Being streetwise in London: TOI tips
The Times of India editorial (Nov. 14, 2015 link below) written before our Prime Minister’s visit to London was obviously intended to spare him disappointment and embarrassment. The idea was that, after reading the editorial, he would not be disappointed if the Tower of London did not look like the Eiffel Tower. The editorial, reading like a third grader’s composition on cow, was probably written to ensure that Modi’s 56-inch chest doesn’t shrink in the land of John Bull, confused by “the mysteries of the British idiom and protocol.” How thoughtful! How full of bull !!
The editor charitably assumes that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already briefed our Gujju tea-seller on how to be streetwise in London. But wait, no offence is intended. It is a bit of patriotic advice, telling NaMo how to reinvent himself to be acceptable to David Cameron and British ways. In short, how to bow and bend appropriately before our former colonial master.
The TOI editorial writer perhaps doesn’t know that Gandhi, a subject of the British empire and a Gujarati, had met King George V “half naked.” Maybe, because the English owned The Times at the time of his visit Gandhi didn’t get the kind of advice Modi is receiving. Or maybe, having lived in London for a few years and being a “sophisticate,” Gandhi didn’t need such advice.
This subterranean homage to western culture through self-denigration also surfaces when Indian journalists report from capitals. These guys and gals are embarrassed by the rustic ways of our dignitaries. Do British media hand out a juvenile primer on Indian cultural mores to their Prime Minister before his visit to India? Let me see…NO, would be a safe answer.
Now, let’s go back to the editorial. It tells Narendra Modi that if he is visiting the Big Ben, he shouldn’t mistake it for a large Gujarati Behn. Are all Gujarati Behns large? Please control your anger; it is humor. The Old Lady at Threadneedle Street is actually the Bank of England, Naren Bhai. It is like the Old Lady at Bori Bunder is The Times of India for us. Lest Modi should mistake Beefeaters for gorgers of animal flesh and burn them with his third eye, the editorial makes clear that Beefeaters are guards at the Tower of London.
If Cameron asks him, “how do you do?” Modi should not ask: ‘do what?’ One more thing: Assuming that the industrialists and businessmen he would meet would tell him that double taxation “would scotch likely British investments, the appropriate response of the Prime minister should not be that as a strict teetotaler, the visitor would not dream of touching scotch or any other form of shabab, be it of the bilayati or desi variety. Instead, it could be pointed out that as the word Ta in British usage means Thank you.” India deserves double thanks for having presented the U.K. with Ratan Tata.
The Times rounded off its advice by asking Naren Bhai to skirt the issue of asking for the return of Kohinoor. Such a demand might be met with the counterclaim that India return the British legacy of cricket, which now includes the Indian Premier League.
This kind of humor is in sync with the kind of permissiveness that the Gujarat riots gave birth to. You can call Modi a merchant of death, a Hindu fuehrer, a double murderer and get away with it. Some Indian journalists won applause and awards from foreign agencies by subtly seeking their intervention in Gujarat. This was one way of declaring no-confidence in our own, constitutionally created institutions.
Is their case that since no court in India found Modi guilty of failure to stem violence they seek the intervention of foreign agencies? Later, Indian journalists had met foreign missions in Delhi apprising them of the situation in Gujarat. Some of them met President Clinton and appeared before the US Commission for International Religious Freedom seeking support. What happened to our judiciary? Couldn’t these journalists have asked for suo motu judicial intervention? The President could have promulgated President’s rule on the ground of breakdown of law and order. Why seek support abroad? Three editors of leading English dailies visited, of all places, Pakistan to tell its people that Hindu supremacists are killing Muslims in India.
The TOI editorial shows that some media feel free to exempt themselves from codes of journalistic ethics they themselves had framed. To add insult, TOI proudly declares this drivel was apparently written by “our most senior journalists with wide ranging interests who debate and opine on the events of the day”… God Save The Indian.
Click the link here to read the TOI editorial