Salman Rushdie seems to have a penchant for biting off more than he can chew, but this time he may have bitten the very hand that feeds him, so to speak. Having been appointed a Knight Bachelor by the Queen of England for services to literature in 2007, Rushdie has revealed his contempt for the ceremonial excesses of the monarchy, calling them ‘archaic’ and ‘stupid’.
Reminiscent of our very own Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh’s comment that convocation gowns were ‘barbaric’, what makes his remarks all the more ironical is the fact that he was commenting on his very own knighthood ceremony three years ago. But then the ultimate insult would have been to accept an honour from the French and then scoff at one in his country, making it impossible for the author to refuse to be a part of this ‘British oddity’. Now, here’s patriotism for you, no matter then if it comes attached with dollops of disdain, something that we Indians are only too familiar with.
Well, the winner of the Booker of Bookers might not have made that stiff upper lip wobble but for those of us who don’t stand much on ceremony, he sure has touched a nerve back home. Why, we are fighting against a similarly ‘furious archaic thing of queens and knights’, in the tug of war that is the Commonwealth Games. Buffeted by strong gusts of criticism over a less than grand show, the Indian government has managed to strike a compromise over the politics of protocol — anointing our very own royalty, President Pratibha Patil, to kickstart the fun and games along with the absent monarch’s chosen emissary, Prince Charles. Now if only someone would call the bluff on all this fuss over a ceremonial sporting event that belongs to another age.