Live and let DIY
The inscrutable Chinese who are not fazed by the prospect of trade and border wars were completely thrown off kilter recentlyindia Updated: Aug 28, 2011 23:21 IST
The inscrutable Chinese who are not fazed by the prospect of trade and border wars were completely thrown off kilter recently. No, it was not that Barack Obama was found to be a reincarnation of Zhou en-Lai but that the new US ambassador to China was spotted carrying his own rucksack and buying himself a cup of coffee in Seattle airport. Then along comes Barack himself, disembarking at Shanghai airport, holding an umbrella over his head, creating a Confucian conundrum which the Chinese are yet to figure out.
Now, we share the bewilderment of the Chinese at VIPs doing things for themselves. Our VIPs would not dream of lining up for coffee or holding anything, leave alone an umbrella. In fact, not just VIPs, most middle-class Indians are loathe to do too much by way of heavy lifting and this includes such arduous tasks as getting yourself a glass of water or straightening the bedclothes. No, we have underpaid flunkeys for all these tasks. In fact, the presence of people around you at all times to wipe the imaginary sweat from your brow is an indication of your social standing. We are often shocked and awed that western leaders actually pay for family vacations. Here, the political family - and we really mean all 125 members - usually go on a jolly and a jaunt paid for by you and me. Such privileges extend far beyond one's term in office.
While Bill Clinton and Tony Blair may be raking it in post-high office, it is unlikely that they have someone to do the dishes. We can take heart from the fact that the Chinese are as protocol conscious as we are. Even a petty party functionary would rather do two years of hard labour in the Gulag than be caught carrying his own briefcase. Don't get us wrong, we are all for a good work ethic, someone's else's that is. Now where did that pesky peon go? We'd asked him to fetch us some coffee from the machine which is a whole annoying two metres away from us ages ago.