I know an Indian woman who hired a well-known British interior decorator to design her London flat. The decorator asked if she had any preferences before he started work. She thought for a moment and then replied with winning simplicity, “Just…go over the top.”
The command key for a new India: Go over the top. And then keep going. UP. UP. UP.
It is becoming a mistake to ask Indians what they want. They want it all. And genetics has given us the stamina to match our desires. After all, we worship over 330 million gods, each with its own costumes, retinues, narratives, and powers. This is more than just information. This is the DNA of the Indian imagination. Give us half a chance and we will show you the limitation of limits. Especially when describing ourselves. INDIA POISED. INDIA RISING. INDIA SHINING. INDIA BOOMING. INCREDIBLE INDIA.
No wonder the Indologist William Archer testily observed that India is the land of gargantuan excess. Boy, don’t we know it, and now the world is learning it, too. Not for us the understatement of a Chinese premier putting on a Stetson hat to herald the arrival of the new sons of heaven. Not for us a Japanese premier crooning Elvis to prove that the subjects of the Chrysanthemum Throne are just regular guys.
When India takes center stage at a world economic forum in Switzerland, everyone else is crowned with turbans and swaddled in pashmina shawls. Force-fed Champagne and chicken tikkas. Pulled onto the dance floor to join Bollywood starlets bumping and grinding in front of an electric-blue Taj Mahal. But that’s what you get when you go to a party thrown by THE WORLD’S FASTEST-GROWING FREE MARKET DEMOCRACY.
We may once have been the land of Mahatma Gandhi, trying to live according to our need, not our greed. Not any longer. We are tired of loincloths. Tired of being caged like Christians in the Roman arena while the fancy folk partying on the balconies give us the thumbs-down. Now we are flinging off the sackcloth and flaunting our true colors, with more shades of shocking pink than any acid trip could guarantee.
This tsunami of what effete Muslim noblemen refer to wearily as khubi, or “too much–ness,” is being released on an increasingly homogenized planet just when the earth is tilting on its axis. Things are sliding toward the East, and the smart money should hold out its hands for the henna.
China may be kicking ass, but India is dressing UP.