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An American Passage to India

May 16, 2007
In the space of one week, I had the opportunity of meeting two groups of American students with India on their mind. Nothing very unusual in that in my profession except that the two groups were separated by fifty-five years!

The average age of the first group was seventy and the second, twenty. Each experience was educative, but what was truly enriching was some insight into how much India and the American perceptions about it, about us, had changed. Here is what happened.

I was first invited to a get-together of the alumni of a programme called 'Project India'. Starting with 1952 and continuing for sixteen years till 1969, a small group of students at the University of California-Los Angeles, known as UCLA, went to India for two months in summer.

In all about 200 had visited India under this scheme and about 150 of them from all over the world were coming together at Carmel, a jewel of a small resort town on the Pacific coast.

In the group were eminent academics, judges, CEOs, homemakers. What had motivated these individuals, as young students in 1952, much before globalisation and jet- setting and all that, to go to India? What were their images of India and their experiences? My interactions were revealing.

Image: The Indian Navy celebrating the 'Navy Week' at the Gateway of India in Mumbai last year.

Text: B S Prakash, India's Consul General in San Francisco
Photograph: Arun Patil

Also see: Can the US escape from Empire?
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