In The Cow in the Elevator Tulasi Srinivas explores a wonderful world where deities jump fences and priests ride in helicopters to present a joyful, imaginative, yet critical reading of modern religious life. Drawing on nearly two decades of fieldwork with priests, residents, and devotees, and her own experience of living in the high-tech city of Bangalore, Srinivas finds moments where ritual enmeshes with global modernity to create wonder-a feeling of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime. Offering a nuanced account of how the ruptures of modernity can be made normal, enrapturing, and even comical in a city swept up in globalization's tumult, Srinivas brings the visceral richness of wonder-apparent in creative ritual in and around Hindu temples-into the anthropological gaze. Broaching provocative philosophical themes like desire, complicity, loss, time, money, technology, and the imagination, Srinivas pursues an interrogation of wonder and the adventure of writing true to its experience. The Cow in the Elevator rethinks the study of ritual while reshaping our appreciation of wonder's transformative potential for scholarship and for life.
Tulasi Srinivas is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College, author of Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism through the Sathya Sai Movement, and coeditor of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food, and South Asia.
A Note on Translation xi Acknowledgments xiii O Wonderful! xix Introduction. Wonder, Creativity, and Ethical Life in Bangalore 1 Cranes in the Sky 1 Wondering about Wonder 6 Modern Fractures 9 Of Bangalore's Boomtown Bourgeoisie 13 My Guides into Wonder 16 Going Forward 31 1. Adventures in Modern Dwelling 34 A Cow in an Elevator 34 Grounded Wonder 37 And Ungrounded Wonder 39 Back to Earth 41 Memorialized Cartography 43 "Dead-Endu" Ganesha 45 Earthen Prayers and Black Money 48 Moving Marble 51 Building Wonder 56 Interlude: Into the Abyss 58 2. Passionate Journeys: From Aesthetics to Ethics 60 The Wandering Gods 60 Waiting . . . 65 Moral Mobility 69 Gliding Swans and Bucking Horses 70 The Pain of Cleaving 74 And the Angry God 80 Full Tension! 84 Adjustments 86 Life and . . . 91 Ethical Wonders 92 Interlude. Up in the Skyye 95 3. In God We Trust: Economies of Wonder and Philosophies of Debt 99 A Treasure Trove 99 Twinkling Excess 107 The Golden Calf 111 A Promise of Plenitude 114 "Mintingu" and "Minchingu" 119 "Cash-a-carda?" Philosophies of Debt 128 Soiled Money and the Makings of Distrust 131 The Limits of Wonder 133 4. Technologies of Wonder 138 Animatronic Devi 138 Deus Ex Machina 140 The New in Bangalore 142 The Mythical Garuda-Helicopter 143 Drums of Contention 152 Capturing Divine Biometrics 157 Archiving the Divine 159 Technologies of Capture 162 FaceTiming God 164 Wonder of Wonders 169 5. Timeless Imperatives, Obsolescence, and Salvage 172 "Times have Changed" 172 The Untimeliness of Modernity 175 Avelle and Ritu 178 Slipping Away 181 When Wonder Falls 183 Time Lords 187 Dripping Time 188 The Future, The Past, and the Immortal Present 204 Conclusion. A Place for Radical Hope 206 Radical Hope 206 Amazement in Turmeric 210 The Need for Wonder 213 Afterword. The Tenacity of Hope 216 Notes 219 References 247 Index 265