The Right Stuff
For some time now, Indian Americanss have enjoyed an enviable reputation as a community of physicians, techies and, lately, spelling bee wiz kids. We have occasionally tired of correcting a notable omission from the list – that of motel owners.
It is a stereotype rooted in some fact. Nearly one in 15 U.S. physician is Indian, as are perhaps one in six software engineers and one-third to half of all U.S. motel owers. And this year, not just the winner, but all four finalists in the spelling bee happened to be Indian.
It bears recognition, however, that notwithstanding the fact that Indians are disproportionately represented in these categories than the general population, these groups alone do not make up the community, or even a majority of it. There are, after all, maybe about 20,000 Indian doctors; perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 Indian techies and possibly 8,000 Indian motel owners in a community that is currently over 2 million strong.
Our stories this month reveal that the community has spread its wings well beyond the confines of the public stereotypes associated with it. Our cover story on Indian attorneys, for example, shows how the profession has graduated far beyond the pigeon hole of immigration law, into which most first generation Indian attorneys were slotted.
An Indian attorney, Neal Katyal, is leading the charge in challenging the Bush administration’s roundly criticized detention policies in Guntanamo Bay. Another young Indian attorney, Vanita Gupta, spearheaded a highly publicized civil rights appeal in Tulia, Texas, successfully overturning scores of wrongful drug-dealing convictions and securing the release of 43 African Americans defendants.
We also feature this month super model Saira Mohan, who was splashed across the cover of Newsweek as “The Perfect Face.” She has graced scores of other provocative magazine covers, from Vogue to GQ. Modeling in bikinis for Stuff and FHM might seem an incongruous profession in a community associated in the public mind with nerdy techies and bookish spelling bee contestants.
Which is the way it ought to be.