Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Go Bobby Jindal Go !

I just read an article by Shashi Tharoor about Bobby Jindal. I am joining the party late but, what the heck, I'll say it anyway. So Bobby Jindal is now the Governor of The State of Louisiana. The Desi community here and in India are all jumping with joy like teenage cheerleaders. They held prayers before the election. After the elections they celebrated like they just won a lottery. Wow, first Indian American to reach such a high position in the US government. The future sure looks bright for us here. We mastered technology, business, medicine, motels and now politics. America is truly a melting pot. But wait a minute. Do we even know what Bobby Jindal stands for? When little, the boy was named Piyush but he decided to change his name to Bobby, apparently getting inspired to be white after watching a TV show called "The Brady Bunch". He converted to Catholicism and made his wife do it too; they are regular church goers. Nothing against the religion, I've got great Catholic Desi friends, but what would be the reason he would (and make his family) convert? Possibly to appease the white folks? He stands for the Republicans. Nothing against the Republicans (I am one) but considering his parents were immigrants and knowing the hard stand of Republicans against immigration and their inherent xenophobia you would assume that the dude would be a little liberal on things sensitive to the immigrant community. He is anti-abortion, anti-gay (have to validate that), anti-gun control, and what not. All that a typical desi would stand for, Bobby Jindal stands against. The fucker is smart, no doubt about that. He is not obligated to show his Indian-ness but saala he takes money and support from Indians for his campaigns and in his speech to the Indian community he totally flips over and talks about how great the Indian culture is but makes no reference to actual policies for the benefits of immigrants or on any of his hard stands. We are so gullible. Bobby almost screams out that to succeed here you have to change your identity and be like John "Chevrolet" Doe.
Anyway, the full article is published here from TOI as follows.

The election of Bobby Jindal as governor of the US state of Louisiana has been greeted exultantly by Indians and Indian-Americans around the world. There’s no question that this is an extraordinary accomplishment: a young Indian-American, just 36 years old, not merely winning an election but doing so on the first ballot by receiving more votes than his 11 rivals combined, and that too in a state not noticeably friendly to minorities. Bobby Jindal will now be the first Indian-American governor in US history, and the youngest currently serving chief executive of an American state. These are distinctions of which he can legitimately be proud, and it is not surprising that Indians too feel a vicarious sense of shared pride in his remarkable ascent.
But is our pride misplaced? Who is Bobby Jindal and what does he really stand for?
There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of Indian migrants in America: though no sociologist, i’ll call them the atavists and the assimilationists. The atavists hold on to their original identities as much as possible, especially outside the workplace; in speech, dress, food habits, cultural preferences, they are still much more Indian than American. The assimilationists, on the other hand, seek assiduously to merge into the American mainstream; they acquire a new accent along with their visa, and adopt the ways, clothes, diet and recreational preferences of the Americans they see around them. (Of course, there are the in-betweens, but we’ll leave them aside for now.) Class has something to do with which of the two major categories an Indian immigrant falls into; so does age, since the newer generation of Indians, especially those born in America, inevitably tend to gravitate to the latter category.
Bobby Jindal is an assimilationist’s dream. Born to relatively affluent professionals in Louisiana, he rejected his Indian name (Piyush) as a very young child, insisting that he be called Bobby, after a (white) character on the popular TV show ‘The Brady Bunch’. His desire to fit in to the majority-white society he saw around him soon manifested itself in another act of rejection: Bobby spurned the Hindusim into which he was born and, as a teenager, converted to Roman Catholicism, the faith of most white Louisianans. There is, of course, nothing wrong with any of this, and it is a measure of his precocity that his parents did not balk at his wishes despite his extreme youth. The boy was clearly gifted, and he soon had a Rhodes scholarship to prove it. But he was also ambivalent about his identity: he wanted to be seen as a Louisianan, but his mirror told him he was also an Indian. The two of us won something called an ‘Excelsior Award’ once from the
Network of Indian Professionals in the US, and his acceptance speech on the occasion was striking — obligatory references to the Indian values of his parents, but a speech so American in tone and intonation that he mangled the Indian name of his own brother. There was no doubt which half of the hyphen this Indian-American leaned towards.
But there are many ways to be American, and it’s interesting which one Bobby chose. Many Indians born in America have tended to sympathise with other people of colour, identifying their lot with other immigrants, the poor, the underclass. Vinita Gupta, in Oklahoma, another largely white state, won her reputation as a crusading lawyer by taking up the case of illegal immigrants exploited by a factory owner (her story will shortly be depicted by Hollywood, with Halle Berry playing the Indian heroine). Bhairavi Desai leads a taxi drivers’ union; Preeta Bansal, who grew up as the only non-white child in her school in Nebraska, became New York’s Solicitor General and now serves on the Commission for Religious Freedom. None of this for Bobby. Louisiana’s most famous city, New Orleans, was a majority black town, at least until Hurricane Katrina destroyed so many black lives and homes, but there is no record of Bobby identifying himself with the needs or issues of his state’s black people. Instead, he sought, in a state with fewer than 10,000 Indians, not to draw attention to his race by supporting racial causes. Indeed, he went well beyond trying to be non-racial (in a state that harboured notorious racists like the Ku Klux Klansman David Duke); he cultivated the most conservative elements of white Louisiana society. With his widely-advertised piety (he asked his Indian wife, Supriya, to convert as well, and the two are regular churchgoers), Bobby Jindal adopted positions on hot-button issues that place him on the most conservative fringe of the Republican Party. Most Indian-Americans are in favour of gun control, support a woman’s right to choose abortion, advocate immigrants’ rights, and oppose school prayer (for fear that it would marginalise non-Christians). On every one of these issues, Bobby Jindal is on the opposite side. He’s not just conservative; on these questions, he is well to the right of his own party.
That hasn’t stopped him, however, from seeking the support of Indian-Americans. Bobby Jindal has raised a small fortune from them, and when he last ran (unsuccessfully) for governor in 2004, an army of Indian-American volunteers from outside the state turned up to campaign for him. Many seemed unaware of his political views; it was enough for them that he was Indian. At his Indian-American fundraising events, Bobby is careful to downplay his extreme positions and play up his heritage, a heritage that plays little part in his appeal to the Louisiana electorate. Indian-Americans, by and large, accept this as the price of political success in white America: it’s just good to have “someone like us” in such high office, whatever views he professes to get himself there.
So Indians beam proudly at another Indian-American success story to go along with Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, Hargobind Khorana and Subramaniam Chandrasekhar, Kal Penn and Jhumpa Lahiri. But none of these Indian Americans expressed attitudes and beliefs so much at variance with the prevailing values of their community. Let us be proud that a brown-skinned man with an Indian name has achieved what Bobby Jindal has. But let us not make the mistake of thinking that we should be proud of what he stands for.

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