An Ivanka Trump Filter for India’s Instagram

Social Commentary

An Ivanka Trump Filter for India’s Instagram

Illustration: Palak Bansal

W

hen Ivanka Trump lands in Hyderabad tonight, a crowd of politicians will likely be present to welcome her at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. Now, if these local movers and shakers have their way, they will be the only unsightly things Trump sees on her three-day stay in the city.

The city of Hyderabad has taken great pains to make itself presentable for the US President’s daughter, which of course means hiding any hints of the real India lurking behind the carefully presented facades of VVIP traffic convoys and dinners at the Faluknama Palace.

The City of Nizams is a great place to be, but only if you aren’t a beggar or a stray animal. If you’re unlucky enough to be one of those two though, you’re going to be as unwanted as Rahul Gandhi at Amit Shah’s house party. Depressingly enough, Hyderabad is witnessing large-scale killing of stray dogs, and has announced a ₹500 bounty on any information that leads to the arrest of a beggar. All this effort, to prove to Ivanka that Slumdog Millionaire was just a movie and “humaare yaha aise kuch nahi hota hai memsaab.”

Hyderabad is another instance of the real India getting forgotten at the intersection of the ideal versions of the country that foreigners and Indians hold in their minds. The First World Traveller sees India as an exotic land of meditating sadhus and dancing elephants, the Patriotic Indian sees a booming economy and energetic workforce poised to dominate the globe in the 21st Century – neither of them want to see the beggar sharing his last Parle G biscuit with the mange-ridden cur at the traffic signal.

Hyderabad is another instance of the real India getting forgotten at the intersection of the ideal versions of the country that foreigners and Indians hold in their minds

The cruellest joke of it all is that the government seems to think regular Indian citizens have no problem with any of the civic issues. Zopadpattis and packs of feral strays are part of the scenery for us, until a foreign VIP deigns to visit us. Then, the whitewashing (metaphorical as well as literal) can commence in earnest. Ironically, the desire to appear picture-perfect doesn’t go both ways – Ivanka is apparently visiting us with a diplomatic B-team after the US Secretary of State decided not to send his high-level operatives with her for the visit. But that doesn’t stop us from getting wildly excited and deploying over 10,000 cops on the streets for Trump’s visit, in addition to violating human rights and indulging in animal cruelty. Atithi Devo Bhava: Welcome to the land of ahimsa.

Going by recent events, I’m starting to wonder if “all Indians are my brothers and sisters” should be reworked to “all pro-demonetisation, GST-paying, job-having, home-owning Indians are my brothers and sisters, and the rest of you can fuck off.”

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