Sting in the Tail

If President Barack Husain Obama has departed from India a far less popular man than when he arrived, he deserves re-election for a running third term, a feat, unfortunately, permitted neither by his country’s present constitutional scheme nor by its political disposition loaded heavily against some of its founding principles. The label of all round failure stamped on his presidency, with the expanding War on Terror as one yardstick, could have something to do with the notions of equality, opportunity and responsibility embodying his ideas on taxation, healthcare, nuclear disarmament and climate change, and may well be a product of the forces trying to shape the globe closer to a state of capitulation with endless divisions of humanity. It is not inconceivable that he would have failed to miss the perceptible lack of warmth greeting his parting words to an Indian audience he would have thought would be animated by his pointed and eloquent reminders of their own constitutional values – flaunted with as much vigour internationally as flouted at home – but the keen observer he often comes across as, the President must have left with a fair appreciation of how far down the lumpen road a rich civilisation could be made to go, first by unmitigated corruption and then by corruption-cum-chauvinism.

Unmindful that the Chief Guest invited to witness the country’s technological and military prowess had refused to entrust his life into the hands of its growing corps of guardians to the extent of snubbing honour-sensitive protocol, the galleries burst into applause every time he mentioned India and the US in the same breath, the Moon and Mars segment for example, but turned (s)tone-deaf at suggestions that phenomena like Shah Rukh Khan too could be points of similarity between the two countries. Since masses and minds fired up with nationalistic super-power visions will understandably have little use for quaint pleas of “not dividing on religious lines,” as the US President must have already learnt from his experience in dealing with the sub-continental neighbourhood, Barack Obama should have worked harder on the cook’s-son-to-president and tea-seller-to-prime-minister analogy, and dressed aspirations up as a typical Bollywood rags-to-riches fantasy (which many would say he actually did) rather than impute tolerance and acceptance for a polity moving swiftly to renounce both.