I have been a citizen for quite a while, and this colleague knows that I vote and participate in the civic affairs of the US, which is my country now. He has even let me know how an op-ed was not the best way to win friends!
But, no point arguing about it, I thought.
I said, "yes, he is going to India." But, then as I reached for the door, I thought I ought to correct his statement even more. So, I added, "My country is the US"
Life being a strange drama, a few hours later I am exiting the same restroom when the same colleague comes in. This time he says, "I am sorry, I was not commenting on you being an American." Better late than never, I suppose.
But, this is merely yet another episode in a long-running series of how often I feel I am viewed as an "Indian" and not as an American who happens to be from India. Funnily enough, even my students, to many of whom I am probably the first ever non-white-American instructor when they come to my classes, seem to recognize that I am American--despite my accent!. Their conversations with me are about a whole lot of Americana--from South Park to football to politics to Hollywood. Yet, there are faculty colleagues who think that the only common conversation topic between me and them is all things India?
Anyway, back to the President heading to India. It is a big event, of course. I am not sure if the daughters will accompany their father; I hope they will because it will be one awesome experience for them.
The Indian population, the business and political leaders, are all awaiting the visit. Here is one of the leading entrepreneurs who is now leading the government effort for a national ID card, talking about the significance of this visit:
And, yes, BTW, Diwali is on November 5th, and Obama will reach Bombay the day after that. So, when he is India, Obama will be viewed by the nutcases here as a secret Hindu, and later when the President is in Indonesia, his secret Muslim identity will be confirmed. Why isn't he suspected of being a Buddhist, eh!
The WSJ has a suggestion of five Indian movies for in-flight entertainment as a way to also understand a few issues related to India. The first two recommendations:
The first movie is India’s nominee for the Oscars this year: “Peepli Live.” If nothing else, this movie will prepare the President for India’s rambunctious press corp. While the U.S. has three cable general news channels, India has more than 20 and they compete fiercely for news stories.Have a good time, Mr. President. The best thing to heal from the election bruising.
Peepli Live explores how Indian news channels manufacture news to gain ratings. In the movie, a farmer contemplates suicide as the only way out of his family’s crushing debt. Unfortunately, the story is familiar to Indian audiences, as there has been a scourge of farmer suicides because of mountains of debt.
It’s the flip side of emerging India, the India that used to be written about: poor, hungry and destitute. That India still exists. And Mr. Obama will probably miss most of it visiting Mumbai and Delhi. Hundreds of millions of Indians still live on less than $1.25 a day and many have a hand to mouth existence.
For many Indians — and potentially Mr. Obama — Peepli Live was a vivid reminder of how far India still has to go and how important it is that the Indian economic miracle succeed.
The next is “3 Idiots.” Based loosely on a book, 3 Idiots explores the lives of three engineering students at an Indian Institute of Technology-like institution. It puts a human face on the experience of the workers that populate the Bangalore of American myth.