US media empathises
with Indian workers
mainstream media in the US is willing to show Indian workers in a positive
light and empathise with their problems, writes Mohan Babu
The change in
direction of the economy and its impact on IT professionals, especially on
those from India (and other countries) on H1-B, seems to be generating a lot
of interest among the techie community in the US. The buzz being generated
by Indians has not gone unnoticed. Interestingly, even the mainstream media
in the US seems to be taking note of the views of Indians in the US. I had
an interesting conversation with an editor of Computerworld one of the
premier IT journals in the US a few days ago and I thought I’d share the
gist of my discussion with readers in this column.
called me and wanted to interview me about my experiences as a ‘foreign
worker’ in the US. Especially on my reactions on how Indians felt about the
current business environment, especially after the September 11 incident. As
I mentioned in my earlier column (Impact of terrorism...), Indians techies
have, by and large, been immune to the aftermath. Most of us still maintain
a status quo and continue with our jobs and lives the best as we can.
However, we need to brace ourselves for an uphill climb. During the
interview, the editor was impressed by the success of the Indian community
in the US and was particularly awed by the daring shown by youngsters who
took the plunge, coming to live in a foreign country.
to her that what we saw in the nineties (the influx of Indians on H1 visas)
was extremely beneficial not only to Indians but also to the US economy.
People who came here were trained technical people who imported their
valuable skills with them. Of course, kudos to the Indian education system
that provided us with the excellent training that helped us build a strong
wanted to talk to me about my views as a foreigner, especially since foreign
workers were the coveted guests when the economy was booming in the
nineties. The fact that most magazines and journals are even considering
articles on H1s and immigrants, and the fact that they want to feature
Indians goes to prove that we are a sizeable force in the new economic
equation. Americans have loved immigrant success stories; this is especially
true for the vast majority who can trace their ancestry to various European
countries. The Indian influx, especially the influx of Indian techies on
H1s, provided a real fillip to the technology lead boom that we saw during
the nineties and Americans are just starting to recognise the positive
impact of the Indian diaspora
We then got
talking about the current economic situation. Experts are already predicting
that the affects of this incident on the US economy are going to be
incredible. Wall Street Journal, the revered American business journal, in
its October 9 edition said, “the estimated hit to the U.S economy so far: at
least $100 billion this year, on top of tens of billions in property damage
and the staggering loss of human life”. The article went on to add that US’s
$10 trillion economy is expected to shrink by nearly 1%. Just to put these
numbers in perspective, a billion dollars is almost equivalent to 4,700
conversation, I also mentioned to her that if Indians can ride the downturn
with the same élan as they did during the boom period, we are going to come
ahead resilient and stronger. She then drew a parallel saying that our
success is almost like that of the successful Jewish community in the US.
Like Jews, even Indians are brilliant people, respected and looked up by
Americans. Even after a spending few generations in the US, Jews still take
great pride in their heritage and maintain a strong sense of community.
Similarly, Indians are used to chaos in our lives and we try to
compartmentalise the different aspects of our life — family, socialising,
religion, faith, career etc.
spending a few years abroad, we derive our strength from our values, culture
and traditions. However, one aspect of American life that we are not used to
is the drastic changes in the economy. We are used to a slower economic
cycle and sometimes find it hard to accept that an economy, which was
super-hot, even eighteen months ago, is tethering on the brinks of
Layoffs are a
still a taboo in India and Indians attach a strong stigma to layoffs.
However, many Indians, who have lived through a few economic cycles here in
the US do not seem to think much of layoffs, or even economic downturns.
They focus instead on the big picture.
who interviewed me said that she had interviewed a number of other techies
in different parts of the country. In the process of researching for her
story, she was surprised to find the strong networking among people of
Indian origin. Interestingly, SAJA - the South Asian Journalists Association
- has done a wonderful job of providing links to the latest happenings in
the Indian and South Asian community, especially after Sep 11. They have
been collecting and publishing stories on a whole range of topics including
Ground Zero, the backlash and `The War’. They are also trying to undertake
an unobtrusive public relations campaign that will immensely benefit Indians
in the years to come.