Today is the Hindu festival of Diwali, and I heartily wish everyone a very happy Diwali. In India we celebrated it with light and fireworks. When I first immigrated here in the 80s, few people had heard of Diwali. The day came and went, without so much as a faint sound of firecracker echoing from distant India. So much has changed in these years. During my kids high school years their non religious private school started celebrating the festival. The City of Sugar Land, TX started hosting a Diwali celebration in their City Hall, much the same way as a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I find Diwali cards at my local Walgreens.
The reason for this prominence is that the number of Indian American have grown in the past few years, due to the fact that India has some of the most qualified software engineers, and the whole world needs them. Our numbers rose from 1700 in 1900 to 1.1 million in 1997. (This number is still 1/300 of our population). So the obvious question is what have we, Indian Americans given back to America?
We represent over 40% in Silicon Valley, and generate more than $200 billion worth of business in the US. In 1997 31,000 of our children (USCs of Indian origin) were enrolled in colleges. The total number of Asians in the ivy leagues (I could not find statistics for Indian students) was 7.1% and probably none of them got admission through legacy or affirmative action. And anyone who is in medicine knows that quite a few of their classmates are Indian Americans. “Paging Dr. Gupta” is a common saying in US hospitals.
Yet numbers only tell half the story. What we Indian immigrants brought with us is our values. My own two children are in the ivys. While the majority of American school children roamed the malls on week ends, my children studied. While the others played video games, mine played chess or piano. However even though they are in ivys, I cannot ask them to become lawyers, when the American Bar Association acknowledges that there are very few minority partners in big law firms. How can my children witness their lower qualified white male colleagues been given the choice spots, in a society that still judges them “by the color of their skin,” and not “by the content of their character?”
And yet we, Indian Americans forge ahead. We ask not what America can do for us, but we do what we can to improve the American economy in terms of wealth and brain power. And if you’ve been reading this blog until now, thinking that immigrants come and mess up our country, we only ask that you think again.