The cartoon sketch which appeared on the New York Times editorial depicting India as still a country of cow herders clearly implied to many that India still do not belong into the elite club of countries who have achieved success in space exploration. This caricature stuck a cord with many people and due to this unexpected reaction from so many quarters, New York Times apologized which does not happen that often.
In their apology their Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal said that the idea was not trying to “impugn India.”
I accept the apology but do not ask for it, nor am I ashamed of my past. My ancestors did own cows and buffalos which at times they used for travel. But then again my sentiments will not be shared by many of my jingoistic and overtly sensitive countrymen.
So one can say the ship has sailed a long time back for an apology, the damage done. However I do feel the apology was genuine and came rather expeditiously which is rare. I am as liberal minded person as one could possibly be in India or any part of the world and did not feel offended at all by this cartoon which was both artistic and humorous, I give full marks. Kudos!
But on second thought maybe the cartoon sketch was “Dim Witted” and hit home harder since it was conceived by an Asian. But that is the nature of satire. I think Alexander Pope put it aptly “Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise.”
I, for one, think the depiction of an Indian next to a cow or a buffalo knocking on the door of the “elite space club”, resonates the story of the hare and the turtle. ISRO can never be a NASA, but we managed to reach Mars on our very first attempt and cheaply if I may add. So NYT think about that…
However there are many in India and all over the world who may not share my sentiments. Stereotyping is common and we all do that. We watch a movie and create a perception and presumption of culture we do not understand or have any knowledge.
I for one was guilty of thinking the Vietnamese were the villain, the proverbial bad guy who hated America the Land of the free and the home of the brave. I rooted for Rambo and I rooted for all the action films which portrayed Americans as the good guys. Come to think of it, with age, knowledge and rising above ignorance, I realized it was all the action, gun fight and the explosions.
But with time I changed, not that I have a very low opinion of America, it just that I now have the capability and understanding to distinguish between right and wrong, black and white including the gray area.
Instead of being offended, I am glad people like cartoonist, Heng Kim Song are still coming up with such ideas. To me it only motivates us to do better. In the movie the Transformers there was scene, when the American forces were under attack by the Decepticons and when they weretrying to connect to their home base the call got connected to an Indian call center. Now I am not going to get into details of that scene, but for me it was very funny.
I am not offended when jokes are made on the expense of Raj from the Big Bang Theory a very popular sitcom in India. I do not mind the character of Raj eating Beef or telling his friends he does not want to go back to India because it is too crowded.
I do not mind Indians being characterized as Appu from Simpson, because this beloved cartoon character has achieved legendary status in the world of satire. I have never heard of Heng Kim Song until his cartoon got published in NYT and it gave me the opportunity to look and genuinely enjoy his work. His satire is not directed towards any one race, religion or culture. He has equally drawn sketches on almost every topic which has given the human race better understanding of what is happening around the world thanthose thousand word articles. He has never been selective when it comes to his work.
We may not be the land of Snake charmers anymore like Mr. Modi said when he was in the US, but we still have a long way to go. So I say, to fulfill everyone’s need for closure, let’s just call this cartoon maybe in poor taste and end this nonsense.
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