Friday, September 19, 2014

"My dad is from Jullundur"

....the President was relieved to have at least one Indian person in the receiving line.....Prime Minister looks at me, and says oh you are Indian, I said yes...the President nodding approvingly....Prime Minister Singh asks: Where are your parents from? I said...Punjab. my dad is from Jullundur.....The Prime Minister said, "Oh, his father and I are from the same place...."

The Viceroy-elect to India has been declared after long months of intense deliberation:  Richard Rahul Verma is a very close associate of the next-in-line-to-the-throne. 

In our opinion this is quite a master-stroke by our overlords. While "yellow" China and Japan are promising filthy cash, here is truly a bonding of souls, "white" and "brown." If proof was ever needed on this point, we point to Exhibit #1: US Congressman Curt "Bollywood lover" Clawson (Florida-19) who got confused by brown skinned officials representing the United States of America.
But think about the nature of Clawson’s goof. Sitting across a congressional hearing room from Nisha Biswal, an official at the State Department, and Arun Kumar, who works at the Department of Commerce, Clawson addressed the two Indian-Americans as if they were representatives of the government of India. Which is to say: He had trouble recognizing that two Americans who trace their ancestry to the developing world are really American.

Nisha Desai Biswal (immigrant from Gujarat, married to an Odiya) is the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, and now we have an Indian-American ambassador to India as well. The cup of joy will surely overflow if/when the future Madam President selects Dr Amerish Babulal "Ami" Bera (Gujarati immigrant, Congressman representing CA-7, Sacramento County- East, California) as Vice President. That will be the day....

The only problem will be if/when a fire-breather like Preet Bharara is given a "sensitive" posting....indeed this would be a scenario with maximum scope of amusement.

We are not sure whether to be proud (first time an xx-American has been appointed to an xx country) or parochial - why not a Bong or Mallu ambassador, why do Punjus...and Gujjus always get to be first?

Then again we are given to understand that appointments to important government posts (also university faculty positions) in the USA require checking for prior communist associations. As we know, one cannot be too careful these days.
Richard Verma remembers the time when he was a little kid, seeing his mom in her sari waiting for a bus to go to work in sub-zero centigrade temperatures in blowing and drifting snow.His father had emigrated from Punjab, arriving in New York City in 1963 with $24 in his pocket, and his mother and siblings had followed a few years later.

"The times were hard. We had no money. The kids could be mean in school to this new immigrant family. But they persevered," he recalls. "They showed us what it meant to be strong, what it means to stay together, and confront challenges as a family, and they taught us to be proud of our roots."

On Thursday, the proud son of Indian immigrants who personify Indian enterprise and academic excellence — his parents were the first ones in the family to be educated; his father went on to earn a PhD — was nominated by US President Obama to be the US ambassador to India. He will be the first Indian-American to take the job if (or when) he is confirmed by the Senate; indeed, he will be the first Indian-American to get an ambassadorial appointment to a major country, not counting the sinecure (to Belize) Obama's bestowed on his collegemate Vinai Thummalapally.

Richard Rahul Verma is from a different stock from the entrepreneurial Thummalapally, who now has a key job in the Department of Commerce; the Indian-American of Punjabi stock is himself no slouch when it comes to academic and professional accomplishment. While there is an element of surprise in his nomination given his south Asia background and India roots, his formidable resume (including an ongoing PhD program at Georgetown University) and the Washington roadmap he has traversed for two decades make him a shoo-in for the New Delhi job, despite reservations in some quarters about whether an Indian-American is best suited for the post.

Verma is a consummate Washington insider who has worked in both the legislature and the executive; in fact, his last post bridged the two — he was the Assistant Secretary of State for legislative affairs during Hillary Clinton's stewardship of Foggy Bottom — and that job came to him by virtue of his years as a chief foreign policy aide to Senate leader Harry Reid. Before that, between clerkships and stints at law firms, he worked with the legendary Pennsylvania lawmaker Jack Murtha, learning the ropes on the Hill.

In fact, in a farewell to Verma when he left the US state department job in 2012, Clinton recalled in a very personal way how much Verma guarded her back and how much he meant to her. "My mother lives with us in our house here in Washington, and I was saying goodbye to her this morning and she said, 'What's wrong, you don't look very good.' And I said, 'Well, I know, I am not just in a very good mood today.' And she says, 'Well, you know, there's so much going on in the world, all over the country, and the economy.' But I said, 'No, it's not it; it's Rich Verma (leaving).'" Clinton related.

Of course, Obama would know — also personally. Verma assisted him in debate prep during his 2008 Presidential campaign, and like the President and his wife, Verma and his wife Pinky are also legal eagles, a power couple with law degrees from American University and UPenn respectively. When he arrives in New Delhi later this year or early next year, Verma will bring with him not just legalese, having worked on a ton of legislation and international treaties (including some New Delhi is not particularly fond of), but also a smattering of Hindi, which he is said to have kept up with.

Doubtless, much more than that will be needed to elevate the US-India partnership. But despite his relatively modest vintage (he's only 45 and of Asst. Secretary rank; previous US ambassadors have been heavyweight political appointees like David Mulford and Tim Roemer; or foreign service veterans such as Frank Wisner and Tom Pickering), Verma will bring to the table impressive range of work, from national security legislation to international treaties on non-proliferation, to bilateral agreements, including the US-India Civilian Nuclear deal, which he oversaw from the Senate side.

But most of his, he will bring an India connection, the likes of which is unprecedented, as is evident from this story he relates: In the fall of 2009, Verma was invited to the White House arrival ceremony of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. When he told his father about this, his dad was very excited "because in my dad's words, 'we are from the same place' in India."  With my dad, says Verma, no matter what Indian person we meet anywhere in the world, shopkeeper, waiter, restaurant owner, doesn't matter, he always say you are from the same town, went to the same school, from the same village. "I said Dad, there are 1 billion Indian people, it is mathematically impossible that all of you can be from the same place....he said well, I'm telling you, you should tell the PM. Thanks, dad, but I'm not doing that...."

"When the day comes, and I am getting my turn in line, and there is the President, and he says this is Rich he works at the State Dept (you could tell the President was relieved to have at least one Indian person in the receiving line...). The Prime Minister looks at me, and says oh you are Indian, I said yes...the President nodding approvingly. What do you do? Prime Minister Singh asks: Oh I work at the State Dept Great, he said. Where are your parents from? I said, Northern India, Punjab. He asked where ... and I said my dad is from Jullundur. The Prime Minister turned to the President and said, "Oh, his father and I are from the same place...."


Link (1): timesofindia Richard-Verma-new-US-envoy-to-India

Link (2):


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