Basking in Reflected Glory
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Basking in Reflected Glory

October 29, 2022

As soon as Rishi Sunak was named the new Prime Minister of England, I prepared myself for the onslaught of cringe-worthy celebrations and tweets. I wasn’t disappointed. 

As expected, the Indian media ran headlines such as “Indian son rises over the empire” and “Battered Britain gets ‘desi’ big boss”, forgetting that Rishi is neither India’s son nor is he ‘desi’ in its typical sense. At best, may be India’s son-in-law.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra Group, tweeted, “Winston Churchill supposedly said, “…all Indian leaders will be of low calibre & men of straw.” Today, during the 75th year of our Independence, we’re poised to see a man of Indian origin anointed as PM of the UK. Life is beautiful…” 

But the truth is Churchill was right back then and more so today as most Indian leaders are of low calibre and men of straw.

 That apart, Rishi Sunak is not an Indian leader. He is a British leader — born in Britain, made in Britain and sworn to serve Britain. We Indians have nothing to do with it, except we have matching skin tones and that he follows a religion that most                                    Indians do.

 Shashi Tharoor went the other way praising the British. He said, “Britain has outgrown their racism.” Then he told Indians that, like the British, we should also look beyond caste and reward merit.

He then said, “A party like BJP doesn’t have a single Muslim MP in Parliament…Can supporters of BJP imagine a PM of another background or a BJP CM from either Islamic or Christian faiths? I doubt it.”

First, this ‘Sermon of Shashi’ will be best directed at his own party, considering his merit was irrelevant in his recent bid to be the Congress President. 

Worse, even today, the most powerful man in his party is a person who has failed again and again yet remains unchanged. 

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Secondly, while he mocks BJP for having no Muslim MPs, his party, the Indian National Congress, is no better. It has just 3 Muslim MPs! That’s no saving grace. 

Thirdly, why wait for BJP to make a PM or a CM from the Islamic or Christian faith? Why can’t Congress do it? What stopped them from making K.J. George the CM of Karnataka or Tanveer Sait, who has been a Congress MLA for nearly 20 years while they ruled Karnataka? 

Finally, about Tharoor’s observation that the British had outgrown their racism, they haven’t. Just two days before Rishi was declared PM, on October 22, The Guardian newspaper published a story under the headline “Judiciary in England and Wales’ institutionally racist’!”

Racism exists in western nations, but most times, merit trumps it. And Rishi is a meritorious man, without a doubt. But why are we celebrating his success so vehemently?

We Indians have a terrible habit of celebrating the achievements of foreigners of Indian origin.

There’s nothing wrong with it, but why is it so over the top, dramatic and sensational? Especially when we have contributed nothing towards that achievement.

Remember when NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, a US citizen with some Indian genes, was all set to go to the Space station? India went ga-ga.

Young Indian girls were looking into TV news cameras and saying, “We are praying for Sunita “didi”!? Sunita Williams had become Sunita ‘didi’ in just a matter of weeks.

Sunita doesn’t look Indian, doesn’t speak any Indian language, she has never visited India before, yet we so easily made her our beloved ‘didi’. Poor Rakesh Sharma, our very own Cosmonaut, was never once referred to as ‘Rakesh mama’ as a term of endearment.

Similarly, when Kamala Harris was named the Democrats’ VP pick, people in Harris’ mother’s village in Tamil Nadu put up banners of her and prayers were performed. On social media, phrases like “Brown people, we’ve officially arrived,” went viral.

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When Satya Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft, the media sent our minds crashing like a Windows Operating System with Nadella-related stories.

The media interviewed Nadella’s sixth standard teacher, who said, “Nadella loved Maths and was always into IT.”

We wonder if there was IT in 1980. But then came the typical yardstick for being a ‘good student’ as the teacher said, “He always sat in 2nd or 3rd row.”

We take a lot of credit for what the west has been able to do with ‘our’ people.

While we crush talent in the name of a quota system, they welcome it with scholarships. While we see genius only in the first two rows, they look for talent in every inch of their classrooms. And today, without having done anything to create an ecosystem for retaining talent or nurturing it, we have the audacity to hijack the efforts of USA and UK.

Now, an association in Mysuru has circulated a petition seeking public felicitation for Rishi Sunak, the “son-in-law of Mysuru” as they put it.

Enough of this false pride. Enough of this basking in reflected glory. It’s time to shine on our own. ‘Make in India’, then we can celebrate, for it will be genuinely ours to celebrate.

P.S. – On a lighter vein, let’s hope poor Sunak will not have to deal with the Indian “theory of relativity” — an Indian person’s ability to make complex family connections to arrive at the phrase “see! we are related.”

Once “relativity” is established, all kinds of requests will flow — from request for recommendation letter to visa approval!

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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Basking in Reflected Glory”

  1. Jalandhara says:

    Hello Vikram
    Your article is good with mature observations like:
    “But the truth is Churchill was right back then and more so today as most Indian leaders are of low calibre and men of straw.
    That apart, Rishi Sunak is not an Indian leader. He is a British leader — born in Britain, made in Britain and sworn to serve Britain. We Indians have nothing to do with it, except we have matching skin tones and that he follows a religion that most Indians do.”
    Having got most of your observations right, you slipped on Tharoor. He was born in London, studied there and in USA, and is well placed to make the observations he made. It is a pity that Congress has not made him its leader. It is also a pity that the BJP has no one left other than Narendra
    Modi, and the dynastical Amit Sha with his son Jay Shah, the new Sanjay Gandhi, my Gujarathi friends say.
    Your reference to the Judical news of racism , also indicates that Britain has recognised the problem, as there is open articulation of it, unlike in India which is mired in casteism and communalism and their choking consequences are denied and swept under the carpet.
    Finally, because Indians do not learn foreign languages well, aside from English, which is an Indian language in effect, Germany and France, have no Indian -origin leaders rising up from ranks.
    Indians emigrate in large numbers, to escape the problems that constrain them. There is hence, chances in the future for Indian origin PMs in Canada, Australia and New Zealand too. India has to look at them and learn.

  2. Ajjampur Vijayakumar says:

    I too liked Vikram’s observations. Having said that he has not grasped what Tharoor meant, falls into the usual trap of looking at the Congress with Jaundice eyes, ignoring the BJP if anything has outclassed Congress in its dirty machinations.
    I am sure, if Tharoor born in London, had stayed in England, would have achieved much more and even would have been the British PM years before.
    Way back in 1940s, when Clement Atlee, the then British PM met Radhakrishnan , and awed by his intelligence and said: to him that if Radhakrishnan was born in Britain, he would have easily walked into No10 Downing Street, meaning he would have become the British PM.
    The lesson to India: Learn from USA and UK, klerasve behind the past where it belongs, move forward, copying the best aspects of these two countries. But , I do not have any hope, living and watching what unfolds here in New Delhi, the capital city of India.


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