Swami and friends in USA

Friend of mine from You-Ess sent me an invite to attend a couple of talks in Chennai.

Both by Sree Srinivasan – “an educator, technology expert, freelance journalist and seasoned observer of Indo-US relations” and named by Newsweek, in 2004, as one of the “20 most influential South Asians in the United States”. He is also the co-founder of “SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association, a group of 1,000+ journalists across the US and Canada”.

Interesting CV that.

The first talk was on “Studying in United States – A practical guide”, and was held, rather appropriately, I thought, at the “Stenographers Guild” – (behind Siva Vishnu Temple and near T Nagar Bus terminus, T Nagar, Chennai 17…). Takes me right back to Malgudi…

That was during the day. I couldnt attend that.

The second talk was on “Desis Changing America: Indian-Americans and Their Impact on US Business, Politics and Culture” and held, rather appropriately, again, at Hotel Raintree – one of the new, upmarket hotels of the city. They have a reclining Buddha, looking through the fountain spray, at the hotel lobby. Buddha smiles…

This talk was in the evening – and so one managed to get off from the desktop and reach the “Chamiers” conference hall, Hotel Raintree, pm Five Thirty.

A cosy, compact sort of ambience. A podium with a table and four name plates. A table at the other end with the beginnings of “tea and tiffin”. An audience of fifty or so, hair mostly grey…

The audience was All-Indian in color, but the accent from the louder conversations was All-American. And snatches of stuff that met one’s pinna included phrases like – “unless she’s divorced him…”, “exactly right” – I think Americans say that when they agree with a person – and quite some about the big American ship that was to come in to Chennai.

The talk was good. Very good.

Sree has a nice, unhurried sort of delivery. He traced out how things have changed the last few decades…how Indians are doing well not just in Medical and Engineering professions…He dwelt some on the journalist profession in US, and named quite a few Indians who are read, listened to, seen with lot of respect…He talked of the new Indian influence in US Politics…How they have come a long way from the time they used to spend a thousand dollars on a fund raiser just so that they could get their picture taken with a Senator…He talked of literature, and the growing presence of Indian writers (the new brooklyn gangs), Indian publishers (the one who brought out Bill Clinton’s memoirs), Indian Film makers (“you must see ‘Namesake’, he urged)…He talked of how it was no longer a one way street…how US journalist students are coming to India, how US MBA students want India in their CV…He talked of Pepsico’s you-know-who…He talked of the new Immigration bill and the interesting conflict among US-Indians about that…

He had depth, he had wit, he had humility. He’s good.

He was Indian enough to introduce his father-in-law and Uncle who were in the audience. Apparently his wife is an Arjuna Award winner for rifle shooting, his father in law is an ex Police officer, and his mother in law is handy with a pistol…Bang-bang-bang! I guess you need that kind of orientation to be an honest South Asian journalist!

He ended his talk with a light comment on “missed call technology” invented in India. And also about the Big-American ship, of course. Apparently six thousand US sailors are descending on Chennai shore. “Can you imagine?” he asked.

I suppose I can. They do that quite often at Pattaya, Thailand…

Overall: it felt nice to come to a “feel-good about India and US” kind of a gathering. Quite a contrast from what a kid who appeared for his US Visa interview told me the other day.

But then, not all Americans are immigration officials.  Not all people from India are Sree…


2 Responses to “Swami and friends in USA”

  1. श्रीनिवासकृष्णन Says:

    Nice post. I think “Namesake” needs this kind of urging. It was a short story, then it became a novel. Now it’s going in the opposite direction … it’s now a movie. Maybe when they make it a short short, and they show it on one of these desi channels, I’ll see it.

  2. krishashok Says:

    I personally preferred Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of short stories titled “The interpreter of maladies”. They were brilliant

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