Sign of the times

  • Dr. Murari Gupta, PTI
  • |
  • Updated: Feb 13, 2005 03:44 IST

ptaWhile remodelling my house, I saw little harm in advertising my Indian roots. Since it is not unknown for Hindu families in America to have deities and even temples at home, I indulged myself by hanging a giant OM over the front gate. Any misgivings I may have had of causing offence to my white neighbours have proved unfounded. On the contrary, I regularly have total strangers stop by to say hello to a fellow Indian.

But not all my experiments with signage have been this successful, I admit. Sometimes different beliefs and value systems can swirl in the American cauldron with absolutely hilarious results. The birth of my daughter in April 1981 was a joyous occasion that we wanted to celebrate with fitting gaiety in the small New York town where we were then living. Adorning the house with Swastika signs and vermilion seemed like a good idea to welcome the newest member of our family.

Imagine our surprise to find every Swastika neatly wiped away when we returned home with our infant daughter. The mystery of the disappearing signs was solved only later that evening when the wife of an American friend living in the vicinity came calling.

Believe me it was difficult keeping a straight face as our visitor revealed how she had painstakingly erased every Swastika within sight. Our good neighbour, being of German stock, had naturally assumed that it was the work of vandals using the hated Nazi symbol as a racial slur. I am sure by the time the guffaws died down and we got around to offering our perfectly innocent explanation for the Swastikas, the sheepish lady would have been itching to dig up Hitler and throw stones at him.

No lesser blow for better race relations in America could have been in order.

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