India has a complex relationship with Indians who go on to do well in other countries. Usually the country is quick to celebrate the success of the diaspora stars, who are toasted in local media and are held up as evidence that India is what is holding Indians back.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is one of the great diaspora success stories. His life story is a gold standard for immigrant success and the American dream.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my parents’ background,” Jindal told the Washington Post recently. “My dad was one of nine. He was the only one who got past fifth grade. Part of what drove his determination and success in life was his education. My parents put a strong emphasis on education, hard work, an unshakable faith. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your last name is. You can be anything in America.”
But why are Indians everywhere mocking and reviling the governor since he announced on Wednesday that he was running for president? Why aren't Indians cheering Jindal wildly and supporting his race, whatever its prospects, to be the leader of the free world?
The trouble with Jindal is that his success as a politician in Louisiana, a conservative state, hinges partly in whitewashing his immigrant roots and Indian ways. So he has done that enthusiastically.
"Jindal’s status as a conservative of color helped propel his meteoric rise in the Republican Party — from an early post in the George W. Bush administration to two terms in Congress and now a second term as Louisiana governor — and donors from Indian American groups fueled his first forays into politics. Yet many see him as a man who has spent a lifetime distancing himself from his Indian roots," the Washington Post notes.
He embraced Catholicism at a young age, took up hunting more recently, has publicly said he prefers to be called an American and not an Indian-American and has steadily distanced himself from his Indian heritage.
And this has made him anathema to many Indian-Americans and other Indians at home and abroad.
While Jindal's announcement speech was on at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, Louisiana, jokes on him started trending on social media.
In a series of tweets, American comedians pointed out how much Jindal hates being called an American Indian.
"Mom, stop wearing those goddamn bed sheets! You're embarrassing me in front of my white friends." -BOBBY JINDAL IN HIGHSCHOOL...PROBABLY— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) June 24, 2015
Bobby Jindal is so white, he's looking for a minority running mate "to add diversity to the ticket."— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) June 25, 2015
#bobbyjindalissowhite he only orders kebabs at Indian restaurants & complains that the water is "too spicy."— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) June 25, 2015
Bobby Jindal went to Brown University, but it made him EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE. #bobbyjindalissowhite— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) June 25, 2015
In no time, #BobbyJindalIsSoWhite started trending on Twitter, and Indians joined in.
Had it been 'Brown house' instead of 'White House', Bobby Jindal would have rather chosen to join an IT company. #Meh— Gabbbar (@GabbbarSingh) June 25, 2015
#bobbyjindalissowhite, he orders naan bread and chai tea lattes.— Nina Bhattacharya (@onlynina) June 25, 2015
#bobbyjindalissowhite tht he'd probably try to eat rajmachawal served to him with a fork & knife!— Alekh (@AlekhChauhan) June 25, 2015
Bobby Jindal is so white he actual has yogurt in his yogurt containers #bobbyjindalissowhite— Varshini (@varshini_ini) June 24, 2015
#BobbyJindalIsSoWhite he asks Indian people if they speak 'Hindu'— JAPSPEPORJ FENWAY (@SidizenKane) June 25, 2015
Jindal's announcement video on Facebook also gave the internet quite an amusing moment.
In the video, Jindal and his wife Supriya appear to be in a backyard telling their children about his plans. "Mommy and Daddy have to talk to you," he begins.
The camera is hid behind a tree and you can barely hear anything. "We have decided we are going to be running for president."
When the kids don't sound particularly excited about their father's presidential bid, Mrs. Jindal asks them, "How do you feel about that?" One son gives a quick two thumbs up, and their daughter shrugs.
Twitter pointed out that they couldn't quite figure out why Jindal revealed his campaign this way.
Wow this is a dull promo for the new Paranormal Activity movie: https://t.co/mdyLMZgkyo— Marin Cogan (@marincogan) June 24, 2015
Bobby Jindal telling his kids he's running for president sounds like the setup to a divorce reveal https://t.co/9JB8gRacwe— Marisa Kabas (@MarisaKabas) June 24, 2015