An Indian inside the American Dream

An Indian inside the American Dream

by Makarand R Paranjape 

TRUMP INDICTMENT WOULD be a national disaster. …This will mark a dark moment in American history and will undermine public trust in our electoral system itself.” Who said these words to whom? If you haven’t guessed, let me extend the quotations and the clues: “It is un-American for the ruling party to use police power to arrest its political rivals….Principles go beyond partisanship. Let the American people decide who governs.”

Still in the dark? I wouldn’t blame you. For the speaker is somewhat of a dark horse in American politics, both figuratively and literally. Few have heard of him although he is running for what is possibly the most powerful job in the world—the office of the US president. The speaker is Vivek Ramaswamy, not yet 38, who entered the US presidential race only last month, on February 21. And his words were addressed to the American people, perhaps to the whole free world.

Vivek’s parents moved to the US in 1985, a little before he was born, from Kerala. His engineer father, also well-versed in law, worked at General Electric as a patent agent. His mother is a geriatric psychiatrist. Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and raised as a Hindu, Vivek was first sent to a state-funded public school. After he was beaten up one day, his parents moved him to a private Jesuit school. He did very well in high school, graduating at the top of his class.

This was the push he needed to get into Harvard, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Biology in 2007. He was a very good tennis player, and also briefly a rapper as an undergrad. Always a good musician, he also played piano at nursing homes for Alzheimer’s patients. After Harvard, Vivek went to Yale, getting a Doctorate in Jurisprudence in 2013. Even while at the university, Vivek was involved in several start-ups. The cofounder of Campus Venture Network (2007-2009), he was also a partner at QVT Financial (2007-2014).

How Ramaswamy will fare at the hustings does not at all seem encouraging right now. But that is not what he or American politics is about. At least, not entirely. It is about good ideas finding a voice and an ear, no matter which quarter they come from, or which colour they represent.

Ramaswamy has followed Woke Inc. with a follow-up, Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence, released last year. The subtitle explains it all. At the end of the book, Ramaswamy flaunts his Hindu roots, revealing that he is named after Swami Vivekananda. ‘Reincarnate’, the title of the book’s Conclusion, is a perfect tribute to the Hindu idea of rebirth.

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