The headlines I saw locally after Donald Trump’s election ranged from “President Trump is good for India and bad for China, Pakistan. Here’s why” to “Will Trump be good to India?” to “Trump is Indian” to “With President Trump, Will India Be ‘Great Again’ Too?”
I love that our main thought – even before we can fathom what this shocking unexpected Presidency would mean for progressive thought, race, cosmopolitanism, general equality, climate change, bigotry, world trade, is “What does he think of India?”
If our media is to be believed, ours is the “15-year old girl’s first crush” approach to world diplomacy. “Ya, Varun smiled at me but what does he really think of me? What? I got my hair done also – did he notice? And my new Samsung – he didn’t say anything about that. He doesn’t like like me. Uff.”
Without of course first asking, “Who is Varun? Have you made sure he isn’t a murderous lunatic?”
Actually, murderous lunacy would not matter. Hitler, Osama, Voldemort, Genghis Khan, a giant man-eating anaconda called Rajiv, Stalin, fictitious Bollywood villain Shakaal, Kim Il Jong, whoever it be, their dubious morality is only a blip. Their human rights record unimportant. We have only one question, “Did he say he likes India?” It doesn’t matter if he does or doesn’t or follows through with it – but did he say it.
And Trump has indicated, in the eloquent statesman-like manner that he has, that he “loves The Hindu”. And we were ecstatic. Look, I love The Hindu also. The Sunday culture pages are excellent, and the fact that their reach has extended from Chennai to Mumbai where I read it and beyond to Trump Tower, is a compliment to their distribution. And that they are doing their part in the anti-illiteracy drive by getting Mr Trump to read. Is that enough for us as assurance against all the crazy things he’s said? Apparently.
Oh wait. He did also say, on a recorded video for a New Jersey Indian group that supported him, “Ab Ki Bar Modi Sarkar”. Yes. He spoke Hindi. He made an effort – like all those white people in Karan Johar movies who suddenly start clapping when a Bollywood star breaks into song in the middle of a Parisian café for no good reason. All those little insignificant things he said about banning Muslims (i.e. 110 million Indians) or India taking away rust belt US jobs – tiny glitches to the big idea of him saying a few Hindi words. He spoke it sounding like a Shaolin master instructing Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon, but he spoke it none the less and that was a small step for him, but one giant step toward making him a Vadodara native. We immediately assume he’s going to let all of us move into Trump Tower, if not just allow some uncle at Canara Bank to have the US Nuclear codes. The irony is, his syllable emphasis was so off, that when replayed on a late night American talk show to NRIs, they thought it was a Chinese person speaking.
George Clooney directed a movie once called The Ides Of March in which the now deceased great, Philip Seymour Hoffman has the line, “It doesn’t matter what you said. It matters what you did. And more importantly, it matters what you did not do.” With us and American Presidents – it is the opposite. Donald Trump could drop a bomb on us or keep selling arms to Pakistanis, but if he just quoted a line from DDLJ and struck a Shah Rukh pose while doing it, he’s our friend.
The Mongol marauder, Hulagu Khan is considered, by many, to be the worst person who ever lived. He was a barbarian, a destroyer of libraries, a killer of women and children, the man responsible for the siege of Baghdad, which in 1258 was a city of learning and culture. Which he burnt to the ground because knowledge offended him. In total, he’s supposed to have personally killed 1,25,000 people. With his life span, that’s approximately 10 people daily. If he was visiting India, the first point wouldn’t be, “What a mad man, let us definitely not meet him”, but instead, “Is that Manyavar he’s wearing? He must be our friend. Is he? Did he say it?”
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Feature Image Source: Reuters