Here are the names filling Indian-Americans with so much pride.
This week, I received a message from a cousin on our family Whatsapp chat group that surprised me.
Now, sometimes the ‘news’ messages I get are surprisingly disappointing, as I mentioned on our last episode of Desiland, like if it’s about the supposed extraordinary powers of garlic or turmeric to cure Covid, or the Modi-as-saviour propaganda pieces. This viral message, however, was something very special indeed.
This is the list I got of 15 (!!!) Indian-Americans heading to Washington, DC — including 13 women — after being named to key, senior positions in the Joe Biden administration.
- Neera Tanden: nominated as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
- Dr Vivek Murthy: nominated as US Surgeon General.
- Vanita Gupta:nominated as Associate Attorney General Department of Justice.
- Uzra Zeya:nominated under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
- Mala Adiga:appointed as Policy Director to the future First Lady Dr Jill Biden.
- Garima Verma: nominated as Digital Director of the Office of the First Lady.
- Sabrina Singh: named as First Lady’s Deputy Press Secretary.
- Aisha Shah: named as Partnership Manager at the White House Office of Digital Strategy.
- Sameera Fazili: will be Deputy Director at the US National Economic Council (NEC) in the White House.
- Bharat Ramamurti: nominated as Deputy director of theWhite House National Economic Council.
- Gautam Raghavan: nominated as Deputy Director in Office of Presidential Personnel.
- Vinay Reddy: named as Director of Speech writing.
- Vedant Patel: nominated as Assistant Press Secretary to the President.
- Sonia Aggarwal: named Senior Advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation in the Office of the Domestic Climate Policy at the White House.
- Vidur Sharma: appointed as Policy Advisor for Testing for the White House Covid-19 Response Team.
Additionally, three Indian-Americans have made their way to the crucial National Security Council of the White House, thus leaving a permanent imprint on the country’s foreign policy and national security: Tarun Chhabra, Senior Director for Technology and National Security, Sumona Guha, Senior Director for South Asia, and Shanthi Kalathil, Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights.
Two Indian-American women have been appointed to the Office of the White House Counsel: Neha Gupta as Associate Counsel and Reema Shah as Deputy Associate Counsel.
And last but most certainly not least, Kamala Devi Harris, who of course will become the first person of South Asian decent to be sworn in as vice-president and 2nd in command in the United States of America.
I can’t help but feel immense pride. Notable, accomplished Indo-Americans hand-picked to serve the highest office of the land, and arguably the world.
Solidarity and Desi-dar?
It reminds me of the times throughout my life that I’ve been on a bus (or subway, or restaurant, or any public space) and I’ve noticed another Desi. A funny thing happens. We notice each other. We’re instinctively drawn to one another, both casting discreet, furtive glances. Sometimes even a tentative smile… saying, without words, that we recognize each other as being ‘one of our kind’. It’s a Desi-radar, a Desi-dar, and I’ve had one ever since I was a kid.
At the time when my parents came to Canada in the late 60s, there were so few Indians that all Desis basically knew one another. And if they didn’t, they didn’t hesitate to change that.
In a sea of non-Desis, seeing people from our part of the world felt familiar, comfortable, like home. There were virtually no degrees of separation in the Desi web of inter-connectedness. In fact, I distinctly remember that when we travelled in my youth, we never stayed in hotels, not even in cities where we personally knew no one. That was because friends of my parents would call their friends in other places, and before we knew it, we’d be enjoying the warm and generous hospitality of Desi strangers in cities across North America. Of course, we did the same when our friends’ friends or relatives visited Montreal. It was a comforting sense of belongingness in a ‘foreign land’ that extended well beyond our own home or chosen city.
Maybe that’s why Desis everywhere puff out their chests just a little and feel a familial sense of pride when one of their own has ‘made it’. It’s the feeling that we do belong in this land, and we do belong in the corridors of power. We are somehow all connected, so their success is our success. It symbolizes that we really can reach any heights we choose to in our chosen land.
As my auntie said in response to the family group chat, “Wow. Really proud to be an Indian. Jai hind.”