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Indian-American author wonders about ”the perfect candidate”

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By-Arun Kumar

Washington: T Dasu, an Indian-American author got a suggestion for the Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump: “Veer to the centre, and pick a positive, uplifting message.” His new novel is about a former spy who turned a politician.

“Fear-mongering can only take you so far,” says T Dasu, by day a research scientist working on problems in statistics, stream mining, and machine learning, and author of “The Perfect Candidate”, the second in her “Spy, Interrupted” trilogy.

“Also, pick a smart woman as a running mate,” she says on behalf of the campaign team of her novel’s hero, a former CIA operative with an Indian-American wife, running for a US Senate seat.

“No, not Carly Fiorina. Nikki Haley?” she asks, referring to former HP CEO, who has quit the presidential race, and the Indian-American governor of South Carolina.

“Intolerance of any kind should be rejected forcefully, particularly when it is institutionalized and turned on those least able to fight it,” Dasu said in an email interview.

“Politicians will say and do anything to get elected,” she said when asked about the intolerance debate in India and the kind of rhetoric heard on the US presidential campaign trail.

“And very often the media fans the fire by amplifying and repeating the most obnoxious and heinous words,” Dasu said.

“That’s why it was important to me that the hero, Stephen James, should have no part in it; his intolerance is turned towards people’s behaviour – for example, terrorist acts.”

In Dasu’s opinion, “there is no perfect candidate in the presidential race at the moment, not counting her fictional hero Stephen James, who “is principled, fearless and wants to save the world”.

Among the Democrats, Bernie Sanders “is impractical and too focussed on one issue, (Hillary) Clinton has a credibility problem, and the Republicans all want to take us back to medieval times”.

She, however, believes that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and capable candidate in the field.

Dasu said she was inspired to write spy novels as “I have always been a fan of literary espionage, starting with Graham Greene’s ‘Our Man in Havana’, and the early works of John le Carre, particularly the Karla trilogy”.

“The focus is on characters and their motivation rather than pure plot developments,” she said. “And being a spy is such a rich and complex human condition – to deceive in order to defend.”

Dasu said her novels had more romance and social drama than spy craft because “I am curious about the lives of spies rather than their deeds or craft”.

“How do they relate to the people around them? How do their significant others ever trust them? What do they need to do in order to keep their professional habits from seeping into their personal interactions?”

“I wanted to write about the spy as seen through the eyes of the people close to them,” Dasu said. “And, I have to admit, I love Jane Austen as much as I love literary espionage.”

“So, romance and social drama and other situations faced by every thinking woman naturally creep into my writing.”

But she disagreed “strongly that the South Asian characters in the book are stereotypical”.

“First of all, most South Asian characters and writing focus on immigrant angst and adjustment issues – Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Divakaruni – the whole culture clash between Western and Indian values.”

Most of the South Asian characters in her book, she acknowledged, are “very well adjusted and happy, to the point of perfection”.

But the last book in her trilogy “is very different from the first two books,” she said. “It has a unique setting and an unusual story arc.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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Trump meets Florida school shooting survivors, suggests arming teachers

The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers

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The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers.
The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers. Wikimedia Commons

US President Donald Trump met survivors and families of the victims that were killed in the Florida school shooting and suggested that teachers and staff members should be provided with arms to avert such massacres, the media reported.

Trump’s comment came during a White House “listening session” on Wednesday which was attended by families and students including six survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old man Nikolas Cruz armed with an assault rifle killed 17 people on February 14, reports CNN.

The event brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence.

“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” he said, stating that schools could arm up to 20 per cent of their teachers to stop “maniacs” who may try and attack them.

Also Read: Is Donald Trump’s presidency turning out to be a reward for Trump Jr.?

“This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone,” Trump said. “Gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us’.”

The event brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence.
The event brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence. Wikimedia Commons

Acknowledging that the idea was controversial, Trump said that his administration would give it serious study.

The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers.

Trump’s idea of arming teachers and school staff was met with support from many of the attendees, CNN reported.

Fred Abt, the father of Parkland shooting survivor Carson Abt, said he had discussed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that rather than waiting for first responders to arrive, it would be more efficient to have firearms locked on school campuses.

Also Read: Daughter of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump to celebrate Diwali in a Hindu Temple in the US

“One possible solution, which may not be very popular, would be to have people in the school, teachers, administrators who have volunteered to have a firearm safely locked in the classroom who are given training throughout the year,” he said.

“There are plenty of teachers who are already licensed to carry firearms, have them raise their hands to volunteer for the training, and when something like this starts, the first responders are already on campus.

Andrew Pollack, a father of one of the 17 victims who died in the Florida shooting, said he was speaking because his daughter couldn’t.

“We as a country failed our children…

This shouldn’t happen.”

The President, flanked by the students, went around the room and shook hands before commencing the session.

Also Read: DACA is a Bold Welcome Step by President Trump

Trump also later tweeted he would “always remember” the event, adding “we must keep our children safe”.

“I will always remember the time I spent today with courageous students, teachers and families,” he tweeted, along with a link to the full event.

“So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!” (IANS)