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The great Modi show

Identity politics has been Maharashtra’s most abiding policy for over four decades. It is dangerous and unconstitutional in its worst aspects, but presumably, it provides solace to the insecure. It never did however become Maharashtra’s only political force since its success has been limited and the “enemy” has changed over the years.

Of course Maharashtra is not the only state where politicians divide people in whichever way they can to increase vote shares and it is definitely not the worst. The sort of hate politics going on between the newly formed Telangana and the rest of what was Andhra Pradesh and is now Seemandhra emphasises why intra-family feuds are the most vicious and vindictive.

You have to make it clear that you are Another Entity, not just one of those boring Indians who live in India. This means that you must have an interminable “anthem” about the country you left behind. Pic/AFP
You have to make it clear that you are Another Entity, not just one of those boring Indians who live in India. This means that you must have an interminable “anthem” about the country you left behind. Pic/AFP

But all this is just so much boring serious stuff that we all know anyway. Maybe we can learn from our brethren who have settled in the Amreekan phoren to be real Indians and to understand what being Indian is all about? They gave us such a fine show during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States of Where Many Indian People Live.

You have to start your Indian life going to some place called Madison (or is it “Modison”) Square Garden on a Sunday morning. I only know this place from the Godzilla movie because the Godzilla mommie (see, I have learnt Indian Amreekan) laid some eggs there. But another, er, kind of gigantic figure was going to visit Madison Square Garden the day I learnt how to be a good Indian. You stand outside this place and scream and scream with excitement, especially when you see a TV camera. This is the Amreekan way.

Then you go inside for a “show”. It is important that the show have some classical dances, some folk dances and some Bollywood stuff. Also because you are real Indians, that is, you live in Amreeka, you must have some Bruce Springsteen because people should know you were Born in The USA.

The quality must be as bad as possible sort of like a local neighbourhood celebration in a neighbourhood where absolutely no one knows how to sing and dance. This is to remind you of life in India which everyone has told you is tacky, badly organised and shoddy. Make sure that your Madison Square Garden show is all those three. The dancing should be lacklustre, the sound quality should be non-existent and the singing slightly off-key. Like that terrible TV programme Outsourced where Mumbai looks like a set in some garage in Queens.

Then you have to make it clear that you are Another Entity, not just one of those boring Indians who live in India. This means that you must have an interminable “anthem” about the country you left behind (India) so that you could become even more Indian in the country you live in now (United States of Where Many People Live). The visuals must show things you don’t miss in the old country, like trains. And when the Indian national anthem is played you have to clap and cheer and wave to the camera and point to yourself. Of course, if you did this in India you might well be put in jail but never mind... In this uncivilised Land to be Left Behind we are supposed to stand still and sing...

And then the prime minister arrives. Yaaay! You are so happy. This is the man you have waited to see, the man you voted for... Oops. You didn’t, did you? This is the prime minister of another nation, a sovereign, independent nation that you choose to... Oh my! Is there a nice sugar-coated way to put it?

But never mind. We the Left Behind understand. Shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai” as loudly as you like. Sing “I Love My India”. Good to know that you do. We’re flattered. You see, I don’t need to shout quite so loudly. Because I don’t have anything to prove. My identity is safe in what your anthem called “sleeper class”.

Except, really, anyone, just anyone, can do better garba than what you put up. And during Navratri too. Tut tut.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona

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