Some of you must be familiar with Nikki Haley. She visited India some time ago. She was America’s ambassador to the US and is a likely contender for the American presidency in 2024.
Haley recently advised Indians in America to assimilate to succeed. She has assimilated well. She has converted to Christianity and married a white man. Assimilation has also worked for Kamala Harris. She has embraced Christianity and wiped out almost any trace of her Indian heritage.
So has Bobby Jindal, former governor of Louisiana. Born to Hindu parents, he became Christian in school. All three, Haley, Harris, and Jindal have done very well for themselves.
Ajit Doval, India’s national security advisor, recounts a tale about when he served in Pakistan. You can see it on YouTube. He met an old man there. He was a Hindu posing as a Muslim. He told Doval that if he did not keep up the pretence, the Pakistanis would kill him. Such is the state of minorities in Pakistan.
Many years ago, I was visiting the Wharton School of Business in the US. I met a black student there pursuing his MBA. We struck up a rapport. He told me that African American students at Wharton wiped off any trace of their African Americanness from their resume for fear of not being called for job interviews.
My girlfriend was white. She scoffed at his comment. She said that American companies specifically reserve quotas for African Americans.
Some years later, I met a Nigerian man in Atlanta. He was Christian. He had gone to work in Somalia, a profoundly Islamic country, for five years. He converted to Islam there. He told me that if your last name was not Abdullah in Somalia, nobody would do business with you.
When he came to the States, he reverted to Christianity. I laughed at his propensity to change religions. He responded that one has to do what one has to do to earn a living.
Many Indians look up to white Christian countries. All the manicured lawns, clean streets, regal storefronts and tall buildings impress them. But many of these countries are ferociously white as well as ferociously Christian.
Take Donald Trump. In his time of trouble, he went for a photo-op in front of a church holding the Bible. Upside down. I did not know that he had mastered the Bible so much that he could read it upside down. But he has sworn to uphold the Constitution of America, not the Bible. Why was he not holding the Constitution up instead of brandishing the Bible? Is the Bible the new law of America, a country that professes to strictly separate church from state?
Or is holding the Bible a ploy to win voters? Use the spiritual realm to succeed in the temporal world.
I have struggled in America to carve out a career as a writer with a Hindu name and an Indian accent. I am toying with the idea of changing my name to an Anglican one. Sort of like a nom de plume. I am just tired of receiving phone slams from editors and literary agents when they hear me spell my name in my singsong Indian accent. Actually, I have already modified my accent significantly. I haven’t gone further because I find the American twang jarring. I find the American accent as if someone is speaking with something in their mouth. Hence the twang. But as Nikki Hakey advises, I must assimilate. I think I need to take accent modification classes to get rid of my Indian accent totally.
In India, one would say completely, but in America they say totally. I can write Indian English and American English with equal felicity. I also speak French without any accent. But that is because I adore the language. Many French think that I am French. In twenty-five years in America, not one American has asked me if I was American. I will always be Indian here, even with an Anglican name.
So, what’s the moral of the story? I belong to an old and enduring civilization, the Hindu one, that has never harmed any other civilization in all its history. My country’s founding father wanted minorities to be protected above all and to thrive. He just did not mouth platitudes. He gave his life for it. But now it seems that many, both in the majority community as well as in the minorities, are asserting their religious identities.
Our prime minister has sworn to uphold the Constitution of India, which strictly separates church from state, and not some holy book.
No person with a name like Mohammed should feel or be discriminated against in India. Merit should be the sole criterion for progress. We are not invaders and occupiers of any land. We never have been. India is not a Hindu America or a Hindu Pakistan. India is a true melting pot. It is not a pot that doesn’t melt, like America is.
The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas