For an Indian slum, Obama’s victory feels far removed

November 7, 2012

(Rama Lakshmi)

NEW DELHI – For many poor people in corruption-obsessed India, the U.S. election result was too distant to be relevant.

India’s news television channels had shown exhaustive coverage of the counting the entire day, peppered with foreign policy experts who compared President Obama with Mitt Romney and analyzed policy implications for India.

But the news about Obama’s victory had not reached this New Delhi slum of wedding drummers called Ekta Vihar, even though the result was beamed across television screens. Men lounged in jute cot, women cooked bread on wood-fired stoves on the ground, as teenagers prepared to play at city weddings in the night.

Here in this congested row of one-room homes, nobody was glued to the television. Even those who sat under a tree or in a street-side tea-shack reading Hindi language newspapers had glossed over the news about the U.S. elections and focused more on the stories about India’s rising corruption scandals and political turbulence.

When they were shown photo images of the two presidential candidates, nobody recognized Romney. Almost everybody recognized the photo of Obama as someone they had seen before.

Of course, everybody guessed differently.

“He is a famous man,” said Sajan Singh, 23, as he watched his modest one-room slum getting painted pink. “But I cannot remember who he is.”

“He is a big Hollywood star,” said Shivam Kumar, 18.

A passerby peeped in and asked if it was "Osama," confusing his name.

Hearing the commotion, the house-painter, Bhupendra Singh, craned his neck from the doorway and said, “Oh, he is the leader of America, and he is not white like others.”

Taran Chand, 45-year old drummer, said “Isn't he the one who killed Osama bin Laden? He is a good man, good for the youth, I hear. There is an election on in that country.”

When this reporter informed them about Obama’s victory and asked if it would make any difference here in India, the residents looked blank.

“He appears to be better than our own corrupt leaders here who are only interested in eating money and looting the nation,” Chand said.

Rama Lakshmi has been with The Post's India bureau since 1990. She is a staff writer and India social media editor for Post World.
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