Following the gang-rape incidence in Delhi last December a surge of young people descended on the streets of Indian towns and cities. What was not apparent was that many of these young men and women were Non Resident Indians -NRI, who on their annual December Pilgrimage to India came out on the streets to show solidarity with a common cause. Usually in December, Indian immigrants leave for their vacation to India in throes in pursuit of changing seasons, festivities, and family time. However, these are traditionally visitors who shop, eat and make merry and return to their privileges come January. The new thing this December is NRIs joining forces with volunteers to be part of the election process in Delhi. Bureaucrat turned politician Arvind Kejriwal who launched the new AAM AADMI PARTY -AAP has made politics “awesome”, and most importantly accessible to not just middle class Indians but also NRIs.
In keeping with which, the Chicago Chapter of the Anti- Corruption Movement / AAP organized its first US convention in Chicago to garner support for its socio-political agenda. The Chicago chapter is largely driven, directed and managed by women. Under their leadership, the Chicago Chapter is supporting candidate Surinder Singh in Delhi’s upcoming elections. They make phone calls to raise money and awareness from US to India. “I feel like I owe my country” says the tea party organizer Kakoli. “I am just so angry with the way they have treated women and people, I must do this and support this guy” says Chaitra, the primary event organizer. “I was on the streets protesting for Damini (Delhi Rape victim) and then I turned and met these people who had been there for days and I just followed them” says Sukanya, the head of the social media team for US. Chaitra and Sukanya make weekend trips to Devon to garner volunteers and support for their cause. In the process, they always make someone angry by sharing their views on India and corruption and their dedication to a fledgling party. They respond by wearing the aam –aadmi- topi (cap) so they can be seen before they are heard. They talk to fence sitters not committed people, demonstrating political and marketing savvy. They are organizing people for making phone calls and raising money for a cause they believe in and work that focuses on human rights discourse. The husbands chip in via baby sitting and offering their own professional skills to their wives passion. The wives’ are appreciative as Chaitra says, “I don’t want my husband to do dishes with me; I want him to make space for my passion in his life”. The new immigrant is here: leading from the front but with collaboration, cooperation, and multitasking.
Women like Chaitra, Kakoli, and Sukanya, living in Chicago are the 21st century Indian immigrant women, with identities that represent a fused identity of Indian culture, Western feminisms, and global citizenship. They belie the lost and lonely sari and gym shoe combination of Jhumpa Lahiri “Namesake” and make light of witty but nutty Mindy and her project on NBC. Extending the model minority myth to hard working activists beyond Facebook and Twitter who are building community beyond virtual. Their version of global citizenship could represent the 21st century sensibilities of Indian women; who expect an equal relationship but the dimension of equality are as they define it. Unlike the previous generations, they translate privilege of being NRIs into power, are invested in social justice, and yet retain their Indian roots proudly.
This group of young women is a new age phenomenon and Chicago is its seat. So while the US Supreme Court is doing its bit by hauling Wal-Mart for engaging in corruption in India, these young girls are managing full time jobs, being Indian-style home makers, raising children, and creating space for their values and ideologies. While news from India show cases Dowry and Rape, these women are fighting for obtaining privileges for their sisters back home of a quality and equality that they they have earned and experienced after becoming immigrants…