The average Indian’s impression of our Canadian prime minister

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Sabrina Almeida

Headlines in Indian newspapers on the Trudeau visit have been quite unflattering, to say the least. “Family vacation” and “unusual trip” have been the most-polite ones, perhaps! The recent barrage of shares on Facebook compelled me to read the rather uncomplimentary content which I had been avoiding till now. This was the rare occasion where I wouldn’t readily divulge my nationality.

While our prime minister’s good looks often overshadow his head of government status, I am constantly surprised to learn that few outside Canada look beyond it.

On my recent visit to Mumbai, several friends drew my attention to his upcoming visit. From their initial comments and reactions, it seemed like they were referring to a Canadian idol winner and not the man who holds the reins of our country.

“Cute”, “dashing” and “breathtakingly handsome” were some of the words used. I was uncomfortable with this superficial description of my country’s leader. But any attempts to change the conversation only resulted in their persistence to get my take on him. Extremely critical about their own politicians and policies, they believed things were different in the True North. Not wanting to burst their bubble or give a negative impression of my new homeland, I took cover behind my “vacation” status. However, I just had to point out that our prime minister had to be known for more than his physical attributes. “But he is good-looking nah,” is what I got in return.

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The sad reality is that Canada is off most people’s radar in India. It only comes into focus when someone they know lives here. And even then, Canadian politics does not interest them… unless it intersects with the Indian framework. That might in some way explain why it is Trudeau’s looks alone that has captured their attention.

Unfortunately, his visit has only cemented this perception. Photos of the Trudeau family in Indian dress at various places of interest have trivialized his first trip to the world’s largest democracy. As the Canadian press quietly pointed out the costume changes and Indian attire was overdone. (Might I add the photo with SRK was a complete faux pas.) While this seems to be the political norm for Indian events in Canada, emphasis on clothing is the wrong way to express multiculturalism. Most often it comes across as trivial, even insulting.

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I expected the visit to be a photo competition of sorts… with PM Modi loving the limelight and Trudeau fans rushing to get a picture with him.. But absence of the Indian prime minister for most of the visit was a glaring statement bordering on disrespect. All while our prime minister continued with the pleasantries. Once again amplifying the stereotype of Canadian niceness. I can’t think of any other world leader who would have calmly accepted this bold rejection.

The world press analyzed the Indian rebuff, citing Trudeau’s alleged association with Khalistan separatists as the reason. If our prime minister has been unthinking about appearing with Sikh nationalists, his Indian counterpart has been equally undiplomatic in his reception. All because Canada is not an important factor in his foreign policy. In the end it seemed like Prime Minister Trudeau, once again made the grand gesture by meeting the Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh (once again in an Indian outfit) and reassuring him of Canada’s support of a united India.

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As a Canadian of Indian origin, I am disappointed that Prime Minister Trudeau’s Indian visit has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Not just in the Indian sub-continent but all over the world. With federal elections in 2019, I can’t help but wonder what all the negative publicity will do to his image (read votes) here at home. -CINEWS

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