Letter From Venicenby Andrei NavrozovnUp With PrejudicenI have been a Eurocentric, heterosexual,nwhite male ever since 1 was a little baby.nAn unreconstructed Marxist would saynthat this accident of birth — carelessly amplifiednof late by the sybaritic sojourn in anpalazzo on the Grand Canal whose windowsnwatch the West decline over thencampanile of Santa Maria Gloriosa deinFrari —is what has determined my consciousnessnfor the remainder of my naturalnlife; and, of course, the son of a bnwould be right. The thing about MarxismnI have always thought unnerving is itsndirectness, so reminiscent of New Yorkndinner parties and conversations withnyour in-laws. Show me your bank statements,nsays Che Guevara between puffsnon a Cuban stout, and I shall tell younwhat sort of verses you scribble.nThose who know me may find it difficultnto believe that, a couple of weeksnago, I decided to join a friend of minentraveling to Bombay. I had no specialnreason for going, except that I was curious.nIn fact, ever since I began learningnEnglish as a child in Moscow —by thenthrilling, though laborious, process ofntracing the et)’molog’ of each new wordndown to its Sanskrit root and finding thensemantic node where one golden boughnof our tree of languages divided from thenother —I have had some peculiar fondnessnfor ancient India, which neithernKipling nor Indian singing movies didnanything to suborn. I could read fornhours on end about the worship of thenYoginis as the 64 manifestations of thengreat goddess Devi, yet what mattered tonme was not the validit’ of the underlyingnbelief, nor any of the incomprehensiblenspeeulahons about the feminine creativenforce and the occult powers of the Puranicnmatri, but the fact that the chess c[ueennof Russian fairytales, Baba Yaga, wasnprobably one of that brood.nWe boarded the plane in England,nwhere the nation’s agriculture, alreadyn36/CHRONICLESnCORRESPONDENCEnparalyzed by one cattle plague, was nownin the grip of another: MASS CULL ONnFARMS WIDENS AS MARKSMEN AREnCALLED IN was among the banners headliningnthe apocalypse. Writing about India,nKipling put it like this:nLook westward—bears the blue nonbrown cloud-bank?nNay, it is written—whereforenshould we fly?nOn our own field and by ourncattle’s flanknLie down, lie down to die!nParliament had reeentiy voted by a vastnmajority to outlaw fox hunhng, and thenday’s other news was that a band of animalrightsnprotesters, wearing balaclavas andnearr’ing “baseball bats and pickaxe handles,”nhad attacked a 62-year-old anglernon the banks of the river Granta withnshouts of “How many fish did you kill today?”nand “How would you like a hooknthrough your mouth?” Meanwhile, thenGlasgow branch of a national chain ofnmusic shops had put on sale promotionalnshirts emblazoned with the slogan “Jesusnis a e—,” whereupon the Lord Provost ofnthat eit)’, staking his all on the realit}’ of anEurope that no longer exists outside thenplaces where I live, directed the police tonhave them removed.n”We pride ourselves on offering thenlargest range of products available,” objectednthe shop’s manager as he orderednthe shirts restocked, “and leaving it to thencustomers to choose whether they wish tonpurchase them.” As for me, I rather pridenmyself on being unable to repeat the obscenit)’nin question even in a private conversation.nI am a Eurocentric, heterosexual,nwhite male, and consequently, Inhave inhibitions that are infinitelv morensacred than many a truth. It was in thisnstate of mind —rubbed raw by the Sundaynnewspapers until it filled itself to thenpoint of screaming with the debris ofnevery ethical calamity I had witnessednwhile living in England — that I got offnthe plane and saw Bombay.nIt too offered the largest range of productsnavailable, a promise which I ever suspectednto mean, at best, a dirty towel and,nat worst, a shallow grave. Despite the latenessnof the hour and all our meek demurrers,nthe man behind the wheel of the hotelncar who identified himself as “DrivernnnGhana, Car No. 1733” immediately conveyednus to a brothel. This brought tonmind a television commercial of the GoldnWar epoch in which the same elejjhantinen—and plausibly Eastern European —npresence paraded on die catwalk over andnover again wearing the same shabbynclothes, until the grand finale was announcedn(“And finally . . . beachwear!”)nwhen she appeared wearing the shabbynclothes yet again, but this time cradling anbeach ball in her enormous arms. Innshort, perhaps because the props wereneven thinner on the ground than thentaboos, it was clear to me at once that lovenin Bombay was impossible.nWliat of life? The following morning,nthe sun rose, laboriously, over the citynand hung there, in the white sulfur mist,nlike the yolk of a rotten egg. It illuminatedna hepatotoxic sea the color of overripenbananas, and a seafront promenade fillednwith the cries of hundreds of young,nhealthy men selling recreational drugsnand children’s balloons: “Balam, halam,nhalam, halaml Hello? Balam, halam,nhalam, halaml Hello?” Nobody boughtneither, which only increased the sensationnof having been awakened to a psychedelicnrendition of some unknownncanto of Dante’s Inferno, the one aboutnthe Circle of Inflated Balloon Sellers, thenadults condemned to hawk children’sntoys in a eit)’ where the children are busynpanhandling.nAh, those infamous children of India!nCrippled, mutilated, filthy, with handsome,noften refined, always serious faces,nthe children of India are busy beggingnalms from the tourists who come there, asna week’s close observation of my hotelncompanions made me realize, for no othernpurpose than to feel white, obviously anlong forbidden pleasure in their countriesnof origin. The tourist industr)”s marketingnof Asia and Africa is undoubtedly die mostnruthless colonial exercise in the history ofnmankind, compared to which the pithnhelmets of the Raj and tiie bayonets of thenBoers are so much incongruous balloonnselling. If you want to find racism on anglobal scale, visit your local travel agent.nHe will tell you that, if you really want tonhave fun, you should go where dark peoplenlive on two cents a day.nNow, I have seen something of povert}’.nI was born in an aparhnent where 35npeople, from nine families, lived undern