Fall always marks a great time of the year from the changing of the leaves, apple cider, pumpkin patches, (well, pumpkin everything) and for Hindus around the world the auspicious occasion of Diwali, the Festival of Lights. Diwali is the celebration of good over evil as people in the ancient Indian city of Ayodhya celebrated by lighting candles to welcome the victory of King Rama over the evil demon Raavan. On a deeper level, this is a celebration of our own inner light, expelling the evil of ignorance within ourselves and embracing a higher knowledge that we can achieve.
For Gujaratis (the state of India where my family hails from), Diwali also marks the end of the calendar with a New Year beginning the day after the celebration. Think of it like a New Year’s Eve, if you will and presents another opportunity to expel the old and bring in the new. What a fitting time to have the results of Election 2012! (Was it really just a week ago? It feels like it was much longer.)
First, my congratulations to President Obama! I find it so interesting that as you hear the pundits talk about the election, they frequently tell us the “minority vote” helped secure his re-election campaign. It reminds me of that unforgettable TIME Magazine Cover of the “Changing Face of America”, and if one thing is for sure, this election reflected that predicted change from 1993. Not only did minorities help decide this election, they were able to make an impact on the composition of our elected officials. We re-elected our first African-American President to a 2nd term. We elected the first openly gay politician, Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin to the U.S. Senate. We elected the first Buddhist-American, Mazie K. Hirono from Hawaii to a seat in Congress. Finally, we elected the first Hindu-American, Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii to a seat in Congress. For a minority in America in terms of religion and ethnicity, this victory was the most inspiring for me.
Listening to my parents talk while I was home a few weeks ago, I could understand why my parents and aunts and uncles have a tendency to support the Democratic Party when they came to America. In India, as Tailors, our family is part of the working class. My family would do work for the other individuals, like my grandfather working on car upholstery in 1960s and literally being paid 30-40 rupees a month for his labors. Some families in the villages would not even pay him for his services. For my parents, this discrimination went on to further affect their education. My dad wanted to go to engineering school, but given his caste it would have been exceedingly difficult to even gain acceptance. Our family friend who comes from a similar caste was only able to have a seat in medical school because of the provision placed in India that 2 members of the lower castes had to be accepted to medical school seats. He is now a successful physician here in the US. After hearing these stories, it is no wonder to me why my parents, and others like them, inherently support the Democratic Party. They know what it was like to not have that chance and support the party here in America who is able to offer that opportunity to all, and not just the few.
As President has said time and time again, “My story could not be possible in any other nation in this world.” I think today that rings true for Tulsi Gabbard, Mazie K. Hirono, Tammy Baldwin and theempowered minority voters. For this Diwali as we, as a nation, have expelled some of our evil ignorance and moved forward to embrace a higher knowledge of tolerance. May we continue to make such gains. Happy Diwali!