12 November 2010

Actions speak louder than words

I'm not a big fan of heavy traffic. Something about bleeping horns and cussing drivers- it upsets my delicate artistic sensibilities. Oh all right, it's not so much that, as it is the being bullied into inconvenience, that grates on my nerves. A combination of Diwali in India and the Obamas visiting, had perched me on a near-Prozac like edge.

He's gone, the traffic's almost back to normal and the heightened chatter that preceded his visit has dwindled to a useless whisper. Apparently it was a great honour that he visited India and skipped the old enemy Pakistan. Apparently it warranted all kinds of cleaning sprees in the city and Bombay was made to resemble a little urchin child, whose face was washed clean, hair spit-pressed down to the sides and shorts tightened with a borrowed belt. Then he smartly snapped a salute to the American president. who patted it kindly on the head and moved on.

It was almost amusing to see the city and indeed the country fall over its bureaucratic self trying to please the man of the moment. He must have felt great too, considering the drubbing he had just taken in DC. You're welcome Mr. Obama; anytime you need an ego boost, fly towards India.

I was idly wondering- in between feverish tirades of the media moguls on the telly and the traffic police holding up 'road closed' signs everywhere- what the average man in Bombay thought of this visit. I got my answer from two rather surprising places.

One cabbie - the chatty variety I hate- said: Madam what's he come for? To beg for money? They've emptied their treasury with their stupidity and greed, so now do they have their eye on ours?

One postman- yes, we still have the old-fashioned ones in India- said: My son saw him address students at the college. He admired the way Mr. Obama spoke; with courage and dignity. But when you say many things which mean nothing, it still means you've said nothing.

A cabbie and a postman- not the higher tax echelon of this city- were both left wondering, why, in the scheme of things in India with its multitudinal problems, this visit was such a big deal.

Why didn't anyone come when Bhopal lost its people to a leaking poisonous gas?

Why is everyone here when India's winning the economic jackpot?

How long before India gets a seat at the Security Council?

How long do we have to bite down on our lips while Michelle Obama dances like an uncoordinated, condescending one-woman circus act, instead of actually spending time observing what Indian women teach their children, since she places such a high value on children's education?

How long can vagueness and empty promises be gaily cloaked in diplomacy?

Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Obama for visiting. We hope you enjoyed it. The rest of us will hold our judgement on that until such time, when we see more evidence of that 'special relationship' you all are so fond of referring to.

In Mr. Obama's own words: India is not a rising country. It has already risen.

Someone should remind politicians on both sides of the ocean, of that keen observation.