if everything was ‘appropriate’.
I have had several imaginary conversations with Mr Patel since this incident many years ago. To my many imaginary questions I hear just one imaginary answer.
“My kitchen is who I and my family are, and the Motel is just my bussiness. It’s what I do to take care of my family. Which is my Dharma”.
ps – this is not a moral judgement of Mr Patel. Nor is it about the morality of sex hotels. It is an observation of a contradiction.
Spirituality is about who we are
Morality is about what we do
What happens when the two are on conflict ? As they often are. When I was filming Bandit Queen, I met many active dacoits that were avid devotees of Kali, donating half their earnings to the temples to Kali. and to the villages that looked after them. Yet, the bussiness of Dacoity is that of Kidnapping, looting and even killing.
And this could be taken to much more macro extremes. How about “I hate killing people, but as a President of a country I am forced to take decisions to go to War.”
Dont we all face this dichotomy in out lives to some degree ?