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  Opinion   Columnists  28 Oct 2022  Shobhaa De | We want banana leaves & pappadums at Downing St

Shobhaa De | We want banana leaves & pappadums at Downing St

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com
Published : Oct 29, 2022, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Oct 29, 2022, 12:00 am IST

Let’s hope the Sunaks serve formal dinners on banana leaves (eco-friendly, yaar) and always include pappadums

Britain's newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks to pose outside the to 10 Downing Street in central London, on October 25, 2022, after delivering his first speech as prime minister. - Rishi Sunak was Tuesday appointed as Britain's third prime minister this year, after outgoing leader Liz Truss submitted her resignation to King Charles III. (Photo: AFP)
 Britain's newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks to pose outside the to 10 Downing Street in central London, on October 25, 2022, after delivering his first speech as prime minister. - Rishi Sunak was Tuesday appointed as Britain's third prime minister this year, after outgoing leader Liz Truss submitted her resignation to King Charles III. (Photo: AFP)

Aren’t we all kinda sick of the nonstop “Rishi this and Rishi that” onslaught? Get over it, guys. A smart-ish, short-ish, cute-ish, young-ish, brown-ish chap has moved house. Big deal! The whole world is going on and on about Rishi Sunak becoming the gora log ka PM like he has done the unthinkable, the unattainable, the impossible. Is it really such a feat? No, right? Had Rishi not been from a “certain background” (read non-white), he’d have been treated like any other bloke who has made it to No. 10 Downing Street, and accepted the worst job on earth right now.

The fact is, Rishi has done a major favour to his party and his country by throwing his topi into the ring and acing it. If things slide any further, that little island of snotty, white people, may sink into the channel, and Rishi will have to take the rap for the disaster. Rishi may be sent to the gallows for Britain doing a Titanic. It’s Rishi’s gym-toned butt that’s on the line -- and he simply cannot afford to f**k up. At least, not for a fortnight or so!

The in-built racism the Brits are so hell-bent on hiding at the moment is evident in the public response elicited by the BBC “word cloud”, in which people were asked to describe Rishi in one word. Unfortunately -- or perhaps deliberately -- certain nasty, vulgar expletives appeared on air, shocking viewers. Was that really a goof-up??? Or did a staffer choose to put it out there? To call Sunak a “t**t and a c**t” blatantly exposed what many Britons think of him. Trevor Noah recently even described Rish the Dish as a “snack”. Of course, there were other far more positive adjectives like “clever’’, “smart”, “capable”, but what stayed were the abuses. Mr Sunak, like all politicians anywhere, must be a rhino. No one can survive in the cesspool of politics without possessing a hide that can withstand anything -- the worst epithets included. Rishi the Cutie, with his lopsided smile and spaniel eyes, can disarm his worst critics. But first, he has to save the ship from going down. And the way it is listing, that day is not too far away.

He is making all the right noises, and is always photographed in work mode, with his shirt sleeves rolled up. It is the Barack Obama model of power dressing. The Brit press has taken to analysing his persona so minutely, even the red puja thread around his right wrist is treated like a tribal ritual, whereas other politicians across the world, who choose to visually state their religious beliefs (prayer beads, crucifixes), hardly attract a second glance, even less editorial comment or headlines.

Puhleeze… His being a Hindu has nothing to do with his competence. It is really, pretty dumb to keep stressing on Rishi Sunak being Britain’s first Hindu Prime Minister, like he’s an oddity or a freak show, a circus attraction like the dwarf with two heads. It is rude, ignorant and insulting. Does Sunak belong to an alien race?

Rishi does not have his job cut out for him. That’s a given. Clearing up the mess he has inherited from his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss is going to take up most of his time as the newly-minted boss. Is Rishi ruthless enough to throw a few colleagues under the bus, while he gets his act together? Doing a BoJo 2.0 is not his style. Rishi’s personal life seems squeaky clean and “normal” -- much like the Obamas -- two young daughters included. But unlike the Obamas, Mrs Cutie is no Michelle. In fact, nobody knows what she’s all about. Though everybody has a view, given the old tax evasion thingie. Cleaning your own toilets (like her parents) when you are in a position to buy Buckingham Palace makes most outsiders (desis in particular) think of this as either a studied pose, an eccentricity or an aberration.

They must have a good marriage, since Rishi was comfortable enough to publicly share that his billionaire wife is “messy’’. Henceforth, Akshata will be papped each time she leaves her home. Right now, the Sunak mansions are palatial enough to give King Charles III a complex. While the King is busy selling his mother’s horses (ghodey bechkar so gaya) and God knows what else, the press is going bananas about Rishi being richer than the monarch.

Badhaiya hai and all that -- but hey -- we simply don’t get it! Rishi Baba is not “one of us’’ and, to his credit, has never pretended to be. But such is our desperation to claim and appropriate the man that we continue to behave like we have conquered Britain. This silly attitude of ours is going to cost us. Rishi will be constantly under pressure to prove that he does not favour India -- the country of his powerful in-laws, even if it isn’t his. Here’s hoping he won’t mess up!

I am imagining Rishi in bed with Akshata. What is their bedroom banter? What sort of pillow talk do they indulge in? Does Rishi feel guilty if he has to take a stand against his wife’s country? Do they take prickly political differences to bed? Argue over ideology? N.R. Narayana Murthy is supposed to be buddy-buddy with our Prime Minister. This can be either a major asset or a huge liability. No denying one thing -- Rishi Sunak does possess the most unique and distinctive profile for any contemporary Prime Minister, or political leader. Who else has mega- billionaires as in-laws? Not just billionaires, but pioneers who put India on the world map 41 years ago with Infosys, which employs 276,319 people globally. Akshata Murthy is an heiress (personal wealth of 730 million pounds) with an incomparable legacy to uphold. As the wife of the Prime Minister, she will be expected to play by a certain set of rules. Let’s hope the Sunaks serve formal dinners on banana leaves (eco-friendly, yaar) and always include pappadums. Rishi Sunak is either the luckiest politician alive, or the one with the most to lose if he screws up. We sitting thousands of miles away in India will hang on to “our man’’ proprietorially and keep singing “Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani…

Tags: 10 downing street, rishi sunak, trevor noah, infosys, akshata murthy