For years now Indian-Americans have outdone themselves. From elementary school spelling bee contests to senior level government and corporate positions, and everything else in between, Indians have demonstrated that they have got the Touch of Madras.
Over-achievement has become the norm, and a damaging spirit of ethnic competitiveness -albeit unspoken and implicit- has been exerting undue pressures on the younger generation (some of whom fit well in the aptly named category ABCD: American-Born Confused Desi).
Had it gone unnoticed, the case of the second-generation Indian teenager-cum-novelist Kavyaa Viswanathan would have only raised the bar farther. Financial Express reported recently:
“Little Brown & Company, a respected 109-year-old publishing house offered Kaavya a $500,000 two-book deal with the first one to be out next spring titled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got In. Considering that first-time writers get $10,000, Kaavya sure made a killing.” (more)
But it did not go unnoticed, large sections of the paper were shown to have bene plagiarised, and Kavyaa Viswanathan got busted. Thankfully so, as a fellow Indian-American explains in an open letter to Kavyaa:
“Dear Kaavya Viswanathan, …as one Indian-American to another, I say thank you. I have to confess to a sneaking sense of relief when Opal Mehta’s life came crashing down around you. It’s not schadenfreude. It’s just this relief that finally we can fail, that we can screw up spectacularly and live to tell the tale.
Only we Indian-Americans know it’s hard out there for an overachieving Indian-American. It was bad enough that we were the anointed model minority. Now we are expected to excel at everything we do. We are the first-class first minority. ‘Doesn’t anyone’s kid ever come
second in anything anymore?’…” (more)
I only hope that this is not the end of everything for young Kavyaa. Great expectatios and tremendous pressure from all sides -parents, ethnic community, society- led her to take an extreme measure. She paid dearly for it and hopefully learned. Let’s not go for any sort of overkill here. You hear me Harvard?!