Sunday, November 11, 2007

Past and Future
Maimon Schwarzschild

On a happier anniversary note, I ventured out to dinner last night in the not-so-mini mini-mall that serves as a Little India in the San Diego area - and arrived to find a huge crowd converging on the scene.  Scarcely a parking space anywhere within a mile's radius.

This weekend is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and there were many hundreds, possibly thousands, of Indians from the San Diego area, all milling around and happily enjoying Diwali celebrations throughout the evening.  The shops and restaurants were all open, there were food stalls and booths selling every imaginable south Asian specialty, there was live Indian rock-n-roll,  and Indian and south Asian San Diegans of all ages.

The mall itself is a conglomeration of south Asian grocery shops, one of them truly huge - almost the size of a football field; a storefront Hindu temple; sari shops; Bollywood video outlets; and lots of Indian restaurants, including regional ones (Gujarati; south Indian).

There's almost no need to venture out of San Diego and actually travel to India.

But there's one difference - yes, among many others of course.  The Diwali crowd in California is clearly, palpably prosperous.  Good clothes, good cars, vividly healthy people, and lots of American-accented kids who are obviously making their way successfully in America.

South Asian immigrants to the US, in fact, have higher average income than the US average.  It's a far cry from the overwhelming poverty you encounter in most of India.

If Remembrance Sunday and recollections of Kristallnacht bring to mind some of the worst of the 20th century, Diwali in San Diego is a hopeful sign of what the 21st century at its best might promise.

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Maimon Schwarzschild