President Obama’s trip to India brought back memories of one of the more peculiar moments of punditry I’ve been involved with.
On the morning of Obama’s first inauguration, I was home. For me, the big story had been the historic 2008 presidential campaign and election. The inauguration was just a ceremony – more pageantry than news.
Then my cell phone rang (Note to self: Do cell phones ring?). It was a friend of mine – an Asian journalist who had been working in America for years, but still had many contacts back home in India. She told me that a producer of an Indian news program needed commentary from someone involved in American politics to supplement coverage of the inauguration.
I agreed to do it, and in less than 60 seconds, my phone rang again, this time with about a dozen digits appearing in the Caller ID screen. The producer introduced himself and asked if there was a head shot of me online that he could use on air while I commented and opined via phone. We found one on the Rutgers University website, since I was teaching there as an adjunct at the time.
Having followed the presidential campaign closely, I was familiar with the issues, so I figured I would just spend some time exploring some topics that might be of interest to an Asian audience: How did Asian-Americans vote? Had India ever been a topic during the campaign? What were Asians and Asian-Americans looking for in the new president?
But before I could even make a list, the phone rang again. It was the reporter. He was live on the air, and in a matter of seconds, I was live too, speaking to thousands of Indian television viewers while the image on the screen showed the then president-elect and soon-to-be first lady departing for the inauguration ceremony. What they didn’t see was me sitting in my den in Hamilton, N.J., dressed in a sweat suit with our family dog sitting comfortably at my feet.