American Elephants

India: An Opulent Visit to a Fascinating Country. by The Elephant's Child
November 4, 2010, 7:06 am
Filed under: Economy, Foreign Policy, Literature, Statism | Tags: ,

Way back in 1978, M.M. Kaye published a big blockbuster novel,with nearly as many pages as the health care bill,  a “towering novel of love and war” about the India of the 1850s — the RAJ.  M.M. Kaye was born in Simla, the summer place of the British viceroy; and when she married, her husband was an officer in Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides, so she knew India well.  The story she told was based on bits of history about a colorful royal wedding and procession.  She described the procession:

Close on eight thousand humans and more than half as many baggage animals were worse than a plague of locusts; it was clear that without planning and forethought their effect upon the country they passed through could be devastating and equally disastrous. …

The mile-long column moved at a foot’s pace, plodding through the dust at the same leisurely pace as the elephants and stopping at frequent intervals to rest, talk or argue, to wait for stragglers or draw water from the wayside wells. …

The four state elephants bore magnificent howdahs of beaten gold and silver in which the Rajkumaries and their ladies together with their younger brother and certain senior members of the bridal party, would ride in procession on the day of the wedding, and it had also been expected that the brides would travel in them on the journey.  But the slow, rolling stride of the great beasts made the howdahs sway, and the youngest bride (who was also the most important one, being the Maharajah’s full sister) complained that it made her feel ill, and demanded that both she and her sister, from whom she refused to be parted, be transferred to a ruth — a bullock-drawn cart with a domed roof and embroidered curtains.

What made me remember this and drag it out, was the account of President Obama’s visit to India.  It is announced as a “strategic ” visit with a special interest in celebrating Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.

In ledgers with trillion-dollar stimulus packages and $600 billion Fed “easings,” the $200 million-a-day price tag for these 10 days will be little more than a blip on the ledger.

Fully five fully loaded jet aircraft will fly Obama, his helicopters, and his party of 3,000 in luxury that would embarrass a rajah. The entire Taj hotel — 570 rooms — has been reserved along with space next door.

Why the president requires an entourage of 3,000 to support a face-to-face meeting with India’s prime minister is unknown.  All that remains to be required are the caparisoned elephants and the howdahs of beaten gold and silver.

I suppose that Mr. Obama assumes that the President of the United States should travel in style befitting the nation which he regards as no more exceptional than any other.  But it is fairly annoying to the peasants in flyover country who are currently unemployed through no fault of their own, but rather  through the direct actions of the U.S. government.

If I remember correctly, Franklin Delano Roosevelt once served hot dogs to the King and Queen of England.

ADDENDUM: The $200 million a day figure is widely circulated nonsense.  I apologize.  American presidents do travel with large entourages.  The security detachment is large, and protection of the president is important.  It does, however, give rise to the notions of  an” Imperial” presidency.  Perhaps it can’t be helped, but Obama seems unusually unconscious of the extent to which his actions appear profligate when the country’s economy is in such dire shape.

Strange, and Quite Wonderful. by The Elephant's Child
April 28, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

I borrowed this video shamelessly from Ace of Spades, simply because it is so fascinating.  I have no information beyond what is shown in the video.  Apparently there is a nightly ceremony of closing the gates between Pakistan and India, so  elaborate that it attracts a large and partisan audience.

There is so much more one would like to know.  What do they do the rest of the day?  Are they simply regular border guards, or is a special team hired for the display ceremony?  It is almost like the mating dance of rare tropical birds. Does the ceremony take place at all border crossings, or is this one special?  Any travelers to India among our readers?  It’s nice to have such a peaceful ceremony when there has been so much unrest between the two nations.

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