When Hillary Clinton planned and set off to the Far East for what was supposed to be her farewell trip, no one expected the Secretary of State and her team to fly right into the eye of the most testing diplomatic storm of her career. It is remarkable that Hillary Clinton and her equipage left Beijing without being mauled beyond recognition by the Chinese dragons.
So no one can blame Hillary if she decided to take it easy, and give a scoot to her risky engagement with the Tigress of West Bengal, Mamta Banerjee, for some powder room diplomacy instead. Mamta Banerjee had recently got rid of the communists who wrecked the state and its economy during past 24 years but she has opposed U.S. investment in India in the retail sector.
In political terms Mamta Banerjee has every quality of a Tiger, an endangered species of wild cats, for which the Sundarban forest of West Bengal is a protected sanctuary and tourist attraction.
Hillary and her team had planned to engage the mercurial leader for extracting concessions for U.S. investment, which she was vehemently objecting. It was part of the larger recognition that power in India no longer resides simply in New Delhi and the U.S. must engage with regional leaders.
Instead, Hillary simply turned her trip into a charm offensive with her 'namaste' (Indian way of greeting by holding your paws together) and winning smile, making everyone smile and pour accolades and genuine affection on the U.S. Secretary of state, even implore her to contest the presidential in 2016.
Hillary and her team spent the time visiting Kolkata's Heritage and engaging with its citizens in various cultural programmes though reports say that there were enough of discussions on what she wanted to exchange with the chief minister, which was played down by Mamta and the Indian press.
"I know for myself how difficult it is for women to get elected anywhere," Clinton said in Kolkata. "When I meet a woman who's broken through those barriers... we share a common bond, if you will, having gone through the fire of electoral politics."
There is no wonder why Hillary Clinton chose more to explore the lighter side of Kolkata, with which not only the British East India Company but many other famous personalities like Mother Theresa and Dominique Lapierre, the author of 'City Of Joy' were enamoured in the past.
However, it must be the spirit and emotional character of this city, in which it is hard to find a citizen who wants to migrate elsewhere, despite its din and dizzle and mass of population, which must have rubbed on the U.S. Secretary of state and made her declare: "I want to come back to India and wander about without the streets being closed."
Despite the sweltering heat of the Indian summer, Kolkata, which was the first British capital of India with many heritage buildings and history, has a lot to offer for a tourist with some spirit of adventure.
Follow Sreedhar Pillai on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lastingrose