By Arun Kumar
Post office, streets and even a Barbie doll celebrate the community.
Some roads in Florida and New York City bear Indian names. A post office in Texas honors a slain Sikh police officer. And a new Barbie doll made in the likeness of an Indian American scientist inspires girls of color to dream.
These are but a few signs of recognition given in the year gone by to the good work done by some 3.5 million people of Indian origin who have made America, this nation of immigrants, their home.
As in the years past, people across America joined them in celebrating Holi, the festival of colors in spring, India’s Independence Day in summer, and Diwali, the festival of lights in fall.
For the third year in a row, President Donald Trump celebrated Diwali by lighting a “diya,” the traditional ceremonial lamp, in his Oval Office in the White House, keeping up the tradition begun by President Barack Obama back in 2009.
There were Diwali celebrations on the Capitol Hill and in Governors’ mansions in Florida, New Jersey, Texas among other states.
Both the US House and the Senate introduced resolutions marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism.
To accord “a long overdue recognition for the contributions of the Sikh and Punjabi communities,” New York City Council approved renaming of two roads in Queens County as “Gurdwara Street” and “Punjab Avenue.”
A bill was introduced in the House to name a post office in Houston, Texas as “The Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office” to honor a 42-year-old Sikh police officer shot and killed in September at a checkpoint.
Remembered as an ‘American hero’ with a ‘heart of gold’, Dhaliwal was the first Sikh police officer to serve as a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy in Texas while keeping his articles of faith, a beard and a turban.
Dr Kiran C Patel Blvd in Clearwater Florida leads to Dr. Kiran Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, Nova Southeastern University’s Tampa Bay Regional Campus that opened in mid September.
The spanking three-story 311,000 square feet academic facility, spread across 27 acres, was built with a whopping $200 million gift from Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel Family Foundation, the single largest donation made by an Indian American individual or family in the US.
Indian Americans in California also launched a campaign to rename a tiny, downtown street in Berkeley as Kala Bagai Way to honor one of the earliest Indian immigrant women to America remembered as ‘Mother India.’
Joining hands with Nalini Nadkarni, an Indian American forest ecologist at University of Utah and National Geographic, popular toymaker Mattel launched a new range Barbie dolls to attract more girls to STEM —science, technology, engineering and math — fields.
One in the likeness of Nadkarni herself complete with boots, binoculars and a rope, she hoped, would inspire “millions of other brown girls like herself to dare to dream.”
Other new Barbie dolls represent Wildlife Conservationist, Astrophysicist, Polar Marine Biologist, Wildlife Photojournalist and Entomologist.
And in a tribute to the growing presence of South Asians in America, Indian American Krisa Tailor launched, “Pyarful,” a niche greeting card company appealing to their eccentricities in a fun way.
Among witty one-liners like “Hot Saas,” “I aam so proud of you,” and “Naan Stoppable,” there was one perhaps most apt for Uncle Sam to greet Indian Americans — “You are the cheeni to my chai”.