Waiter, there’s a cow in my everything.
(Published on April 29, 2017 in Business Standard)
If I unexpectedly had five minutes of the government’s undivided attention—thoo, thoo, thoo—I would tell it just this one thing: Guys (if you will pardon the expression), the cow thing has gotten completely out of hand.
I don’t mean out of hand as in, how people are killing other people over cows. Nobody in the government cares about that. Nor do I mean how every cow is getting an Aadhaar number, though even lots of humans don’t want one—the government thinks that’s a good use of time and money. I don’t mean how killing a cow can get you life imprisonment in various states. Those state governments like the idea. It’s not about how people are checking other people’s tiffins for beef, since nobody is more into monitoring tiffins than the government. Forget that we’re going to open a retirement home for elderly cows in every district. The government really wants to. And I certainly don’t mean how, despite all this, people in the northeast can go ahead and slaughter and eat beef to their hearts’ content—the BJP is eyeing elections there next year, so cows can take a hike, which tells you a lot about the relationship between cows and votes.
No, what I mean, guys, is that the cow thing, and by ‘thing’ I mean all the stuff mentioned above—the cow thing makes you look straight-up ridiculous.
Ignore, for a moment, the insignificant outrage of your own citizens, and look at India through the eyes of the world. The world sees a giant nation with giant potential, bedevilled by hideous poverty and suffering, in desperate need of healthcare, education, jobs, and infrastructure, looking to the government to deliver development.
And what does the world see the giant nation doing about it? Putting cows front and centre. Cows on the street, cows in the newspapers, cows in television studios, cows in election campaigns, cows in the law. Cows everywhere except on our plates.
If I were the world, I’d back away quietly, being careful not to make any sudden moves.
Not that the world is going to come out and say that. The world will rock back on its heels and stroke its chin and keep up a polite rumble about markets and investment and potential and so forth. But later, over drinks by itself, it will say: That India—interesting country, big market, but my god, talk about loony tunes.
Guys, you’re going to say, Who cares what the world thinks? We’re the best, it is our destiny to lead the world, look, everyone’s doing yoga, everything the world has was originally ours.
But let’s get real—you care deeply what the world thinks, because you have a massive insecurity problem. You suspect that maybe you aren’t the best, and you suspect people of sneering at you. Even some of your own people, who see this whole thing as cowboys versus Indians. You hate being sneered at—it makes you crazy. The crazier it makes you, the crazier you act, and then the more people sneer at you. It’s a problem.
The world will probably just hold its nose and take crazy in its stride, as it always has, dealing with all kinds of shady people as long as it can make money off them. It’s possible that you won’t care that it is holding its nose—but I doubt it.
So you might want to course correct the whole cow thing. It makes you look as if you can’t lead us, let alone the world.
That’s what I would say. But it would probably be a total waste of five minutes.