Obama, India and me

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.

indiaThen 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.

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