Why Obama makes me envious

Why Obama makes me envious
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First Published: Sat, Nov 15 2008. 12 03 AM IST

November rain: Americans in Seoul. Lee Jae-Won / Reuters
November rain: Americans in Seoul. Lee Jae-Won / Reuters
Updated: Sat, Nov 15 2008. 12 03 AM IST
Oprah cried. Madonna cried. Michael Moore cried. Everyman cried. Every African-American definitely cried.
As Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart put it: “I’m crying because this election vindicates my view of my country. A generous nation with a complicated history whose people always find a way to make things right.”
November rain: Americans in Seoul. Lee Jae-Won / Reuters
Lounge’s resident California sunshine girl Melissa Bell cried. “I’m so happy, I’m so happy,” she kept saying, as she accelerated through a box of tissues (and colleagues cracked awkward jokes about how tissues are in short supply as all companies—including ours—cut back).
And those of us who didn’t cry felt the sharp pang of what we were missing. After all, the only person we wanted to believe in belonged to someone else.
Just for a few minutes, that sincere, handsome 47-year-old man looking straight at us (damn the power of live telecasts) as he delivered a promise of radical change had hypnotized us into believing he was our big hope. And when Barack Obama’s victory speech was over, when he turned to his wife and kissed her, we snapped out of our trance, looked around us and wondered when we as a nation would feel this collective emotional catharsis. Who on earth would make us believe again?
It doesn’t matter that in the coming months the world will record in detail all the gaffes (he’s already apologized to Nancy Reagan for making an offhand comment about her and seances) and missteps Obama makes as he tries to realize a nation’s common dream.
Commentators might say he gave young people too much hope and it will backfire when they realize that dreams don’t come true so easily.
At least they have a common dream. When was the last time a politician made us feel we could do anything together?
Forget tears, when was the last time an Indian politician evoked anything except our hatred and cynicism?
In the US, issues of race will be debated; here we will continue to be the most racist people I have ever encountered.
That same night of Obama’s speech, I watched Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion. In the film, the lead actor’s lowest point—the moment she realizes she’s self-destructing—comes when she wakes up in bed with a stranger, a black man. What could jolt you to reality faster than sleeping with a black man, is what the director seems to be suggesting. Most of us haven’t even noticed the shocking racism in this scene.
That same day, as I wandered through an ongoing show about the life of my favourite revolutionary Bhagat Singh (read about it next week)—the man who said the sacrifice of his life would be worth it if he could manage to spread the idea of Inquilab Zindabad to every corner of India—I wondered how many of our political leaders even had any idea that they could share with every Indian without subdividing us by language, religion and economic status.
PS: I may not have cried and Obama’s not mine, but he sure makes me feel melodramatic.
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First Published: Sat, Nov 15 2008. 12 03 AM IST