Friday, December 9, 2011

Rema's Journey to Give-III: Reflections and the Future

I have felt extremely happy and contented that my efforts over the past year has put a strong program of Annadhaanam Seva activities. Not only are the homeless people getting fed, but also getting the goodies of small complimentary packages of toothpaste and brush, soaps, shampoos and conditioners.. About 2 weeks ago, an Iranian student from Wichita State University,following the path of Islam, interviewed me on behalf of HASC. She was impressed with the Annadhaanam Seva and said that she would love to sponsor one of the meals next year.

Most recently, I met a Christian couple Larry Hatteberg, ( who happens to be a T.V anchor), and his wife Judy, during an Amazing faiths dinner program sponsored by an organization called Global Faith in Action to promote inter-faith dialogue. Judy said that she would be happy to join in on the Annadhaanaam Seva with her group of friends. I felt delighted to hear both of these acknowledgements because both of them are from a different faith and they are willing to cook and serve vegetarian food without any sort of inhibition towards the Hindu faith.

Furthermore, people of other faiths are more interested on what it’s like to be a Hindu in America! Many churches invite me to host interactive sessions through which their members can get educated about me, my way of life and the philosophy of the Hindu religion. These sessions are helpful to clear their misconceptions about a Hindu, their lifestyle ; the philosophy of “ Vasudeva Kudumbakam” makes them subsequently feel comfortable to accept us as one among them, belonging to the big group called human race.

Rema's Journey to Give Part (II)-Success

This year, I called the co-ordinator of AECH who gave the list of the local churches so that I can set up the time and day early on for the volunteers of HASC to efficiently carry on the Annadhaanam Seva I went ahead and reserved all of the Sunday Suppers for the HASC members. Right about this time, Saajan Bhakta, who was the founder for an organization called POVSOLV, contacted me and was very interested with his group to feed the homeless once a month on a weekday. So I have solicited among the community members to continue the Annadhaanam Seva on the reserved Sundays.

The supper consisted of a nutritionally balanced meal; lentil or dhal soup, bread rolls, pasta , salad and dressing, bananas, chocolate chip cookies, milk or decaffeinated coffee and lemonade.It could be as simple as a peanut butter sandwich , salads, cookies etc., Thus, the first Annadhaanaam for this year commenced on November 2, 2011 by the PovSolve group, continued by groups from the community.

A humble couple in Drs. Joshi, who are physicians wanted to serve supper with their children and parents on the Thanksgiving weekend. Things were looking up and going great!

There was however, a weekend before Thanksgiving on Nov 20th when everyone was busy and could not commit to the date of Nov 20th for feeding. In order that this does not happen again, II contacted Lakshmi Ravi, the co-ordinator among the families who are working for the Infosys company in Wichita ; she has nearly 40 committed volunteers to effectively continue the Annadhaanam. Things picked up once again.( woo hoo!)

Journey to Give: Part I-Trials

If you feed the person, then you feed the soul. That is my belief when it comes to Annadhaanam, or the art of giving food to the poor and the homeless.

I wanted to cultivate Annadhaanam Seva as I noticed a lot of homeless people within my home town of Wichita, Kansas. More than one hundred of these people had no home, food or shelter, and were out in the cold nights on the streets. My journey to help these people started with me investigating the Kansas food bank, who directed me to members of AECH( Advocacy Group for Ending Chronic Homelessness). During my investigation, I found a small conglomeration of the city’s churches which have a temporary housing program from November to March, to give them a hot supper and a warm bed for the night. The homeless rested there and were forced to go out after breakfast into the streets. The breakfast and dinner programs were as a result of the church soliciting sponsorship from the community. The people that usually supported this kind of sponsorship were church members themselves .I am hoping and praying that HASC will have the infrastructure one day to care for humanity , provide food and shelter to the needy and less fortunate.

Inspired about 13 years ago by my eight year old daughter then, our family started this Annadhaanam Seva once a month at the Interfaith Inn in Wichita, KS. We usually fed 35 to 40 people, who lived in the Inn temporarily till they find a home of their own. A few families in the community joined us from time to time. Serving Wichita as an Americorps VISTA for a year helped me to place a consistent feeding program in place, under the auspices of the Utsav Seva.

Going back to the members of the small Indian community in Wichita, I found out that the temples did not have the infrastructure to host the homeless. Also, the volunteer base was really small. About some time into my research, I came across the Kabir Bhakta group, who were primarily from the state of Gujarat in India and their womens’ wing called Mahila Mandal were very compassionate. They are an extremely united group that owned a lot of the hotels, motels and laundromats within the area. Last year they helped me with feeding the people at the Overflow Shelter”. I solicited also with another non-profit organization called PovSolve, started by a young Hindu high school junior, Saajan Bhakta.

Written by Ramya Ramachandran
Edited by Rema Venkatasubban

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sindh and Its Sindhiyat

Written by Dr. Chainani, a partner of HASC, in response to a recent posting on a community web group regarding the death of three HIndus in Shikarpur, Sindh. Please read below:

The time I've spent in Pakistan over the last year and a half has been life changing. It's taught me much about the history of South Asia, the cultural heritage of Sindh, our Pakistani neighbors, our Sindhi Muslim brothers and sisters, the dynamics of the Muhajir and Sindhi relationship among a few things. But I believe these to be the more obvious lessons that every second generation removed Sindhi Indian American would also search for when they visit.

There's been a deeper and much more personal journey involved for me as well: a spiritual one. I came to the land of Sufis to find myself with the hope to find my God as the grand triumph and ultimate destination of my quest. 

I've learnt that I'm still learning and still looking. On this journey I've found beautiful hidden messages that I've read in books or inscribed on the walls of temples and Sufi durgahs:

"Vasudeva Kutumbakam"

"Ekam sat viprah bahuda vedanti." 

"Satyam amritasya putrah"

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than bowing your head in prayer a thousand times.
-Shaykh Sa'di

I believe not in the outer religion,
I live ever in love.
Say Amen! When love comes to you.
Love is neither with the infidels nor with the faithful.
- Sachal Sarmast

If you are seeking Allah,
Then keep clear of religious formalities.
Those who have seen Allah
Are away from all religions!
Those who do not see Allah here,
How will they see Him beyond?
- Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai 

My time in Sindh surrounded by Sindhi Muslims has shown me the other side of Sindh's story and another side of Islam. The stories of the Muslims who provided their Hindu counterparts their homes to hide out in during the violence that broke out, the Muslims that bid a final farewell to their Hindu friends with tears in their eyes, the Muslims who still hold those memories close to their hearts and feel the loss of the Hindus as something Sindh never recovered from. 

On November 7, 2011 three Hindus were killed in Shikarpur district of Sindh, Pakistan. As many of you already know, I worked in Shikarpur at the start of my time in Sindh. I still maintain close contact with my co-workers. A member of my family also sits on the board of a Hindu association of Sindh. Here's what I must say, as it is the other side of the truth that exists. 

Immediately following the killings the religious (Hindu in this case) spokesperson jumped on the bandwagon to claim religious bias as a cause of the killing. The fact that they were Hindu was exploited for a few days after which it began to die down. Soon after the Muslims responded with an accusation of their own and we were told that the Hindus were killed because of a girl of the Muslim side had been harassed. A few more days went by and finally I turned to my personal network in Shikarpur for answers:there had been an election recently in which the Hindu community had supported the ruling party which won due to the large number of Hindu votes they received. The opposing party didn't take their loss lightly and instead decided to teach the Hindu community a lesson. The end result of which was the death of the three Hindu Sindhis of whom only one was a doctor. Religious bias was not the reason for their death, politics was. Anyone who follows politics closely shouldnt be shocked to learn of the ways in which politicians use religion as a political strategy. As they say, " The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

What followed next was an absolute uproar within the Sindhi community and an alternate backlash against the government for their inadequate response and towards Sindh warning all Sindhis that this type of violence and is anti Sindhiyat and will not be tolerated by the residents of Sindh. They further emphasized that Sindh is the land of Sufis and believes in living in a tolerant society. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I was in Islamabad on official business. A young activist was kind enough to send me pictures. 

Following the killings thousands of Pakistanis, both Hindu and Muslim, gathered publically across Pakistan to stand against the death of the three victims and the inaccurate message of intolerance it displayed. There was also a hunger strike that followed. 

Sayings in books thousands of years old that we claim as ours aren't good enough. It is far more necessary to put those words to action and there is no better time than now. Hate only breeds hate. History is meant to learn from not to regurgitate. It's wrong to paint today's canvas with yesterday's paint. When you reach into the paint jar you may end up with dried out, useless paint. This is perhaps why they say one should not live today in the past of yesterday.  

No one is saying that the sentiments of the Hindu Sindhis are wrong. Anger for being removed from your land and from your sacred river is justified. But another truth follows suit: there's a time for anger and then there's a time to let go, to change and to move on. 

Tides must turn. 
Peace must prevail.
Only then will their be prosperity in South Asia again. 

Praying for peace

Reference reading:

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Mohandas Gandhi

Friday, November 4, 2011

Deploring Anti-Hindu Remarks of Kentucky’s Gubernatorial candidate with Call to Action: Let us Build Bridges of Understanding in Kentucky and around the World

Hindu American Seva Charities urges Hindus and people of all faiths to come together and turn the narrative around and make it an opportunity for generating better understanding of our culture and heritage through seva, interfaith seva. Let us show Kentucky and the world what Hindu values are and bring the divine, godly qualities to the forefront. Let us honor all the teachers and educators with tilak- GuruSeva, honor the veterans/military and invite our neighbors to come to our homes and temples and learn about our faith, yoga, traditions, food, our very way of life. Let us keep the Diwali light of knowledge and goodness burning brightly. Let us shower the world with Hindu acts of kindness, at every occasion, every festival with UtsavSeva.

We, Hindus, are the people of illustrious heritage of yoga, Meditation, of highest concepts of spirituality, of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence, of Ayurveda (Holistic health concepts) and so much more. As documented in Phil Goldberg's American Veda, Hindu thought has contributed greatly to American spirituality. Today yoga is ubiquitous and accepted everywhere and it is as much a Hindu spiritual practice as putting a tilak for ground breaking ceremony. Its roots are undeniably in Vedic Hindu tradition. Let us take control of our own narrative and bring the positives to the forefront. We are proud to be Hindus. Let us work collaboratively with people of all faiths to serve all and solve the problems of the country.

Hindu America Seva Charities is appalled at the lack of acceptance and tolerance displayed by the Republican candidate, David Williams, when he criticized Governor Beshear for taking part in a Hindu groundbreaking ceremony of an India based company that is undertaking the construction of a $180 million manufacturing plant and promises 250 jobs in Kentucky. Williams, a state senator, criticized the Governor’s involvement in the ceremony as an act of “idol worshipping” which is against his faith.

It is deplorable that Hindus are seen by some fundamentalist leaders as "idol" worshipers, with a strong negative connotation. Therefore, it’s important to explain what is Murti puja, a core element of Hinduism. Hindus believe that God is transcendent (beyond every thing) as well as immanent (in every thing), ie: omni-present, every where, in everyone and everything, including all humans, animals, birds, trees, the oceans, and so forth. Murtis were created to help humans focus their minds on something tangible. The purpose of murti puja is to facilitate meditation and to promote harmony and brotherhood. It is impossible for humans to conceive of the transcendent God. Whatever human mind could imagine about God, would be deficient and flawed. Therefore, Hindu sages approved of images, expecting that it will help the common person to connect to God. Our scriptures say that Murti worship would be meaningless if the worshipper does not think of the transcendent God (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.29).

The xenophobia that many Hindus have faced, and still face, is coming to the surface in political forums. Hindus must deal with it publicly and strengthen the Hindu American identity on many fronts - through education, through interfaith collaboration, and through seva (volunteer community service).

Seva is our community social responsibility which enables (and ennobles) our youth and adults to put their faith in action and be better understood - people to people. Hindu American Seva Charities is trying to do just that and help our youth not only feel comfortable in their faith skins, but be proud of their heritage. As one example: In Wichita, Kansas, after 9/11 some Hindu kids were abused and called Osama's kids. The Hindu temple is afraid to put a sign outside. Lately, on HASC's initiative, Rema Venkatsubban, working as AmeriCorps VISTA, engaged many youth and adults to build interfaith bridges on many fronts, feed the homeless, and bring the issues to the political decision makers to help diffuse the "otherness".

Let our call to action be for building communities, for becoming the problem solvers of critical problems facing our country and create more jobs like those in Elizabethtown. Let us turn the narrative to show the world the true Hindu spirit of ahimsa and seva!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Diwali: Building Communitie​s in America through Festivals of Seva

Hindu American Seva Charities
Building Communities through Festivals of Seva

Dear Friends and Sevaks,

Namaste and Diwali greetings! Shubh Kamnaye - from all of us at HASC.   We wish you a very Happy Diwali and a New Year filled with health, happiness, peace, prosperity and seva this festive (utsav).
We hope as you celebrate and share the message of Diwali, the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, with your friends, family and neighbors, you will be inspired to help those who need. You will bring UtsavSeva to action! UtsavSeva promoted by HASC invokes the spiritual values of the festivals through Community Service throughout the year

Today we can proudly state in our Huffington Post blog, 
Diwali Lights Community Building in America and around the World.
 UtsavSeva is providing a roadmap for Hindu social justice and nation building with our Youth in the forefront.

Now, we need your support to sustain this effort.
- AParadigm Shift has Occurred-
Collectively, we as Hindus have succeeded in creating a national voice where there was none.
We have demonstrated how we, Hindu Americans and our Traditions, strengthen America globally.
Your Seva Voice proved we are effective Problem Solvers, ready to tackle difficult tasks facing our country every step of the way.
Your commitment to serve the people in need came across as UtsavSeva.

In just 2 years, our HASC family has grown exponentially and we are most gratefully for all the support we have received. None of it would have been possible without your active participation, support and blessings.  Your 2009 seva response to the President's "Call to Serve”, resulted in the first ever 2010 community assessment report and the appointment and service of our AmeriCorps VISTAs. The collective seva effort and seva center development, in 2011, lead to the historic Hindu American Seva conference at the White House. 

As widely reported, the Hindu community in America has joined other religious communities on the national stage, not only as an equal participant, but a veritable host to them. The Hindu White House Conference became a Springboard to Action to solve problems facing America. We focused on Energizing Dharmic Seva by Impacting Change in America and Abroad. Collectively we are spurring a New Generation Of Hindu Volunteers.
As you can see in a very short time, through the seva voice, HASC supporters and volunteers have brought the Hindu American community voice to the highest levels in the country.  In addition to the White House, HASC is working with the Council of a Parliament of World Religions and the Hindu American community to bring our collective voices to the global platform. 
We need your support to grow this effort in all aspects. HASC welcomes your tax deductible contributions. 

Join Us as We Build Communities Across the Nation With Seva
Our efforts are supported only by volunteers and individual contributions!

About HASC:

HASC is working to augment the Community Social Responsibility effort by building a service oriented educational and networking platform to connect the community to America through seva. HASC is supporting development of "Seva Centers" as a lead example of social innovation. HASC will serve as a resource, repository and clearing house of relevant information. Read our Mission

HASC works with Hindu and Dharmic Americans to make service a defining part of Hindu American life and culture (UtsavSeva) and to strengthen immigrant civic engagement and interfaith collaboration. To empower the community and address concerns at the local and national levels, HASC is documenting service activities to develop reports, showcase dharmic seva, promote and support development of seva centers, liaise with government and interfaith groups to communicate the community's needs and enhance seva social responsibility.  More...

Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) is a progressive organization whose mission is to advance seva or community service and promote pluralism, interfaith dialogue, social justice, civic engagement and sustainable activism to ignite grassroots social change and build healthy communities. Seva is an integral part of Hindu and Dharmic traditions and sadhana (practice) and is transforming. To achieve its mission, HASC seeks to mobilize community resources in the United States, bridge the gap between the U.S. agencies and Hindu institutions to connect with America.  HASC is a non-religious NGO formed in 2009 under the guidance of the
White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is a service partner with the Corporation for National and Community Service.

We Need Your Support to develop the infrastructures and the future leaders of tomorrow

The Faith Glass Ceiling has cracked in America and is resounding around the globe!
Doors of inclusion have JUST Opened for Hindu Americans at the Highest Levels

We urge you to support and send your tax deductible check or pay online through paypal at

Hindu American Seva Charities (a registered 501 (3) c not-for-profit organization).
184 South Livingston Avenue, Ste 9 #174, Lvingston, NJ07039
Contact:; Tel: 732‐972‐1489/973-992-5210