As Obama wins, emotions run high in India

November 5th, 2008 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Nov 5 (IANS) “Yes, we can.” Barack Obama’s victory speech turned into a collective chant, infecting just about everyone, including scores of American diplomats, expatriates and young Indians who had gathered to watch the finale of the historic American elections here Wednesday morning. As news of Obama’s victory was splashed across giant TV screens at the American Center, there was a sense of partaking in a historic moment. Nail-biting suspense in the early morning gave way to jubilation as it became clear that 47-year-old Obama, a first-time senator from Illinois, would be the first African American to occupy the White House.

Many white Americans turned emotional. The American Center sported a carnival-like look and was covered in blue, white and red balloons - the colours of the US flag. Dozens of TV channels and mediapersons had gathered to capture the inspirational moment in the history of the most powerful nation on earth.

Larry Schwartz, minister counsellor for public affairs at the US embassy in India, saw in Obama’s victory a unifying moment for America. “It has been such a long campaign. We came here divided - as Republicans or Democrats, now we leave as Americans,” Schwartz told IANS.

The landslide victory of the first African American president may have come as a surprise for some, but American citizens living in India said the battle was not just about race.

“There has been a cascade of issues in this election. We had Iraq war, the worst financial crisis, environmental issues and a whole lot of other things,” said Brian Ferinden, assistant information officer at the US embassy.

“Every single person I know back home is partying right now,” said Ferinden.

“Most Americans here that I spoke with expressed a sigh of relief. They were earlier shy to be branded as Americans - with Obama’s victory we are proud now to be Americans,” said Sharon Lowen, an American danseuse who lives in India and practises Indian classical dance.

The enthusiasm for this year’s elections in the US was unprecedented, sucking in people around the globe, including Indians who have mixed feelings America despite the historic nuclear deal that promises to bring India and the US closer politically and strategically.

Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, spokesperson for the American Embassy, said calling all these young people is part of “learning and experiencing process about the American democracy” and part of the “Muslim outreach programme” of the embassy.

“He (Obama) won!” beamed 14-year-old Rizwan, a student of the Jamia Millia School in Delhi. “I have been following this election for long now.”

Outside in the lawns of the American Center amidst a sea of blue and red balloons, a gaggle of young Indian girls was clearly sold on Obama’s promise of reclaiming the American Dream which means a lot for India. The US is home to over 2.5 million Indian Americans and hosts 80,000 Indian students who study in American universities.

“Yes, We Can. We shall overcome,” the girls chanted, speaking for young people not just in India but perhaps across the world who see Obama not just an individual but a metaphor for the “audacity of hope”.

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