Roundabout | Brown Munde euphoria & UK PM Rishi Sunak
Punjabis, be it on this side of the border or the other, have a knack for claiming celebrities as their own kinsmen and on top of the charts right now is brown boy Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Filial ties have always been important to us and more so when he, along with our very own Akshata ‘bhabi’, are the richest couple of United Kingdom, the country which enslaved us for two centuries and made us pay a heavy price, by cutting Punjab into two, just to get rid of them at the dawn of Independence. Late Ustad Daman, the poet of the gardens in Lahore, who remained a staunch Indian Congress votary till the very end, had written, ‘Barbad ihna azadian ton hoye tusi vi ho, hoye tusi vi ho, hoye assee vi haan/ Akhan di laali paying dasdi hai, roye assee vi haan (We have been ruined by this Independence and so have been you/ The redness of the eyes shows that we have wept and so have you!).
Well on October 25, we Punjabis forgot all about our ruins and danced to ‘balle balle’ in the mood of having conquered Britain at last, with a lad of Indian origin, if not Indian, at the helm of affairs in London Town. Well, looking at Rishi Sunak’s profile, one realises that he is a pucca-pucca, Brit! Born in Southampton, of course to parents of Indian descent, Sunak was educated at Winchester College and did his MBA from Stanford University as a Fullbright Scholar. A conservative to the core, he went onto become Prime Minister after the ouster of Liz Truss. However, the eager Punjabis started tracing his Punjab connection. His grandparents had migrated from British Punjab, Gujranwala, now in Pakistan, to East Africa. His father Yashvir Sunak was born and raised in Kenya. His mother Usha Sunak was born in Tanganika and they married in Leicester in 1977. Their claim to Punjabiat was a paternal grandfather and a maternal uncle born in the united Punjab of British colonial rule.
Then why this outburst of joy in Punjab on this side of the border. Harjeshwar Pal, a professor of history and a socio-political commentator on Punjab, says: “We have a penchant with claiming relations with the rich and famous so it is little wonder that we feel related to him as after all, his net worth is 4.3 billion dollars at present and is likely to take the upward plunge in times to come. He is also famous for shaking hands with the likes of King Charles. So Punjabis feel why not connect with this long lost country cousin.”
The colonial factor
Not just fame and wealth, it is the colonial factor that is at play in the general bonhomie not just in Punjab but all over India. The past 13 days have seen celebrations galore on social media with images of Sunak bhaiya as none other than Lord Ram and Akshata Bhabi as Sita. Well let’s not hope she does not meet the trials and tribulations of the Sita of the epic of Ramayan. Little chance because her net worth, by which the world measures human beings in these times, is not lacking either. Coming out of mythology to history and that to cinema history and there we have Sunak in the garb of our actor Aamir Khan in the film ‘Lagaan’ where the British officer is challenged in a cricket match to ward off the ‘lagaan’ (agricultural tax). Needless to say life often imitates art and if the victory in reel life was ours, it is bound to be ours in real life too.
Right now there is rejoicing aplenty on Tik Tok of the Brown boy with the melancholic tones of Canadian rappers led by AP Dhillon. The melancholy of the song suddenly moves to exuberance as it is pictured on the victory of Sunak in a country that had enslaved us. There are a great deal of jokes on Sunak and the British snobbery doing the rounds of social media.
All Indian parents are elated as they are seeing a fresh future for their sons and here comes a hilarious one, targetted at none other than Sunder Pichai, the Google CEO. My Indian parents called today. “Look at that Rishi, Sunak uncle ka beta....8 years younger than you....UK ka PM ban gaya....aur tum sirf ek $1.37T company ke CEO ho USA mein...”.
Me: Mom I can’t replace Joe Biden.
Mom: Try kar beta...you can do it...tum koshish hi nahi karoge to kaise hoga.”
“I may be able to convince my parents but many PM/Presidents are at risk now....Indian parents have already decided the next career goal for their kids.”
An indignant tailpiece
A down-to-earth Punjabi YouTube channel called ‘Barqatan’ has commentator Des Raj Kali, while mocking the jubilation Punjabi style, say, “Well dance your bhangras but if Sunak’s term is as short-lived as was that of Truss, get ready your sayapa (dirges) too!!”