Letter from New Delhi
By Kul Bushan
Donald Trump holds a string while checking a charkha, or spinning wheel, as Melania Trump (2L) and Narendra Modi (L) look on during their visit at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on February 24, 2020. Photo – AFP
Who wins the US presidential election? Donald Trump or Joe Biden? The result is awaited with personal interest by select group of Indians in India since 2.5 million Indians have settled in the USA. Despite emigrating over half a century in most cases, these American Indians have relatives in India who are concerned about the election result. And some specific groups of Indians have special interest.
First, the retired middle-class couples who have their children settled in the USA are anxious about the safety of their children and grandchildren in violence-prone American cities. They see images of shops in US cities being boarded to keep looters away as if, instead of election results, a cyclone is going to hit the cities. Racial tensions are very high in most American cities, although the suburbs are safe where the high-income Indians live. And, they are also worried that US taxes will go up for their high earners which will affect the money they send back to India.
Second, the techies in cyber-hubs of Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad want to see if Biden will ease the work visas that were cut down by Trump. Some had to cut down their stay in the US due to the visa clampdown by Trump. This is crucial for their income. In 2018, no less than 170,000 Indian IT experts were working in the US. This number declined after visa cuts by the Trump administration to give jobs to Americans. Now the IT sector is keen to know if these cuts will continue under the new administration.
Third, school leavers who aspire for higher education in US. They want to see how the new president shapes policies in relation to higher education and study visas for students. The new government policies, following the Wuhan virus lockdown, are still to be worked out. Another category is the hundreds of students who have returned to India after the closure of their universities and higher education institutes who want to know when and on what terms will their instructions re-open. After all, India sends around 100,000 students to study in USA.
Four, business executives who import and export to US are awaiting any changes in US trade regulations following the election results.
In general, Indian opinion has veered towards Trump after US Secretary State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper visited New Delhi a week before the US elections and signed a defence agreement with India. This has boosted India’s power at a time when China has deployed massive military presence on the Himalayan border.
Indians traditionally favour Democrats but the cordial bonhomie between Indian Prime Minister Modi and Trump has changed this equation. The two mega-meetings, ‘Howdy Modi’ in Texas last year and ‘Namaste Trump’ in Ahmedabad this February strengthened personal and national bonds.
Above all, India’s relations with USA have improved in this century no matter who was in power in USA, Democrats or Republicans, and also the same for Indian governments whether Congress or BJP. The Indo-US Civil Nuclear Power agreement in 2006 is a case in point.
The vast majority of 1.3 billion Indians do not have any interest in this outcome as they are too involved in tackling domestic challenges of jobs, medical care, housing, education and the threat from China during an economic slowdown.
Ask them about US elections, and pat comes the answer, “We have our own elections in Bihar.”
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Sean Connery’s Kenya Bond: ‘Tarzan’
The original James Bond 007, Sir Sean Connery, who passed away last weekend, has a Kenya connection, recalls Kul Bhushan, who interviewed him at Nairobi Airport then at Muthaiga Golf Club
Good friends and great actors: Michael Caine and Sean Connery in ‘The Man Who Would be King’ in which Connery sported a handle-bar moustache. Photo – i.pinimg.com
In 1973, Sean Connery arrived in Nairobi for the Kenya Open Golf tournament at Muthaiga Golf Club, and I had a long interview and spent some quality time with the famous actor on a leisurely Sunday.
“That’s James Bond!” cried a number of fans on spotting him with his long side-burns at Nairobi Embakasi Airport when he walked the tarmac, in the company of two smiling air hostesses.
Hero of the Bond phenomena, probably the greatest rage of the Sixties and the Seventies, 007 James Bond Connery recalled how he rocketed to stardom after shooting Tarzan films in Thika in 1960.
Relaxing at Muthaiga Golf Club later in the morning, he told me:
“We were here 13 years ago on Tarzan films when I heard that Ian Fleming had an idea on what his hero should be like. Back in Europe, I learnt that they wanted to test screen personalities for the part. I said I would not submit myself for the test to find out if I was okay but I still got the part,” he recalled.
Asked what role he was playing in the Tarzan film being shot in Kenya, Sean said: “I was the villain. Quite a few years have passed since then and I am interested to see what’s happened here.”
Queried on how he fitted the role of Bond, he replied in a very Scottish accent which he subdued in his films: “I played the part! But now I have left it – on a permanent basis.”
“But still people call you James Bond, don’t they?”
He was quick to retort: “You haven’t called me James so far.”
How did he do all those superhuman acts of his mindboggling films?
“Stamina! But seriously, I end up by doing only about 50 percent of those stunts. We have stand-ins who go through some of the rougher stuff,” he explained.
What hobbies do you have beside your work?
“Golf in the UK, I have a handicap of seven.”
Very appropriate, I thought.
“After the Kenya Open Golf championship, I will be holidaying here and if I see something that might fit into my forthcoming movies, I all certainly include it but certain filming facilities are lacking here.”
Recalling his pre-Bond days, he said he had acted on the stage, television and films. “I have played all sorts of parts. “In Tarzan films, Alexander the Great, Macbeth, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Euripides, Arthur Miller stuff, and many others before turning to Bond.”
Are you here on a secret mission?
“No, only a sporting one.”
As soon as we finished talking, Chandu Vasani, an ex-Nation photographer joined us.
“Hello, how are you. I remember you,” said Sean.
At once, he recognized the young studio owner in Thika who invited the Tarzan film unit to a curry dinner so many years ago.
After retiring in 2003, he rarely appeared in public and spent his time with his grand-children. He retired to Bahamas Islands until his last breath.
But his charisma remains as he was approached for an autograph by a fan who recognized him.
He was intrigued by my handle bar moustache. No wonder he sported the same style in his hit movie, ‘The Man Who Would be King’!
His good friend and co-hero in this movie paid him the ultimate tribute. Michael Caine, wrote, “Sean Connery A Great Star, Brilliant Actor and a wonderful friend. The Man Who Would Be King was THE KING.”
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
* Published in print edition on 6 November 2020