What has come over the American media? Some weeks back Time blasted India in a cover story. And now Washington Post blasts our PM, Dr Manmohan Singh, calling him a “tragic figure”, blaming him for the stalling of the economic liberalisation process, the corruption and everything else. We sent an official protest to the paper, which was a silly thing to do, but here I’m writing of a new approach to such criticism.
If Dr Singh appears a tragic figure in not accelerating economic progress, Barack Obama was equally a tragic figure in his handling of the current economic mess in the US. Industrial development down, more and more unemployed, recession in all key industries. And unlike the situation confronting Dr Singh, the Republican Party in the US did not even stall the functioning of the Senate and the Congress. Obama and his followers came out with all sorts of excuses at the recent party convention at Charlotte, where the president was not the holy warrior of 2008, but a broken, bruised, tragic figure. Can Washington Post deny this?
Indirectly, by calling Dr Singh a tragic figure, the Post had honoured him and put him on a pedestal because Indian myth, legend and history are full of tragic figures who were admired and even worshipped by people. Take Lord Ram of Ayodhya, wasn’t he a tragic figure? Heir to the throne, he was banished to the forest for 14 years, his queen Sita was kidnapped to Lanka, he had to collect an army of monkeys, invade Lanka and rescue his wife who had to prove in public later that she was chaste. For the most part of his life, Ram remained a tragic figure yet was worshipped by millions of Indians. To this day, his temple at Ayodhya remains a controversial spot leading to communal tensions. Dr Singh should be proud to be bracketed with Lord Ram. Who knows, this comparison could make the BJP, VHP, RSS cadres switch allegiance to the Congress!
There are many other tragic figures, Prince Nala, Harishchandra who always told the truth and suffered for it by having dozens of movies made on his life. Dilip Kumar, acclaimed as our greatest film actor, excelled in tragic hero roles.Of course, Washington Post would not know how popular Shakespeare was in India, forced down the throats of thousands of university students. Hamlet, featuring a tragic prince, was easily the most popular play even among those who did not understand what it was all about and yet went around muttering “To be or not to be, that is the question”. Hamlet was staged all over India, in all regional languages with the hero muttering: “Revun ya na revun, yej sawal che” (Gujarati) or “Irukattuma, vendama, adu dan kelvi” (Tamil) and so on.
The Mumbai-based satirist is the creator of ‘Trishanku’; E-mail your secret diarist: vgangadhar70 AT gmail.com