Ho hum, here we go again!

Idiosyncrasies of the Indian diplomats at home and abroad

bikram

Bikram Vohra | January 4, 2014



Only Indians in the Gulf do it. Whenever the new ambassador or consul general arrives they go overboard. No other nation’s reps get this kind of response. Full page ads in the local papers like we were welcoming some colonial masters and genuflecting in their presence. This is not Ceasar into Rome after Pompeii.   How much bigger can it be than a full page ad? I don’t mean to be fey or prissy but such good intention is a load of nonsense. Not only is it a colossal waste of money that could be better used for the community but what is the point except the flawed belief that it is scoring points. Why do you need to score points? These are professional officers of the foreign service and they are decent coves sent on a normal posting probably most embarrassed at this barrage of attention. Let them at least settle down before you start the parade.

We are very quick to forget the ones whose tenures have ended and it was well said by a businessman to me the other day: why should I give a party for the guy who is going, I’ll give it to the guy who is coming.

Good thinking…even though it is a measure of the genuineness of affection and an alert to the fresh incumbents that those who will fall at your feet might well be pulling the edge of the rug, so keep them at arm’s length.   

One of my favourite pastimes in the 29 years in Dubai has been taking the mickey out of the consul general of India and the ambassador. It wasn’t difficult. I used to write a column then in the Economic Times and really raspberry them. Like Henry II asking Thomas Beckett if he took being the Archbishop of Canterbury seriously, most of these guys did and they expected courtesies way beyond the call of duty. I remember one of the ambassador’s wives telling people to address her as the first lady. Ha ha ha. The only thing is she was serious.

The Times carried a piece about the Emperors into the India Club which had my byline and it teed off the ambassador at that time because it hit too close to the bone. ‘First lady’, are you kidding me. Jackie Kennedy you are not, princess.  And it was wonderful that so many of them ‘rose (or sank)  to the occasion’ and gave you so much to write about.

It is healthy to see the younger generation be courteous and pleasant to our envoys in this region which is cool but not cowered into some sort of submission. But the older lot soldier on with their ‘Your excellency’ labels and the humorous desire to vie for the captain’s table at functions and be ‘seen.’ No wonder some of the mission heads balloon with importance and they then lose their balance.

In the GCC these positions have a frontline texture where the Indian community in its many wondrous (and sometimes not so wondrous) ways is unique. You are compelled to be judge, jury, arbiter, friend, adversary, umpire, referee, your time will not be yours (especially if the VIP blokes from India keep flying to every country in the world via these countries) and your presence or absence at any occasion will be seen as a slight or a benediction. I concede it can get claustrophobic but enjoy it…any way you look at it this is a rare experience.

Just leave your footprint in the sands…and help your people when they need it.

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