Some Indian-American folks, including the inimitable Rajan Zed of the Indo-American Leadership Confederation, berated the New England Brewing Company in the last few days for its naming of one of its beers as Gandhi-Bot. An illustrated robotic version of Gandhiji is also on the can. While the demands to rename the India Pale Ale beer have so far not been met, the brewery was forced to apologize for hurting anyone’s feelings.
The ridiculousness continues. Some morons in India are trying to sue the company even though the brewery does not even sell the product in India. Perhaps the name of the beer is insensitive, but this is going too far. We’ve seen this movie before, unfortunately a hundred times, such as the recent attacks of Selena Gomez.
Please spare me the outrage. People are WAY too sensitive. Gandhiji was undoubtedly a polymath, but he was also a human being, and can be made fun of. Especially in free societies such as the United States and purportedly, India. He may not have been a drinker but that doesn’t mean one can’t name any alcoholic beverage after him. It’s not a bad way to keep his name alive in my humble opinion, although I admit to understanding why a few people with too much time on their hands may find the beer in poor taste.
Indians have far bigger problems to deal with than this nonsense. Like all the rapey men on the prowl, dire poverty, environmental destruction, and unsanitary conditions just about everywhere. I was not even going to bother writing about all of this until today. That changed when this morning we were confronted by news of a brutal massacre in Paris of comic artists and journalists at the magazine Charlie Hebdo- for exercising their basic right to free speech with political cartoons. This came all too close on the heels of the hacking of Sony Pictures and threatening of dramatic terrorist acts over the filming and release of “The Interview” movie. These attacks of free speech are deplorable, and remind us of what is at stake. While the Gandhi-Bot controversy may not reach the level of either, the principle in play is the same, and the slope is certainly slippery.
NOBODY has a monopoly on preserving Gandhi’s memory- not Indians, not Hindus, and not Gujuratis. He was a gift to the rest of the world, as he himself would attest if he were alive today. Gandhiji’s legacy belongs to all of humanity, not the few who would pretend to speak for it. Whether opposition is about reaffirming one’s identity, showing off for political gain, or hypersensitivity, I don’t really care.
I realized after watching the ugly news from Paris today, that Indian-Americans such as myself needed to SPEAK UP and DEFEND the right of the New England Brewing Company to call their products whatever they like. Indian-Americans are NOT united in deploring the brewery over the Gandhi-Bot name. Some of us actually think it is a funny, and cool name. Meanwhile, too many of us are completely clueless about the whole thing from one way or the other because we don’t follow current events.
The company apologized right away. Isn’t it time to move on? Wouldn’t it be enough to satisfy the Mahatma himself? While some Indians are speaking of boycotts and lawsuits, some of us are also thinking about drinking. Bottoms up!
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor