Guys.... impossible to get away from Diwali Dhamakas.... but I'm determined to escape. Have been upto my eyeballs in work and some engaging distractions as well.... more masala khabar... but break ke baad. Gotta run!!!
This appeared in Sunday Times....
Just how big is The Big ‘O’…?
Welcome to India, Obamaji!
Now, now…. calm down everyone. The Big ‘O’ isn’t what your wicked mind is thinking. The reference is to ‘Obama’, but yes, his virgin visit to Bharat Desh can definitely be dubbed orgasmic. When was the last time Superman flew into town accompanied by a designer clad Lois Lane? Bill Clinton’s visit in 2002 doesn’t really count – he was a disgraced, Lewinsk-ed ex-Prezzie at the time, and even his embroidered, bandmaster-style bandgala could not salvage the tattered image. This one is the real biggie. The most powerful man in the world ( take a walk, Putin, and don’t forget your black belt) is all set to wow the most powerful democracy on earth – it is likely to become the ultimate power fest. A team of 1,500 honchos, U.S. warships in our waters, fighter planes in our skies. God knows what else, where else. Let’s see who blinks first. As the Americans would put it , “ We have issues.” Nothing all that serious, nothing that cannot be resolved, nothing that could embarrass either administration. But. And that’s an important ‘but’. Obamaji has to ‘get’ India. That needs a certain instinct, a certain mindset. India is unique. And it’s high time world leaders understood and accepted our uniqueness. It is also high time we stopped over explaining ourselves, or apologizing for being ‘like that only’. If Obama listens to his mind and heart rather than his minders, perhaps the dialogue that emerges will be more meaningful. He is an astute and clever man. Right now, his ratings are tanking almost as dramatically as Tiger Woods’. Yes, his image is taking a battering back home. And yes, Biwi No.1 Michelle is loved and adored while he is watched and judged. But that’s how it goes – it ain’t a fair world.
The India he will air drop into may delight and surprise him, if he allows himself to respond and react to the country minus political blinkers. We really are good guys…. annoying and impossible… but essentially good. Our openness, our over garrulous nature and that seriously annoying penchant for making faux pas after faux pas lands us in hot water frequently. But looked at another way, rather us across a negotiating table than the inscrutable Chinese or the wily Pakistanis. Not that Obama has to pick at his point, but a visit on this level says a hell of a lot through non-verbal communication. Obama has not been perceived as a ‘friend of India’ . His harsh comments about outsourcing have not gone down well, even though we know they were made for domestic consumption. His position on Pakistan sponsored terrorism has been more wishy washy than we would have wished. But the timing of his visit couldn’t have been better. And it is upto us – not him - how we leverage it. At the time of writing, his exact programme remains unclear ( security concerns ). People in South Mumbai are starting to mew a little about the inconvenience his visit will cause them. They should be told to shut up and put up. It’s a small price to pay if the trip pulls off a coup or two. Strategically speaking, his visit is expected to send out a strong and powerful signal to our neighbours. But more than that, it is expected to boost our morale via a couple of juicy commercial deals.
Obama’s visit comes at an auspicious time – Diwali. We should pull out all the stops and let the guy experience The Festival of Lights in all its dazzling glory. Instead of marching him off to predictable and boring destinations to ‘pay homage’ to assorted oldie goldies, let him hang with the young of India. Mumbai is one of the most buzzed cities on earth – a city as much about survivors as achievers. Let’s hope someone up there has the imagination and guts to get the Obamas to meet the asli Mumbaikars once he’s done bonding with the usual suspects. The Obamas are young, hip, cool and very today. They should definitely experience a bit of Mumbai Masti.Let them check out the electric scene for themselves – show them the real illuminations – the earthen diyas that light up the entrance of every humble shanty in Mumbai’s throbbing slums. Why make our poor invisible? Leave that trick to the Chinese. Why not let Obama look into the shining eyes of our street urchins at traffic lights – share a few genuine smiles with them rather than schmooze with the fake smileswallas?Not likely, right? No matter. The Big O is coming to woo India. Let us co-opt him into the Great Big Indian Family…. Bollywood –style, with naach gaana, band baaja and an ‘item number’ composed in his honour…. and no, the lyrics definitely can’t go, “ Barack Badnaam Hua, Darrrrrling India ke liye.”