Justin Trudeau has had a busy week in India. His packed schedule has included sightseeing, making rotis, playing cricket and doing the bhangra, apart from a meeting or two.

And if this was not hectic enough, he has also had to dodge a volley of attacks along the way, a task no doubt made doubly hard when dressed in heavy silk sherwanis.

Consequently, events that should have comprised the outtakes of the Canadian prime minister’s diplomatic visit have become the highlight, at least as far as media coverage is concerned. For much of his visit, Trudeau has made news for all the wrong reasons. In particular, the Canadian first family’s choice of outfits – traditional Indian festive in bold colours that look straight out of a wedding-wear catalogue – have got not just the fashion police but even political watchdogs fuming. The media has not pulled any punches, going so far as to call his attire “too flashy for even an Indian” and asking him to “stop trying so hard”.

The humour and optics of it apart, being too dressed up for an event (or even a country) could be embarrassing, but is not a major offence. That storm would have blown over soon and Trudeau could have gone back to drawing sartorial attention only for his socks. But the politician dug a deeper grave for himself by inviting convicted Khalistani militant Jaspal Atwal to dinner on Thursday, at the Canada House in New Delhi. That invitation was later rescinded, but as the media pointed out, Atwal had fraternised with the first family earlier in the trip and on previous occasions in Canada too. This has only given heft to the perception that Trudeau goes soft on pro-Khalistan groups in his country – a perception that had already prompted a less than warm welcome for the Canadian prime minister from India’s politicians at the very start of his trip.

All of this has led to the conclusion that Trudeau’s India visit “could hardly be going worse”, according to Canadian journalist Terry Glavin, who, writing for the Ottawa Citizen, concluded that “it would have been better, in hindsight, if Trudeau had gone to India alone, invited himself to dinner with Modi, and thrown up in his lap”. In an equally stinging editorial, John Ibbitson writing for the Globe and Mail concluded that the Trudeau family had made a
spectacle of themselves” in India.

So, how did it all go south? In photos and tweets, a look at Trudeau’s India visit.

Week that was

Trudeau and family arrived in India for an eight-day trip on February 17, greeting the country from the New Delhi airport runway with their hands folded in namaste. That would be their pose for much of the trip, prompting even former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to take potshots.

The sightseeing was kicked off at the Taj Mahal the next day, standard-fare for a dignitary coming to India, but the photos therein set the tone for much of Trudeau’s trip: a time that looked more like a fun family vacation than a taxpayer-funded work visit, as many critics pointed out.

On day two, more textbook touristy stuff followed, but the Trudeaus ramped things up considerably, rolling out the first of many Indian attires when they visited the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, followed by Akshardham in Gandhinagar. The media and Twitter took notice and the Manyavar jokes began, with even news publications contending that the family looked like a walking advertisement for the elite ethnic wear brand.

The best would come the subsequent day, however, when the Canadian prime minister wore a golden and heavily embroidered sherwani to a Bollywood event that stood in stark contrast to the dark suits that all the stars had opted for.

But Trudeau was unfazed. Intent to make the most of his visit by trying all things Indian, the Canadian prime minister, now in Amritsar, chalked in a roti-making tutorial while at the Golden Temple.

Just when it seemed like Trudeau may have ticked all the #desigoals off his list, he took things up a notch: he danced his way into the Canada House in Delhi on Thursday night, doing the bhangra.

If there was a list of Indian things to do in India, Trudeau would have certainly checked most of it, Twitter concluded. There were also plenty of suggestions to the Canadian prime minister on how he could truly immerse himself in the Indian experience.