Immigrants to America

The Indigenous and Descendants of Immigrants in America

A quiet summer day at the local Public Library’s second-hand book shop, ‘The FriendsPlace.’ I volunteered there as a cashier, their only Asian-American volunteer. Profits generated from this annex to the library went largely to scholarships for high school kids of all races who volunteered there as well.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a burly Hispanic gentleman looking at some DVD’s in the second room of this book shop. Keeping an eye on customers and helping them make up their minds also fell to the cashier at the front of the shop. This customer seemed bothered about the price of the DVD’s: $1 each, for they were used discs from the library. Some minutes later, he approached the cash register.

“Here are 6 DVD’s,” he said, brusquely. “Don’t know how many are good.” Can I pay $3 for them?

“Here, let me take a look! We’ll be able to tell if any of them are scratched or bad,” said I.

Upon inspection, none of the DVD’s appeared to be scratched or otherwise damaged. “Why not pick three you really like for $3? They are $1 each…”

“I only have $3 with me, and I’d like them all,” said he.

“I don’t think I can do that,” I replied.

“Who’s your manager? I want to speak to the manager,” said he. “The manager cannot change prices at your demand,” said I, but he appeared to become incensed. I went into the inner room and brought out Donna, the team leader for our volunteer shift. Howard and Tina had also listened to this conversation and appeared somewhat nonplussed. I made sure Donna knew what the customer was demanding before she addressed him. That too seemed to rile him up.

“I was asking your cashier to give me these DVD’s – they look bad – for $3, and he’s refusing,” said the customer.

“But they’re $1 each,” said Donna.

“And we cannot give arbitrary discounts to select customers,” said I.

“WHO ARE YOU? Who are you to say what can and cannot be done? I WAS BORN HERE! WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” He’d evidently lost his thin veneer of civilized conduct.

“I am an immigrant from India,” I retorted. “What difference does that make?”

“Rian, please, I need you away from here!” said Donna. The situation was unraveling, and I’d stood up to my full height, towering above them both. I glared at the bellicose customer, while Donna told him that he could have the DVD’s for the price he demanded.

“I’ll bring the money,” said he, and began to leave.

“Don’t come back,” said I – but moved into the inner room to update Howard and Tina on what transpired.

After the customer returned, I helped Donna enter the transaction into the register. “He was definitely a racist, Rian, I just wanted him out of the shop!” said Donna. Tina agreed with her. I smiled. “In all my years, I’ve always stood by my team,” said Howard. He was an elderly and very well-traveled gentleman, a retired librarian. Clearly, he did not approve of the humble pie a team member had to swallow.

Needless to say, following my son’s reaction to this incident, when I related it to him, I excused myself from volunteering at the unfriendly ‘FriendsPlace’ soon.

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Fathers Day

Swan father carrying cygnets on his back

Download ‘Humbling and Humility,’ an immigrant father’s saga, FREE this upcoming Fathers Day weekend.

May an understanding of this father’s actions and suffering be a helpful guide to others.

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“Mama… mama!”

Dying sons call out for their mothers. Soldiers do. So do patients and those in extreme distress. George Floyd’s plea for the comfort that only his beloved mama could give him – as he lay dying, utterly helpless under the knees of three cops – twisted every heart. It ravaged mine… no thinking, feeling human can ignore that cry.

I did as did George, once. Severely ill, with my partner unable to help or comfort me, I called out to my mother in troubled sleep. And, some days later, I traveled to see her – and wasn’t shocked when she asked me if I’d been calling out to her. There’s some strange connection between the minds and hearts of mothers and children: they sense each other over vast distances. Quantum entanglement of some sort, maybe. As she lay in a hospital bed a few years ago reassuring me, over an international call, that she’d be returning home in a couple of days, I knew in my heart that she would not.

But it’s not that bond I write about. Please, read no further if you cannot bear the agony that I will express ahead: this piece is of that resonance in humanity, pain to grievous pain.

When a mature, big, man called, “Mama! … Mama! …,” how could any human being not respond to that? How could one not know that this was a dying man’s last gasp, his final reach toward any fleeting, imaginary comfort? How could Chauvin, the cop who had his knee on George’s neck with as much of his weight as he could apply on it, and the other cops who were on George, not have heard this? All the more so when George had been begging to breathe, for the many minutes that passed, while these so-called “Protect and Serve” folks crushed him into the pavement?

George’s mother Cissy had passed away the year before. He knew this, and yet he called out to her. Some call it a ‘sacred invocation.’ I know it only as a son’s dying plea.

In that duration, as they cruelly rejected George’s dying pleas, those cops revealed their true relationship to the people they serve: they have the authority, the right to use deadly force, and they condemned George to suffer all the force they could bring to bear on him. This was no split-second decision. They sat on George for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

George suffered the most unjust of all deaths: by the callous hands and knees, and the weight, of those charged with protecting him. Do you see his eyes bulging? Many bystanders did and responded to his pain.

George was murdered, his pleas ignored, the humanity of bystanders brushed aside.

What can you call this, if not inhuman?

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Easter Gift

Good Friday through Easter Sunday, download a nonfiction, ‘Humbling and Humility,’ FREE for the Kindle. In a few words, it’s an illuminating slice of an immigrant father’s life in America.

A ‘micro-short: Saving Easter,’ a few minutes’ read, gives you a taste of my writing. While I love imaginative fiction, an inclination toward science and lifelong learning drives me to enjoy true stories of life, adventure, and exploration. That’s mostly what I write about. Both the short and HnH are entirely and deliciously true.

Not fooling you, despite the blog picture above…

Like the short or HnH? Leave comments or a review for others to enjoy! Happy Easter!

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Valentine’s Weekend Gift

An immigrant’s tale

The practice of nonviolence, in a very violent and prejudiced world, can be very hard, especially for fathers in the #MeToo era. Here’s one such story based on true events in the American southwest…

Free this Valentine’s weekend from Amazon:

Humbling and Humility‘ by Rian Nejar

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Empathy, Sympathy, and Accountability: The Drawbridge Story

Excerpt of a story from ‘Humbling and Humility,’ FREE e-book Valentine’s Day weekend

Responsibility and Accountability

In the next class, after the usual roll call and payments, Sid said he wanted to talk about responsibility. He took an example, that of a Baron and Baroness, with the Baroness involved in a clandestine love affair––the old Drawbridge Exercise you can find in a quick search online.

Briefly, when the busy Baron was away on his duties, the lonely Baroness ignored his dire warning to her to not leave the castle while he was away. She left to spend time with her lover in the village, instructing her servants to leave a drawbridge to the castle––which stood on an island in a wide river––lowered until she returned. After many pleasurable hours, she returned to find the drawbridge blocked by an armed gatekeeper. He implored her to not cross the drawbridge because the Baron had ordered him to kill her if she did so.

To enter the castle without crossing the drawbridge, the Baroness asked her lover for help. But the lover claimed they shared only a romantic relationship, and denied her the needed assistance in her time of peril. She then begged a boatman for help, who demanded money for his services, and a friend, who took a moral stance against her since she had disobeyed the Baron. Everyone she approached thus proved unhelpful.

She eventually returned to the drawbridge and crossed it on her own. Despite her fervent pleas to the gatekeeper to spare her life, he killed her as the Baron had ordered him to.

The exercise involved listing, by decreasing culpability, those responsible for the Baroness’s death. Sid simplified the task, for those among us who did not want to evaluate shades of responsibility, and asked us only to identify who we thought most responsible. It felt strange that in a counseling session for domestic violence, the instructional exercise used was one of extreme violence and assignment of blame.

Nevertheless, the group got to it and we tallied votes. The Baron got nine votes in all as the most responsible while the gatekeeper got four votes. Jim, our leg-in-a-cast member, gave the Baroness his vote. What registered in my mind then was only that there were fourteen group members in all, not counting Sid. But some are more easily remembered, while some just shrink into their places, barely touching the group’s collective consciousness. The general trend of votes was as expected: that the Baron, for planning and ordering that the deed be done, was considered most responsible. The gatekeeper was also held responsible as the perpetrator.

Only one in the group, Jim, held the Baroness responsible, which was interesting. Despite her infidelity, and lack of respect for her husband’s wishes, it appeared that the majority empathized with her. I could only think that must have been due to the tragic nature of what had befallen her, and not really a rational analysis of what led to the tragedy. Sympathy overrules cold rationale readily. The test seemed more about judging one’s human responses. Opportunists would perhaps align with Jim, and push blame onto one to whom it wouldn’t matter any more, so everyone wins. Why fret over what is past?

“The one who seems none the worse here is the Baroness’s lover,” said I, as we discussed the exercise. “He enjoyed what he chose to, and took no additional responsibility. Though his actions lacked what we may call conscience, he is the least affected, so long as he is not discovered.”

Laughter all around, and general agreement.

Paul spoke up. “Being the lover is the easiest thing to do, maybe the best in today’s culture. Take what you can, and run––or cut your losses, and run.”

Sid tried to redirect the discussion toward taking responsibility. “There are consequences… The lover may not be in any committed relationship…”

No one paid heed to what Sid said. You could say that the exercise did not produce a specific result he was hoping for.

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Holiday Gift

Humbling and Humility, a nonfiction/memoir

Every so often, authors make their works available to anyone freely. This weekend, download HNH in ebook form, free, from Amazon.

Imbibe(!) the trials, tribulations, and awakening of a first-generation immigrant to the land of opportunity that is America.

If you love it, please do leave a review! That’s the only acknowledgement authors hope for.

Happy Holidays!

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Bertrand Russell’s Four Desires

The publication including Bertrand Russell’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech

The Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell was surely an astute observer of human nature. His Nobel acceptance speech of December 11, 1950 is often presented as an example of the magnificence of his sharp observation and lucid wisdom. One cannot but agree; he endeavored to distill the average human of his times down to a few essential characteristics and communicate that in pithy words. But was that wise?

To be sure, many of his observations resonated with a widespread understanding of the common human animal as a fearful, selfish, acquisitive creature. Yet, there’s something rather disconcerting about condensing all human nature, and actions, as prompted solely by ‘desire’ as he does. True to his times, Russell noted the conflict between duty and the free pursuits of enjoyment – and summarized that divergence by the claim that a human is dutiful only because he desires to be so. That may be, but methinks Russell narrowed his search for the awareness, the consciousness, with which humans think and act. Where does he even consider that human thought may be both conscious, or willful, and involuntary? Did he wonder that human activities may span both industry and art: perseverance toward production, and effort that is of value in itself? He limited his description of humans to that of animals driven by the basest urges for food, shelter, and procreation.

“What else is there,” the adoring, conforming citizen may demand! Oh so very much more, my dear fellow, says the contemplative compatriot.

Acquisitiveness, rivalry, vanity, and the love of power: these are the characteristics that define most of us, or so Russell claimed. He called these infinite desires, or those that “can never be fully gratified.”

From my own life, modeled upon the lives of my parents, I can say these qualities hardly define the lives of people I have known and admired. If I were to engage in an intellectual joust with Russell, he’d surely say, “They desired to be dutiful, family and community-oriented, or just different, and thus avoided overt expressions of these [his] characteristics!” That – would be patently unfair! These are people who lived lives of sacrifice, deprivation, and simplicity and service, largely by personal choice.

My father served in two wars to protect his country of birth against those who’d do it harm – not because he desired to be ‘patriotic,’ but because that was his chosen role and it’d shame his family were he to shirk his responsibilities. And, after the second war, he asked and moved into an instructor’s role so he could be with family. He found no glamour or honor in waging patriotic violence; he never spoke to me of his wartime service that earned him numerous ribbons, medals, and a commission as an officer. His pithy advice to me, when I endeavored to join the nation’s prestigious Defense Academy to train as a fighter pilot, was this: “Son, ask yourself what you wish to become: a glorified driver going about killing people.” That was the only guidance I received from him. Needless to say, all my yearning to become a glamorous fighter jock in service to the nation dissipated much as air from a pricked balloon. None of Russell’s four characteristics mattered; all my ambition to acquire such honor, excel at rivalry, or exercise power over others dissipated. Desire became irrelevant in the face of – dare I say – wisdom.

In a personal instance, I was once challenged by a friend with, “What would you do, Rian, if you were offered a knighthood by the Queen of England?” My unhesitating response was, “Why would I place myself at the bottom of their hierarchy?” Russell may have argued that such a response also indicates a desire, of not wanting something, but then that’d cover just about any sentiment in the world! Is my lack of interest in some made-up title also a ‘desire?’

I could write so much more about each of these individual characteristics that define a human for Russell…but that’d bore you. Let me just say that perhaps Russell captured superficial human aspects, or perhaps Western Materialism, in his succinct speech, and did not intend to describe much of human nature and culture in the rest of the world. If he’d presumed to, he’d be very wrong.

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FREE Download: Humbling and Humility, Sep 21 – 23

AZ Sunset in July

Arizona Sunset in July (Gilbert)

Take a break from the incessant scandals in sensational media these days. Read a book that gives you an honest and unvarnished view of contemporary life for immigrant fathers in America.

Download ‘Humbling and Humility,’ FREE Sept. 21 – 23, from Amazon® here.

It’s the sixth (in 2020) anniversary of the publication of my first work…if it makes you think, and feel, please do post a review. Thanks!

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Glimpses of America: 2010 and 2020

The title of my first book, Humbling and Humility, is curious, no? When I wrote it, in 2014, that sentiment, humility, was uppermost in my mind. I felt then, as I do even more now, that America needed a strong dose of humility, and that this should be the highest expression of those aspiring to high office. Besides, I’d passed through a gauntlet that did humble me.

Yet, that was not to be…America chose one to whom humility is as far as can be.

The results of such choice of the nation’s leader are self-evident. Take the current global pandemic and America’s response as an example.


Rise in US Covid-19 cases and a model (below)

Yes, this is “America First.” The nation with the most infections, uncontrolled, with case growth modeled by a simple exponential, 500000*2(days-from-Mar-16/43). The data points of 1, 2, and 4 million cases lie exactly upon this exponential curve. And the infection phenomenon – one infecting a few more, who then infect many more – is indeed exponential. We are past 5.5 million cases as of this blog.

But – back to my earlier observation – will humility help America in this pandemic?

I think it most definitely will; it takes much humility to subdue individualistic drives and demands, and practice the social discipline essential to managing this inferno.

But I’ll let you be the judge! Leave me a review if you do enjoy my work that touches upon other social pandemics in this nation.

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