I really hope everybody’s happy that Carla Bruni’s not coming to India with her boyfriend Nicolas Sarkozy now. Just when we thought the administration wouldn’t get — couldn’t get — more Brahmanical, we have a protocol issue that makes a non-mountain out of a non-molehill.
But frankly, is it that much of a surprise, considering that we still slavishly follow Anglo-Saxon Victorian rules that only allow spouses to accompany presidents and prime ministers when they officially visit our country? Not really. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been happily married for oh-so-many years, so it may be pointless to ask him to intervene on a personal level so that the French President can come to India with the person whom he loves.
Did I say ‘love’? Which brings us back to that old chestnut about whether presidents and prime ministers, or for that matter anyone in public life in this country, can actually love another person. Surely, matters of State, with its accompanying gravitas, disallows all that kind of intense feelings? Imagine, even within happy matrimony, our PM declaring his love for his wife by going to the Taj Mahal. (Come to think of it, when was the last time that an Indian PM or any other political person went to the Taj with his or her better half for one cheesy, romantic moment?)
Even without seeing too much of the ‘French way of life’ in it, the fact that President Sarkozy will come alone to India because of protocol issues, is a shame. We can’t quite see Pratibha Patil and Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhawat being talked about in similar ‘couplehood’. So there’s no point asking the Indian President to help out her French counterpart in such times of need.
But surely, the Indian bureaucracy, instead of flapping about what it would mean to let Sarkozy and Bruni to share a room in Delhi, could have helped by looking the other way. It didn’t look the other way and that’s the shame. Which leaves either Pratibha or Manmohan to pick up the phone and call Carla and tell her. “Don’t worry about all this protocol-shotocol. I’ve spoken to Sarko. Just come naa.”