The Indian American community is in transition today. Never before we were so influential in academics and businesses in USA than we are today. A considerable number of Indian American professionals are making huge contribution in financial, cultural, commercial, banking and small businesses around the country whose role has been well appreciated in the highest quarters of the country.
Yet Indian American community lacks a strong voice. We are often discriminated against because of color of our skin or our thick accent of English language. When we face injustice in our daily life we look for support which is non-existence. We don’t enjoy a visible profile in the mainstream America.
I have been very concerned about the state of our community. We celebrate Indian festivals with pomp and show. But we don’t celebrate our culture as Indian people. We celebrate as Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and so on. Where is our Indianness in our social behaviors? Do we need one? The answer is yes!
Not that we Indians are less patriotic than any other people in the world. History tells us that we quickly get united in times of crisis. But we fail to demonstrate it in front of others. Why?
In 2011, I raised all the above questions during an informal meeting with my friends. I am fortunate to have friends who represent the mosaic of India. They belong to all regions of our native land. We agreed that there was a need to launch a movement for demonstrating our Indianness. We quickly approached various cultural and social groups in different parts of New Jersey and organized an interesting event in August 2011 to celebrate India’s Independence Day. The event attracted hundreds of people representing all sections of the society. They made the event a great success. People met and greeted each other with love and affection. There was sheer joy in the atmosphere. No one ever thought of their regional affiliation on that day. We were all Indians.
Encouraged by the success of our Independence Day celebration we, the functionaries of Indian Congress Party, USA, decided to sideline our political affiliation and work for unity in the community. With this vision in mind myself and my associates got into action to organize a grand Gandhi Jayanti celebration on October 2, 2011. We invited young kids from our community to reflect on their knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi. We used the opportunity to familiarize our younger generation with our history of illustrious freedom struggle which was fought by all under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. I bet there is no Indian who considers the Mahatma as a Gujarati. He is remembered as an Indian who experimented with truth of ‘Ahimsa’ and inspired the world. We are proud to have recently celebrated Gandhi Jayanti last week on 2nd October where we invited the senior citizens of our community to speak about Gandhi ji. Amazingly, a number of them narrated stories from their past related with the Mahatma. Many of them became very emotional and some of them were even crying on stage.
Gandhi ji reminds us that we Indians have a lot in common. We share the same culture, same history and heritage. We don’t have to look at each other with ill feeling. If we work together we will have representation in Washington that will be good for all of us. We can tell the world that Indians are united. Nothing can divide us. We are Democrats and we are also Republicans. But above all we are of Indian origin. Our unity will even inspire our countrymen back home to learn some lessons. Is it feasible?
A number of positive things can happen. Indian owned businesses and individuals from various fields whole heartedly support the ‘India Day Parade’ organized by FIA. The organization has been showcasing our culture since more than three decades. This organization has a potential to represent all sections of the Indian American community. Unfortunately, many of us feel that the organization must stand the test of time. The organization can represent the Indian community at large only if it echoed the feelings of every person of Indian origin in USA. It can’t afford to alienate any section of the community. It has to demonstrate leadership qualities. The leaders who are in the forefront must not engage in small time considerations. They should show leadership that is responsible, and visionary.
I have faith in FIA. Many of its office bearers are well educated individuals with remarkable accomplishments. These leaders need to keep in mind the interest of the community and focus on three words: unity, unity and unity. If a mature organization like FIA is conscious of its duties we have nothing to worry, otherwise, a vacuum will be created that must be fulfilled sooner rather than later.
(Atma Singh is a New Jersey based Community Leader and President, Indian Congress Party, USA. He is a passionate champion of unity of Indians abroad.)