Portrait of a desi as an American wannabe

Ray

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Portrait of a desi as an American wannabe
Chidanand Rajghatta,


In 1968, the year India's first tech house Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) was launched, Hollywood released a riotous comedy called The Party. Starring Peter Sellers as Hrundi Bakshi, a bumbling Indian actor who runs amok at a chic Hollywood party, the film caricatured desis as gauche buffoons, unable to hold their own in a western social setting. Back in India, the movie enraged many filmgoers and there were demands to ban it even as thousands of Indians, including a certain Amar and Raj Jindal from Punjab, were making plans to migrate to the United States. Decades later, when Piyush (the son Jindals had conceived in India and delivered in US) was a young man (who had changed his name to Bobby), Indians in the US were still the butt of jokes, caricatured by such accented figures as Apu in The Simpsons.

By the turn of the century however, Asian Indians in the US, commonly known as Indian-Americans (to distinguish them from "American Indians," the term used to describe Native Americans) had graduated to become a smart, savvy, successful bunch, the wealthiest and best educated among all ethnic groups in America. Still, their representation in professions ranging from medicine to engineering to academia to finance to even public life in the first decade of the 21st century was totally disproportionate to their numbers. The Simpson's Apu the storekeeper had been supplanted by Raj Koothrapalli, the astrophysicist in Big Bang Theory. They were the gifted geeks.

As far back as the late 1990s, a dotcomwallah had told me only half in jest that if one ran up Sand Hill Road (the venture capital headquarters) in the buff and had a brown arse, VCs would be throwing money at you. The butt of jokes had become the joke of butts. In the 2010s, the US was ready to bet its bottom dollar on Indian-Americans. The Karma of Brown Folk — to paraphrase the title of a breakthrough cultural study of ethnic Indians — was to be successful in whatever field they entered.

Politics is often considered the last frontier, and indeed, for the better part of 15 years now, Indian-Americans have been making a splash in this sphere without having to disdain their race, ethnicity, or color. Three Congressman of Indian origin, two state governors (Bobby Jindal featuring in both), a US attorney, a state attorney general, a federal court judge, several state legislators and assistant secretaries of state, numerous CEOs and administrators all entered public service without any need to disown or disregard their origins. In anything, they wore their Indian-origin as a badge of pride and honor. Except for Piyush "Bobby" Jindal.

Last week, as reports surfaced that a portrait of Bobby Jindal had been painted in lighter tones to make him appear white Caucasian, the Louisiana governor's struggle with his ethnicity was once again the focus of attention. Why would he disdain his brown, Indian origins in a country that joyfully elected a mixed race African American with the unlikely name of Barack Hussein Obama?

To many critics, this was illustrative of the need on part of many Indians to scrub their ethnic identity in an effort to be "accepted" in white American society, although the United States itself was becoming increasingly mixed, and on its way to becoming a white minority country by 2042, possibly earlier. The portrait inspired a new meme and a hashtag (#JindalPortrait) and jokes flew thick and fast. Jindal is so white, said one snarky tweet, "he cuts his roti into little squares and tops it with cucumber and mayo."

Jindal's office protested the skewering, saying he had nothing to do with the portrait. Apparently, the portrait was painted by Louisiana artist Tommy Yow Jr., who said he had never met the governor and had used a photograph. The portrait was then bought by a Louisiana businessman who in turn loaned it to Jindal's office in 2008 to be hung in his office. A journalist then took a photo of the portrait (Yow claims the photo made the portrait look lighter) and before long it was making a splash in twitterverse.

Meanwhile efforts by Jindal's office to control the damage by putting out the governor's official portrait (with the message "Thx for your race-baiting tweet") backfired. Although, he looked several shades darker in the official portrait, Jindal was still far from brown. The official portrait showed him to be almost orange — like he was sunburnt. And indeed, another round of flaming followed.

The grotesque makeover, at a time when America is celebrating its diversity, has brought scorn on Jindal. Many commentators harked back to the continued "whitewashing" of America, particularly in the entertainment industry, where figures ranging from Michael Jackson in the past to actress Gabourey Sidibe more recently have been presented in lighter tones to make them more "acceptable" to the general public, although the public itself is getting darker. ''Rather than championing diversity, stereotypical images such as these systematically erase our differences. Hollywood is one thing. The fact that this alarming trend is seeping into politics is truly horrifying,'' noted Nicole Dahmen, a visual communications educator at the University of Oregon.

None of this would have made such flaming headlines but for Jindal's disdaining last month of the term Indian-American, an appellation Indians in US embrace almost universally. Combined with his ultra-conservative record, arising from converting to Christianity in high school after changing his name to Bobby, a character in the serial The Brady Bunch, his pursuit of "white credentials" is widely seen as part of his political game plan in pursuit of higher office, to make himself a more viable Republican candidate for the voting public.

To many Indians, increasingly connected to their homeland because of collapsing distances, crossover cultural ties, and economies tied at the hip, the Jindal portrait flap is a throwback to the desi caricature of yesteryear — the desperate immigrant who learns the intricacies of American football, aces Trivial Pursuit full of American minutiae, and boasts about how many white American friends he has. Remains to be seen whether this gambit will take Jindal all the way to the White House.

Portrait of a desi as an American wannabe - The Times of India
Bolo Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal ki Jai!

The man really is a fruit.
 

asianobserve

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It's actually simple, when they became Americans they swore exclusive allegiance to the USA. Their loyalty is to their present country not their past or their parents' country.

If an American citizen applies for Indian naturalization would you, as an Indian, like that this naturalised Indian continue to maintain allegiance/loyalty to the USA, especially if this former American now holds high ranking Indian government position? Would like that this former American citizen give partiality or turn a blind eye to American citizens who are accused of violating Indian laws while they are in India?
 

Bangalorean

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The Indian-American community is now the richest in the US. They have surpassed the Jews. This is no mean feat.

But the problem with Indians is, they don't do any lobbying, they don't push for the benefit of their parent nation. Look at the way the Jewish lobby works. The Jews make full use of their economic might, clout and political connections to help their mother nation, Israel. Indians just earn money and stay in their own cocoons.

Far from lobbying for the benefit of India, there are traitor leftists in the Indian-American community who lose no opportunity to lambast India, suck up to the White man and propagate the worst stereotypes of India. Far from helping India, there are traitor leftists like that Ghosh chap, who led protests and a vilification campaign against Modi when Modi was scheduled to travel to the US for a speech (before he became PM).

I hope at least now, American-Indians start playing a more proactive role in lobbying, and using their influence to the benefit of India.

As far as Bobby Jindal is concerned, he should remain a bit player in politics - he shouldn't go too far up. Any pro-India move he makes will be viewed with suspicion. Just to avoid that suspicion, he will adopt a needlessly hard stance towards India.

I would like a republican white President in the US, between 50-60 years of age.
 

Bangalorean

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It's actually simple, when they became Americans they swore exclusive allegiance to the USA. Their loyalty is to their present country not their past or their parents' country.

If an American citizen applies for Indian naturalization would you, as an Indian, like that this naturalised Indian continue to maintain allegiance/loyalty to the USA, especially if this former American now holds high ranking Indian government position? Would like that this former American citizen give partiality or turn a blind eye to American citizens who are accused of violating Indian laws while they are in India?
Of course loyalty can be to the present country. But that doesn't mean one cannot lobby for the benefit of the parent nation.

Have you seen the Jewish lobby in the US and how they promote Israel?

India is not an enemy of the US. Lobbying to have industries set up in India instead of China is not against American interests by any means.
 

Ray

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It's actually simple, when they became Americans they swore exclusive allegiance to the USA. Their loyalty is to their present country not their past or their parents' country.

If an American citizen applies for Indian naturalization would you, as an Indian, like that this naturalised Indian continue to maintain allegiance/loyalty to the USA, especially if this former American now holds high ranking Indian government position? Would like that this former American citizen give partiality or turn a blind eye to American citizens who are accused of violating Indian laws while they are in India?
Loyalty is not the question.

One must be loyal to the country of choice for citizenship. There is no second thoughts to that.

However, disparaging one's origin is another thing.

Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright is a Czechoslovakian-born American politician and diplomat. She never disclaimed that she was of Czech descent.

Or JFK disowned his Irish ancestry. Or the fact that all four of his grandparents were the children of immigrants from Ireland.
 

Free Karma

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Far from lobbying for the benefit of India, there are traitor leftists in the Indian-American community who lose no opportunity to lambast India, suck up to the White man and propagate the worst stereotypes of India. Far from helping India, there are traitor leftists like that Ghosh chap, who led protests and a vilification campaign against Modi when Modi was scheduled to travel to the US for a speech (before he became PM).

I hope at least now, American-Indians start playing a more proactive role in lobbying, and using their influence to the benefit of India.
This not limited to Indians in the west alone tbh, plenty of rich Indians in general, have this problem of self hatred and thirst for praise from the whites like Narayana Murthy.

Also on the point of spreading stereotypes/nonsense about Indian culture, these guys do it at times unknowingly.

Rohan Murthy (like some rich people) is sponsoring some Sanskrit/Indian studies at western universities. While this might seem like a good things, thereby basically giving them more power to control our history/narrative, worse, I heard that the guy he sponsored, Pollock, is the typical wendy doninger types. Which only creates more divisive, garbage propaganda.

This might due to many things....he just wants to get their name on a western university, Or maybe they feel that these people know more about us than ourselves (which is BS), or they feel research is better there in which case, it would be better to invest in univs to improve. standards. Ultimately it's their cash..but it's a bit sad.

Ultimately it all goes back to the mccaulay style education and mindset, and super leftist media, which genuinely prevents people from taking pride in who they are and feel the need to put themselves, down accept other narratives and so on. Once this is changed, there will be a huge difference .I feel we are at a crossroads here, with the growth of right wing style media, that starts to change the thinking pattern of people and move away from the typical leftists thrash reporting.
 
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asianobserve

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Loyalty is not the question.

One must be loyal to the country of choice for citizenship. There is no second thoughts to that.

However, disparaging one's origin is another thing.

Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright is a Czechoslovakian-born American politician and diplomat. She never disclaimed that she was of Czech descent.

Or JFK disowned his Irish ancestry. Or the fact that all four of his grandparents were the children of immigrants from Ireland.
I don't think they are desparaging India. The article did not say that Jindal said anything derogatory against India as a country or its people. That the painter of his portrait whitened his color I think should not be associated with Jindal. In the case of Bharara I think he is not persecuting INdian nationals for he is equally zealous in prosecuting Caucasians, Asians, Russians, etc. (I think Bharara wants to run for higher Office, but I think he is doing a good job).
 
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Ray

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I don't think they are desparaging India. The article did not say that Jindal said anything derogatory against India as a country or its people. That the painter of his portrait whitened his color I think should not be associated with Jindal. In the case of Bharara I think he is not persecuting INdian nationals for he is equally zealous in prosecuting Caucasians, Asians, Russians, etc. (I think Bharara wants to run for higher Office, but I think he is doing a good job).
As I said you are rather ill informed since you do not read and keep yourself with the times.

Read, not only this article, but also what he has said earlier.

He had said I came to America to be an American and not an Indian American.

Are the Malaysia Chinese or Indian taken to be Malays?

If so, how come they are not included in the Bhoomiputra definition?

Maybe giving you an example nearer to your understanding will make you realise the reality and not comment for the sake of commenting.
 

asianobserve

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He had said I came to America to be an American and not an Indian American.
That's odd because Jindal is a natural born American...

Anyway, I think that's part of the success of America. It is able to assimilate (Americanize) its immigrants. All these immigrants to AMerica from all over the World once they enter America they become "Americans," not Indians, Pakistanis, Czechs, POlish, Filipinos, JApanese, etc.


If so, how come they are not included in the Bhoomiputra definition?

Maybe giving you an example nearer to your understanding will make you realise the reality and not comment for the sake of commenting.
As a country we definitely can do more to be more inclusive. I do not deny that we still have tense social relations and Malay nationalism is not helping.
 
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PredictablyMalicious

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Why are Indians so concerned with how people of Indian origin conduct themselves in a foreign nation? Is it a sign of insecurity? Sure, you can wish that India gets more clout in American politics but to claim that Indian Americans who are not interested in furthering their deviant objective, are self-haters, is pretty pathetic. People whose ancestors happen to be from India do not owe anything to India or the Indian people for it.
 

pmaitra

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That's odd because Jindal is a natural born American...

Anyway, I think that's part of the success of America. It is able to assimilate (Americanize) its immigrants. All these immigrants to AMerica from all over the World once they enter America they become "Americans," not Indians, Pakistanis, Czechs, POlish, Filipinos, JApanese, etc.




As a country we definitely can do more to be more inclusive. I do not deny that we still have tense social relations and Malay nationalism is not helping.
Utter nonsense.

I have lived in America for many years. No one was able to make me stick feathers into my head.

Every immigrant has the right to preserve his national culture. Preserving national culture is way better than going up on stage and pulling off a Miley Cyrus. A big problem with America is this tendency, amongst some, to wipe out ones ancestral culture, and what we see is a big void. This tendency is seen mainly amongst the recent off-the-boat immigrants.

I have a lot of respect for people who preserve their ancestral culture, whether a German-American leaning how to dance Waltz, or a Greek-American leaning how to make Baklava.
 

blueblood

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I think Jindal decided to burn the bridge.

An impressive 84% of the 2.85 million-strong Indian-American community voted for Mr Obama in 2008, second perhaps only to African-Americans as a minority group.

Has he still got their love? It appears so.

According to a Pew Research Center survey released in June, 65% of Indian-Americans approve of the way Mr Obama is handling the presidency.

Of all the Asian American groups surveyed, Indian-Americans were the most Democratic-leaning, again at 65%. Only 18% favoured Republicans.

BBC News - Why do Indian-Americans flock to the Democratic Party?
[video]http://media3.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2015_06/876131/jindalportrait_792a92b2b7a36c63a908a38c7c582444.jp g[/video]

He sure looks white to me.
 

asianobserve

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I have a lot of respect for people who preserve their ancestral culture, whether a German-American leaning how to dance Waltz, or a Greek-American leaning how to make Baklava.

Why, are Indian-Americans not eating curry anymore? The ancestors of these German-AMericans fought the Germans in Europe in both WW1 and WW2. Do you condemn them for doing that? It is but natural for American migrants to retain some aspects of their ethnicity but I think to truly integrate into their new country they must totally and unequivocally embrace their Americanization. This to me determines a successful immigration integration system. This is also where America is more successful at. And I think I can safely say that for immigrants, the more integrated they are usually the more successful they are in their new country.
 

pmaitra

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Why, are Indian-Americans not eating curry anymore? The ancestors of these German-AMericans fought the Germans in Europe in both WW1 and WW2. Do you condemn them for doing that? It is but natural for American migrants to retain some aspects of their ethnicity but I think to truly integrate into their new country they must totally and unequivocally embrace their Americanization. This to me determines a successful immigration integration system. This is also where America is more successful at. And I think I can safely say that for immigrants, the more integrated they are usually the more successful they are in their new country.
Inane questions, but it seems you got the point.
 

W.G.Ewald

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Loyalty is not the question.

One must be loyal to the country of choice for citizenship. There is no second thoughts to that.

However, disparaging one's origin is another thing.

Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright is a Czechoslovakian-born American politician and diplomat. She never disclaimed that she was of Czech descent.

Or JFK disowned his Irish ancestry. Or the fact that all four of his grandparents were the children of immigrants from Ireland.
Madeleine Albright was also Jewish.

That JFK was Catholic was more significant than his being Irish.
 

Illusive

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Why is he a American wannabe when he is an American? Does it mean real Americans are only white or the natives who are also called Indians. Fact is there are lot of people of Indian origin around the world does that mean all of them have to be proud of their origin, most are but if some take more pride in their adopted or in this case by birth, then whats wrong with it.

Let us keep an open mind and heart cause we are also a country where immigrants and refugees came and today consider themselves proud Indians.
 

Ray

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Madeleine Albright was also Jewish.
Albright was raised Catholic, but converted to Episcopalianism at the time of her marriage in 1959. She did not learn until adulthood that her parents were originally Jewish and that many of her Jewish relatives in Czechoslovakia had perished in the Holocaust, including three of her grandparents.

Wiki

That JFK was Catholic was more significant than his being Irish.
Religion plays a major role in US and US politics.

In JFK's time it was difficult times for a Catholic.

At the 1956 Democratic National Convention, Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson let the convention select the Vice Presential nominee. Kennedy finished second in the balloting, losing to Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. Kennedy received national exposure from that episode; his father thought it just as well that Kennedy lost, due to the potential political debility of his Catholicism and the strength of the Eisenhower ticket.
Wiki
 

mattster

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Why are Indians so concerned with how people of Indian origin conduct themselves in a foreign nation? Is it a sign of insecurity? Sure, you can wish that India gets more clout in American politics but to claim that Indian Americans who are not interested in furthering their deviant objective, are self-haters, is pretty pathetic. People whose ancestors happen to be from India do not owe anything to India or the Indian people for it.
Thank You.......Finally some common sense.

It seems to me that its not the Indian Americans who have a problem......its these low lifes who constantly keep harping about "how Indian you are"......like its some litmus test that proves a person's self-worth.

This article by TOI on Bobby Jindal is one of the trashiest pieces by a newspaper that most Indians know as one that has no standards. TOI is a half-baked newspaper that publishes any trash......do these clowns even have an editorial board to oversee quality ?

I absolutely cannot stand Bobby Jindal and his brand of hard-right conservative politics......I wouldn't vote for the guy if he was the last candidate standing......but having said all that - its simply pathetic to brand a man like him as someone with an inferiority complex about his race and who main goal in life is to be become one of the white guys because he changed his religion or whatever.

This is the kind of dumbass journalism that caters to the dumbest of readers and reeks of condescension.

Isn't it ironic - this Chidanand guy, talks about Indians being caricatured in the US media as clowns giving examples of Apu in the Simpsons, etc. and then turns around and does the very same thing to a successful Indian American politician like Bobby Jindal by claiming that he is a wannabe who craves approval from his white masters.


Is that as stupid as it gets or what ???
 
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SPIEZ

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Why, are Indian-Americans not eating curry anymore? The ancestors of these German-AMericans fought the Germans in Europe in both WW1 and WW2. Do you condemn them for doing that? It is but natural for American migrants to retain some aspects of their ethnicity but I think to truly integrate into their new country they must totally and unequivocally embrace their Americanization. This to me determines a successful immigration integration system. This is also where America is more successful at. And I think I can safely say that for immigrants, the more integrated they are usually the more successful they are in their new country.
Sir, there is something wrong with you (or you ideas). What exactly do you mean bu curry? In India every state has it's own cuisine and a way people cook and make the dishes. There are several styles of cooking from my own state for example, there is the popular Chettinad cuisine, Kongu cuisine (pallipalayam chicken) and not to mention traditional vegetarian cooking. It's so silly to say that why one dish is not being made.

Does cooking a particular dish make them closer to your roots, not necessarily. Although the reasons for cooking (or not cooking) may be many ranging from availability of time, resources (some spices are hard to find) etc.

For people to stay in touch with their roots, it is more important to be associated with people from your roots. That makes the strongest connect and gives you the sense on what is actually going on in the ground.
 

Mad Indian

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@argumentum on one hand these people want to associate themselves with India when possible and completely disown their identity when possible. And you expect us to respect them? I feel pity than hate, pity at their identity crisis. On one hand, no matter how much they such up to whites, they will never be accepted as a white. On the other, they can't associate that they are Indians either, seeing they have to associate that with their self hatred. Alas stuck like pakis with their identity crisis.

But I do hate hypocrites thought like how these dingbats waste no time bringing up their Indian identity when they are mistaken for a Paki or when sometime India does something great. They can rot in hell hole for all I care.

And let me tell something else too right here, if far right or far left takes over USA, and starts screwing Indian Americans there, don't expect us to give a flying fuck about it considering that several of them have made it amply clear that they are not Indians
 

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