‘Tasteless’ remarks by Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson which have prompted the Indian High Commission in the UK to demand a formal apology, are incurring much less wrath in the Indian twittersphere. In the show, Clarkson strips down to his boxers in front of his hosts, fixes a toilet seat to his car, and hangs seemingly innocuous banners on trains which when ripped by the motion of the train, display messages like “British shit for your companies” and “Eat English muff”.
The Daily Mail reports that diplomats had consented to the programme being shot in the country after receiving a letter from Mr Hale describing it as a ‘light-hearted road trip’. But the consulate complained in a letter that the content of the show was ‘in breach of this agreement’ and said the BBC would need to ‘assuage the hurt sentiments of a huge number of people’. The letter, which was copied to BBC’s director general Mark Thompson, also said, “The programme was replete with cheap jibes, tasteless humour and lacked cultural sensitivity that we expect from the BBC. Earlier the Prime Minister’s office had refused to apologize for the show, saying that they were not responsible for content carried on the BBC.
But while Clarkson and Top Gear are being roundly criticized by Indian mainstream media, the prevailing sentiment in the Indian Twittersphere is that a mountain is being made of a molehill. Few have bothered to comment on the controversy at all, while others feel that maybe the show is telling a few hard truths. Twitter user @paarull says, “We must suffer filthy public loos but will take great offence if foreigners note and make fun of us. So not funny, India. Let Top Gear be”. Another user @amreekandesi says, “India asks Top Gear host to apologise for mocking our culture. The same India where rats chewed up a man in a hospital.” Other users like @seemagoswami think it’s beneath India’s dignity to get all hot under the collar by the show, while @gkjohn asks, “Why do we Indians have such a low tolerance for humour? Was funny when they made fun of the Mexicans but when it’s us..”
A criticism that has been leveled against Indians time and again, is that they are over sensitive as a nation, and sometimes need to learn to laugh at themselves.