Of Cabbages and Kings

January 21, 2009

My American friend X came over today. X is of Indian origin and American sympathies. She loves butter and hates ghee. She starts many of her sentences with “America mein…”, and she has the usual distaste for arranged marriage and community centric living which to her are the defining characteristics of what might easily have been her country. X is a living breathing pity in many ways. She has travelled the world but never read a book*. She has grown up in America but in pursuit of ‘qualifications’, did not look for an education. She mouths the usual platitudes about Obama but would not take time to cast her vote for him. X is a pity because although her parents knew enough to move to a prosperous country and to grow wealthy in it, enough to shower their daughters with affection and to help them mingle in the new country, they did not know enough to use their wealth to purchase a different life for their children – the sort of life that moves beyond the pursuit of wealth for its own sake… one in which people understands things bigger than themselves and the boxes that they live in. 

But I think that the world may have changed a little today. My professor saw fit to interupt class and project the inaugural speech of that man who has been the symbol of a better world, so that we wouldn’t miss what is likely to turn into defining moment in history. As I type this, I can imagine gnarled and shaking hands moving over a keyboard decades later and tapping out my memories of this day.

Perhaps this man, with the popularity of a rock-star, and education and promise that truly befits a leader…perhaps this man who has found a way to reach the hundreds of people in front of him as well as thousands around the world, like myself and like X who hang on his every word…perhaps this man who has learned to tell the world what he knows instead of merely mouthing to it what it would like to hear…perhaps he will change the way that some people think. Not all people, but many people?

Today, he said “the success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.” If everybody who heard him understood him, I have faith that the world really will change. If not X, perhaps X’s daughter will learn the joy of studying something fascinating, and working towards something constructive…building a community not just a house in the posh part of town.

*okay that is an exaggeration. But she’s never even heard of P.G. Wodehouse!

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