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Opinion - An Indian On Obama

Dr. Jyoti Ramakrishna

In the last few weeks of the campaign I despaired. Did I make the wrong decision 19 years ago? Maybe I should have just stayed in India because this country that I had put my faith in was about to let me down in a big way.

I was born in Boston MA, but my parents chose to return to India when I was nine months old. It was of course related to opportunity and my father's career advancement; but in some ways it was a patriotic gesture as well. They tried to get me an Indian passport, but due to time constraints they were forced to make me an American citizen. Then back home when I was a teenager we applied to get me Indian citizenship. India did not have dual citizenship at the time, and I would have had to relinquish my US passport. I was ready, but our friends and family talked us out of it.

Years passed, my parents passed away of things they would never have died of in the US, and at age 28 having earned an MD degree, I arrived in New York with my hopes and dreams. I had absolutely no memory of the US, and the Immigration officer at JFK airport said, "Welcome home!"

This was the land of opportunity! If you wanted to do something, there would be no red tape, no senseless obstacles, no need for bribery and connections. I could succeed and become a Pediatric Sub-specialist, find work and a comfortable life without living in fear of my vulnerability as a woman, my caste, my religion, or the color of my skin. Or so I thought.

But nineteen years later my cynicism was peaking in the Fall of 2008. Married now with two children, I was worried not only about my career but also about my children’s future. An extremely intelligent and well spoken man with wonderful ideas on how to bring hope back to ordinary US citizens was running for President. For the first time I signed up to help, I actually wore a button, and put up a sign in my front yard. I found myself passionately arguing with my friends. Yet even though it seemed so obvious to me, many people were not ready to accept him. Though they said it wasn't the color of his skin, and they said they preferred someone more experienced, my cynicism led me to believe otherwise. Only a white man with grey hair who was a Christian would ever get to lead this country.

India has had a woman Prime Minister. Women and people from different races and religions have held important positions there including the Presidency. Countries around the world seemed much more progressive, and the US seemed on the verge of stepping back into the Middle Ages. I vowed that if Barack Obama did not win, I would move my family out of the US.

Then the fateful day arrived, and my stress levels were unbearable. Tuesday, November 4th was my make or break day.

As it turned out, Obama won! I was very pleasantly surprised, in fact it took me a while to believe it because I had been so discouraged! We celebrated, and my faith was restored. I will not be moving out of the US any time soon. Now it is time to wait and see what the next four, or even eight, years can bring in terms of reversing the tide and restoring the reputation of the US in the world. As the Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote, "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;………Into that Heaven of freedom my Father, let my country awake!"

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1. February 2, 2009 
2.India's first woman PM isn't a big deal... January 25, 2009Jyotish_Iyengar 

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