The world's touchiest democracy. That is what they really ought to call us, considering how quick we are to take offence at what the rest of the world may refer to as harmless tongue-in-cheek humour. Take, for instance, this latest episode involving American television host Jay Leno. Apparently, India has "strongly objected" to a remark he made on The Tonight Show on the NBC channel.
This is what happened. A picture of the Golden Temple was flashed during the show, and Leno referred to it as a possible summer home for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney after he lost the primary vote in South Carolina. That reference was enough to prompt visiting NRI Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi to object.
He then reportedly directed Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao to take up the matter with the State Department. Naturally, a large number of Indian Americans -- interestingly, always more offended about disparaging remarks involving India than Indians actually living in India -- jumped up in protest, kicking off signature campaigns against Leno while flooding social networking sites with outrage.
To put things into perspective, all Leno did was refer to a holy site as a summer home. That is all. There was no attack on a particular group, nor were there any disparaging statements made about the temple or the millions who worship there. Also, for the record, the Golden Temple is among the first to crop up in a Google Image Search when one looks for 'golden buildings'. Could it all -- gasp --just be an honest mistake?
Do we wonder how the world looks at our readiness to fly off the proverbial handle at the slightest provocation? This is what one American journalist said on Twitter: 'Really, India? You're upset about a Jay Leno joke? After the Salman Rushdie mess?'