Barack Special – What’s Obama to Me?

Dalit Boys

Asking for Obama in Delhi’s Dalit Colony.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

On the day Barack Obama took oath as the first black President of USA, The Delhi Walla went to the city’s Valmiki Colony, at Mandir Marg, to ask ambitious Dalit boys living there what does Obama mean to them.

Valmiki Colony is a special place. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi had resided from March, 1946 to June, 1947 to show solidarity with its Dalit inhabitants. The Dalits, of course, were the untouchables of our society. Though now the constitution no longer recognises such a category, the discrimination still exists. Making up 15 per cent of India’s population, they usually end up with low-rank jobs. In other words, they are the black people of India. At Valmiki Colony, I wanted to know what the new generation of Dalit people think of Obama. If at all.

Sanjay Salwan, 24, Saxophone player; Father: Sweeper; Ambition: The world’s best saxophone player
Barack Special – What’s Obama to Me?
Obama meaning: He seems to be a nice guy and America is lucky to have him. But we, too, have several Obama like people amongst us. They are as inspiring, intelligent, and hardworking as Obama but alas, they are not as popular. Besides, this is India. Someone as honest as Obama could never become a neta here. Here we have too much corruption. Our Obamas won’t be able to survive.

Arun Kumar, 25, MA student; Father: Sweeper; Ambition: “I’ve a difficult dream but I’ll achieve it”
Barack Special – What’s Obama to Me?
Obama meaning: “We hardly know anything about Obama besides the fact that he is a good speaker. However, if he turns out to be a good president, Americans will love him and won’t care about his race. As for myself, I wait for such a moment in my country when being a Dalit or not won’t make a difference to my life.

Sachin Chandeliya, 21, MA student; Father: Rat catcher; Ambition: English professor
Barack Special – What’s Obama to Me?
Obama meaning: I just care about my life. If Obama despite being a black can become America’s president, I’m sure that I too, despite being a Dalit, can make it big in my career.

Rajneesh Sherwal, 19, Hotel Management student; Mother : Sweeper; Ambition: Hotel manager
Barack Special – What’s Obama to Me?
Obama meaning: I’m not an American. I don’t care about him. So what if he’s black? Will he change America’s foreign policy? I’m a Dalit guy but Indian first and I’ll become a Obama fan only if he supports us in the terror war against Pakistan.

Sachin Kumar, 22, BA student; Mother: Sweeper; Ambition: CBI officer
Barack Special – What’s Obama to Me?
Obama meaning: He is a leader of all Americans. He charmed both white and black. In contrast, our Dalit leaders have more limited appeal. But we do have our own Barack Obamas. I know a bhayya in Dalit Colony here who is as inspiring as Obama but can he ever become as popular?