Wednesday, October 20, 2010

People Watching

(Published in Bengal Post, 12th October 2010)

It’s been a few days since the grand Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, and I’m still feeling incredibly warm and fuzzy. Unlike the fickle media though, I’m not fuzzy enough to forgive Suresh Kalmadi (chairman of the CWG Organising Committee) with all my heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and lungs. Call me Ice Maiden, but I still want all those allegations of corruption to be microscopically examined. Inflation notwithstanding, a roll of toilet paper cannot cost Rs. 4000. Not even if has been designed by say, Louis Vuitton.

However, I must give the devil his due. So I thank Kalmadi from the bottom of my heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and lungs for outsourcing the spectacular opening show to slick professionals from the entertainment industry. If his bumbling core team had been in charge, the superb aerostat may have come crashing down on our hopes, dreams and credibility. Oh, and ego, as well!

The theme (unity in diversity) was not just warm and inclusive – it was also very, very clever. Bunging most of our states together in a series of events was a smart move: it shortened the proceedings considerably. That’s perhaps why all the Indian politicians present stayed wide awake during the show. I’m so used to seeing them yawning shamelessly or snoozing through Republic Day parades, particularly when floats representing each and every one of India’s twenty-something states (frankly, I’ve lost count) trundle down. That’s when I’m dead certain that vociferous demands for new, separate states will be deviously squashed. Incidentally, I’m with the sleepy politicians on this!

But I digress. Back to the CWG opening ceremony. I think we are all agreed that it was a show that did Indians proud. Even more heart-warming, it was the Indians at the show who did India proud.Here’s why:

1. Consider the loud cheers that went up for Pakistan’s contingent. Do you think Palestinians would have done the same for their traditional enemy Israel, or vice versa? Either the India-Pakistan citizens for peace initiative (Aman ki Asha) is working wonderfully well, or we’re just exceptionally lovely people. Apart, of course, from a few local political parties in Mumbai who are trying to stop Pakistani nationals from participating in idiotic reality shows. What a tragic way to attempt to get your photograph in the papers!

2. Also consider the deafening applause that went up for former president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Proof that it doesn’t matter what religion anyone in our secular nation belongs to. Young Indians respect achievers - more so if they’re honest and humble. Our divisive politicians would do well to remember that! Since Kalmadi is fairly hard-boiled, let’s give him an easier task: he can start by remembering Kalam’s correct name, at the very least! My jaw dropped to my knees when he got it wrong at the opening ceremony. But I forgave him a few days later when he got Prince Charles’s name and sex wrong. He referred to him as Princess Diana at a press conference– and no, I’m not making this up! The poor chap is so stressed he appears to be losing his mind. I think we should be compassionate and relieve him of all his duties the second the games are over. Let us donate generously towards his retirement fund – oh wait – he’s got loads of our money already, right?

3. As far as I’m concerned, the CWG Delhi opening ceremony was a bigger treat and more memorable than the inauguration ceremony at the Beijing Olympics. Not just because of the show, but because of the enthusiastic jeers reserved for Kalmadi alone. If public criticism against a politician had happened in Beijing, China’s jails may have be packed sardine-tight throughout the entire duration of the Olympics. I do hope that all the hawk-eyed international economists and investors who (we are repeatedly told) are watching these games closely, have taken note of the loud booing. It speaks volumes about India’s healthy democracy. Of course, some Indian citizens are muttering “tsk tsk” and primly saying that the spectators made a spectacle of themselves. They maintain that it was in bad taste, particularly with foreign dignitaries around. I disagree. I was bought up to believe that corruption is worse than irreverence. And I’m glad young Indians are being vocal about their displeasure. This is a brave new India and I salute it!

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