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We chose to leave darkness behind and step into the light

By PIA PADUKONE
Last updated on: November 12, 2020 19:48 IST
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We cannot simply bhangra off into the sunset. But we should take a moment to celebrate.
A long, historic, poignant moment.
This election is a Big. Freaking. Deal.
For our country, our futures, our children, our spirits, notes Pia Padukone.

IMAGE: US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speak to reporters about health care and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in Wilmington, Delaware, November 10, 2020. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
 

When I was pregnant with my first child just over six years ago, I thought long and hard about how I wanted to raise this little person.

After some deliberation, reading, and conference, I created a simple acronym in my mind.

I wanted nothing more from my children, than for them to be S.S.K.

Strong: In body, but also in character, gumption and confidence.

Smart: Academically, but also their savvy, their curiosity for knowledge.

Kind: Being a good person and friend, considering how others feel, embodying empathy.

If they could live their lives prioritizing those three things, they would make me extremely proud.

If the leader of our country was living his life according to these principles, we would be living in a very different world than the one we currently inhabit.

But the fact is, his ineptitude, disregard for human lives and selfish motivation have sown such unspeakable division and deep hatred into our country that the outcome of this election was truly the difference between hope and despair.

I tried to distract myself from this despair by throwing myself into doing everything in my power to help things turn around: I donated more money than I have ever donated to a political campaign, I made calls on behalf of Biden-Harris, I sent text messages to Black voters in rural Pennsylvania, I wore the t-shirts, made monogrammed Biden-Harris beaded bracelets with my six-year-old daughter and she and I wrote postcards to undecided voters in swing states, urging them to hit the polls this year.

I was taking a page from Kamala Harris's mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, when she told her daughters, 'Don't Complain. Do Something.'

If I stopped too long to think about it, I was a bundle of nerves.

And then everything we had been working towards was announced. I felt relief. Elation. Pride.

The pride I feel that as a nation, we can do the right thing.

The pride that I can look into the face of the Vice President of the United States of America and see my brown skin reflected back from hers.

That my children know that she comes from the same place their family does.

I see Kamala's parents's immigration story mirrored in that of my parents, who faced bright futures in India, but decided to work twice as hard in America in order to have brilliant futures for themselves and their children.

Growing up, my mother told me much the same that Shyamala told her daughters when I came to her with a problem: "Yes, that is a challenge. What are you going to do about it?" This is not an Indian truism, by the way.

It's the canon of tough women who are raising other tough women.

Tough women who celebrated Election Day Eve in 2016 early, with my mother, my toddler daughter and I all donning matching Girl President t-shirts.

We went to bed that night excited, hopeful, my daughter clutching her Hillary Clinton doll, me with my son growing in my belly.

The emotional devastation and depression that the truth of the next morning wrought, I cannot put into words.

The day itself was literally dark and stormy.

I trudged to work on a silent subway -- truly, you could have heard a pin drop.

The city was commiserating. It was cold. We were drenched to the bone.

The fact that this year's Election decision falls on the start of the Diwali season is not lost on me.

Diwali, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness, of light. Light.

Election results were announced on November 7.

After a turbulent year cloaked in grief, it was a blazingly stunning day filled with clear skies, and warmth, as though our country was being embraced in a great big hug.

Even the weather recognizes that the world did the right thing.

We chose hope, the way forward.

We chose to leave darkness behind and step into the light.

However, there is still a dark part of the country that looms over us, a cloud that so many millions voted for hate.

So many votes for anti-immigration, for children being ripped from their parents' arms, being lost.

Votes against the health of our planet, against the health of our future.

Votes for division, and hatred. Votes for inequality.

I had a conversation with a Biden-voting friend recently who told me that she learned that an acquaintance of hers was voting Trump.

"We shouldn't judge her based on that, though," she said.

"She's a good person." I disagreed.

"A vote for Trump is telling me that you can stand for hatred, for bigotry, for racism, for sexism, for myth over fact. While your acquaintance might be nice to you in many ways, her vote is telling me she doesn't give a damn about anyone's life but her own."

As is very clear, there is still a lot of work to be done.

We cannot simply bhangra off into the sunset.

But we should take a moment to celebrate.

A long, historic, poignant moment.

This election is a Big. Freaking. Deal. For our country, our futures, our children, our spirits.

Among so many other lessons that the Biden-Harris election has helped me teach my kids is their mom was right (major win!):

Being strong -- fighting with every last drop of strength you have, bolstering your own confidence again and again and again to prove that good will prevail -- matters.

Being smart -- using science, data, facts and intuition -- matters.

And above all else, kindness -- simply being a good person -- matters.

Congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Devi Harris: Two of the strongest, smartest, kindest people who will ever lead this country.

On this day, being an Indian... being an American: I could not be prouder.

Pia Padukone is the author of Where Earth Meets Water and The Faces of Strangers.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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