The First Night
For the Desk of:
His Excellency Wen Jiabao
The Premier's Office
Capital of the Freedom-loving Nation of China
From the Desk of:
"The White Tiger"
A Thinking Man
And an Entrepreneur
Living in the world's center of Technology and Outsourcing
Electronics City Phase 1 (just off Hosur Main Road)
Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English.
My ex-employer the late Mr. Ashok's ex-wife, Pinky Madam, taught me one of these things; and at 11:32 p.m. today, which was about ten minutes ago, when the lady on All India Radio announced, "Premier Jiabao is coming to Bangalore next week," I said that thing at once.
In fact, each time when great men like you visit our country I say it. Not that I have anything against great men. In my way, sir, I consider myself one of your kind. But whenever I see our prime minister and his distinguished sidekicks drive to the airport in black cars and get out and do namastes before you in front of a TV camera and tell you about how moral and saintly India is, I have to say that thing in English.
Now, you are visiting us this week, Your Excellency, aren't you? All India Radio is usually reliable in these matters.
That was a joke, sir.
That's why I want to ask you directly if you really are coming to Bangalore. Because if you are, I have something important to tell you. See, the lady on the radio said, "Mr. Jiabao is on a mission: he wants to know the truth about Bangalore."
My blood froze. If anyone knows the truth about Bangalore, it's me.
Next, the lady announcer said, "Mr. Jiabao wants to meet some Indian entrepreneurs and hear the story of their success from their own lips."
She explained a little. Apparently, sir, you Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don't have entrepreneurs. And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs. Thousands and thousands of them. Especially in the field of technology. And these entrepreneurs -- we entrepreneurs -- have set up all these outsourcing companies that virtually run America now.
You hope to learn how to make a few Chinese entrepreneurs, that's why you're visiting. That made me feel good. But then it hit me that in keeping with international protocol, the prime minister and foreign minister of my country will meet you at the airport with garlands, small take-home sandalwood statues of Gandhi, and a booklet full of information about India's past, present, and future.
That's when I had to say that thing in English, sir. Out loud.
That was at 11:37 p.m. Five minutes ago.
I don't just swear and curse. I'm a man of action and change. I decided right there and then to start dictating a letter to you. To begin with, let me tell you of my great admiration for the ancient nation of China.
I read about your history in a book, Exciting Tales of the Exotic East, that I found on the pavement, back in the days when I was trying to get some enlightenment by going through the Sunday secondhand book market in Old Delhi. This book was mostly about pirates and gold in Hong Kong, but it did have some useful background information too: it said that you Chinese are great lovers of freedom and individual liberty. The British tried to make you their servants, but you never let them do it. I admire that, Mr. Premier.
I was a servant once, you see.
Copyright © 2008 by Aravind Adiga
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