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In New Delhi, New Yorkers savor win

(Credit: Politirazzi)

Expats watch the returns at the swank coffee shop Choka La in south Delhi. Below, a girl shows her U.S. pride. (Mary Bowers)

By Kristen V. Brown

Special to amNewYork

Tucked away on a dusty side street of a deserted New Delhi shopping center, 100 or so Obama fans crammed into a small coffee house, eyes fixed firmly on CNN reporters as the West Coast polls neared closing.

With all the fervor of New Year’s Eve — party hats, Statue of Liberty tiaras and all – the entire room counted down the seconds. At 10:30 a.m. Indian Standard Time, CNN declared Barack Obama the next president of the United States. The Democrats of India’s capitol city went wild.

“Don’t you feel proud as a country,” asked Priya Malhotra, a New Yorker and Indian native on a visit home.

Karsten Thomas Strauss, a Columbia University graduate student interning at The Economic Times in Delhi, was elated.

“Being here with other Americans is great,” said Strauss. “The crowd has kind of exploded here, you wouldn’t find this kind of energy sitting at just any coffee bar in Delhi.”

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2005 estimates, 6.6 million Americans live abroad, making the overseas constituency the size of the 13th largest state, after Virginia. Of those, 57,000 expat voters reside in South Asian countries like India, where more than 500 voters watched the election in India's major cities.

The morning election watch was just one in a series of election events hosted by the Indian chapter of Democrats Abroad, the official overseas branch of the U.S. Democratic Party.

Earlier this season the group registered American voters in Delhi’s bustling Khan market, broadcast the debates, and played games like Palin bingo (yelling bingo every time Palin used words like “hockey mom” and “Joe Six-Pack” during the VP debate).This year Carolyn Sauvage-Mar, a Fort Green transplant and chair of Democrats Abroad India, served as one of the eight voting members of the worldwide group at the Democratic National Convention.

“Basically, we connect Americans to the politics back home,” said Sauvage-Mar, who helped found the India chapter of Democrats Abroad in 2004.

Back then, she notes there were just four members. Yesterday, however, the swank coffee shop Choka La in south Delhi was jam-packed with American and Obama supporters from around the world, flailing their arms and waving “Vote Obama” posters in excitement as CNN International projected state after state going to the Democrats.

“It’s an electrifying moment, I think this is a victory not just for America, but for everyone in the world,” said Sourish Bhattacharyya, an Indian Obama supporter and executive editor of local paper, Mail Today.

Cheers erupted from the audience once more as Obama included “those watching tonight from beyond our shores,” in his acceptance speech dedication.

“It’s been a long road,” said Sauvage-Mar, sipping her victory champagne.

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