Listening to the litany of worries about coming times in the US, Kishore Singh realizes what the country needs is a desi export -- the "commoner" and street rabble-rouser, Arvind Kejriwal.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
Donald Trump's penthouse a couple of blocks away from the office has been a source of worry for my colleagues in New York. "It's a terror magnet," I was told; in fact, all of Trump's black stone towers with their gilt trims appear vulnerable wherever they are located, now that he is on his way to becoming the most powerful man in the world, but also its most feared, or despised, depending on your point of view.
His every move and utterance has made Americans more politically conscious than before, and they dissect it with the thoroughness of The New York Times' editorial writers. Those who know Trump voters amidst themselves wonder how they could have been friends with those who don't have a care for "the American way of life".
My hotel arranges a hospitality reception every evening that they charge for but which I had never previously attended. But learning that room service as well as the restaurant were shut for upgradation, and being both hungry and sleepy, I stepped by one evening to discover its promise of champagne on the house as well as a range of hors d'oeuvres was both lavish and true.
As people piled their plates high with pizza wedges, cheese and crackers, and refilled their wine glasses with all the intensity of bacchanalian revels, who would have thought that politics would be on their minds? But conversations at all tables was about the bad times-a-coming.
As an "outsider", I was repeatedly asked about my views on Trumpism by strangers (several of them appearing dangerously tiddly). I've learned, through experience, that while it's all right to criticise one's own wife, or family, or leader, people don't take kindly to others doing it for them. So, instead, I heard about Trump's many sins -- racism, misogyny, arrogance, his dangerous overturning of foreign policy, the appointments of previous government baiters… their list of woes appeared endless.
Coming from the airport to the hotel, there had been a jam on the highway. My Bangladeshi cab driver took advantage of this to chart a route through the suburbs and rundown parts of New York I had never before seen, as a result what should have taken an hour (or less: this was very early morning) took close to three hours.
All along, the driver, speaking mostly in Hindi, kept telling me how great America was, but feared deportation by Trump even though he had lived here for 25 years and had the relevant papers that gave him domicile status. I was not entirely sure of the necessity of the long detour, and my suspicions were confirmed when he insisted he was unfamiliar with my Manhattan hotel address, but accidentally revealed he had worked at Subrata (Sahara) Roy's Plaza hotel next door to it.
He reminded me of the kali-peeli taxi drivers back home who always take the long route not required, and sure enough, he insisted on three times the fare because the "gora log" would pay by the hour. I added a little extra by way of gratuity but paid him the way we're getting used to in Modi's demonetised India, by card, thereby limiting his fiscal jugglery.
Amused by his attempt to pull the wool over my eyes -- I didn't mind the long ride because I knew my room would not be ready on arrival -- I could not help relate to his worries about coming times, and think what President-designate Trump's America now needs is an Indian export -- the "commoner" and street rabble-rouser, Arvind Kejriwal.