Desis in National News

By K.S. Venkataraman

Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (Chemistry) is interviewed. (Credit: US Embassy Sweden)

Spanning three continents in his academic trajectory, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan at Cambridge University in England received the chemistry Nobel for 2009.

True desi ishtyle, soon after his getting the Nobel, according to the Press Trust of India, the Indian news organization, Ramakrishnan’s e-mail account for days was clogged with congratulatory messages from Indians making him spend over an hour to clear them. A disenchanted Ramakrishnan aired his frustration to PTI, “There are also people who have never bothered to be in touch with me for decades who suddenly feel the urge to connect. I find this strange.”

It is perfectly natural for people to have an urge to bask in the glory of others with whom they can identify in terms of faith, race, ethnicity, culture, nationalities, and languages: He/she is also a _______ just like me); or through universities, schools attended or memberships in exclusive clubs, especially if you can use it to your advantage (He/she is also a ________ alumnus or alumna like me) etc.

But then, we need to keep things in perspective. The following was attributed to Einstein:

In 1921, Albert Einstein presented a paper on his then-infant theory of relativity at the Sorbonne, the prestigious French university. “If I am proved correct,” he said, “the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss will call me a Swiss citizen, and the French will call me a citizen of the world. If relativity is proved wrong, the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German and the Germans will call me a Jew.”

If you have doubt, go and talk to the hedge-fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, another desi, who was in the news for entirely wrong reasons. Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of Galleon Group, was arrested last fall for alleged insider trading involving tens and tens of millions of dollars. His alleged desi accomplices are Rajiv Goel, an executive at Intel’s treasury department, and Anil Kumar, an executive at McKinsey & Company. In fairness to Rajaratnam, he also had other mainstream American accomplices as well.

I wonder, how many desis who were friendly with Rajaratnam on first name-basis in recent years would even acknowledge in public that Rajaratnam was their friends, or they were these his friends. Such is life. Life can be cruel.

End Note: Preet Bahara, another desi and the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, is going after Rajaratnam. I am sure Bahara now has lots of friends. His social calendar will be overflowing during the holidays.

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