Unmade in Manhattan
Why do the Khobragade events seem less like a scandal, and more like a mosh-pit?
Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat was arrested in the United States earlier this week on charges of possible visa fraud, ill-treating her domestic help, and having one of those last names you’re never sure you’re pronouncing correctly. Reports suggest that Ms Khobragade was subjected to harsh post-arrest procedures, which included a strip-search, cavity search, and being made to watch every Uday Chopra line from the Dhoom films on loop. Such hardcore police action against a consular official has made the Indian government furious because only the Indian police get to traumatise Indian citizens that way.
India has of course reacted to the situation with characteristic flair. Various institutions have offered different takes on the issue that have only one thing in common -- they have nothing to do with the matter at hand. The UPA government decided to withdraw security from the US consulate in Delhi, because “it’s my bat, and if I don’t get two battings, then I’m taking it home”. In doing this, the government obviously forgot that when you take away America’s bat, America just flies in two choppers filled with Navy SEALs with bigger bats. The BJP’s Yashwant Sinha said that India should arrest all same-sex partners of US officials in India, because why sound like an idiot about one issue when you can sound like a tool about two at the same time?
Newspapers also rose to the challenge with lovely collages of ‘Bollywood Stars Who Were Ill-Treated in America’, and it didn’t take too long for someone to dig out the fact that Ms Khobragade received a flat in the Adarsh scam, which means she is obviously guilty of everything else on earth, including this crime, the creation of AIDS, and Hrithik Roshan’s divorce. It wasn’t long before Mayawati got into the ring, and she alleged that the Indian government had dragged its feet while helping Ms Khobragade because she’s a Dalit. One of my favourite things about the complexity of Indian identity has always been that it is the gift that keeps on giving. As an Indian, if you can’t claim victimisation on one level, there’s always another to escape into. If someone was mistreated, it’s because they’re an
Indian woman man Maharashtrian Dalit Maruti owner cheeseburger Miley Cyrus fan.
The best reaction came from the Republican Party of India (Athawale), when they carried out the world’s least effective hate-crime and attacked a Dominos Pizza outlet. Their reasoning was that they will not let any American company function until Ms Khobragade is released. This attack has served three purposes:
1. Many LOLs.
2. The Republican Party of India has made the Republican Party of America look sane in comparison.
3. With the addition of shards of broken glass and brick to it, the average Dominos pizza now tastes 125 % better than usual.
And all of this for a case whose facts currently have all the fuzzy credibility of a Sidney Sheldon novel. My understanding of the situation is this -- Ms Khobragade allegedly paid her domestic help Sangeeta Richards 3 dollars an hour (6 on Diwali, I’m assuming), which is lower than America’s stipulated minimum wage. Ms Richards then complained to authorities about this, which led to Ms Khobragade’s arrest. As a result of this, Ms Khobragade is a victim and an evil scheming monster, while Ms Richards is a victim and an evil scheming monster. Also, Ridge Forrester told Brooke Forrester that he was pregnant with her child, Eden Capwell married Cruz Castille, and Armaan Kohli ate his own fist, mostly because he looks like the sort of fellow who would do that if left to his own devices.
At the heart of this row is the strange unwillingness to parse information on the part of every Indian institution involved. Yes, she was an Adarsh beneficiary, but what does that have to do with being treated badly by a foreign police force? Again, yes she was treated badly by a foreign police force, but that doesn't make it okay that she underpaid her help. The idea that this is the “Khobragade affair” is ridiculous. It’s a series of several unfortunate affairs, and we have to take each one on for what it is. Vandalising Dominos outlets solves nothing. Except really expensive indigestion.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can contact him on facebook.com/therohanjoshi