This appeared in Asian Age /Deccan Chronicle....
Go on, David…. maafi maango!
Gawd! Will this farce never end? What’s with this apology mania? First the dishy David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain ( simply ‘David’ to Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India) nearly apologises for a tragic incident that took place before even his own father was born. Then Sushil Kumar Shinde decides to actually say sorry for his saffron terror remark. This is such rubbish, really. And we must identify rubbish for what it is. Let’s not endorse these meaningless half-apologies, regrets, full blown apologies, transparently fake ‘sorry-s’, and other equally annoying attempts at covering up deep, old wounds with flimsy band aids. There is that old saying about not scratching scabs and making old cuts bleed again. Scars are scars. That the skin has come together over them and dried up the wound, means the healing process is over. It is time to move on.
The rather nasty aspect of the latest public expressions of remorse is the essentially manipulative nature of the act. David Cameron was “expected” to apologise.Two days prior to Cameron’s scheduled trip to the site of the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of 1919 where 1,000 innocents (official figure) were killed, I received calls from a few British presswallas.. Those Brit blokes wanted to know whether Indians were expecting an apology. And if Cameron did indeed apologise ( which, of course, he didn’t), would we feel a little better? I found the questions ridiculous. Better? About what? A dashing young Prime Minister came a-calling, heading a trade delegation (“The largest ever…” he bragged), clearly looking for juicy contracts in India. He shrewdly chose to visit Amritsar and then the Memorial, obviously with an eye on the substantial Sikh vote back home. And we are supposed to feel …. what? Grateful? Overwhelmed? Come on. Was Cameron trying to make up for the batty,old Duke of Edinburgh’s crass, insensitive remarks when he’d stared at the plaque at Jallianwalla Bagh and said he thought the “numbers were vastly exaggerated”? Did Gen. Dwyer ghost whisper that into the Duke’s ear? Would it have been okay to gun down 500 natives, but not okay if the number doubled? The Queen had discreetly skirted around this particular landmine and declared it a ‘distressing example’ (of what?), adding for good measure that ‘history cannot be rewritten’. So it can’t, guys! Can you not get it? Sure, Winston Churchill described the horrific episode as ‘monstrous’. But that was then. And there it should have stayed. Now, chances are we shall spend weeks and weeks deconstructing Cameron’s words (“ a deeply shameful act”) and actions (no jootas, head bowed), perhaps reading much more into his brief visit than was ever intended. Clearly, Cameron’s minders are more aware of local sentiments than the ones who used to advise his predecessors. Note how everybody applauded Cameron’s sensitivity to local customs when he removed his shoes and bowed respectfully in front of the Memorial. That was a good move, we all agreed. But why are we so impressed by common courtesy? Do we not observe tradition when in Rome , visiting the Vatican? Or attending a church ceremony in England? If we can remember to cover our heads and keep our shoes on, surely Cameron and others can follow our rules without all of us keeling over and dying? But that’s how we are. Especially when it comes to Goras going native.
It’s too early to say what exactly Cameron’s visit will yield in concrete terms. Yes, The Mummy is visiting our shores. And the Museum in Mumbai is filled with eager school kids who believe they are at a promo event for the movie, ‘The Mummy Returns’. And no – the Kohinoor stays where it is. Boo to you, you over reaching idiots! Other lucrative deals will have to wait for a bit, till we sort out our own mess with Choppers from Italy brokered by a British agent. Even so, Cameron’s flying 3-day visit is being hailed as ‘significant’. And every sentence he has uttered while in India is being scrutinised for hidden meanings and signs. When Cameron chose Mumbai over Delhi as his point of entry, it was promptly notched as a plug for capitalism and big bucks. If Cameron mentioned (well-timed pauses and all), that he had decided to make India his first stop, glances were immediately exchanged between corporate honchos, who nodded approvingly (“ take that, you Chinese entrepreneurs. Cameron prefers us!”). Unfortunately, Indians have still to shake off the rather pathetic colonial hangover, no matter how deeply embarrassing it is. Cameron’s ‘approval’ matters to us. We refuse to see his visit for what it is in reality - a shopping trip. A trunk show. Cameron was here to sell British wares. Conclude mega deals. Woo India. That’s it. Because Cameron needs us to save him back home. He needs those desi votes to hang on to power… to consolidate his position and to wow the locals . The moment of truth will be upon him soon enough. Sushil Kumar Shinde’s story is similar. Both men have taken the same route – I am very , very sorry….” sang our Shinde. “I regret…” declared Cameron. It’s ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’ time all over again.
Someone forgot to remind these men, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Thank you Erich Segal.