It was an emotional homecoming for Nikki Haley, the Punjabi-origin governor of South Carolina in the US, as she landed in Chandigarh on Thursday evening for a visit to Punjab. And in what is her first visit to the state — her parents migrated to the US in the 1960s and she was born there — she got to relive some of the memories shared by her parents.
As her entourage comprising representatives of South Carolina’s department of commerce and business houses was led into a five-star hotel under a traditional Punjabi canopy by boys and girls clad in Punjabi attire.
“The air felt magical the moment I landed… I am overwhelmed and emotional as I am finally seeing the place that my parents talked about. Now we can converse both ways, knowing what is being talked about,” she said. “I want to relive the memories and stories of my parents... stories about their school, marriage and the birth of my brother.”
Her father Ajit Randhawa was a native of Verka in Amritsar. Haley, born Nimrata Randhawa and married to US citizen Michael Haley, is to visit Amritsar as well as part of a 10-day India trip to attract investment.
About her upbringing in the US, she said it was “very traditional”. “I was taught to be humble… The best way to thank God for his blessings is to return them. It is my turn to return some of those blessings to the place that taught my parents to be what they are,” Haley said, speaking to HT before leaving for a dinner meeting with Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
ON MODI AND OPENING DOORS
Re-elected as governor of South Carolina this year riding on her plank of cutting taxes and regulations, opening tourism and providing more funds to education, Haley said it was interesting to see Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “do what we did in South Carolina”.
“I got to meet Modi in the US. I was also there at the Madison Square garden when he spoke. The energy and excitement among Indians could be felt.”
Describing her visit as the first stage of opening all doors, she said it was the right time to invest in the US when the dollar was weak. “South Carolina builds planes, automobiles, tyres, [has] agriculture... there is also IT and pharma… Our focus is on international business… We’d like to see more Indian and Punjabi businesses in our state. India and South Carolina have a lot in common,” Haley said.
Though the Punjabi diaspora makes less than 1% of her state, she said, “The Indian community in the US is the minority with the highest education and income and the least dependence on the government.”
Drug menace solutions
On the raging problem of drug abuse in Punjab, she said the menace could be seen everywhere, including the US. “But we can share solutions.”