An open letter to Kumar Barve

Dear Kumar,

I heard you were miffed about not being invited to President Obama's recent state dinner for Indian KumarBarvePrime Minister Manmohan Singh and I'd like to express my sympathy. I was shocked you weren't included. You are, after all, the majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates and the longest-serving Indian-American elected official in U.S. history. In fact, when I heard that Obama was hosting a dinner for Singh with hundreds of guests, the first name that popped into my head was "Kumar Barve."

I asked a group of my friends to name a likely guest and they shouted in unison: "Kumar!" Most of them were thinking, of course, of the guy from Harold and Kumar. But I'm sure that one or two were thinking of you.

The other Kumar, incidentally, now works for Obama in the White House, which makes it even more perplexing that he would overlook his namesake. It would be like Salman Khan throwing a party and not inviting Salman Rushdie. Okay, bad example.

The Obama people went out of their way to invite Indian-American politicians from all over the country. I mean, they invited Bobby Jindal, for crying out loud. He's not even a Democrat. Sure, he's governor of Louisiana, but he supported John McCain in the presidential election. You, on the other hand, endorsed Obama while he was still fighting for the Democratic nomination. If it hadn't been for you, we might once again be seeing the headline "President Clinton gets into another skirt."

Not only did the White House fail to invite you, they allowed a couple named Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who weren't even on the guest list, to attend the dinner. Those were your seats! You and your lovely wife, Maureen Quinn, should have been the ones to shake hands with the president, pose for photos with the vice president, and ask Alberto Vourvoulias what it's like to wake up next to Jhumpa Lahiri.

Did you know that both M. Night Spielberg and Steven Shyamalan were at the dinner? Sorry, I keep getting those two mixed up. I don't even remember which one made Back to the Lady and which one made Future in the Water.

Did you know that the guest list included Balvinder, Mohinder, Lakhwinder and Upinder Singh? I know what you're thinking: what happened to Sukhwinder? He could have provided the entertainment.

Corporate bigwigs such as Ratan Tata, Indra Nooyi and Sant Singh Chatwal were, of course, invited to the dinner. Poor Tata. When he introduced himself to Joe Biden, the vice president said, "Leaving so soon?"

Eboo Patel, executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, was also at the dinner. I don't know about you, but I love the name Eboo. When I heard that Obama had dissed you, I wanted to boo him. But instead I went online and sent him an Eboo.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Balwant Rai Suri says:

    Did you know that it was a vegetarian dinner as Dr. Manmohan Singh is a vegetarian. After the dinner and entertainments, most of the guests had to stop at McDonald or Burgerking as they were still hungry. It would have been enjoyable if Obama had set a small serving line of hambergers or hot dogs for the non-vegetarians. Mr. Obama, take my advice and do it next time to satisfy your guests.

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