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Arion Berger would really enjoy Karma Cola, Gita Mehta’s clever, hilarious look at the absurdity of Western attempts to market the “spiritual aura” and beauty of India. From what I made of her piece “Midnight’s Stepchildren” (Demimonde, 7/18), this is something like what she was trying to accomplish.

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Her style of cultural referencing for the sake of cultural referencing does little by way of entertaining and even less informing—especially when basic facts such as “they don’t sell Coke in India” are incorrect. During my last stay in Bangalore, I drank both Pepsi and Coca-Cola. I agree that it was a “lovely fact” that Coke wasn’t sold in India—I have my reasons; what are Ms. Berger’s? Is she upset by the potential economic effects of multinational corporations or is she worried about the influx of insipid Western brand names into Indian culture? Or is it just easier to throw around a few celebrity names and TV show references than to actually explain any of the stances she takes?

Is it really “curious that India can be treated as a vast trinket playground…”? Shouldn’t this kind of treatment be a little more than “curious,” and is she truly surprised that Americans tend to simplify the mores of other countries if their cultures are not easy to understand? Because, then, for all her hip, jaded popspeak, she’s quite naive.

Arlington, Va.

via the Internet