July 1, 2020 In these pandemic times, Indian Americans from South Asia have become the adrenaline of American society. Like the hormone the body releases in moments of anxiety or threat providing greater physical resources to defend itself, first, second generation as well as naturalized Indians, have emerged as human force multipliers—national paladins. Their reliable, trustworthy voices and their authoritative medical knowledge are now our national adrenaline, the public vanguard leading the struggle to combat our virus threatened society. When the body does not need adrenaline, it quietly remains as part of our functioning endocrine system. The Indian American community, had the pandemic not menaced our nation, would have continued to be part, albeit a ubiquitous part, of the mosaic of the newly emerging minority-majority American society. Its quiet influence a reminder, though, of just how much of an expanding contribution Indian Americans have made and continue to make as they have meretriciously insert themselves into the fabric of twenty-first century American society. Unlike the Chinese, Eastern European Jews, or Mexicans, South Asia Indian immigration to the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, which makes their current conspicuousness even more unique. In fact, because of restrictive national quotas in U. S. Immigration laws, according to the U.S. Census Bureau fewer than 6,500 South Asia Indians had gained legal Permanent Residence in the United States through 1959. However, with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, eliminating country quotas as well as subsequent changes to immigration law such as the H1-B “...allowing U.S. companies to hire foreign workers with at least a bachelor’s degree for specialty occupations that require technical or theoretical expertise; and the L-1A and 1B visas which permit employees of an international company with ofces in both the United States and overseas “...to relocate to the corporation’s US office after having worked abroad for the company for at least one continuous year within the previous three prior to admission in the US.” These changes in U. S. immigration laws, have, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau for period of the 2010 census resulted in an explosive growth of the South Asia Indian population. There were almost 3 million individuals or South Asia Indian origin now residing in the United States as either Permanent Residents or citizens.
Over the span of a recent week, the adrenaline rush of South Asia Indians’ presence in my daily life owed like this. Before I
checked in on Sanjay Gupta’s latest medical updates and commentary about the day’s COVID19 news, my wife and I watched the premiere of Mindy Kaling’s recently released semi-autobiographical Netix series Never Have I Ever, her coming of age film about growing up Indian American in LA. Then, for the next two hours, we toggled back and forth watching cable network and broadcast tv news programs featuring Harvard University’s Director of Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha, authoritatively comment on social distancing; followed by Dr. Aneesh Mehta of the Emory University School of Medicine and Dr. Umesh Gidwani , Cardiac Critical Care Physician at The Mt. Sinai Hospital of New York City, as both narrated their GoPro -like camera rounds of the dantesque scenes in the emergency wards and ICUs of their respective hospitals, interspersing images of patients being treated with real time commentary about hospital conditions.
The following night, we began our evening’s viewing in the political, not medical realm, as Congressmen Ro Kahanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Ami Bera spoke with rigor and authority about the current crisis of governance; and then listened intently as Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal passionately spoke about Medicare For All and the Trump government’s latest assault on Obama Care. Finally as the evening’s marathon viewing wound down, we paid attention as former Acting Solicitor General Neil Katyal eviscerated the current DOJ’s betrayal of its mission as the People’s lawyer.
Before turning in, we made sure to record former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara’s latest jeremiad about President Trump and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s explanations regarding potential
psychological problems associated with the isolation of COVID stay at home policies. Tomorrow, we’ll re-watch Mississippi Masala , Indian American filmmaker Mira Nair’s nuanced and touching romantic comedy exploring an interracial romance between an African American(Denzel Washington) and Indian American(Sarita Choudhury).
The accumulated knowledge and real life competence of South Asia Indians are, indeed, the adrenaline our body politic has released to fight the dangers to our society from the COVID pandemic.