(Any opinions expressed here are the author’s own. Any offense that the author causes is unintentional.)
Writing anything about India, no matter how picayune I think the topic might be, means that I run the risk of offending someone. Someday I’ll write a book about the unique culture of offense that I’ve found in India, but until then, I’ll write about examples that I see in the news. This weekend’s come from pop musician and poverty activist Bob Geldof as well as a senior government official of the Maldives, and an irreverent drummer from the heart of Punjab.
First, Bob Geldof, as reported by India Today:
Irish rockstar Bob Geldof’s remark that he got his “best drugs” from Goa has come under attack from a right wing Hindu organisation which has accused him of hurting national sentiments. While tourism industry players in Goa have said that Geldof’s statement was not in the context of current situation, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) has filed a complaint with the Irish embassy against the rocker.
Geldof, who was recently in Goa to participate in an event, had claimed that he was happy to be in the state which gave him the “best drugs”. He was referring to the era when he was 14-years-old and used to get drugs from Goa. “Someone told me that these drugs were from Goa,” Geldof had told reporters. Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) President Fransisco de Braganza said that there was no need to take Geldof’s statement as a judgement on the current situation. “It is secondary evidence. He never came to Goa. Somebody told him that those drugs came from Goa. The time line is late 60s,” Braganza said, adding we are all aware that there was hippie culture in Goa at that time.
“It was a different world. It is not a statement which relates to the present period,” he added.
Had Braganza accompanied me on my Goa jaunt last year, I could have convinced him that we traveled through time to the 1960s, as there is still plenty of turning on and tuning in going on there — judging by the various scents that my nose picked up.
Meanwhile, the HJS wants an apology from Ireland and from Geldof, to which I can only contribute one comment: Bob Geldof’s efforts to make a better world may be laudable, but he has very little chance of swaying the world toward any vision of India, positive or negative. The last time his name was a household word in the United States as I recall from my younger days was 1985 when he staged the Live Aid
shows. Any opinions that most of us form about Goa these days are likely our own, or derive to some extent from dubious Germans trying to sell us pot an Anjuna beach.
Meanwhile, my question for anyone who reads this is real, free of irony and implies no skepticism: why is Geldof’s reminiscence offensive?
For offense on the international stage, turn to the Maldives. The nation has apologized to India, as CNN-IBN reports
, over government official Abbas Adil Riza’s
remark that Dnyaneshwar Mulay
, the Indian high commissioner in that country, is a “traitor” and an “enemy” of the Maldives. Riza made his remarks at a protest against the leasing of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport to Indian infrastructure company GMR, a deal made by former president Mohamed Nasheed’s government, CNN-IBN reported. In a move to appease India, the news service reported,
Maldives has given profound apology as a USD 514-million airport project carried out by Indian company GMR became a target of political football in Male. Immediately after the remarks were made by Abbas Adil Riza at a rally in Male, Maldives President Mohamed Waheed told the Indian High Commissioner that he will take steps to “rectify” the wrong, official sources said.
Riza later dialed back his remarks, sort of. Is this real offense, or is this one more note in the orchestra of diplomatic negotiations over big business deals that include the involvement of two governments?
Lastly, when true believers fight, they draw swords. The Times of India carries a story that says
Baljinder Singh Khalsa, head of a state chapter of religious group Eknoor Khalsa Fauz, and Gurjeet Singh attacked Bagicha Singh, who is a “drum beater at religious places,” with swords:
As per information Bagicha Singh
of Jalalabad on Saturday had come to appear in court in a case registered against him u/s 295A for using defamatory language against Sikhs in some chips recorded by him. Hurt over the language used, two persons attacked him when he was heading towards the chamber of his advocate after appearing in court. Eyewitnesses said the assailants attacked Bagicha Singh on head and other body parts with swords
and fled away. Knowing about the incident, the tension prevailed in the area and Bagicha was taken to Mansa civil hospital from where he was shifted to Faridkot hospital.
I’ve asked several questions about the nature of offense throughout this post, but the biggest one on my mind concerns something that my aunt used to say: “Nobody can offend you if you refuse to be offended.” I think about this whenever I read stories about people in India taking offense at the supposed rude things that people say about them, whether from within the country or from abroad. In some ways, it reminds me of my fellow Americans who can’t take a joke or a snipe directed at them or their way of life. I wonder whether it’s time we tried harder to let it roll off our backs. Your thoughts?
(Singer Bob Geldof attends the Sports For Peace Fundraising Ball at The V&A in London July 25, 2012. Reuters photo: Ki Price)