It was not Iran’s intransigence, the Afghan adventure or the Iraq imbroglio that caused the first citizen to lose his famous cool. It was an oil slick, albeit a humdinger of a spill, that got Barack Obama thinking aloud about kicking some ass. In Victorian horror, many in the US are scandalised at such language from the mouth of one so refined. But we’re all for such muscular terminology from Barack. After all, he has to counter the likes of the Iranians for whom such sentiments as kicking ass would be a mere bagatelle. Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Obama’s Iranian counterpart is given to such hyperbole as wanting to wipe Israel off the map. His predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini’s colourful language was a listener’s delight. One gem went “Americans are the great Satan, the wounded snake.”
We Indians, however, are given to restraint in public discourse. The closest anyone came to Obamaspeak was the late Rajiv Gandhi who said that anyone trying to harm India would, to translate crudely, ‘remember their granny.’ Not quite the rhetoric that would send shivers down our enemies’ spines, but quite a turn up for the book in the land of Gandhigiri. If any of you had hoped that the gentle Manmohan Singh would have expressed Obama-like intentions to the Union Carbide bosses, you were wrong. Though, 25 years after the gas disaster, any oath or imprecation would have sounded like so much hot air.
But we might be getting there. After all, the BJP’s Nitin Gadkari fired a salvo using canine terminology about his opponents only to find that he had shot himself in the foot. And Gujarat’s Narendra Modi’s famous for his cross-border vitriol. But, by and large, we prefer to sanitise our sentiments.
But perhaps now that the leader of the free world has shown us the way with words, we might just see a little more punch in our public discourse. Unless, of course, Obama was just warming up to the World Cup kick-off in South Africa.