A mis-spelt Mayo. When May looks at a cow, she misses the steak.
And has no qualms engaging maids in India?
Was expelled US official a bleeding heart or an ugly American?
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Wayne’s world: Was expelled US official a bleeding heart or an ugly American?
Chidanand Rajghatta,TNN | Jan 13, 2014, 01.15 AM IST
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WASHINGTON: The US official who was expelled in a tit-for-tat diplomatic battle over Devyani Khobragade was nearing the end of his posting in India, scheduled to leave New Delhi in February. But in their three years in India, Wayne May, who headed the US embassy's security team in New Delhi, and his wife Alicia Muller May, who worked as the embassy's community liaison officer, revealed conflicting impulses and contradictory outlook towards the people and country they served in.
On the one hand, it was evidently their bleeding heart concern for housekeeper Sangeeta Richard, whose in-laws worked with them and a succession of US embassy officials, that led them to "rescue" the nanny's husband and children from the strong-arm tactics of the Indian judicial and police system that diplomat Devyani Khobragade unleashed on them after Sangeeta fell out with her. On the other hand, their facetious comments about a stereotypical India abounding in chaos and filth, which some might see as offensive, shows them as the archetypal "ugly Americans".
They laid out their opinions and views quite guilelessly on social media through photographs and comments that were quickly seized on and distributed by bloggers and trolls ever sensitive to any perceived insult of India. Although the comments are often flippant, the kind many people make on social media without fear of consequence, they sound extremely offensive now given the fraught context of the diplomatic spat. Their profiles, pictures and comments were removed and their social media presence sanitized soon after they were discovered, but not before the online warriors had saved and uploaded them on other social media sites, portraying them as "racist American diplomats".
The Indian "holy cow" is a recurring theme in their entries, starting from the time Wayne May was posted in New Delhi in 2010. The first of the pictures appears in June 2010 with a comment from Wayne saying, "No eating the sacred cows". A little later, he adds, "one week in country and I already miss steak".
His wife Alicia captions another photo "Stupid Cow". A friend comments, "You just insulted their cow," to which May responds, "Not the first time, not the last time". But a short time later, she shows the kind of frustration that many Indians might also share: "Just wait till you have to dodge these beasts in your car because they are laying in the middle of the road blocking traffic — they lose their 'holiness' real fast. And, as holy as they are supposed to be, most of them are bodyline starved. It's awful to see. Everything is a contradiction here ..."
There is other banter in which enraged nationalists see signs of Indian laws being broken by the meat-loving diplomats. "Had real American Hamburgers for dinner last night. A friend smuggled them in his suitcase last night," Alicia Muller May writes in September 2010, soon after their arrival in India, adding, "water buffalo burgers just aren't cutting it. Oh, the simple pleasures of life ..." Another time, she alerts her friends in Delhi to "a good friend in Beijing who is coming to the CLO office with beautiful pearls for sale ..." — which some see as evidence that embassy premises were being used for commercial activities.
In one bizarre exchange in November 2012 in response to a Huffington Post article on claims that are meat eaters being more prone to violence and sex crimes, Alicia May says "I'd like them to do a follow up article on how many vegetarians rape women here every day." It is the vegetarians that are doing the raping, not the meat eaters, she says, later adding that, "Applies only to Indians, not westerners".
The domestic Indian staff for whom they professedly had concern don't come out very well either in their corrosive social media exchanges. In one photograph, it is pointed out that their pet dog Paco looks bigger and in better health than their Indian gardener. Paco, says May, gets more protein in his diet. Another time, May goes to a mosque in Delhi with two visitors where they get a VIP tour because they are from the US embassy.
"I hate the taste but I have to be polite," she says about having to drink tea at the mosque. Her friend: "Tea? I thought it was coffee." "If it tastes like rancid mushroom, don't drink it." Friend (who is evidently serving in Afghanistan): ''Everything is rancid in Afghanistan. That's how you know it is farm fresh."
To be sure, most of the exchanges are frivolous and typical of social media tattle. But given the sensitive positions they occupied in the US embassy, they are, particularly in hindsight, astonishingly offensive, robbing the couple of their "bleeding heart" credentials that is said to have led them to spirit out Sangeeta Richard's family from New Delhi. The biggest irony: Alicia Muller May is the US embassy's community liaison officer.