I read, and then reread, Krishneil Maharaj’s “Trouble in Paradise” (IC Nov ’02) with a little sadness and more than a little embarrassment. Whether unconsciously, via ignorance, or consciously, via blatant bigotry, the South Asian middle and upper classes are indeed guilty of marginalizing those not meeting the “ideals” of the model South Asian-American. The historical perspective offered by Maharaj lends credibility to the argument that it is impossible to offer a blanket description of the South Asian immigrant experience.
I appreciate the willingness of India Currents to provide this alternative yet much-needed perspective on a tough issue facing South Asians in this country. I hope you continue to offer views deviating from the mainstream. It is critical that we provide not just a stereotype, but a comprehensive identity for current and future generations of South Asian-Americans.
Sameer Shah, San Diego, CA
WHAT’S AT STAKE
“Bush, Iraq, and the World,” by Sanjoy Banerjee (IC Dec ’02-Jan ’03) gives a different point of view of this quagmire. The plausible explanation is a bizarre one—that it is not oil, but the obsession to cash in on popularity and get a blank check. I disagree. I think it is still the oil and nothing but the oil.
Bush Sr. was not prepared for the replacement of Saddam even though he had the whole-hearted support of the Saudis. At present the coalition in the Middle East is wavering. France has its feet entrenched in Iraq, Russia has financial interests in Iraq, and Germany is watching as the events unfold. U.S. has been left out of Iraq because it has been enforcing economic sanctions.
If Bush does not move now, Iraq will be a total loss to U.S., oil and all. The present arm-twisting of European countries and Turkey, deal-making, and money show that the U.S. interest in Iraq is pure greed, with no regard for the Iraqi people. After all, sanctions have killed half a million children and counting.
Abdulkader Khatri, San Jose, CA
BEWARE THE MAJORITY
In response to the critics of your editorial about the “Right to Dissent” (isn’t that the essence of democracy?), I would like to mention that the 20th century is characterized by a seemingly endless chain of wars and cultural and environmental disasters, none of which “the Majority” could prevent. To quote Mark Twain: “If you find yourself on the side of The Majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
Vladimir Panasenko, San Francisco, CA
The initiative of the Government of India to observe Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (Overseas Indian Day) must be commended. This is a historic step in bringing a sense of global unity among People of Indian Origin (PIO).
Yet, the selection of Jan. 9—the day in 1915 Mohandas Gandhi returned to India from South Africa—to celebrate this event seems inappropriate. Gandhi went to South Africa by his own choice, and returned to India by his own choice, a freedom that did not extend to indentured Indians, who were transported across the British Empire long before Gandhi’s return on Jan. 9.
Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas should be held on the day when Indians first began to be transported to various places in the British and French Empires under an organized scheme of indentured labor. There are many dates to choose from. Indians arrived in Mauritius on November 2, 1835, Guyana on May 5, 1838, in Trinidad on May 30, 1845, in South Africa Nov. 22, 1860, in Surinam in 1873, and in Fiji in 1879. The 20 million strong Indian diaspora is comprised mainly of descendants of these indentured Indians.
Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas should be used as an opportunity to address the discrimination against PIOs. There are serious human rights issues facing the Indian diaspora in Fiji, Trinidad, Guyana, Surinam, and other places that demand critical attention. Many who are representing the Indian diaspora at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas are political and business interests, and not truly representative of Indian activism in the diaspora.
Finally, the requirements of the PIO Card issued by the Vajpayee Government should be made less stringent. To prove the applicant is indeed of Indian origin, the Indian High Commission or embassy requires the parents’ or grandparents’ Indian passport. Most PIOs whose ancestors left India a century and a half ago have no such documentary proof.
Devant Parsuram Maharaj, President, GOPIO, Trinidad
I was drawn towards “Growing Pains” by Ragini Srinivasan and “From Software to Selling Clothes” by Sandhya Char (IC Dec ’02-Jan ‘03).
“Growing Pains” portrays very poignant details about coming of age in this country. There is a subtle wariness of growing old, yet a newfound joy of finally being regarded as an adult. The thought that haunts each individual on reaching a personal age milestone is of being relegated to a new age stratum. I turned 25 this year and, like countless other youths who managed to grow to a quarter of a century this year, it feels wonderful.
“From Software to Selling Clothes” is implicitly closer to me. I am a software engineer and also have had the privilege of working in a retail franchise for little over half a year. Even though I agree that this society is class-conscious, I also know that anybody who comes to shop in a department store has money to spend. That money could have been earned as a software engineer, doctor, lawyer, gas storeowner, or even a sales associate in the same departmental store. Most college students in the U.S. work part-time. They are not averse to these jobs, unlike those of us who have never worked behind the counter in our lives in India.
So to look down upon a job does not come from this society; rather, it is a composite of the ideals we have been fed as Indians. I agree with the point about us being “a culture where less value is placed on social manners.” That’s the first thing that hits a new student or professional in this country. Most individuals in professional positions try to be cordial here, unlike in India where it is not part of the work culture.
Amit Nayak, Torrance, CA
IN DEFENSE OF WHITE MEN
Censorship is a concept applicable only to governments. If private individuals patronize or persuade others to patronize a particular media outlet, they are exercising their fundamental right to associate. For example, Teed Rockwell cannot accuse India Currents of censorship because it patronizes only ultra-Leftist viewpoints. It is their right. It is true that this country is founded on the principle, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” At the same time, this greatest of countries recognizes and protects one’s right to not associate with people one does not agree with.
Both Oppressors and Oppressed come in all colors and creeds. Priyadarshi Datta need only look at Africa, the Balkans, Asia, Europe and Middle East to know of black-on-black, black-on-white, white-on-white, yellow-on-yellow, and brown-on-brown oppression. Therefore, it is preposterous for him to suggest that all victims are non-white and all aggressors are white, and for you to publish it without qualification.
The fellow expatriates of Sarita Sarvate who perished in the bombing of the Twin Towers—which, incidentally, is an example of brown-on-white oppression—are unfortunate victims and at best, unwitting heroes. They certainly cannot be compared to the firefighters and the police who knowingly went into the blazing towers to rescue people.
Moreover, Sarvate got her history wrong. America also fought against Germany and Italy, two cultures as similar to American culture as any. And as late as in the 1990s, America fought against Serbia, another white country. Sarvate must be thankful that she is in the country of Washington/Lincoln (the quintessential White Males she so passionately hates) where she can exercise her right to express her views, however wrong, misleading, and loathsome they are.
Were she in some of those countries ruled by the non-Whites she so uncritically admires, she would have been imprisoned, raped, tortured, and shot dead for the “crime” of expressing her opinions, even if she came up with opinions that are right and worthy.
Vidya Lankar, via the Internet
EVOCATIVE AND TRUE
The article, “Trouble in Paradise” (IC Nov ’02) is brilliantly evocative, studiously researched, and above all, so true. What a pity that the Indian race is split into a million fragments that defy a unified description. And yet, is that necessary?
Hema Ravikumar, via the Internet