The world does not know if the Islamic State chief is dead or not. The Orlando massacre still chills the soul. The battles in Syria and Iraq rage on. Brexit is a major issue. Chinese intrusion into Arunachal Pradesh is a cause for concern. The AgustaWestland deal rotors into another murky cloud. The Meghalaya bus crash kills 30.
But, for me, Smriti Irani’s plight is paramount.
I am sorry if this disturbs you, but Smriti Irani has a point. Oh dear, she does.
There is a vast difference between the sanitised ‘Dear Sir’ that we put in a letter and the patronising, male chauvinistic use of the word 'dear', which is just a teeny-weeny step away from the endearment ‘darling’ and, therefore, a presumption. Even the dictionary gives its meaning as ‘beloved’ or ‘loved’, and Irani may not seek the affections of Education Minister Ashok Choudhry.
These subtleties of the English language count for a lot. Take all those foot soldiers, who came running out to fight for the honour of The New York Times and explained the paper's move behind calling Lata Mangeshkar a ‘so called playback singer’ because they don’t have them in the US and they meant no offence.
I am sorry, but ‘so called’ as a prefix is invariably rude, sarcastic and indicative of a bit of a stretch. I have never heard or read of it being used in a context to indicate a clarification; but always an indictment. If you wish to clarify, you should rather say that she is famous in a category known as playback singer, where she lends her voice to the stars. You think American cinema doesn’t have it? You think Audrey Hepburn sang all those songs in My Fair Lady or all those actors and actresses in top musicals?
‘So called’ is bad manners. Referring to a lady as ‘dear’ is taking a liberty. In much the same fashion ‘my dear’, becomes a condescension, like you were talking down to someone or teaching granny to suck eggs.
Unless, of course, my dear, you don’t give a damn. And I frankly don’t, but Irani deserves a defence and so I am going to give her one.
We all agree that 'dear' has been cleansed of any emotion and has been given a honorific status in letter writing. That happened in the mid 15th century when writing billets doux (love letters) was a fad and it is possible that when love disappeared, the need to use it as a form of address survived and is today clerically sterile.
Used after an expression, like in ‘don’t do that, dear’ gives it a whole new connotation. In a tweet, it could be seriously misinterpreted.
My goodness, am I actually writing this? Is this how our leaders get through the day?
There was a choice between this and Arvind Kejriwal, so I opted for this. But in a nation where we make ‘bhenjis’ and ‘bhabis’ and ‘bhai sahibs’ and ‘mathajis’ out of strangers, one really has to worry that even saying ‘dear’ can get you into trouble.
I am resigning as Smriti Irani’s advocate. I have read the tweet and it says ‘Dear Ms Smriti Iraniji’, in which circumstances she has no case and Choudhry’s honour is restored. Gone with the wind, Smriti. Next time get your ‘angrezi’ right.