Holding umbrellas for others

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India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna (center) being chaperoned into the Brown University at Providence, Rhode Island, New York, on September 28 (Pic: Jay Mandal/On Assignment)

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in the following post are strictly those of its writer Mayank Chhaya’s. In no way do they capture the sentiments, implicit or explicit, of Jay Mandal, the photographer of the photographs above and below showing India’s Foreign Minister S M Krishna being escorted with umbrellas. Any suggestion to the contrary is purely fallacious, fantastic and in the mind of the one suggesting.

Perhaps the best way to ascertain someone’s importance in India is to count the number of people that reflexively holds aloft their umbrellas to protect that person when it rains. The measure works even when umbrellas are held up against an intense sun. I mention rain because it is more dramatic and visually more compelling.

How much clout you exercise is directly proportional to the number of umbrellas that goes up when it rains or, equally persuasively, the number of people that tries to feed you when you break your fast after a hunger strike. If I extend that logic, the ideal combination would be when you break your fast when it is raining. The sheer choreography of protecting you from the something as threatening as water even while urgently feeding you can get extremely complex.

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I have never understood why Indian politicians and celebrities cannot carry their own umbrellas even if I understand the guilty pleasure of lackeys and handlers and attendants doing menial jobs for you. One feels precious when fussed over thusly. I am personally very uncomfortable with being fussed over. Fortunately, there is no danger of that ever happening to me.

As the pictures above so serendipitously illustrate, the pecking order automatically becomes the order of pecking. There is a subtle obsequiousness to the body language of the holders of the umbrellas. It is fair to say that I am making too much out of a routinely courteous gesture. What is on display here is not particularly comment-worthy. May be so but the point is it does happen to those in authority, exuding authority or close to those exuding authority.

Those for whom umbrellas prop up from many different directions or glasses of lime juice materialize out of thin air it is a very hard habit to break or privilege to give up. I suspect that is why politicians push their retirement as close to their death as possible quite like movie stars. It is the fear that there will be no one to spring with umbrellas in their defense at the time rain.

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P.S.: When you figure out the point of today’s post let me know.

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About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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