(Tiger Woods was in India this week. Re-posting a piece I wrote about the golfer in 2009 when he was in news for his personal life)
In an Indian environment, the Tiger Woods saga perhaps would have been a little different. When the golfer crashed his vehicle outside his house, the police and ambulance would have been the last to know, given the sorry state of such services in India. Nobody would have bothered to call or inform them as they never arrive when needed. No one wants to be involved in a “police case” that could drag on for years, with innocents usually harassed the most.
Woods would have been carried back home by the otherwise usually helpful and also very nosy neighbours. “He is having an affair/s, so problems with the wife,” they would all say – but only in whispers as such things are never spoken about loudly, in public, to the media, and never in front of the wife.
Riots would soon threaten to break out outside Woods’ house, presumably in congested Delhi or Mumbai, where roadside pavements are home to millions of homeless. It would emerge the driver was in a state of intoxication and, to escape his wife, ended up driving his vehicle over beggars and construction workers sleeping on the pavement at night. A couple of people would have died without knowing what hit them.
After some time, the police would arrive anyway as they sensed that the accident involved a rich man, but not a politician or bureaucrat or an affluent businessman with connections. They would wonder how being a golfer could be a profession at all.
Over cups of tea, they would wait for Woods to regain consciousness then ask him to breathe into a dirty, bacteria and infection-laden instrument to test for alcohol levels. Then they would threaten to take away his driving license (never easy to procure, given the inefficiencies of the system) and vehicle unless he took care of the attending officers. Bribe and booze bottles accepted, they would step out and fire their guns in the air to disperse the crowd. The log at the police station would read: “No alcohol traced”. The accident would not be mentioned.
The media, seeped in middle-class sensibilities, would have sniffed out the story as it has a very powerful and saleable peg – the rich driving big cars over the poor. Only top reporters with experience of covering events such as the Mumbai terror strike last November (and who provided first-hand live visuals – including to militant coordinators sitting in Pakistan) would be selected for the assignment. Senior reporters would station themselves outside Woods’ house 24/7, while others fanned out to hospitals. There they would push and shove their cameras and microphones past dead or dying accident victims to get that elusive sound byte against all medical advice or intervention, in the name of the freedom of the press and democratic rights.
The case would somehow eventually go to court. By now, much money would have changed hands, involving among Woods’ well-placed friends, relatives, lawyers and important police officials. Handed more cash incentives, the police would discover that the vehicle that Woods was driving was not registered in the driver’s name, as it was illegally imported to escape duties and taxes.
The court would accordingly be informed that the entire case was fabricated as Woods owns no such vehicle, so he couldn’t be driving one. The accident probably happened due to a rashly driven truck that escaped in the cover of darkness, so no license plate number could be noted. Witnesses could not be trusted as they were sleeping. The number of killed and injured would in any case be reduced by the cops as some would be illegal migrants from Bangladesh with no record of their existence in India. Media reports about the actual injured and killed would be dismissed as mere hype and hyperbole.
Some of India’s top celebrities who love to appear on TV for any occasion – and many of whom have reportedly also had numerous affairs or have several wives – would come out in public to support Woods. They could include the likes of film stars Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Vinod Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Kabir Bedi, Shekhar Kapur, Boney Kapoor, Mahesh Bhatt, or cricketers such as Mohammed Azharuddin, Saurav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh.
Woods’ wife would by now be extremely sorry for what has happened to her husband and hold herself responsible for all the problems to her family, because under Indian traditions the husband is a god and can do no wrong. She would undertake a grueling fast and visit temples all over the country to cleanse her sins.
Woods’ mistresses would disappear from the scene. For the unmarried ones who presumably had a good time (in bed and otherwise), there would be no question of exposure to the media, since they would need to keep the honor of their families intact. They would have been be taught by their mothers to keep intact the virginity tag, the ultimate gift on the ultimate night of their marriage and valued most by the Indian husband gods.
The married mistresses would keep quiet for obvious reasons. Back at the scene of the accident, the laborers and construction workers who survived the crash would wake up from their unconscious states to discover that one of their kidneys had disappeared. They would be told that they were lucky to survive and be sent packing by the hospital authorities and the police.
Woods would go back to playing the professional circuit, wife and mistresses intact – if he happened to be an Indian, that is.