Shot LA family apart, Indians in US hit hard financially

By Parveen Chopra, IANS,

New York : While describing as horrible and heinous the killing of his entire family near Los Angeles by an Indian American because he became a pauper, Indians in the US believe the ongoing financial turmoil in the country has hit the community hard, and narrate endless stories of sudden change of fortunes.

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Kamlesh Mehta, a jeweller and publisher of a community paper in New York, termed Karthick Rajaram, a 45-year-old financial manager, killing his family of five and himself as “horrible”, but said he has heard several stories of the American Dream shattering for many Indians here.

“For instance, there is this entrepreneur acquaintance of mine who ran a company listed on Nasdaq. His $150 million fortune has been almost wiped out now,” Mehta said not disclosing the identity of the person for obvious reasons.

“Businesses of Indians here in trade and import-export are affected because of the credit crunch, and Indian professionals who parked their money in Wall Street have seen their portfolio shrink by 30 to 90 percent,” Mehta told IANS.

Babu Uthaman, a certified public accountant in Long Island who provides income tax and accounting services, has not been immune himself to the financial downturn.

“I am having sleepless nights because the house I bought on mortgage for $500,000 is now worth only $300,000, so all my life’s savings and that of my wife earned through hard work are gone,” he said.

Indians in the US too depend on the system and the affect on them is widespread like everyone else as part of a chain reaction set off by the crisis on Wall Street, Uthaman said.

He added that many Indians who run small businesses, including in the IT field, and have no working capital will find no credit. “It is a very tragic situation and is likely to become worse. What we have seen so far is the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Uthaman blames unscrupulous people in Washington DC and Wall Street greed for the current crisis and calculates that the $700 billion bailout means $2,300 liability for every American citizen.

Naresh M. Gehi, an attorney who handles bankruptcy cases, however, differs in the extent to which the Indian American community is affected by the economic turmoil.

“Indians are generally very conservative and think twice before they spend, so the impact on them is not as severe as felt by other Americans. But yes, big players have suffered big losses,” he said.

Bankruptcies in the community have gone up by 20-25 percent, but it is much worse in other communities, he added.

Gehi does not agree that financial hardship was the sole reason why Rajaram shot dead his family of five and himself.

“Mental instability and internal family bickering also seem to be the factors in this heinous crime,” he said, adding that he has no sympathy for the cowardly man, who in any case had no right to kill his three sons, wife and mother-in-law.

“You don’t have to take that extreme step in this country. There are many options -declaring bankruptcy, social security, food stamps and so on,” Gehi said.