Here's why a signed flag from Modi isn't the best gift for President Obama

Don’t shoot the messenger. That seems to be the learning from the unexpected controversy which Chef Vikas Khanna has found himself in the middle of, while being interviewed by NDTV’s Barkha Dutt. As solace, he is not alone in this mess. Because for company he has no less than our Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his side.

Modi as every news channel and newspaper and his own Twitter feed has told us, is in New York where he was “hosting a meal for CEOs of Fortune 500 companies at the Waldorf Astoria”. Chef Vikas Khanna was chosen to prepare the seven course meal for the dinner and since Khanna is one of our most PR-savvy chefs, sure enough he was on NDTV being interviewed by Barkha Dutt. Dutt tweeted out that:

 Heres why a signed flag from Modi isnt the best gift for President Obama

Screengrab. Image courtesy: @BDUTT

I’m assuming that crumpled cloth on the left of the picture is the flag which has been inscribed by Modi. What a unique diplomatic gift from the leader of one country to another. But it’s caused a storm Khanna could not have imagined he was cooking up.

There are a number of problems which I have with the gift.

The first is aesthetic. The Gita is a thoughtful gift but why would you autograph the flag of your country and think that it would be a gift worth gifting to anyone – least of all to the President of another country? What would that President do with it?

Two, I take umbrage at the subaltern treatment of Vikas Khanna. Just because he cooked your meal, doesn’t mean he’s your courier boy. In Modi’s defense, Khanna seems pleased as punch to play delivery boy. But really, Mr Modi. Is there no other way you could get this “gift” across to Barack Obama who you were meeting anyway?

Three, what is this fascination that Modi has for seeing his name emblazoned on cloth? First it was the Hosni Mubarak-inspired suit which he wore when he met Barack Obama earlier, the less said about which the better. Now it’s the flag.

Four, let’s not forget that Narendra Modi is the prime minister of India. I’m sure he is well aware of what is kosher as far as the Flag Code Of India goes. Even if he isn’t, he has enough well-informed people around him to tell him. In Part II, Section 3, Explanation 4- point (f) of the undoubtedly outdated The Indian Flag Code, 2002, it clearly stated that putting any kind of inscription upon the Indian National Flag is considered disrespectful to the flag. Part II, Section I, 2.1 subset (iv) specifies that lettering of any kind shall not be put upon the Indian National Flag.

Barack Obama and Narendra Modi. PTI

Barack Obama and Narendra Modi. PTI

Most importantly, as pointed out by DNA,

“The Prevention of Insults To National Honour Act, 1971 (Amended by the Prevention of Insults to National Honour (Amendment) Act, 2003) states: ‘Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the Indian National Flag………. or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.’”

Modi surely did not intend to disrespect the flag but imagine that a Shah Rukh Khan or a Sunny Leone had signed the Indian flag and gifted it to someone? I refuse to believe anyone who claims that upholders of all that is right and wonderful in this country, would not have been baying for their blood. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying. History proves it.

In 2007, Mandira Bedi and Puneet Nanda had to apologise because of a Satya Paul saree which she wore at an event. That saree was covered with images of different flags and the Indian flag happened to be positioned below her knee. The hue and cry in an age before Twitter was ear-shattering.

Sania Mirza was photographed with her feet on a table on which there was an Indian flag. Mallika Sherawat was draped in the Indian flag for her film Dirty Politics. Malini Ramani was hauled up for wearing a dress made from the Indian flag. A case was filed against both her and Sachin Tendulkar for dishonouring the flag – Sachin had cut a birthday cake in 2010, with the flag on it. All of them had to abjectly apologise and say that they had not meant to dishonour the flag.

We can argue about why a flag should be beyond all artistic interpretation but until the Flag Code Of India and The Prevention of Insults To National Honour Act, 1971 (Amended by the Prevention of Insults to National Honour (Amendment) Act, 2003) is amended to say that it’s okay to wrap yourself in the flag or scribble your name all over it, the same law applies to the PM as to the Bollywood item girl.

In the meantime though, I have a small suggestion for our Prime Minister who seems to love displaying his name to Barack Obama. (Does Obama keep forgetting it?) Please hand deliver your gifts. It adds a nice personal touch.

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Updated Date: Sep 26, 2015 09:37:49 IST