Sunday, August 03, 2008

City Buzz - Barack's Backroom Boys in Delhi

Contact for ad enquiries.

Barack's Backroom Boys in Delhi

Yanks play their politics in the Indian capital.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

On his overseas trip to Paris, Berlin, London, Baghdad and Kabul in July, 2008, Barack Obama didn't find time to visit Delhi. Is he aware that the route to the January 20th inauguration day is passing through Delhi's Khan Market bylane?

On a recent Saturday morning, at 11 am, about a dozen volunteers of Democrats Abroad-India, the overseas branch of the Democrat party in India, donned Obama tees, Obama badges, donkey hats and marched up and down in pairs at Khan Market, Delhi's first-world bubble, to catch anybody who looked like an American. The purpose was to register US citizens in the Capital so that they could vote in the Presidential elections in November. As the 2000 Bush-Gore face-off proved, every vote counts, which is why they were chasing US expats.

Although the volunteers were Democrats (donkey is the Democrat party symbol), this was a non-partisan event. "We welcome all Americans – Democrats, Republicans and Independents," said Carolyn Sauvage-Mar, a Safdarjung Enclave resident and chair of Democrats Abroad-India, in a conversation with The Delhi Walla.

However, as Khan Market is a hangout for goras ranging from Bulgarians to Belgians to Bolivians, it must not had been easy to guess who was American and who wasn't. "Because of the fliers that our volunteers carried, Americans approached to us by themselves," said Nick Robinson, a campaigner.

The Yanks were invited to Choko La, in the middle lane, and taken to the top floor, where they were assisted in requesting an absentee ballot. Then then sat down with fellow Yanks and ordered specially discounted chocolate shakes. No free food.

This 'voter soliciting' was a new sight for Delhiwallas but it's common 'back home'. It's a countdown to Obama-McCain contest and in the US, thousands of volunteers are thronging shopping malls, baseball stadiums, schools and other public places to enlist voters. Now their eyes are firmly set on the 60,000 here in India.

Indeed, Democrats Abroad-India, one of the Democrat party committees with branches in 44 countries, has started American-style polling right here in Delhi. In February this year, the committee put up a polling station in Lodi Colony's Ploof restaurant, where Americans cast votes in the presidential primaries – a first time here. In March, it held an election-special dating game at the American Embassy School where nuclear disarmament, climate change and other issues dear to liberal Americans were debated and dissected. In May, they gathered at Lodi Garden's Athpula Pul to participate in the worldwide Bridges for Obama campaign.

And then it was the turn of Khan Market. Why Saturday? "Many Americans do their shopping at Khan Market on weekend mornings," says Sauvage-Mar. "There are thousands of unregistered voters in this city and we'd hoped to catch a few of them," she says.

This desperation to grab every voter had sent the Democrats flying all over the country – from Chennai to Mumbai to Bangalore. But it's only in Delhi where they 'infiltrated' a bazaar. In other metros, the excitement was limited to parties at pricey restaurants.

However, you say what is there for Indians? Umm, digest the bitter truth: the entire world can't vote for the US President but that guy is likely to be the world's most powerful person. Better take an interest.

Catch them, catch them

Barack's Backroom Boys in Delhi

Obama's donkeys

Barack's Backroom Boys in Delhi

That's me!

Barack's Backroom Boys in Delhi


Shaheen Sulatn Dhanji said...

Apart from the article...I am laughing at the way Americans hold their pen when writing! I see it here all the time, but, the photos just made me laugh! Oh the Americans!!!

Mayank, you look great!!! ;)

B said...


hmmmm... well I'm the guy in the red check shirt holding my pen in an 'unapproved' way .... I just did a little test myself with the pen sitting here next to me and I want to let you know that I don't hold it that way while writing... I hold it that way while pausing to read. FYI.

Steven B. said...

Shaheen thinks it's funny how we Americans hold our pens? I've gone to everyone in the office, right-handers and left, but we all hold our pens alike. Well, how do you hold your pens? Please let me in on the humor. Thanks!

Shaheen Sultan Dhanji said...

Hmmm...No humour!! Just observation! Been noticing it in North America for the longest time. The thumb and index finger should hold the pen -- not slide it like using a chopstix! Anyway, it's all silly observation. Same is the case, when I see some North Americans holdng their spoons/forks whilst eating-- looks like they are shovelling!

But...Steven, dear, notice how non-Americans hold their pen. Just so that you can observe what I am observing...and there are many people who say the same. Maybe, it might be we are holding our pens in a funny way!!! It's all good.


Sanuallah Majeed said...

hey shaheen i've noticed too when i was at MIT studying, they do hold their pens like that. but they never like to be told otherwise. lol.

soofi, bro you're article's good. a clear photo of you, good looking man.

Jawahara Saidullah said...

So is there some ordained international pen-holding convention that we're unaware of? Or is it just a desi pen holding convention that the rest of the world violates? Do tell.

On another note, as a Democract Abroad myself, this election is interesting because we also had the first-ever global primary, i.e., Americans abroad could vote in the primary as well. And, of course, this is a very important election.

applepiecrust said...

Ha ha ha...the discussion in the comments section is hilarious!

I'm Indian and I hold the pen in a very weird way... but I have to say this: I have been "corrected" far less often in the US than in India. So maybe people in the US are just more accepting of people that hold the pen funny?

Anyhow, for some reason, the entire article cracked me up. Anybody that "looked American"... hee! How does someone look American, I wonder? I have several friends that are legally American citizens but are otherwise every bit as Indian as me (and a couple of them were in Khan Market at that very time). Oh well, I think I will try and figure out how one looks American.

No Republicans abroad? Not that I want that. Just wodnering again. Just like I've been wondering why McCain gets so much less coverage from the (possibly presumptuous?) Indian media than Obama.

Vishaal Sangupta said...

Comments are funny.
Shaheen, Sanaullah - finally there are people out there who think the same as i do. It is only North Americans who tend to hold the pen in that peculiar way. I've travelled extensively all my life and always, always it is funny how Americans/ Canadians have the least mannersim in things, holding pen, cutlery, long long list so these comments just validated my own thinking to. No other country holds pen that way , in that strange way except North America. But Americans are reactionary, they can't take criticism and panic.

Now, about the article itself. Well written. After living in America for 6 years (finally left that country) I haven't seen any REAL democracy and the republicans are liars. What is Obama going to do to make America the real democracy they tend to cry out for? And McCain, another cloning of Bush? People wake up, there is NO DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA. I'm so glad I left that miserable country and established my business in Chennai.

Shweta Chawla said...

APPLE CRUST: "I'm Indian and I hold the pen in a very weird way... but I have to say this: I have been "corrected" far less often in the US than in India. So maybe people in the US are just more accepting of people that hold the pen funny?" The reason you're not corrected in America is because THAT IS HOW THEY ALSO HOLD THE PEN, AMERICAN THING. So obviously no one is going to correct you there bcz they think its normal. Americans think they know it all, BAH! look how defensive "B" became that he HAD to tell he doesn't hold the pen that way. LOL. Right!

Actually sat them at Khan Market doing their Obama gig and to me it looked funny. The gorras marching up in Khan Market.

Interesting how one comment by someone prompted so many comments. Hey Mayank, you lookin' a hottie.


steven b. said...

I really do enjoy your posts so much! And these comments are very much fun too. Sorry to have strayed so far from the original post.....

Soofi, you are a great writer and photographer. You've introduced us to a lot of interesting authors, like Rakhshanda Jalil. John and I think you're the most interesting person on the net. Keep on entertaining and educating us!

Anonymous said...

Pen-pushers of the world unite!
Well, why is there so much indecision as to all this? Everyone's convinced Americans are the least cultured people on earth. They know it too. Just that they'll nuke (nook?) us if we kick up a fuss about any of it so it's probably best to smirk silently. When will the Indians learn to learn from the British?

kumar v said...


Ajit said...

Our lady, Mademoiselle Shaheen
Learnt, before she was even a teen,
That there's one way that's right
Another yet for the the Amreeki white,
And that by slanting a pen
Shalt thou achieve the realm of Zen!

Neha said...

American's have no mannerism. So, silly how Shaheen's point became so debatable. It is funny the way they hold the pens and I agree. Wrong or right way is not the question especially when it is only North Americans who hold it that way and not the rest of the world.

Ajit said...

American's have no mannerism.

They don't? Plenty of examples in those well-endowed American museums, I would bet! :-)

Arun Tagore said...

LOL! Ajit, the museums are nothing worthy. ILLITERATES. Some don't even know where Asia is on the map! I lived there and went to Berkely. My regret, I did it for my parents but HATED every moment of that country. But, let's stay focused to this article..........BAH! But I'll certainly spot an American with the "PEN" thing. Hey, Steven, you did get defensive at a small point madam Shaheen Sultan made. LOL. Typical hainaa? LOL