In honour of President Obama’s visit to India on Republic Day, we have put together some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Some of them address any worries that Obama may have, while others are queries Indians have for the US president.
Questions that Obama may have:
1.Why do I have to watch this display of military hardware?
Relax, it’s no threat to you. Don’t take it personally. In the early days when India was an insecure republic trying to find its feet, military displays were a way of telling folks, ‘Don’t mess with me, I have lots of guns.’ These days, it’s just a way of keeping the marchers warm on a cold January day. We also need to reassure people that some of those weapons we are supposed to have bought have actually been delivered.
2.Why are all these weapons Russian?
That is a subtle hint to you to start matching their prices.
3.Why are so many kids marching?
Since the glorious days of Kapil Sibal as education minister, kids can’t be failed till class 8. As there’s no pressing need to study, they are kept busy doing other things, like marching.
4.What are all those floats for?
They jog our memory. It’s because Republic Day is the only occasion when we remember some states, especially from the North-East. A typical conversation often goes like this: 1st gawker: Look, look, what state is that? 2nd gaper: Manipur. Oh, it’s still with us then. 1st gawker: Moneypur, eh? Must be easy to make a lot of moolah there. Must go there someday.
5. Do you march on your Independence Day too?
Are you mad? One military parade a year is enough. Besides, we’re all too exhausted till the next Republic Day.
6. Should I wear a gas mask for the pollution?
No. Just sit back and dream of all the delicacies you will be treated to at the Bukhara — the murghboti, the sikandariraan, the tandoori jhinga.
7. Now that you bring up food, I’ve heard horror stories of how Xi Jinping had to eat sandwich dhokla and bhakri.
That was because his troops had intruded into our territory. You need not be worried.
8. Should I call your prime minister a great leader of the Turd World?
It’s Third World, not Turd World, and no, we now aim to be part of the First World.
9. Any touchy subjects I should steer clear of?
Avoid K-words, like Kashmir and Khaki Knickers.
Also, here are some topics eager readers have sent for Obama’s Mann ki Baat programme:
1. Concerned khap boss: What is your gotra?
2. Conservative misogynist: Dear Obamaji, after two daughters, did you not try to have a son?
3. Technically advanced citizen: Sir, instead of brooms, could you suggest a good American vacuum-cleaner for our Swachh Bharat campaign?
4. Proud Aryan: O Bama, are you aware your name is a corruption of O Vama, or O Vamadeva, a rishi of the Rig Veda?
5. Hopefully High: Now that many of your states have legalised marijuana, could you please put in a word with our leaders here to do the same?
(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.)