Happy Giving Tuesday everyone.
When I first landed in the US as an immigrant many years ago, it took me a while to understand what Thanksgiving was all about?
Was it the Black Friday sales or the crazy traffic on all the freeways? Was it the getting together of families and friends or getting away for a much needed vacation? Was it a traditional holiday due to its historical significance where you have to follow certain rituals or free to be interpreted like everything else in America? Or worse yet, is Thanksgiving even worth celebrating given how much trauma and pain is mixed with the Indigenous history it “supposedly” celebrates?
Well over the years, Thanksgiving has honestly become the much celebrated “long-weekend” for me as a working professional and a mom! Everything else can wait. My sleep-ins are most precious. And with the extra time and the subsequent relaxed mindset, with the excitement over menu planning and meeting with friends and family, also comes a time of deep reflection and gratitude.
As a mom, an individual and a citizen of two great civilizations I have so much to be thankful for! Thanksgiving has two beautiful words to it- Thanks and Giving. Which makes me wonder- what am I thankful for and what am I giving back right now at this phase of my life?
The “Thanking” part has always been a mix of everything we take for granted and new blessings that come by every year. Starting with the original/indigenous people of this country whose lands we inhabit and to the bounties that America has offered us immigrants, I have so much to thank for being an Indian American and a Hindu American.
But this Thanksgiving, my biggest thanks is for my new role as an advocacy professional with the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). After all these years, I have finally stumbled upon my “dream role” doing what feels very purposeful to me. My work in itself feels like giving back every single day- giving back to my Hindu American communities and to the wider American communities. After all, the more we advocate for ourselves as Hindu Americans, the more we advocate for the true spirit of being American where the principles of justice, equality and liberty apply to every single individual irrespective of their beliefs. And my faith in Hinduism with its central idea of pluralism co-exists perfectly with the central idea of being American. Being Hindu and American are two identities I wear proudly!
As an advocacy professional in the Hindu Advocacy space, I can’t help but reminisce over all our advocacy achievements and feel gratitude for it. It perfectly aligns with my Hindu values since Hinduism places the greatest importance on gratitude (krtagyata or कृतज्ञता) as an essential quality for human and spiritual development.
On top of HAF’s gratitude list, is the historic veto of the highly divisive Californian SB-403 bill for which we expressed our heartfelt thanks to Governor Gavin Newsom. I still remember that day vividly- October 7th! It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. I was at a restaurant with my daughter, enjoying a beautiful, relaxed lunch. While waiting for the bill, she checks her phone and then quietly with a smile and twinkle in her eyes, looks at me and shares, ” Amma, I’m warning you. Control Yourself! Do not scream! Looks like Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed the SB-403 bill.”
My joy knew no bounds, my eyes couldn’t believe what I read, I hurried to the car and did exactly what my daughter suspected her mom would do.
Screamed. My. Lungs. Out!
We did it! Yes, we did it! In a classic case of David vs Goliath, David won yet again!
Gov. Newsom had vetoed SB-403 and had chosen to stand with the right side of history. With the stroke of his pen, Gov. Newsom made history along with the thousands who had come together in a remarkable show of community strength, advocacy and engagement with the lawmakers over the past three years – countless emails, phone calls, meetings, peaceful rallies, rebuttals, community gatherings and testimonies at the CA Assembly and Senate Judiciary hearings.
With the stroke of his pen, Gov. Newsom brought to a grand end a bitter struggle that had cost the Hindu American community sleepless nights and extreme mental health trauma, including the loss of a dear friend Milind Makwana, a community leader and tireless activist. We miss him dearly today in our joy.
There is still tons of healing and community building to bridge the ugly chasm created by this bill. But for now choosing to celebrate and be in deep gratitude – we at HAF are proud of and extremely thankful for our communities, allies and the impossible feat we have achieved together.
The very next Sunday on Oct 15th, we gathered outside the Sacramento Capitol, along with other community members and leaders and shared all of the above sentiments and much more and our heartfelt experiences as humans and citizens while fighting SB-403 for nearly six months. But most importantly, we gave a huge shout-out to the CA Governor thanking him profusely for standing on the right side of the law and avoiding a potential civil rights disaster.
We also paused and reflected on what lurks in the future and how best to prepare for it. The important work of advocacy never truly stops!
It felt like such an honor to stand outside the Capitol and celebrate a much deserved critical win for my Hindu American communities. Here is my vote of thanks on behalf of HAF.
After all, it was the fight against SB-403 that ultimately led to me becoming an advocacy professional! Life had indeed come full circle! I was also thrilled to meet with my fellow community members and Hindu American leaders in a happy setting for a change. We were celebrating at last! Seeing the relief and big smile on everyone’s face had made the past six months of struggle and trauma totally worth it. We had proved ourselves as a community that matters and has a voice and had given the gift of advocacy and unity to our future generations.
Hindu Lives Matter. Hindu Voices Matter.
I truly felt on top of the world!
I’ve also been very proud and blessed to be working on the ground right here in Sacramento. It has been the hub of all advocacy related to SB-403. Every single time that communities have come to Sacramento from other locations to express their voices and fight for their rights, it’s been the local Sacramento communities that have supported them.
For example, during the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committee meetings, Sacramento leaders made sure that everyone who was testifying (including both opponents and supporters of the bill) had access to food and water.
HAF once again thanks its Greater Sacramento and California wide communities for their active interest and participation in the fight against SB-403. We look forward to joining hands with all of Sacramento for all our future events in Sacramento and California.
On Giving Tuesday, please do consider supporting the Hindu American cause by making a donation to HAF. Apart from many other important future plans that HAF has for the Hindu American communities, a national Legal Advocacy Center and local Regional Advocacy Centers are on top of the list. Every contribution from the community- small or big is like an important brick in the foundation of these advocacy centers.
After all, thanking and giving go hand-in-hand! This Giving Tuesday, let’s make a difference for our Hindu American communities.
I am for sure giving back to my Hindu American communities! Will you join me?