Monday, June 26, 2006

"He Has to Do It For So Many Reasons”

Irish Voice highlights Raj’s heritage.

MARY Theresa Mulaney had to put up with a lot of prejudice on both sides when she married into a conservative Indian family.

Her own Co. Longford-born mother finally made peace with Mary’s husband on the last day of her life, while his family put Mary under pressure to live as a conservative Indian wife.

But this month, after a “very amicable” divorce, she and her ex-husband are happily watching their son, Raj, run for Congress in a heavily Irish district in Philadelphia.

You may recognize the candidate, Raj Peter Bhakta — he was a runner-up on the second season of Donald Trump’s hit show, The Apprentice.

He is known for wearing a bow-tie and his pro-business, conservative politics.

However, even his mother concedes that he is facing a very difficult challenge in a strongly Democratic district.

“When you see all the money that has been poured in on the other side, you know it’s going to be real difficult, but that’s Raj. He’s a real fighter and I know he’ll do it; he has to do it for so many reasons,” she said.

Bhakta is up against incumbent Allyson Schwartz, 57, who was first elected in 2004 with 56% of the vote and has $1.3 million to spend on the campaign, compared to $79,000 for Bhakta.

However, Bhakta is putting his Apprentice experience to good use — he has taken on more than a dozen interns, telling them that he will hire the best three if elected to Congress.

Mary, whose father is from Mayo, spent most of her youth near Ballinamuck in Co. Longford.

Her family are married into a family that claim direct descent from one of the French soldiers who fought with the Irish in the battle of Ballinamuck in 1798. It was one of the worse slaughters in Irish history — 3,000 people were killed by the authorities afterwards as punishment.

“It was really terrible,” says Mary. “Even today I have a hard time even traveling to England when I think about all that suffering. And for what?”

Mary, from a conservative Irish Catholic family, met her husband at a friend’s engagement party.

“He spoke very little English and couldn’t dance. I found his personality so refreshingly innocent and he had manners. We battled customs and language barriers and it was an uphill climb on both sides of the family,” she said.

Her father accepted his new son-in-law but her mother did not.

“On her last day on earth, he babysat for us and she spoke to my husband for about three hours. There was no resentment, it was all very natural. It was her way of making her peace before she went,” Mary said.

She has since been through a divorce, the cultural differences proving too difficult.

“I just cannot be a quiet, subservient Indian wife. We worked on this difference for many years but eventually I thought it was better if he found an Indian wife from a conservative family. He did and I’m happy for them both,” she said.

Bhakta has three younger sisters, the oldest of whom is 29 and getting married in August.

“I’m also going back to a wedding in Ireland later this year. Politics and weddings. It’s a very exciting year no matter what happens,” Mary said.

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