Back in November after the U.S. elections were over, I was leafing through an India Today with Barack Obama on the cover when one of our department's staff remarked wonderingly "Wow...look at that- Obama on the cover of India Today." Mixed with the optimism and relief we all felt in early November (remember that?) there was bemusement in her voice: indeed, the persona of the US President went almost overnight from being the object of derision and ridicule to one that people around the world celebrate and even emulate...suddenly American politics is glamorous again. Move over Carla Bruni, Michelle is here.
Of course, the election of the US President is a pretty big deal in general and not just because of the (admittedly rare) Obama factor. US politics is so damned entertaining. Think about the last elections-the drama of Hilary vs. Obama, the Palin spectacle, the showmanship of the conventions, the side characters like Ron Paul or Joe the plumber. There were holograms on election night. I rest my case!
So maybe it's only natural that some of this glitz transfers to the ongoing elections in India (insert obligatory line about worlds largest democracy and world's most powerful one). While, there are no Obama's on the horizon- I've been interested and amused to see the message of 'get the vote out' lifted almost directly from the US election discourse. In a country where 'chalta hai' (a combination of 'whatever' and 'let it be'- what do you think of that translation, fellow Hindi speakers?) is a way of life, there's a new, discernibly pious sense of duty evident amongst the 'glitterati' and upper classes (who tend to be less electorally active than poor, rural citizens). Getting 'inked' on election day is cool in a way that I don't recall it being before. I can't help thinking that the language of 'rock the vote' and 'make a difference' is familiar but somehow inorganic. My nagging intuition got confirmed when I saw this:
Full of hot stars? check
Slickly shot? check
well meaning? check
slightly holier than thou and annoying? check.
WHERE have I seen this before? Hmmm...
I KNEW it!!! There's less swearing in the Indian one, which is also mercifully shorter but there it is...continuing a fine tradition of bollywood copying stuff it likes with its own je ne sais qoui. Ah, the triumph of American packaging- they make even Indian elections sexy.
Now lets just find our Obama...