Corporate Oct 28, 2011
It's supposed to be an ad about cricket. Two Sri Lankans on safari are egged on by their driver to get off the bus to take pictures of a tiger. When the tiger gets pissed off and rises to its feet, the driver starts reversing and the ad fades to the tagline, "It's difficult to be a Sri Lankan in India."
It's a joke. But Raj Rajaratnam isn't smiling.
The Sri Lankan American hedge fund billionaire is feeling aggrieved - and not just because he's been found guilty of all 14 counts of insider trading.
The hedge fund billionaire is mad at his friends, or more specifically his Indian friends, for throwing him to the tigers.
"Every bloody Indian co-operated (to nail me) - Goel, Khan, Kumar," Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan-American, told writer Suketu Mehta in an article in Newsweek.
Rajiv Goel was his Wharton classmate. Rajaratnam loved his wife's chaat. Roomy Khan was his employee at Galleon, his hedge fund. Anil Kumar was another Wharton friend and a McKinsey employee. His son worked one summer at Galleon.
Little Brother betrayed
Rajaratnam wants to turn the narrative of his fall from grace to be one about inter-cultural treachery, not personal failings - "a man from a smaller South Asian country seduced and betrayed by the Big Brother country."
Hmmm. Sorry, Mr. Rajaratnam I don't think that Et tu Brute sob story flies. There is no reason to believe that had Rajaratnam been an Indian, the Goels and Khans and Kumars would have closed ranks around him in some Indian blood brother pact of silence. Or that they should have.
This is Wall Street. Not Sholay. There are no Veerus and Jais here singing "Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge."The coin-toss is always loaded. And once the FBI really cracks its whip, almost everyone dances like Basanti.
But the Rajaratnam story does reveal the strange and precarious position India's little brothers occupy in our imagination.
In The World According to India, a cartoon by Siddharth Singh that recently went viral on the social media networks, Sri Lanka is summed up in one sentence.
"Tiny as shit but can play great cricket. Also, Ravan lived here."
Nowhere is our dadagiri swagger more apparent than in the US, where South Asia is just a long-winded way to say India.
South Asian = Indian (except when it's not)
So you could have a South Asian film fest that's almost all Indian films or a South Asian group on campus with one lonely Nepalese person holding up the "rest-of-South-Asia" banner. If there is a board looking for a South Asian member, chances are that member will be Indian. "What can we do?" said a board chair of a pan-Asian arts organisation apologetically. "We don't really have room for two South Asians on the board. The Chinese will object. I am not sure desis in Silicon Valley will give money if they are approached by a Pakistani. And there are just more Indians out there."
Indians will say the other South Asians are just being too sensitive. But Indians are loath to being clubbed together with other South Asians, say 'Pakis' in Britain. And other than notable exceptions like SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together), you won't see too many Indians speaking up when other South Asians come under attack.
But when being a South Asian is a plus, we have no problems being the biggest kid on the block, hogging all the umbrella space and letting the rest of SAARC squeeze into whatever nook or cranny they can find.
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