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June - 2016 - issue > Indian American View

WHAT I LEARNED AT INDIASPORA 2016

Sashi P. Reddi
Friday, June 3, 2016
Sashi P. Reddi
OK, what is Indiaspora? Think of Davos for Indian Americans. I haven't been to Davos so I am just basing my comparison on what I've read about Davos. Indiaspora is held over a weekend and is attended by around 150 interesting people, all Indians and Indian Americans. There are a few people like me, who are entrepreneurs and/or investors. But there are also thought leaders from all spheres of life including artists, journalists, academics, social impact leaders, and even half a dozen politicians looking to make history in their respective states or at the national level.

The event I attended was held in Philadelphia on May 20-22 and it was the third time it has been hosted. So Indiaspora is still a young organization trying to figure out what is the way to bring people together to have a positive impact on the Indian American identity. Besides a couple of keynotes, most of the sessions are meant to be intimate settings with a lot of interaction so that one could leverage the brainpower and the network in that room.

Some of the discussions and interactions made me think about the following interesting issues:

(1) Identity: Should we classify ourselves as Indian American, South Asian American, or Asian American? In the UK, Asian American is inevitably South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi). In the U.S., Asian American is almost always interpreted to mean East Asian(Chinese, Japanese, among others).Pushing our identity as Indian American is clearly the truest to who we are but we risk getting left behind as an insignificant minority that is not worth courting. With less than one percent of the population, we would have no heft at all. Getting included in the Asian American category gets us more political weight but constantly requires an education about our place in that group.

(2) Young professionals: I had the opportunity to hear from and interact with multiple young folks who were born in the U.S. to Indian parents. It was interesting to see that wherever they grew up, their stories and experiences were very similar and familiar. Various stories of being the only South Asian (and in many cases the only non-white) in their schools as they were growing up. The next generation has a very broad range of interests and aspirations so one can expect to see them have an impact on a wide range of fields outside engineering and medicine.


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