This one article published by the quite popular Time magazine has got a lot of “rave” reviews and quite a lot of negative publicity from the online Indian community. So much so, that the magazine and the writer both had to apologize. Don’t judge me if I try to cash in on this.
I am pretty sure I ought to be insulted as Mr. Joel Stein is saying pretty bad stuff about my countrymen and my culture. But somehow, we keep conveniently ignoring the humor with which the article was intended to be written. People should also place themselves in his shoes and see where this article is coming from. This is a person, who is returning to his hometown after nearly 20 years and finds it different. So culturally different, that it’s called Little India. And he just voiced his opinion about that. I agree it may not be the most balanced article but I can rest assure that it brings out the feelings of a significant portion of the American community. Somewhere along the line, he does admit to be biased.
For some reason, us Indians, are completely bereft of any irony and self-deprecating sense of humor. We are far too easily and far too readily offended as a tribe. We are NOT under siege and there is quite definitely a feeling of cultural defensiveness which is quite saddening to say the least. All the gentleman did was give his opinion of how he felt his town had changed after 20 years. We do that all the time. I, for one, definitely felt my city had changed since I left it, when I landed after about 2 years.
I am anti-racist and I hate people who are racist, but these comments certainly do not classify as racism. We have to remember that Americans are not Indian, and they have a certain culture with which they grew up on. It is quite unfair on our part to assume that they just “go with the flow” and just deal with it. There are things we are accustomed to and take for granted, which cannot be expected from people who have never ever dealt with any of that ever before and you can’t just throw it in their face and expect them to deal with it. Certain sights, sounds and smells, we know, they don’t. Quite simple that way.
And I definitely have gone to Edison myself and especially to Oak Tree Road, and boy, was I in for a surprise. It was a home away from home, for the lack of a better phrase. The “paan” stains on the streets, numerous jewelery and clothes stores, places to eat traditional Indian food all provide ample memories for those who feel home-sick. All these Indians, who ply their trade in New Jersey, are doing is living the American Dream but in their own Indian way. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.
For the appeasement of those who disagree with me, and really are looking for positives about Indians in the US, here is some food for thought. There are an estimated 94,563 students from India whose net contribution to the U.S. economy was $2.39 billion. “Patel motels” are currently almost 10,000 Indian American owners of hotels/motels in the U.S., owning over 40 per cent of all hotels in the country and 39 per cent of all guest rooms; a study says they own more than 21,000 hotels with 1.8 million guest rooms and property valued at $129 billion. These Indian-owned facilities employ 578,600 workers. The U.S. Census Bureau adds that there were 231,000 businesses owned by Indian Americans in 2002, which employed 615,000 workers and had revenues of over $89 billion.
Are we even now?