Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who’s afraid of word-games?

Well, presently, many Indian politicians and other individuals do!

‘Can we have our own Obama’ is the buzz question doing rounds in the last few months not in India alone but elsewhere in the world, too! But, in the Indian environs, it seems to be quite a fanciful and paradoxical verbalization. In this regard, the frivolous manner of ejaculating the name Mayawati after she had candidly declared her ambitions of becoming PM indicates the scorn of some reputed TV anchors, politicians and many others in the country. But, what really does ‘doing an Obama’ connote in India?

By now, everybody knows that Obama is an African origin guy born as Muslim in the U.S., but is now a Catholic and whose father was a Muslim born in Kenya but later turned an atheist. Obama has a few religious and atheistic indoctrinations imparted unto him and has grown up in a host of cultural set ups including that of Indonesia, a country which proclaims its official religion as Islam. He also has half brothers who are Muslims living in Kenya, not as brothers of powerful people in India would live but as rural people of Kenya do! Academically, the man’s (Obama’s) genome and psychology could exemplify in a singular manner who’s who of multi cultural multi racial humans that we all are, whether obviously or imperceptibly, whether Indians or Americans; and, whether we like it or not!

However, can India have its own Obama?

The situations in US and India are worth a comparison, quite but not very. In both countries global migrations have been dominating the demographic contours, but whereas America’s own cultural and ethnic diversity is about 500 years old, India’s stretches back to 10000 years. Another important difference is that US ethnic diversity has remained observably identifiable to even one ignorant of anthropology or sociology. Each emigrating wave to US has yet kept its identity distinct from the rest of the opportunity seekers arriving on its lands. But struggle for achievement of their American dream makes these diversities fuse into a singular no-nonsense community with no-cultural-hang-ups in their approach toward it. The subconscious instincts may remain intact into where they belong to, the subconscious, but the force of the rapids like American work culture throws these appendages to the winds. People who cling to their native idiosyncrasies find their own shores back, in due time.

On the other hand, considering even a rigid caste system and not so unbending classes, the evolving Indian society over its 10000 year turbulent history has turned ethnically into a wholesome society; though not so culturally.

This essay intends not to get lost in individualities of aspirants for the power but analyze and compare mindsets of the voting communities in the two countries. Who did Indians in the US support in the recent elections, Obama or the one that lost the elections? They supported the one who they thought would be looking after their interests. It did not matter to the cultural high and mighty that their candidate happened to be of African origins, a black, with principles of a few religions imbibed into him including one from Islam. In India, Sonia, a woman, a Catholic turned Hindu, an Italian married and naturalized as Indian citizen, a duly elected parliamentarian is dreaded to the extent that late Mr. Pramod Mahajan even declared in 2004 that not her, not Priyanka, but not even Priyanka’s children be allowed to become PM.

The focus is not on Mayawati or Sonia Gandhi, but on the inertia of the Indian thinking mind. The comments heaped on Ms. Gandhi by her detractors do not reflect on her leadership qualities, but hark upon her birth-place, gender, and dynasty. These are irrationalities unfit for a nation believing they can send a man on moon. In a hundred years of Congress, only Sonia could discipline mavericks in her party. To my mind, her real contribution to party, its voters and the Indian polity has been a practical, and yet, a positive approach in dealing with national issues. There is no emotional hype, personal enmity, revengeful approach, quixotic claims and a sickening obsession with the past.

Mayawati, a Dalit woman on the other hand has shown political astuteness, boldness and a vision of inclusivity in coaxing higher castes into her favored vote-bank. Her vision has depth of bird’s eye view that is incomprehensible to most of her countrymen. The result, Mayavati won UP elections thumbs down against all political odds including a resurging Congress. Under the circumstances, deriding Mayawati’s ambitions apart, a public sneer and its acceptance of that interprets as sub-conscious reaction of the representative classes. One meets Indians applauding US voters for electing Barack Obama as their President, but, where home elections are concerned look down and say furtively, this is a different case altogether.

The Indian scene has one more parameter, I believe! The incomparable duo of Sonia and Maya share a common and age old Indian handicap. The gender bias against women is a classic discriminatory approach medieval societies employed to control their flock. In India we have gone a bit too far; we have even women doubting another woman’s capabilities.

It is sheer coincidence that the ending of the name Obama starts names of the two Indian women whose approach is scaring their opponents. Now, would it be O-ba- Ma-yawati or O-ba-Ma-ino? The word game with Obama may not end here. On a smaller scale, but would be epochal if realized, O-ba-Ma-mata in West Bengal poses a threat to other medieval ideologues, communists of India, who seem to be a bit confused in the present times, to say the least. Another interesting semantics, ba in Obama means ma, mother in many, especially western Indian languages. So, O ma ma and Ma ma ta meaningfully rhyme together.

Would the Indian society, for the society it has to be, then, reengineer its psychology and bring in the change?

Kalidas Sawkar
9420975758, k.sawkar@rediffmail.com

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