Monday, March 06, 2017

It takes courage to build bridges

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant engineer, was shot by a white American in Olathe, Kansas.  Apparently, it was a hate crime, as the gunman asked him and his friend whether they were in the US legally. Perhaps he killed him out of his anger and frustration that immigrant community is taking away high-tech jobs. Perhaps he thought they were Muslims and/or from middle east. Perhaps it was fueled by recent executive orders by the POTUS.  Media is quick to establish such links and the Internet is filled with many such stories that only beget more hatred, fear and divisions among communities.

I didn't know Srinivas.  Not even through any of my immediate contacts.  My only possible connection with him would be that we both are from India, engineers and working in USA.  I could have brushed away this event as one of the many sad incidents I hear/read on the news everyday. But for some reason (most likely because I belong to the same race or country), I really felt sorry for him and his family and many thoughts rushed through my mind.

The gunman didn't just kill Srinivas.  He shattered many dreams - his, his parents', his wife's and friends and sent a ripple of fear in the immigrant community.  I only wish the gunman had talked and listened to him more.  Perhaps if they had a beer together and got to known each other, the gunman would have realized that Srinivas not a threat to the community or even his job. He was just like any other immigrant - trying to find better means for himself and his family.  Only if they had a dialog, they would have realized they had more in common than what separated them. One irreversible decision of killing him and so many lives and communities are impacted.

It is easy to build walls and surround yourself with familiar faces, faith, interests. But it takes courage to build bridges and talk to people you don't know. It takes certain faith to believe that other person is also a decent human being. But I believe it is more rewarding than to simply build walls and live in a shell. That's the true way to celebrate diversity, not simply by writing slogans on the wall.

Side note:
I have been in USA for almost two decades and the USA I know is not like this.  I have traveled even the interior parts of Texas where they had hard time understanding my Indian accent, but I found people very warm and friendly.  No one looked at me with suspicion or fear.  No one asked me whether I was in US legally.  In fact, I remember receiving admiration from some strangers for coming so far away from my country and family to study further.


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