Sunday, October 28, 2007

Quoted Briefly in the Washington Post (more Jindal)

This time, I'm proud to have contributed some thoughts to what I think is a really well done piece on the Indian community's reaction to Bobby Jindal in the Washington Post:

Whatever their views, "absolutely everybody is talking about this," said Amardeep Singh, an English professor at Lehigh University and a contributor to Sepia Mutiny, one of several blogs serving South Asians that hosted discussions on the topic last week.

"It's a soul-searching moment because it raises all these questions about identity and the kind of public profile that Indian Americans have to cut in order to succeed in American life," Singh said.

As for himself, Singh, 33, who was born in New York and raised in Washington's Maryland suburbs, confessed to deep ambivalence. As someone who tried to fit in during college by taking the nickname Deep but who has since tried to resurrect his given first name, Singh is pained that the first Indian American to win a governorship did so using the name Bobby. But Singh is also certain that Louisiana voters were under no illusions about Jindal's ancestry. (link)

She also has some great quotes from our blog-friend Maitri.

One small clarification I should have made to Ms. Aizenman -- a lot of people still call me 'Deep'. But I'm 'Amardeep' in public and in print.

I talked about some of these naming issues in a short essay I wrote awhile ago (before the blog) on naming in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. (Note to self: expand that piece & turn it into something publishable already!)

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Narayan said...

[I left the following comment on Aizenman's article. Considering the tenor of the other comments, I regret putting in mine.]

The hoopla about Jindal gives me the opportunity of an extended "bah, humbug" moment.

Your article quotes a Dr. Gupta referring to "the second generation of Indian Americans" -- presumably Jindal's generation. Well, if Jindal is generation 2, and Gupta generation 1, I must reserve my admiration wholly for Dalip Singh Saund of generation 0.

Very briefly... Saund came to California from (British) India in 1920 to study agriculture, but thereafter switched majors and earned a masters and a doctorate in Mathematics from Berkeley by 1924. He stayed on beyond his allotted time (these days one would call him an "illegal"), took to farming, and eventually became successful at it. At the time Indians or "Hindus" were not allowed to become naturalized citizens. It was not until 1946 that President Truman signed the Luce-Celler Act, which granted Philipinos and Indians the right of naturalization. Saund had actively campaigned for this legislation and became a early beneficiary of it. He became a citizen in 1949 and immediately dove into local politics. In 1955 he became the Democratic candidate for Congress from his district in California, winning the seat in 1956. He served three terms until he suffered a stroke in 1962.

Throughout his life in the US, Saund was an energetic organizer of Indians in the US, and an effective spokesman for the concerns of newly independent India. When I was in high school in India the only Americans we knew besides movie stars were Truman, Ike and Saund. Saund was often in the newsreels of the late 50s as one of the active proponents of PL 480 -- the bill that provided for massive food aid to India in a time of shortages.

There is some information on Saund on the Internet that includes narratives of the kind of personal and institutional discrimination that he had to overcome on his long journey to Congress. He also published an autobiography which is long gone out of print.

It is sad to see such a true pioneer forgotten by the so-called generations 1 and 2. Americans, by and large large, take shoddy or selective cognizance of history, and we Indian Americans are no slouches at picking up these traits. Shame on us!

I wish someone with a public voice would revive the memory of Dalip Singh Saund. I, for one, am not at all impressed by Bobby-come-lately Jindal.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous said...

Perusing the latest Outlook India online I saw this:

What Happened To Piyush?
Indian Americans aren't enthused about Bobby Jindal's spectacular success...

sounds like there is a disconnect between Jindal and the Indian community. Any chance of a rapprochement?

1:05 PM  

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