The prime minister’s pro-active foreign policy is taking a tremendous toll on foreign ministry mandarins, said a chap smoking something interesting outside South Block, who claimed he was a big shot there. I couldn’t disbelieve him, as he was wearing a Nehru jacket. This is his story:
It’s terrible, really terrible. When I signed up at the foreign ministry, I thought it would be a cushy life, with lots of booze and dinner parties. Of course, there’s the pain of sitting through the speeches, one has to make sacrifices for the nation.
But there are limits. I have had to travel to Bhutan, Nepal, Brazil and Japan in quick succession. Before I could get over the jet lag, someone from Australia landed up. Then it was Xi Jinping. And now I’ll have to go to the United States. It’s we backroom boys who do all the hard work, you know.
It’s not just the travelling. My official designation is Head Embassy Executive & Honorary Acronym Writer, or Hee-Haw, so I have to think up those nifty acronyms. It was simple in the beginning, like Bharat4Bhutan, but it’s getting more and more complicated. Think of the mental agony I had to go through to come up with the Inch (India-China) towards Miles (Millennium of Exceptional Synergy) thingy, which the PM unveiled to dumbfounded Chinese journalists. I had originally suggested ‘Inch towards Foot’, with ‘Foot’ standing for ‘Feeling Obtusely Optimistic Together’, but that was rejected for some obscure reason.
I’ve spent sleepless nights wondering what to do with the India-US relationship. India-US naturally becomes Indus, but what next? It has to be a US river, but the thought of finding an acronym for Mississippi is frightening. How about this: India-US relations will go from Indus to Ohio, Ohio standing for ‘One Helluva Indian Opportunity’?
Then there’s the very important menu selection job. The Chinese investment figure tumbled from $100 billion to $20 billion simply because we fed poor Xi dhoklas and khakras instead of dim sum. Luckily we managed to foil Pranab-da’s plan to feed him ‘jhal muri’ or hot puffed rice in the nick of time, or that $20 billion would have become $20 million. I hear the Chinese, in retaliation, are planning a pork-only banquet for the Indian PM in Beijing.
We also have to be careful what gifts we choose for our guests. There are rumours that while Xi did wear the khadi jacket, Peng Liyuan put her foot down over his trying out a churidar and threatened to send the PLA another couple of miles into Ladakh. That was a close shave.
Then we have to frantically discover stuff we have in common with our foreign friends. Ancient Buddhism was fine for Japan and China, but we have to think up something else for the US. Do you think Red Indians will do?
Besides, there’s the hard work of cajoling foreigners to invest. The last time I pleaded so desperately for cash was when I went from door to door asking folks to contribute for the school raffle.
But I’m not complaining. After Uma Bharti said that defecation by atheists around the shrines was responsible for the Uttarakhand floods, my colleagues in the water resources ministry are terrified they may have to search for atheist defecators behind every bush. Despite all our troubles, at least we’re better off than them.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal