Obama, Reshma

I did not make phone calls for Barack. That is a remarkable thing to say from a guy who was one of Barack's earliest, staunchest supporters in the city, perhaps the country.

I made no phone calls for Barack. Well, not entirely true. Once when they opened up the downtown Manhattan office, I went for a show of support and to get to know the new guy Rudy. And Obama's sister Maya was to show; she gave me the look one Indian gives to another, her name is Indian. (Maya Soetoro-Ng) After she left, and we were just lingering around someone suggested I make phone calls, so I went through the motions for half an hour. People were watching. Then I said how it had been a wonderful experience and I left.

I absolutely refused to sit on committees. I absolutely stayed away from event planning. The primary thing I was doing was I was sucking all emerging details of Obama 08 nationally like a sponge. I was mentally preparing myself to inject in at the pivot points, which I did a few times. I was doing strategic thinking.

Obama 08 was personal therapy. If you had gone to the high school I went to, if you went to the college I went to, you wanted the personal therapy that was Obama 08. I was doing it as much for me as I was for Barack.

I underestimated Barack's positivity message until he started winning race after race after race and I then declared myself a student of his new kind of politics.

I use movie metaphors a lot. It is because my mind works visually. Somebody once asked me, if you speak so many languages, which is the language you think in? I was perplexed. I don't think in languages.

I identify with the Jason Bourne character. In his case, there is amnesia. That is not true for me. But I have had to drop two major institutions from my life like stones into sea water. He kept the skills, the knowledge, but lost memory. He became an operative. There is a one man army element to his ways that I relate to. I am an extremely political person who is not a politician. I can not be a politician. I don't think I much want to either.



Finally I thought I had found a landmass that I could claim: New York City. But the worst experience of my life happened here. I still feel a little disoriented from that experience, emotionally. Charlie Rangel was personally involved in my mess. That made a senior white police officer so happy he declared a "ceasefire" in Harlem for a day. These people never expected to see me ever again, one way or the other. And yet here I am. Africans at college used to ask me jokingly, "You are not black, you are not white, what are you?" Rangel asked the same question, but in a sinister way. I have always thought of Rangel as a third rate political mind, but never underestimate the ferocity of the dumb people.



There is this scene in my favorite movie Heat. The Al Pacino character says he can't share his experiences of witnessing a crime scene, because he needs to preserve that angst, because that keeps him sharp where he needs to be. Someone like me tries to burn the bad experiences in life like it were fuel. You try to burn those memories to try and further sharpen your instincts. But even Jason Bourne tried so hard to reclaim his humanity, and I am no Jason Bourne, I just like the Bourne movies. I have watched them countless times.

What hurts, hurts.

I have thought in terms of getting some counseling, but I have not been excited about the idea. A counselor is not going to have the vocabulary. I am going to have to teach him a new language before he could talk to me. That is not an enticing thought. I have tried writing. It helps, just a little. But not much. I think I might talk.

It is like I have four or five bullet wounds on my left arm. The bullets are still there. The only solace is I know the bullets, I know when I got hit, I have almost a picture perfect memory of getting hit, as if I can replay the movies in slow motion.

1989 was a departure point. 1997 was a departure point. 2008 was a departure point. There have been smaller departure points in between. They stand out like bullets. They sting still. The six months from June to November 2008 were horror. The thing that I had always valued the most, the thing for which I took some major career hits when not exactly having other rosy options, my freedom, they took it away. It was the most unimagined experience, the most unexpected. Before that Nepal was a political laboratory to me, after that America has been a political laboratory to me.

I spend enormous amounts of time online. I think I am searching for a country.

The anti-India sentiment in Kathmandu is too strong, it did not give me space to claim my Indian identity. The British college counselor asked another Britisher in my presence: "Don't you miss it when we used to rule over India?"

Some day I would like to colonize Britain. And Uganda too. Isn't that where Rangel is from?

I have always wanted to become a member of the Indian community in this country, but so far I have not known how. In Richmond, KY, you saw an Indian across the street, and you waved, and they waved back. I tried the same thing in Philly where I was for summer of 1999, and Indians would look at me weird. Do we know each other?

A poet can look at the same leaf and come up with a different thought. When I was gungho about my startup that the Rangel crowd robbed me of, I had started to think, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, I never went to Harvard. That makes me one better in the out of the box thinking department. I was thinking of Obama 08 as my personal therapy. Instead it got me cooked, quite literally.

I made very, very few phone calls for Barack. I knocked on extremely few doors for Barack. I got caught, and so I had to do it. As long as the phone calls are being made, and the doors are being knocked upon, I don't have to be the one doing it. That was my attitude.

I have knocked on hundreds of doors for Reshma. I have made hundreds of phone calls for Reshma. The news is not that I have made more phone calls for Reshma than for Obama. The real news is that I have made more phone calls for Reshma than the total number of phone calls I have made in my entire life before that, period. I have not been much of a phone person. For the longest time I did not have a phone. You could also argue for the longest time I have not owned a plane. I have made very few air trips. My first air trip once in America was during the June-November 2008 period; I got reminded I like the views at ground level so much better. Even today I don't have much of a phone. It is a prepaid that has four minutes on it. People will be like, I called you earlier. I am sure you did. I am sure the phone was ringing on my desk. In case you have not noticed, I don't carry my desk around with me. I am a big screen web guy.

I am going to take those bullets out like Rambo. I have to do it myself. They can't stay there forever, festering.



So yesterday I am at the Reshma 2010 headquarters, and a few hours into the show Reshma gets up, walks around and asks the crowd, "Does anyone want coffee?" Next thing you know the entire place has emptied out. I ask the last person out, what's going on? He says, oh, we are all going for coffee. That is the Reshma charisma for you. I did not like the eery silence in the aftermath. But I kept making call after call, because when in motion, I don't feel the pain. When I am calling, when I am blogging, when I am surfing the web, when I am walking, when I am riding the train, I don't feel the pain. It is not even pain most of the time. It is like this lingering bad smell that sometimes give you the headache. You look for the exit and you are out. You get into motion.

I remain someone in pain. I have to figure out a way to work my way through it. My preferred method would be to try and burn all that pain for fuel. But I am not sure that is entirely possible.
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