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Narendra Modi must sweep away India's wasteful habit of showering 'flowery praise' on political, religious masters

Indians who live abroad are usually self-conscious of making any critical comment — be it financial, social or political — about the home country. There is a general belief that NRIs have lost the right to criticise because they've left their country's shores and their commentary is, therefore, unwelcome and presumptuous.

 Narendra Modi must sweep away Indias wasteful habit of showering flowery praise on political, religious masters

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy: Twitter/@PIB_India

However, off and on, NRIs bring a certain fresh perspective that separates the forest from the trees. On a recent trip home, I decided to take such a liberty after observing in person, the fawning and unctuous conduct of our rank and file to their political masters. To my eye, it is absurd and obscene besides being such a colossal waste of money.

I am watching Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received in Karnataka at one of those unending rallies. He is inundated with garlands and sundry offerings in various shaped vessels. He quickly dispenses with these items — without even looking at them — and hands each offering to security and aides in uniform whose job is reduced to playing passing the parcel and being compromised from the surveillance they should be conducting.

Each garland spends about an average of three seconds around his neck before being tugged off. The garlands keep coming. There is just no stopping them and they have now become an integral symbol of the sycophantic subject to the superior lord and master equation.

We do it in adulation, in our fawning surrender to political power and its often clay-footed idols, in arrivals and departures and at every public function, strike, rally, VIP entry ad nauseum ad infinitum. Not just in the reception, but even in the decor that surrounds the luminary. Even in death we don’t stop. And its competitive nature is so intense it is almost a fight to see who has the best garland or design.

The prime minister doesn’t care. Nor should he. I am sure he is sick of this pointless ritual.

As the head of this government, it is hoped he can order it stopped.

Every year, over 800 million tonnes of flowers are exhausted in pleasing the gods and on religious festivals, according to Helpusgreen, who have launched a waste gathering initiative aimed at picking up these flowers which have been left behind.

Alive or dead, our political masters probably go through a lot of them. Jayalalithaa’s gun carriage had two tonnes of flowers. Karnataka election fever creates a spike in flower sales. There is so much of this felicitation going around.

Arguably, it would be fair to say we are the only nation which takes flower power to this incredible degree. Even our neighbours, who share similar cultures have held back in comparison. Pakistan is quasi-military so their floral flaunting is muted. The Chinese are seldom seen combating a floral assault beyond clutching the occasional bouquet.

Sri Lanka does a bit but not much. In Bangladesh, you don’t see it very much. In the western world, where the tactile exchange is limited to a handshake, you won’t see British prime minister Theresa May or German chancellor Angela Merkel choking under 20 marigold garlands.

Imagine the grumpy US president Donald Trump going onto a raat ki raani noose. The only time Russian president Vladimir Putin would allow flowers around his neck is if he visited India. No sheikhs, kings or presidents allow themselves to be snowed under pretty petals either.

It is not our culture. It is just poor floral sucking up.

There is no respect for it, the recipient at best is dismissive and it is money down the drain. It is something we have to end because it serves no purpose.

Imagine when you count the hundreds of thousands of national, state, local level and self-styled VIPs attending daily events or being received or dispatched and the prodigious mountain of flowers destroyed that this saving could be used to create schools, hospitals, old age homes and toilets.

Almost every time I have been to an airport, I've witnessed a gaggle of hangers on waiting for the political or religious master to fetch up, golden orange garlands in hand and a lickspittle ingratiating grin on their faces. And minutes later, the welcome is over, the petals lie crushed on the floor and the sweeper comes along to sweep them away. Why not just sweep away this stupid habit?


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Updated Date: May 07, 2018 16:38:41 IST