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Failure is not an option: Nikki Haley


Indians will inherit the world. Whether it’s the man behind the innovation of the Pentium chip, a hopeful 2020 US Presidential candidate, or the front man of the famous rock band Queen, we have proved to the world that India is old enough to play in the big leagues. Amidst all the negativity around the world related to aliens in any country, it is we who are occupying prominent positions in the new world order.  After Kamala D. Harris, it’s Nikki Haley who will taking up a role in the Cabinet of the United States. The noticeable Indian names in the foreign lands are great and they are many. It becomes important to understand why there is an uptick in the number of Indians scaling the rungs of influence. Indian culture has its own purity in diversity.  Indians know how to survive peacefully in a diversified environment, one which is now pervasive in the world. This is the story of an Indian daughter who understood the problems of her parents and entered into the political world to help sort out the issues faced by them.

 Nikki Haley or Nimrata Randhawa, was born in Bamberg, South Carolina on 20th January 1972. The blessed parents of Nikki, Ajit Singh and Raj Kaur Randhawa immigrated to the US from Amritsar, Punjab. Nikki was raised in a well educated family. Ajit Singh, her father, had been a professor at Punjab Agricultural University. Seeking further opportunities, the family immigrated to Canada. Haley’s father was offered a scholarship from the University of British Columbia and then moved to the future Karma Bhumi, South Carolina, for Nikki, where he joined Voorhees College as a professor. Apart from her parents in the family, Nikki has three siblings, two brothers and a sister. Randhawas were one of the well-known Sikh families in Punjab, but despite the family’s high social status, Ajit and Raj had futuristic dreams and lofty ambition which were only offered in America.

Leaving everything behind in India, the Randhawas migrated to America. When they first settled in South Carolina in the early 1970s, the population of their new hometown was only 2500, and they were the first Indian family in the city. They had to face a lot of racial discrimination, ignorance and at times deliberate hostility and prejudice. Ajit always wore his Sikh turban and Nikki says that she still remembers that whenever they went out, they were stopped by police cars for checks to ascertain they were not thieves. The Sikhs of India possess immense strength and courage and this fortitude was tested plenty of times throughout Nikki’s childhood. Kudos go out to her family who taught their children to work hard and be truthful to themselves.  Nikki herself believes in the family motto, “can’t is not an option”.

Nikki’s professional career was influenced heavily by her mother’s clothing business. Nikki’s mother Raj Kaur is an Indian lady who has lived up to her potential. She had the vision and drive to take her small ladies clothing business from her living room to a multi-million dollar company, Exotica International. Nikki, at age 12, started helping her mother in bookkeeping and accounts after school. Margaret Thatcher mentioned Haley’s childhood job in her mother’s business as, “an extreme watchfulness about overheads and a sharp aversion to government intrusion”.  Nikki did her schooling from Orangeburg Preparatory Schools and her graduation in Bachelor’s of Science in accounting from Clemson University. What electrifies me is that though Haley neither had any higher degree of education nor a stamp from an Ivy League University but still possesses the boundless capability of achieving great heights in her career.

Nikki very closely observed the struggles of business owners through her parents dealings with government bureaucracy and overregulation. Her frustration with the system inspired her to get involved in politics and contend for the state government. Nikki has always refused to back down and has always fought for reform, government liability and lean budgets. Haley soon gained the reputation of a conservative leader who was capable of getting the job done. In 1998, she was named to the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Orangeburg County. In 2003, she was called to board of directors of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. In the same year, she was elected as the Treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners and in 2004, she was the President of the organisation.

It was on May 19, 2009, when Haley announced her bid for the Governor of South Carolina, in a city that once ridiculed and ostracised her family. In the year 2010, she was elected as the Governor of South Carolina. She made the history of becoming first female Governor and the second Indian-American Governor after Bobby Jindal and was re-elected in the year 2014. Economists believe that she has the potential to emollient the xenophobia of 2016. In the year 2015, Haley received an honorary Doctorate from the University of South Carolina in public service.  Haley is currently a strong contender for the post of US Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President-elect, Donald Trump. Haley at 44 is one of the candidates whom Donald Trump invited to a meeting, considering her a choice for the US Secretary of State.

Nikki Haley may or may not be the elected Secretary of the US in the Cabinet of Donald Trump, but she has truly marked her position at the top in the politics of the country. She is not only a successful political personality, but is also the loving wife of Michael Haley, an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard and a doting mother of two, Rena and Nalin.The story of Nikki Haley is a true inspiration for conquering the world despite of all odds. While she is still faced by racism, most recently, hateful messages spewed by Ann Coulter, Haley is expected not just to endure but to go above and beyond expectations. She is a role model for women, Indians and political aspirants both in India and abroad.