Happy Birthday, India

Its been seventy years since India got its independence from the British. Its birth was accompanied by the traumatic cleaving into two of British India and the traumatic loss of the Father of the Nation, Gandhi only five months later. Yet, India under its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru embraced a democratic and inclusive vision for India. This vision is under serious threat right now, but that is a post for another day.

I am going to celebrate this milestone by blogging about India. The highs, the lows and everything in between, over the next two weeks. I plan to cover movies, science, history, geography of the original melting pot.

I leave you with  national anthem  written by Rabindranath Tagore, performed here by its preeminent and beloved artists, representing India’s tremendous linguistic and religious diversity. First there is an instrumental version, then a vocal one, both arranged by A. R. Rahman, an example of India’s many cultural strands come together to form  a unique whole.  This version is from  2000, many of the performers featured here are no longer with us, like Jagjit  Singh and Bhimsen Joshi.

Jana Gana Mana

Posted on August 15, 2017, in Holidays, India and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You told us you were interested in modern stories of people coming to America. So I thought I would tell you about a couple.

    I helped probably a couple of dozen people come over to work with our software shop. One young man was especially interesting. He was Mr A—n Jain, so there was a bit more of culture clash than some would have I think. We tired hard to help him adjust, not knowing that much about his home culture at first. India has so many varied and different cultures!

    When we first interviewed him, he was staying with a cousin in the upper midwest, where it gets Really Cold. Later we learned he was in an outdoor phone booth to talk with us. We asked him a lot of technical questions, typical software job interview, he did well. Towards the end, we always ask if they have any questions about the project. He asked “How cold is it there?” We looked at each other…

    I said, “Well, we do have a winter here, but it’s nothing like Minnesota winters! Snow falls, then it gets warm enough to melt, usually!”

    He joined us a week later. Much later I realized he was wearing two shirts and a sweater for that interview, and came to America with a gym bag with clean shirts and under ware, and owed his whole family for contributing to the air fare. Much like my most recent immigrant ancestors, Great Grandparents who came through Ellis Island from Switzerland to NE Ohio where the Swiss settled onto dairy farms in the late 1800s.

    One Monday A. came to work with painted fingernails, and Steve and I looked at each other, we didn’t say a word, later at lunch Steve asked me what I thought, and I said “I’m thinking it was a religious festival over the weekend…” Tuesday they were back to normal, mostly.

    Now he is a highly paid beltway bandit, living in Maryland and working at a remove for the federal government, I suspect. He can’t say where he works, really. He’s a great guy, married while he still worked with us, and two wonderful kids. He showed us pictures his parents would send of girls seeking husbands, it was pretty funny to us. But it worked well for him, I think. I’m so glad I helped him in my small way come to America and succeed. I bet those kids are in high school by now! Amazing how time flies

    Many of the guys had more successful parents, and their transition was easier, but Mr Jain really risked it all. We had guys from all over SE Asia, Peru, Burma, India, China. It made for an interesting shop to work in.

    One guy’s wife is an architect. They got married early when he promised her father to pay for her grad school at U of Illinois Urbana Champlain. After her first year, towards spring, he asked me if I knew any local architects. He told me she was going to look for an internship, and wanted to be able to draw and design, as opposed to operating a blueprint machine, which she already had down.

    I did know a successful local architect, whose first built project was our home. When I asked Tom if his firm (where he is managing partner now) was interested in good interns, he was excited, because it can be hard to recruit talent to a rural city like Charleston. He said “Get me a copy of her portfolio!” and as far as I know she’s still there, after completing her graduate degree. Drawing and designing. Both of them were from successful and wealthy families where they grew up, and they visit family in Vancouver, BC often. Not quite the same as crossing the world with all you own in your carry-on.

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