We, The Petulant People

The whole nation is boiling in rage. The street protests have sprung up everywhere. The left parties have started issuing serious warnings. The Dalit leaders such as Mayavati and others are wagging their fingers at the US asking it to ‘behave’. The Indian pride and, more importantly, the Dalit pride is at stake here.

The reason: One lady from the diplomatic staff of the Indian Embassy in New York has lied blatantly in her visa application to bring a domestic help, has grossly underpaid her and, worse, violated the work-hours stipulation prevailing in the US.

None of this is a serious crime for us. Because we all do this. We are all grossly underpaying our domestic help. If we have a staying-in maid, we are all making him/her work far more than 40 hours a week, on Saturdays and Sundays too. It never occurs to us to think that they too, like us, might require a weekly day off. Well, after all, they are illiterate or semi-literate physical labourers, who can’t, obviously, expect such privileges. Can they? One should have gone to college to earn a weekly day off.

Since we do this all the time, in every household, it is not considered as an ethical issue at all, leave alone being considered as a crime. It’s just a norm.

Now, what’s wrong if the same ‘behaviour’ and ‘attitude’ is followed abroad? Should we behave differently just because we are in a different country? We will continue to drive crazily and honk like we are mad, we will continue to litter everywhere, keep our toilets dirty and, of course, ill-treat people who are seemingly below us. Is there any reason for us to forego this ‘Indian-ness’ just because we are in a different country and their law dictates differently?

Also, let’s not forget the fact that, as Indians, we are never for law as an independent thing. What stand we take depends on who we are. Therefore, since Devyani is a Dalit, Mayavati will take her side. Since she was arrested by the US, the communists will take Devyani’s side. Since it has become like ‘India versus US’, the media will take India’s side. If Devyani was a Sharma or a Misra or an Iyer, Mayavati wouldn’t have really bothered to even comment on the issue. If, on the other hand, Sangeetha Richard, the hapless maid was a Dalit, then Mayavati would probably have taken a different stand. If this whole episode had taken place in China, the communists would surely have taken a different stand. If it had happened in Pakistan, the saffron brigade would have been up in arms.

So, it doesn’t really matter now that Devyani violated the law of the land callously, lied impudently, and treated her maid like how she would treat her in a Delhi suburb. It doesn’t even matter that she is only a diplomatic staff, not a diplomat herself, therefore does not enjoy the immunity accorded to the diplomats, which means she is just another citizen in the eyes of the law. Those who cry hoarse about all that non-existent immunity doesn’t even pause for a moment to think: instead of just lying in a form or violating minimum wage and working hours stipulation, what if Devyani had committed a worse crime? Say pushed cocaine or committed a murder in New York? Would the entire nation still be crying foul and react angrily against the US? So do we differentiate between lesser crime, which can be ignored by the ‘nod and wink’ attitude as one media suggests?

And here we are showing our anger by removing the barricades to the US embassy in Delhi, asking the police to take ‘action’ against any gay staff in the American High Commissions in India, and restricting liquor imports to the American staff.

Our decade-old friendship with the US was hard-won, hard-built and hard-nurtured. Now it is being shaken up because one cheap lady lied in her official document and underpaid her maid. Can we stoop any lower than this?