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Fairfax Native Says Allen's Words Stung

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/24/AR2006082401639.html Fairfax Native Says Allen s Words Stung By Fredrick Kunkle Washington Post
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 26, 2006
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      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/24/AR2006082401639.html
      Fairfax Native Says Allen's Words Stung

      By Fredrick Kunkle
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Friday, August 25, 2006; B01

      S.R. Sidarth had built an impressive record of achievements for such a
      young man: straight-A student at one of Fairfax County's finest high
      schools, a tournament chess player, a quiz team captain, a
      sportswriter at his college newspaper, a Capitol Hill intern and an
      active member of the Hindu temple his parents helped establish in
      Maryland.

      But for all his achievements, the moment that thrust him into the
      national spotlight this month came when Sen. George Allen (R-Va.)
      called him "macaca."

      The remark stung the young man of Indian descent. What hurt more,
      Sidarth said, was when Allen gave him a sarcastic welcome to his own
      country, his birthplace even. It was too ironic, he thought. "I was
      born and raised in Fairfax County, and he's from California," said
      S.R. Sidarth, wearing khaki shorts, a yellow short-sleeve shirt and
      flip-flops a week after the incident during an interview at the
      campaign headquarters of Allen's opponent, Democrat James Webb.

      The full name of the suddenly famous 20-year-old is Shekar Ramanuja
      Sidarth. Following Indian custom, he goes by his surname. To some of
      his friends, he is simply "Sid."

      He returned this week to the University of Virginia, where he is a
      senior majoring in American government and computer engineering.

      Before college, Sidarth lived a somewhat typical, but distinguished,
      Fairfax County life. He attended the elite Thomas Jefferson High
      School, where he had a 4.1 grade-point average and scored 1550 on his
      SATs. He was a member of the chess club and the Spanish Honor Society
      and participated in the quiz show "It's Academic." At 6 feet 4 inches
      tall, he also played defensive end, tight end, punter and kicker for
      the school's football team.

      Sidarth was ambivalent about his sudden celebrity. He twiddled a pen
      as he talked about his life, at times barely raising his eyes from the
      office desk where he was sitting. "I was just doing my job, and I got
      sort of pulled into this," he said.

      Sidarth said the Allen incident hasn't turned him off from politics,
      though he's ruled out becoming a politician himself. Right now he
      thinks it's more likely that he'll become an environmental lawyer.

      Growing up, Sidarth was consumed by chess, testing his mettle against
      computers and in tournaments. As an 11-year-old, he paid attention
      when IBM's Deep Blue computer defeated Russian chess master Garry
      Kasparov in a legendary showdown between man and machine.

      "I guess I was pretty introverted. I guess being an only child was
      part of that. I was on the computer a lot," Sidarth said.

      At U-Va., he joined the Quizbowl team and the Cavalier Daily. He also
      worked part time at the library and spent a term in Barcelona last
      fall, studying Spanish law and politics.

      The Webb campaign wasn't Sidarth's first venture into politics. In
      2003, he contributed $2,000 to the presidential campaign of Sen.
      Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), according to campaign finance records.
      The next summer, he was an intern in Lieberman's office.

      His political interests follow family tradition. His great-grandfather
      accompanied Mahatma Gandhi to London for talks on political reform.
      His grandfather, R. Srinivasan, was secretary of the World Health
      Organization in the 1990s. His father, Shekar Narasimhan, aided some
      political campaigns, usually for Democrats but not always, Sidarth said.

      Sidarth's father, a prosperous mortgage banker, came to the United
      States to study about 25 years ago. His mother, Charu, a teacher of
      Indian classical dance, followed later.

      Both played important roles in the founding of Sri Siva Vishnu Temple
      in Lanham, one of the largest Hindu temples in the country, said
      Narayanswami Subramanian, the temple's president. Shekar Narasimhan is
      a trustee emeritus, Charu Narasimhan chairs the board of trustees and
      Sidarth volunteers there.

      "They've instilled in him all the values that are important to a
      Hindu: being honest, working hard," Subramanian said.

      Ali Batouli, a senior biology major at Stanford University who
      befriended Sidarth in a 10th-grade calculus class, said Sidarth could
      solve complicated math problems in his head faster than anyone else.
      As a high school senior, Sidarth also seemed to know more than his
      Advanced Placement classmates about Virginia and United States
      government history, Batouli said.

      Once, Batouli recalled, a roomful of Thomas Jefferson students were
      competing in an online academic contest against schools across the
      country. Sidarth answered most of the questions, helping the team to
      vanquish much of the competition.

      "He basically knows a lot about a lot," Batouli, 20, said by telephone
      this week.

      But Sidarth was not the kind to raise his hand a lot or show off, and
      he was interested in public service before any of his peers were,
      Batouli said. "On the weekends or something, I'd call him, and he'd be
      volunteering somewhere," Batouli said.

      It was his volunteering that started the clock on his 15 minutes of fame.

      On Aug. 7, Sidarth was given a digital camcorder, a copy of Webb's
      Republican opponent's schedule and orders to record Allen during his
      "Listening Tour" of Virginia. It is a routine campaign practice known
      as tracking, and both sides were doing it.

      Sidarth set off in a dark green, 1996 Volvo 960 with a faded American
      flag decal in the rear window and a washed-out "God Bless America"
      sticker on the rear bumper.

      At campaign stops, Sidarth said he and Allen's aides made small talk
      about the long trek, whether they had slept well and the name of the
      staffer from Allen's campaign who was doing what he was doing --
      keeping an eye on the opponent.

      At one stop, the senator had even walked up and shaken Sidarth's hand.
      Allen asked him his name and what company he was from, evidently
      thinking that Sidarth was a supporter, Sidarth said.

      "I said, 'I'm following you around,' " Sidarth said. "And he
      understood that."

      On Aug. 11, Sidarth followed Allen's bus into Breaks, Va., a town near
      the Kentucky border, for a GOP meet-and-greet. It was there that Allen
      segued into the riff directed at Sidarth.

      "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or
      whatever his name is, he's with my opponent," Allen said.

      "Macaca'' is the scientific name of a genus of monkeys, and it is used
      as a slur in some cultures. Allen called Sidarth this week to apologize.

      Sidarth said he knew right away that the word "macaca" was a put-down.
      He felt its sting.

      "I had an idea of what he was getting at -- that he was injecting some
      sort of derogatory comment toward me that had a racial bent to it. I
      knew that it meant 'monkey' and it was used toward immigrants,"
      Sidarth said. "I realized that I had been insulted."

      But he kept filming. Allen kept going.

      "He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going
      to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film, and it's
      great to have you here, and you show it to your opponent because he's
      never been there and probably will never come so it's good for him to
      see what it's like out here in the real world," Allen said.

      There were big whoops from the crowd, and laughter.

      "So welcome, let's give a welcome to Macaca here! Welcome to America,
      and the real world of Virginia!"

      Back at school in Charlottesville now, Sidarth has taken his new,
      unwanted fame with him.

      Larry J. Sabato, an oft-quoted political pundit who teaches a small,
      popular seminar on campaigns and elections, said he asked students to
      write an essay as part of the admission process. Eighty people applied
      for the course, including Sidarth. His essay was just three words long
      -- but it was enough to clinch one of the 20 coveted spots in the class.

      "I am Macaca," he wrote.

      Staff writer Michael D. Shear and staff researcher Rena Kirsch
      contributed to this report.
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      Sounds like a great All-Amsrican kid.. I believe that Allen s sister wrote a book describing him as a bully and a towell-snapper. I think this pretty much
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 26, 2006
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        Sounds like a great All-Amsrican kid.. I believe that
        Allen's sister wrote a book describing him as a bully
        and a 'towell-snapper.' I think this pretty much tanks
        his 08 presidential hopes and, according to his senate
        race oopponent Jim Webb's campaign manager, pulled
        Webb within 3 points in one non-partisan poll.

        Tom





        --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:

        >
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/24/AR2006082401639.html
        > Fairfax Native Says Allen's Words Stung
        >
        > By Fredrick Kunkle
        > Washington Post Staff Writer
        > Friday, August 25, 2006; B01
        >
        > S.R. Sidarth had built an impressive record of
        > achievements for such a
        > young man: straight-A student at one of Fairfax
        > County's finest high
        > schools, a tournament chess player, a quiz team
        > captain, a
        > sportswriter at his college newspaper, a Capitol
        > Hill intern and an
        > active member of the Hindu temple his parents helped
        > establish in
        > Maryland.
        >
        > But for all his achievements, the moment that thrust
        > him into the
        > national spotlight this month came when Sen. George
        > Allen (R-Va.)
        > called him "macaca."
        >
        > The remark stung the young man of Indian descent.
        > What hurt more,
        > Sidarth said, was when Allen gave him a sarcastic
        > welcome to his own
        > country, his birthplace even. It was too ironic, he
        > thought. "I was
        > born and raised in Fairfax County, and he's from
        > California," said
        > S.R. Sidarth, wearing khaki shorts, a yellow
        > short-sleeve shirt and
        > flip-flops a week after the incident during an
        > interview at the
        > campaign headquarters of Allen's opponent, Democrat
        > James Webb.
        >
        > The full name of the suddenly famous 20-year-old is
        > Shekar Ramanuja
        > Sidarth. Following Indian custom, he goes by his
        > surname. To some of
        > his friends, he is simply "Sid."
        >
        > He returned this week to the University of Virginia,
        > where he is a
        > senior majoring in American government and computer
        > engineering.
        >
        > Before college, Sidarth lived a somewhat typical,
        > but distinguished,
        > Fairfax County life. He attended the elite Thomas
        > Jefferson High
        > School, where he had a 4.1 grade-point average and
        > scored 1550 on his
        > SATs. He was a member of the chess club and the
        > Spanish Honor Society
        > and participated in the quiz show "It's Academic."
        > At 6 feet 4 inches
        > tall, he also played defensive end, tight end,
        > punter and kicker for
        > the school's football team.
        >
        > Sidarth was ambivalent about his sudden celebrity.
        > He twiddled a pen
        > as he talked about his life, at times barely raising
        > his eyes from the
        > office desk where he was sitting. "I was just doing
        > my job, and I got
        > sort of pulled into this," he said.
        >
        > Sidarth said the Allen incident hasn't turned him
        > off from politics,
        > though he's ruled out becoming a politician himself.
        > Right now he
        > thinks it's more likely that he'll become an
        > environmental lawyer.
        >
        > Growing up, Sidarth was consumed by chess, testing
        > his mettle against
        > computers and in tournaments. As an 11-year-old, he
        > paid attention
        > when IBM's Deep Blue computer defeated Russian chess
        > master Garry
        > Kasparov in a legendary showdown between man and
        > machine.
        >
        > "I guess I was pretty introverted. I guess being an
        > only child was
        > part of that. I was on the computer a lot," Sidarth
        > said.
        >
        > At U-Va., he joined the Quizbowl team and the
        > Cavalier Daily. He also
        > worked part time at the library and spent a term in
        > Barcelona last
        > fall, studying Spanish law and politics.
        >
        > The Webb campaign wasn't Sidarth's first venture
        > into politics. In
        > 2003, he contributed $2,000 to the presidential
        > campaign of Sen.
        > Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), according to campaign
        > finance records.
        > The next summer, he was an intern in Lieberman's
        > office.
        >
        > His political interests follow family tradition. His
        > great-grandfather
        > accompanied Mahatma Gandhi to London for talks on
        > political reform.
        > His grandfather, R. Srinivasan, was secretary of the
        > World Health
        > Organization in the 1990s. His father, Shekar
        > Narasimhan, aided some
        > political campaigns, usually for Democrats but not
        > always, Sidarth said.
        >
        > Sidarth's father, a prosperous mortgage banker, came
        > to the United
        > States to study about 25 years ago. His mother,
        > Charu, a teacher of
        > Indian classical dance, followed later.
        >
        > Both played important roles in the founding of Sri
        > Siva Vishnu Temple
        > in Lanham, one of the largest Hindu temples in the
        > country, said
        > Narayanswami Subramanian, the temple's president.
        > Shekar Narasimhan is
        > a trustee emeritus, Charu Narasimhan chairs the
        > board of trustees and
        > Sidarth volunteers there.
        >
        > "They've instilled in him all the values that are
        > important to a
        > Hindu: being honest, working hard," Subramanian
        > said.
        >
        > Ali Batouli, a senior biology major at Stanford
        > University who
        > befriended Sidarth in a 10th-grade calculus class,
        > said Sidarth could
        > solve complicated math problems in his head faster
        > than anyone else.
        > As a high school senior, Sidarth also seemed to know
        > more than his
        > Advanced Placement classmates about Virginia and
        > United States
        > government history, Batouli said.
        >
        > Once, Batouli recalled, a roomful of Thomas
        > Jefferson students were
        > competing in an online academic contest against
        > schools across the
        > country. Sidarth answered most of the questions,
        > helping the team to
        > vanquish much of the competition.
        >
        > "He basically knows a lot about a lot," Batouli, 20,
        > said by telephone
        > this week.
        >
        > But Sidarth was not the kind to raise his hand a lot
        > or show off, and
        > he was interested in public service before any of
        > his peers were,
        > Batouli said. "On the weekends or something, I'd
        > call him, and he'd be
        > volunteering somewhere," Batouli said.
        >
        > It was his volunteering that started the clock on
        > his 15 minutes of fame.
        >
        > On Aug. 7, Sidarth was given a digital camcorder, a
        > copy of Webb's
        > Republican opponent's schedule and orders to record
        > Allen during his
        > "Listening Tour" of Virginia. It is a routine
        > campaign practice known
        > as tracking, and both sides were doing it.
        >
        > Sidarth set off in a dark green, 1996 Volvo 960 with
        > a faded American
        > flag decal in the rear window and a washed-out "God
        > Bless America"
        > sticker on the rear bumper.
        >
        > At campaign stops, Sidarth said he and Allen's aides
        > made small talk
        > about the long trek, whether they had slept well and
        > the name of the
        > staffer from Allen's campaign who was doing what he
        > was doing --
        > keeping an eye on the opponent.
        >
        > At one stop, the senator had even walked up and
        > shaken Sidarth's hand.
        > Allen asked him his name and what company he was
        > from,
        === message truncated ===
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