For the native, returned or revived, it is about creating an outside world inside. Nationalism is a pleasant hangover. They are doing their own country, touring it, a form of counter-escapism where kitsch makes culture into hyperbole.
A song 'Kolaveri Di' that has gone viral with several spinoffs is a wonderful analogy.
Re-run of the Native
Indian Lolly Cow
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, Dec 30-Jan 1
“The place became full of a watchful intentness now; for when other things sank brooding to sleep the heath appeared slowly to awake and listen. Every night its Titanic form seemed to await something; but it had waited thus, unmoved, during so many centuries, through the crises of so many things, that it could only be imagined to await one last crisis—the final overthrow.”
- Thomas Hardy, ‘Return of the Native’
- They strip the whole mansion that belonged to the royal courts in a re-telling of history. The Hindujas, a prominent business family, buys a £100 million huge mansion near Buckingham Palace and renovates it in the East meets West fashion, Victorian balustrades with ancient patterns sourced from the monarchies of their homeland.
- A once-reigning Bollywood diva returns ‘home’, bags, hubby, children and new accent in tow. She touts the tired excuse of wanting to inculcate Indian values in her children. She, who used to sing praises about a suburban life in Denver, grocery shopping without being mobbed, is seeking the crowd. In a sad Fedora-like account, she wanted to perform at one of those many New Year’s Eve shows where people pay to watch others dance. There were no takers; her style was passé. But there is hope. Her spouse, a cardiac surgeon, is being wooed by the best hospitals. This is what the return is for – to make the best of India’s wealth. It is not xenophobia that they run away from or values they run to, but the lure of a lifestyle without mortgages where celebrity is still worshipped. The famous in India live in a time-warp where no one must know about their botox, their rehab, their crimes.
Both these examples are two aspects of the same story. Even as the value of the dollar makes the rupee go soggy with remorse, India continues to smile beatifically. This is not part of the old fatalistic paradigm. We still have elephants, but they are now in the room, and on the doors of sprawling London houses.
The India Shining story was a sorry little slogan that simulated glitter, but that has made way for the heavy metal. India probably remains the most ‘untouched’ nation in terms of financial meltdown. How can any country be measured by its economic situation alone? The answer lies in the query. India’s monetary power cannot be measured. Those who make it to the Forbes list are only the showpieces.
Indian industrialisation is steeped in guilt. Guilt does not mean empathy, which was so sharply delineated by Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’. Group guilt is guile camouflaged. Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to dress free enterprise with the garb of socialism. In this case, the clothes became the first impression, the label the nation was tagged with. Added to that, it had to live with the looming shadow of Mahatma Gandhi and his spinning wheel yarn. In many ways, when Indian business people bribe, the psychological dimension to it is of generosity, charity. The peon is given money for ‘chai-paani’ (tea and water, literally); those slightly higher up are advised to “buy something for wife and kids”; the big powers are given the ultimate – familiarity and an opportunity to be equal. The dress of socialism covers all ills. Gandhi’s shadow is like graffiti on walls, designed for a nervous chuckle, a release of tension.
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He threw his hands up in the air as though waiting to catch a ball. “India!” he muttered under his breath, like a whispered secret, as he nodded his head. The imported shrug and nonchalance could not quite take away the yes-no combination gesture.