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Now that Bill Clinton is with us, our famed hospitality must, naturally, not be found wanting. But hospitality should not turn into self-abuse. All this forcible removal of beggars, clearing of roadside encroachments, frisking and searching of innocent bystanders, is outrageous. I am disappointed that some of the usually vigilant public interest groups have not filed a pil to stop the harassment of bonafide citizens. One can be a trifle overzealous in sprucing up places Big Bill will inspect, this would be in keeping with the protocol of a vvip state visit. However, India cannot be sanitised in order to avoid hurting the delicate eyes of an American president. Mr Clinton is no ignoramus and one understands he has done his homework, which includes some speed reading. Thus, he can hardly be unaware that ours is the original "land of contrasts"-glittering affluence living cheek-by-jowl with sickening poverty. The President is unlikely to roll down his limousine window and give a five-dollar tip to one of the armless and legless kids working the traffic lights, but it would be nice if he caught a flavour of this India too.
Meanwhile, I hope we maintain some measure of self-respect and restraint as we rush to greet the "most powerful man in the world". We are now internationally recognised as an increasingly secure and self-confident nation and we should welcome Clinton with corresponding poise. Each presidential jest, nod, question, stare, frown does not warrant detailed dissection for hidden insult or subtle endorsement.
The media frenzy and feeling of immense honour bestowed running through the political class, alas, augurs badly. The implication being that some divine presence has decided to reward us-and we should display appropriate thanks. Some months ago, I was talking to an editor of one of America's leading dailies (there are only two so you can guess which one). Here is what he told me: "In the US there is nothing lamer than a lame duck president. He has literally nothing to do except occasionally campaign for his party's (presidential) nominee. You are actually doing Bill Clinton a favour by inviting him here. For a few days he'll have something to do, and for a few days he'll make real news."