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Rekha Dixit
Rekha Dixit

US DIARIES

Home away from home

us-holi People dance during during Holi celebrations in the Queens borough of New York City | AFP

The yard sign caught my eye. Ro Khanna for Congress it said, standing pretty on the kerbside near an elementary school in Fremont. It was early morning, I was watching the drill with which children enter school. Most came by cars, and then they were handed over to school staff, wearing fluorescent jackets to be seen from afar. Roads leading to the school are cordoned off for other traffic during this half hour. It was interesting to watch the systems of a foreign land. Except that it was not seeming so foreign. Nearly every child which tumbled out of the car appeared of Indian origin. I began playing an interesting game by myself of figuring out which were first generation migrants and who may have been around longer. Wisps of accents, the style of their clothing and the amount and style of gold they and their mammas wore, were little clues.

This is Silicon Valley and its neighbourhood. Where, if you throw a stone, it'll most likely hit a Patel or a Reddy, that is, if a Chinese origin person doesn't catch it before. Ro Khanna, all of 40 and a visiting professor at Stanford University is the kind of candidate the youth like. Several Indian origin youngsters in the area are tirelessly working on his campaign.

Khanna isn't the only Indian origin name to be seen on the yardsigns this election cycle. As we travel around nearby townships of Union City and Los Altos, so many other names pop up, that it almost seems like back home. Apart from the big presidential race, there are several others posts, at Senate and Congress level, as well as state and local council levels, to which elections are being held simultaneously, and Indian names naturally pop up with frequency that is to be expected in a place where the local Costco outlet stock Nanak brand ghee and rasmalai and the sales staff promises that 'your gajar halwa' should be available in another few weeks.

The big names from California of course are Ami Bera, the only Indian origin person in the Congress and Kamla Harris, half Indian half Jamaican who is bidding for a Senate seat. Harris is a frontrunner, appealing to both the Indian and African disapora. Bera, is in a good place as a sitting Congressman though a recent financial misdeed that his father was caught in has been a setback. Khanna is making his second bid, stronger after the first loss.

At the micro level, there are several other names. Gary Singh for city council, says a sign in Union CIty. There's a Harry Sidhu in Anaheim and a Ash Kalra in San Jose.

As we travel across Silicon Valley, Indianisms pop up frequently. There's a billboard advertising a dubious Andhra Silicon Valley University. The local community is preparing for a Dusshera-cum-Diwali nite in one of the townships. We listen to Amitabh Bachchan's birthday being celebrated on a radio channel with hit songs from his films. Half a world away, I'm almost at home.

Reporting from California

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