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Hasn’t India Got Much On?

The Foreign Office in India has summoned New Zealand’s High Commissioner in that country to explain the racism of TVNZ breakfast presenter, Paul Henry, after Henry deliberately mispronounced the surname of the Delhi chief Minister “dick-shit”. If her surname was Patel, for argument’s sake, this would be and open-and-shut case of outrageous racial insensitivity. In fact, her name is Dikshit.

Sheila Dikshit.

Apparently it is pronounced as in “Dixit” with a silent H. (I wonder if the Dikshit family ever considered discarding the “h” altogether since it serves no obvious purpose except for making their name look very much like it should be pronounced DICKSHIT).

None of this is to forgive Paul Henry. I am not a member of the racism police, but it is enough for me that Henry is a self-styled trouble-maker to determine that he is the worst kind of wanker.

If finding foreign language surnames that sound a lot like rude words in English funny is racist, then racism is very rampant indeed. A friend of mine once reported how the stiff formality of his graduation ceremony was shot to pieces when “Edwin Yu Phat Kok” was awarded his engineering degree.

If “quin” meant ejaculation fluid in Hindi, would I be offended if my arrival at Delhi airport was met with howls of laughter? I doubt it. I would probably find it funny and eventually really boring — but I would never ask my government to intervene.

So, it seems a little overwrought to call in diplomats over “Dikshitgate”. If anything calls for a radio play, this is it.

Indian Foreign Office. Tea cups clinking.

Official: Mr High Commissioner, you know why you are here.
HiCom: Yis.
Official: It is a very serious matter.
HiCom: Yis, ut uz.
Official: Minister Dikshit is a great servant to India and the Commonwealth and we find it extremely insulting that she should have her surname deliberately mangled so as to sound very much like obscene English words.`
HiCom: We understand.
Official: How would you like it if your name were mischievously reconfigured into synonyms for penis and excrement?
HiCom: I should like it not at all.
Official: You see the point, then, High Commissioner?
HiCom: I most certainly do.
Official: We are not content to leave it there.  The Indian Government wants to convey this message very clearly to your government and to the Commonwealth more broadly: as punishment for the gross insensitivity of Mr Paul Henry, we will withhold from all parties a well-run Commonwealth Games.
HiCom: I big your pardon?
Official: You heard me, High Commissioner. India will ensure that the Delhi Games are a complete debacle as a way of conveying our offense at the Henry comments. We will make the whole experience weird and annoying for everyone involved.
HiCom: Forgive me, but isn’t that somewhat extreme?
Official: What is extreme, High Commissioner, is the phrase “DICKSHIT”.
HiCom: Yis, but…
Official: “Thanks, Paul Henry, for this  terrible, terrible sporting event” – this will be the phrase will echo in every farflung corner of the Commonwealth, my dear High Commissioner!
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  1. James McGehan
    October 7, 2010 at 18:25

    This morning TVNZ found and broadcast a snippet from an Australian channel in which the lady is asked to confirm the correct pronunciation of her name. In precisely enunciated tones she replied “Sheila as in Sheila, Dikshit”
    Note the first syllable is emphasised, the second i clipped almost to extinction.
    She said this was a common enough surname in India.
    So much for Peter Williams’ attempt to make “dk” sound like “x”
    The worst thing is we were denied the oppotunity to see Paul Henry interview Chris Carter about his decision to resign from national politics for “new challenges”. There is no chance Paul would have missed the chance to comment on how shiny Chris’ head looked .
    Give my regards to Broadway, James

    • PQ
      October 7, 2010 at 19:02

      Thanks, James. I really don’t know what happened to Chris in the decade since I knew him. He and Peter were/are great guys. My Jonty Hunt theory is as good as any I reckon :). And you’re so right re the shiny forehead. I doubt he’s scared of makeup.

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