Posts in India
How India Sees America

New Delhi - In 1976, my father graduated from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), one of the best public med-schools and hospitals in the country. Tens of thousands apply, 50 are accepted; then the Indian government sponsors their topnotch education. But like well-known author alum Deepak Chopra and more than half his class, my dad left for the United States after graduating. Three decades later, I visit AIIMS to see if students are still leaving for America in droves.

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IndiaAmar Bakshi
Hate America? Hate Amar too?

New Delhi - “This is Amar Bakshi from The Washington Post,” I introduce myself.

“Daniel Pearl was Mossad. You must be CIA,” comes the response. Then I’m told to go upstairs.

It’s an eerie telecom greeting from Pala Koya, a self-proclaimed enemy of America who heads a hardcore Islamist outfit in Calicut, Kerala. But on the top floor I meet an old man who offers me masala chai. We drink and exchange pleasantries before he gleefully prophesies America’s demise.

Lately, I’ve spoken to a number of people who condone the killing of average Americans and say they celebrate 9-11 anniversaries with sweets. It’s disturbing talk, especially when they're so forthcoming with it to my face, as an American visiting them on their turf. But I’m not sure they mean it…

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IndiaAmar Bakshi
American Literature Can Inspire Secularism
Malegaon - In 2004, American Embassy representatives visited Malegaon to scope out its Muslim population and donated US$9000 worth of books to Professor Mustufa Khan’s secular university. But they gave nothing to the many madrassas they toured. This was a grave mistake, Khan tells me after prayers at Jamia Mohammadia Mansoora Madrassa. Read More
IndiaAmar Bakshi
Indian American Fourth of July

Chennai - Until now I've been exploring what people around the world think of America. But at times like last night, drinking rum and cokes with U.S. sailors in a Chennai club, or today wondering how to commemorate America's Independence Day so far away, I confront how others see me.

I met the sailors the way I do most new faces on this trip. “Hi” I said to a 22 year-old from Oregon. He stared at me quizzically: “You don’t have that funny accent?”

“No, man, I’m a DC lifer!” I slap his back. With that, the distance between us slammed shut and we passed the rest of the night exchanging horror stories abroad. I’m American.

But before I opened my mouth, I wasn’t, at least not to him. That’s certainly reasonable: I’m a brown-skinned guy in India, after all. But at the time, I really wished he’d recognize me as an American right away.

Indians here seem to have some sixth sense for Americans. Before I speak they know I am one, or at least that I’m Western. This is unsettling, not just because I have to bargain harder, but because deep down, I do want to be recognized and trusted here right away too.

So I asked a local journalist to Indian-ize me. I'm thinking “Indian Eye for the American Guy.” He sized me up. My shoulders are bulky, hair un-plated, un-oiled, essentially un-groomed, and my demeanor "confident bordering on arrogant." Verdict: lost cause.

About all that fits me is the label:

American Born Confused Desi: ABCD.

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IndiaAmar Bakshi
Dadi Ma Loses Her Family to America

New Delhi - I was born American because of Brigadier General Amar Bakshi, my grandfather and namesake. Boisterous and demanding, he ordered his three children to migrate to the “Land of Opportunity” just before dying of a stroke thirty-seven years ago.

Last night I asked my grandmother, a.k.a. “Dadi Ma,” to tell me why the well-respected Indian general was so committed to sending his family to America.

“I never thought of America until your grandfather one day said the children must go there,” she tells me. “At first I thought I would miss them very much…I wanted them to stay, but then I thought I was being selfish….And whatever your dada would say, I would do.”

Any conversation with Dadi Ma inevitably becomes a conversation about her. This annoys her three children to no end, my father included. But for me, young and with some time to spare, it just seems comical, if sometimes sad.

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IndiaAmar Bakshi