Several Native American communities of the North West Pacific Coast have a traditional ceremony called ‘potlatch’, meaning ‘gift’, which forms the economic, social and political keystone of their societies.
In order to gain respect and admiration, a member of the community will elect to host an elaborate feast to which everyone is invited. A potlatch can go on for several days, during which banquets are held and lavish gifts bestowed on the guests. The ceremony comes to an end when the host is totally bankrupt, having gained enormous political and social prestige for the prodigality displayed.
The coronavirus pandemic witnessed an Indian variant of the potlatch ritual. In a gesture of generosity, the sarkar embarked on a project of ‘vaccine diplomacy’ by exporting millions of doses of medication to 90 countries, in some cases without charge.
India is the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, and the country’s largesse in distributing its own stocks so liberally among the global community won it many bouquets abroad, its selflessness being compared with affluent countries like the US which is stockpiling enough vaccines to inoculate its entire population four times over.
Unfortunately, like charity, vaccination drives should begin at home. And while we were busy exporting Indian vaccines to all and sundry – reportedly including Pakistan in the wistful, if forlorn, hope that it would stop exporting terrorism to us – we overlooked the fact that our own country, which is now registering the highest number of daily Covid cases in the world, is woefully understocked with the medication, with some states having no more than a couple of days’ supply in store.
The PM’s ‘tika utsav’ became a contradiction in terms, there being precious little tika to give very much utsav, and India’s globally lauded vaccine diplomacy has for its own citizens become a vexing diplomacy, seized upon by critics of the government to get the populace up in arms and vexed with the sarkar.
But some may feel that’s a small price to pay if the PM, long known for his gift of the gab, is not toasted internationally as the one who, at the expense of his own country, gave the world the gift of the jab.
This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.
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