June 3, 2005, HOUSTON: With the Indian diaspora having such far-reaching consequences globally, the chameleon-like ability to adapt and survive in any environment, heritage intact is a trademark feature of being of Indian Hindu origin. Determined not to suffer a loss of cultural identity, preceding generations instilled Hindu values and Hindu pride in their children through their example of living with Vedic principles. It was their mentoring that inspired young people on school and university campuses worldwide to speak with one voice of their pride in being Hindu.
The Hindu Students Council (HSC) hosted an occasion in celebration of the unifying force of Hindu Dharma at the Shri Radha Krishna Temple Hall in Houston (Texas) on June 3, 2005. The event, a HSC Awareness Dinner and Fundraiser was held to create more awareness in the community of HSC’s vision to give the world enlightened Hindu leaders in all walks of life. A first of its kind event in HSC history, it brought in community support to financially aid HSC to realize its goals and further its cause. Over 220 youth invested time and support to the event.
Coordinated by the student body with guidance of their elders, the event drew nearly 600 attendees, and enjoyed strong representation from over 30 temples and prominent organizations in the ilk of the Art of Living Foundation, Arya Samaj of Greater Houston, Chinmaya Mission Houston, BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, Shri Meenakshi Temple Society, India Culture Center, Gujarati Samaj of Houston, to name but a few. Also attending were guests from the Jewish, Christian, Sikh, and Muslim communities.
Kurtas and jeans, silk sarees and elaborately woven turbans. Tinges of westernization were reflected in an American-accented Hindi here, or in the meld of bindis and denim there. But the sentiments shared were intrinsically Hindu.
“I believe that having HSC in my school is like having a Mandir at home,” said Hitesh Divecha, Pres. of HSC at the University of Houston, whose comment drew cheers of support from young attendees.
Divecha’s friend Payal told of her understanding of the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. “HSC made me realize that there exists a greater family than you’re born with, the whole world is one family,” she said reflectively.
Delivering the keynote address was the President of HSC-International, Samir Rawal. An MBA student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rawal deemed Texas the ideal state for Hindus in the USA. “Hindus in other states look to Houston Hindus to set precedents. And they follow your example. This awareness dinner is taking place at the right state,” he said.
He eloquently gave an overview of the vision of HSC. Founded in 1990, it is the largest student-run organization outside of India, with 77 chapters spanning North America and Canada. HSC has garnered the attention of over 105, 000 students worldwide who benefit from activities such as Bhagavad Gita study sessions, Diwali Poojas, Seva (service) projects, seminars, retreats, and global conferences such as the 2003 Global Dharma Conference held in New Jersey.
Based on Vedic philosophy that encourages goodwill to all, and truth at all times, HSC provides a support system among Hindu students. HSC also spearheaded fundraising campaigns for the tsunami survivors. Through the Network of Hindu Minds (NetOHM), support from HSC continues even after a college graduate enters the workforce and becomes a professional. An affiliate of HSC, Community Action Network (CAN) works to prevent the defamation of Hindu Dharma.
Businessman and philanthropist Ramesh Bhutada together with wife Kiran donated generously to HSC and promised to match every dollar donated thereafter by other donors. “Having seen my son Rishi go through college trying to raise funds for HSC, I realized how important it was. I would like HSC to network with any Hindu organization promoting Hindu unity,” Bhutada said of his motivation.
Other generous donors were Jugal and Raj Malani who gave HSC a substantial donation. “I want to see HSC become a strong organization nationwide,” said Malani.
Ravi Raghavan, National Joint Vice President for Chapter and Regional Activities, was glad that the event brought more visibility to HSC. “I am confident we will have 100 HSC chapters nationwide by 2006. The future looks brighter than ever for Hindu Dharma in the USA,” he enthused.
A Kathak-folk dance was presented by Shivanjali Class students. Ashka Contractor of HSC at University of Houston performed a popular piece from the movie Devdas. A delicious vegetarian dinner was catered in an exemplary manner by Madras Pavilion restaurant. Thereafter visiting artiste from India Upasana Upadhyay mesmerized the audience with her intricately executed Bharatha Natyam/Yoga fusion dance which entailed balancing on a clay pot while carrying lighted lamps. A midnight Raas Garba and Bhangra event accorded gatherees an opportunity to express their creative flair on the dance floor.
Akhil Chopra who attended the event was moved by Suchi Trivedi’s invocatory prayer. “Suchi could barely speak, but I am impressed with the way she chanted the shloka. She did HSC proud,” Chopra said.
Community activist Vijay Pallod who helped HSC with planning the event was clearly elated with the success of the venture. “I have lots of confidence in our Hindu youth. I am impressed they received support from nearly all prominent Houston area Hindu and Indian organizations,” he said.