American nightmare

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American nightmare

IN AN AGE where teenagers are taking to suicide after being bullied on Facebook and twitter by peers, Nina Davuluri took the high road, rising above the cacophony of voices who have questioned her credentials as an American and even worse, equated her with terrorists who blew up the Twin Towers in what is one of the worst tragedies of recent times.

By Sudha Menon (Person of the week)

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Published: Sat 21 Sep 2013, 1:34 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:21 AM

Instead , the young woman who was born in the US to Indian parents, decided to underplay the controversy and put it behind her. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost an American, ”said the young woman who will use the $50,000 scholarship she won at the pageant, to head to medical school and fulfill her ambition of becoming a doctor. Her father is a practicing doctor in the United States.

While most young people would have been pulled down, their spirits battered by the venomous nature of the verbal assault against her that spread on Twitter, Davuluri appeared unfazed and was in a joyous mood when she took the traditional ocean frolic dip in the surf in front of Boardwalk Hall, where she won the title hours earlier. The pageant, which originated in Atlantic City in 1921, spent the past six years in Las Vegas before returning to New Jersey.

“Welcome home, Miss America!” Davuluri said as she took the traditional dip in the ocean surf Atlantic city, dressed very much like the chilled out person she is, in a lime green Miss America T-shirt and white shorts. “We’re back in Atlantic City!” The pageant which launched in Atlantic City has been held at Las Vegas for several years now and came back to Atlantic City this year. No one would have thought the return to its home turf would be marked with an ugly controversy.

A few years ago, while on a sabbatical in Boston, I had the rather strange experience of being asked by fellow writers at a writing class how it was that I was writing in English. I explained that I studied in English and that seemed to surprise the learned people in the class. Five minutes later something else came up and one of them asked me: “ Oh, you have computers in India?” How cool is that.”

Biting back rather strong words that threatened to come rushing out of my mouth, I pointed out that most of the large corporations and even the smaller ones, had Indian software developers who are crucial to their growth plans. Indians are everywhere in their country, right from its best hospitals to its institutions of learning . My explanation did not seem to cut any ice though. We do think Americans need to get out of their country more and learn that there is a world that exists beyond their border security. Mixing up your geography is not cool and equating every person of minority is even less cool and not clever at all.

And heck, yes, one of the finalists for this year’s Booker prize is a brown-skinned Indian who goes by the name of Jhumpa Lahiri. If she does walk away with prize, will they call her the same names that they hurled at this young woman? Will Ms Lahiri have to prove her American credentials too?

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