I was rather amused by the news on NDTV this evening, when I learned that a hot topic of debate in India was Shashi Tharoor’s comments on Twitter. I couldn’t help thinking about the British sitcom Sorry! and its catchphrase "Language Timothy!"
Well, this was the dialogue between Minister Shashi Tharoor and the veteran journalist Kanchan Gupta on Twitter, that caused a storm in a teacup:
Kanchan Gupta: Tell us minister, next time you travel to Kerala, will it be cattle class?
Shashi Tharoor: Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows.
I love wit and especially when it comes from an Indian politician, which is seldom. But then, of course, Shashi Tharoor isn’t your run-of-the-mill Indian politician. He’s a very well educated, accomplished author and journalist and has served as the UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information at the United Nations.
Shashi’s reply to Kanchan was just a witty remark, but what is even funnier or actually farcical is the Congress party’s recent gimmick on “Operation go austere to attain political nirvana”, causing it to take umbrage at Shashi’s remark. Such a gimmick will soon come undone as it cannot mask rising prices and make up for lack of good governance. The Congress criticized the term “cattle class” and the BJP criticized the term “holy cows”. How narrow-minded these mainstream political parties are! And to make matters worse, NDTV (which is on the way to becoming News, Difficult To Vindicate) ran a program (“The Buck stops here” hosted by Bharka Dutt) for an hour discussing Shashi Tharoor’s remarks and twittering by politicians, without even once mentioning the context in which Shashi made the remark. After watching the program, I had no idea that Shashi passed the remark in reply to a journalist’s question on travelling in cattle class.
Now, let’s consider the language of the offensive [sic] dialogue. For those of you (like me) who have travelled in economy class, you wouldn’t hesitate to find similarities between a herd of cattle and passengers cramped up in the economy class. Actually, cattle don’t have to excuse themselves and squeeze past other cattle for a comfort break and so perhaps they’re even more comfortable than us.
No wonder the five-year revision of the Oxford English Dictionary lists "cattle class” as a term to describe economy seats on an aircraft.
Also, the term “cattle class” is used quite commonly, like in this article describing how UK troops return to the UK from Afghanistan. Here again, I’d say that the troops have it better (more leg room) than Les Misérables in the economy class (by no means am I envying the troops as I know they aren’t guaranteed to have legs to fill that ample leg room).
The Congress folks are simply getting their knickers in a twist over a funny, inoffensive remark and shouting “Language, Mr. Tharoor!”