- Alongside, in an unscientific survey of American Kahani readers, respondents threw up an eclectic bunch of names for the honor.
It is that time of the year when the guessing game hots up around who will be the Time magazine’s Person of the Year. While there are many contenders for this Annus Horribilis, it is most likely to be Joe Biden, which would seem like a hopeful way to end the year. Even otherwise, Biden will be a logical choice for the feat he has pulled off. He started the year with the Iowa Caucuses as the presumptive loser and in a few weeks has emerged as the presumptive winner and never looked back. It is an unparalleled feat in recent history of presidential elections.
Since this is all a very speculative exercise, we at American Kahani thought it would be interesting to find out who would be South Asian Americans’ choice for Person of the Year. In a wholly unscientific survey of the readers of American Kahani, we, nevertheless found a few interesting trends.
Expectedly, a clear majority, but not overwhelming of them, preferred Kamala Devi Harris, whose historic and glass ceiling shattering rise to the vice presidency of the United States, has inspired the entire South Asian American community irrespective of party affiliations. “We need to pause and recognize the momentous step forward for women, people of color, and immigrants represented in her ascendance to the White House,” said Kesha Ram, Vermont State Senator-elect.
Most of those who participated in the survey expressed similar reasons for their choice of Harris. Interestingly, however, the choice of Harris was closely followed by that of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the most visible and consequential public figure since the outbreak of the pandemic. Perhaps, for reasons understandable, those who named Dr. Fauci were much more passionate in affirming their choice.
Explaining his choice, Anand Baichwal, a pharmaceutical consultant in Wappingers Falls, New York said, “Dr. Fauci’s calm demeanor and constant briefings provided the country with an objective assessment of the situation and a hopeful future based on science and medical practice. This was in far contrast to the unrealistic assessment of other political people, who had lost all credibility with the public.”
Pooja Sethi, Assistant Professor of Cardiology, Texas felt that Dr. Fauci should be declared Time’s Person of the Year simply “for being the calm voice in all the storm and insanity.”
Atlanta-based dentist Swati Kandalkar also focused on Dr. Fauci’s reassuring calm demeanor. “Despite being in the eye of the storm this past year under turbulent and volatile leadership (or lack thereof), being maligned by the president and his cronies, this impeccably qualified scientist and physician maintained his position in a quiet, dignified and resolute manner” she said.
Referencing his pivotal role in the fight against HIV/AIDS to his critical leadership in responding to Zika, SARS, and Ebola outbreaks, Dr. Tushar B. Patel, retired Chief of Health Care Quality Management at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, says “Due to his consistent evidence based communication and epidemiologic information to reduce the spread of the disease, despite many political interference and Governmental red tapes, Dr. Fauci excelled in his expertise in mitigating the COVID-19.”
“In the face of the worst health crisis in our memory, he stood as a beacon of information and facts … Fauci and all health professionals deserve our thanks and respect,” said Farheen Raza Abbas, a podcaster from Texas.
Aparna Priyadarshi, a development practitioner from Philadelphia, pointed out “at an impressive 79 years old he works tirelessly everyday to make sure the American people have the latest, accurate, and factual information on how to combat COVID-19 and prevent its spread.”
Apart from these two frontrunners, the respondents threw up a range of names that thought should be the Person of the year, including Dr. Vivek Murthy, co-chair of President-elect’s Covid-19 task force, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Christopher Cox Krebs, who was till recently the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the United States Department of Homeland Security.
“With integrity and grace Nancy led the balanced effort to bring sanity in the federal governance,” said Anju Bhargava, a management consultant from Maryland. Suraj Budathoki, from New Hampshire, suggested Rep. Ro Khanna. “I was his aide for two whole days when he visited New Hampshire when I was working as Sanders’s presidential campaign … I found him to be a genuine and caring individual. He feels and understands the difficulties that people are facing in America,” Budathoki said.
Naming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as her choice for Person of the Year, member of the Michigan House of Representatives Padma Kuppa said, “Her courage, her conviction, her attempts to work with those who disrespect her and the position she holds, her handling of the pandemic response, her actions of inclusion exemplified by her hosting annual Diwali events (the first ever by a Michigan governor) in 2019 and 2020, her willingness to call out and address racism and bias — she’s the real deal and that woman from Michigan who makes us proud.”
Mrinali Dhembla, a student from New York, said “My vote will go to Prime Minister Jacina Ardern, for handling the pandemic scientifically and responsibly. She did the needful, and is deserving of the title.”
A ninth-grader from Canada, Iman Mannathukkaren thought Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez would be a great choice for Person of the Year. “I think she is an icon for women and minorities. She represents the voices of the oppressed,” she said.
Boston-based Dr. Vinod Krishnan, principal scientist at Amazon, named Chris Krebs, who was fired for debunking President Trump’s claim that 2020 elections were totally rigged and fraudulent. Krishnan chose him for “staying neutral and upholding the sanctity of our democracy, despite being under pressure from a wanna-be dictator.”
Uma H., a Tech Manager from Michigan named John Robert Lewis, “In honor of his passing away, especially in the current environment where racism has been the most rampant since I’ve lived here (28 years). For the work he has done for racial equality and the principles he has stood for.”
There are others who chose not one person but groups of people like farm workers, healthcare workers and even protestors.
Nimish Singh from California who thought healthcare workers deserve the accolade said, “From doctors, nurses, paramedics to janitors in hospitals, they have been fighting the big fight non-stop since the beginning of the year. They have risked everything to help the sick and the dying. In the process, a lot of them contracted the virus themselves. There are numerous who have died of Covid. But they have not given up the fight despite being criticized and ridiculed by President Trump.”
In similar vein, Namratha Reddy, a specialist in finance technology from New Jersey, said, “Healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic. They are providing unending support and care during this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, despite not receiving the public’s full support in curbing the virus. They are truly the true warriors of our era and deserve our full support and recognition and thanks.”
Neha Mahajan from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, went a step further to include all the frontline workers. “I think there shouldn’t be one person but the entire frontline workers who should be people of the year! They are the ones who are continually fighting the virus for us, keeping us safe! Not just doctors, nurses et al but engineers, bus drivers, media, sanitation workers who don’t have a choice to stay in the comfort of their homes,” she said.
Perhaps, the most progressive choice for Person of the Year came from Nina Konda, a medical student from Florida, who symbolically chose The Protestor. “Even as a pandemic raged throughout the globe in 2020, people all over the world took to the streets to protest injustice of police brutality and state sanctioned murder of black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmed Arbery in America to abortion bans in Poland and to support democracy in Hong Kong. The idea that ‘we the people’ can push and advocate for the better life we deserve took hold in citizens across race, gender and nationality. Protestors around the world embodied the idea that “we the people” should no longer wait for political representatives to find the courage to do what is right, but use our bodies and our voices to make sure tomorrow is filled with more peace and justice,” she wrote.
Finally, several people chose Covid-19, perhaps as the phenomenon of the year 2020. Kiran Sanjeeva, an engineer from San Diego, California, said, “the level of impact this microscopic bit of molecules has had over the entire globe may be unsurpassed. It has impacted personal lives in various ways, disrupted or made political careers, toppled a government, strained global supply chain, tested human resilience, spurred medical innovation, forced new ways of managing jobs and job responsibilities, and who knows how many other systemic changes yet to be seen and understood. It has also humbled humanity like never before, in that, after all that we have achieved, we are at the mercy of natural forces, in the end.”