India is basking in the success of sending a probe to Mars, so it comes as little surprise that the country's media was offended by a political cartoon published in the New York Times that commemorated this technical achievement by portraying Indians as stereotypical, cattle-rearing rubes.
The cartoon — showing a turban-clad Indian, accompanied by a cow, knocking on the door of the "Elite Space Club" — went viral on social media and prompted this commentary from the Times of India:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he'd like America to believe that we're no longer a land of snake charmers, but judging by a political cartoon published in the New York Times, it's going to be a while before Americans shake off that notion.
The NYT cartoon sketched by Singaporean artist Heng Kim Song takes stock of India's successful Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) - albeit, in a rather condescending manner.
While we concede that there are still many cattle-rearing citizens in our country, you'd be hard pressed to find any at the Indian Space Research Organization— the space agency that launched MOM.
India still counts as the first nation to have successfully made it to Mars in its maiden attempt— and to have done it at a fraction of the cost incurred by other countries.
And so dhoti and turban clad or not, we're still teaching a thing or two to the 'elite space club', who judging by this photo, appear to be a bunch of stodgy, xenophobic fogeys.
Twitter users were likewise indignant:
The New York Times responded by publishing a clarification on its Facebook page:
A large number of readers have complained about a recent editorial cartoon in The International New York Times, about India's foray into space exploration. The intent of the cartoonist, Heng Kim Song, was to highlight how space exploration is no longer the exclusive domain of rich, Western countries. Mr. Heng, who is based in Singapore, uses images and text —often in a provocative way— to make observations about international affairs. We apologize to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon. Mr. Heng was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens. We appreciate that readers have shared their feedback, which we welcome. — Andrew Rosenthal, Editorial Page Editor
Reaction has been mixed. Columnist Mihir Sharma called it "an apology-that-isn't-an-apology." What do you think?