By Michael Baadke
The themes of gratitude and celebration were fully and deeply expressed by everyone who participated in the Oct. 5 first-day ceremony for the United States forever stamp for the Diwali holiday.
The 80-minute ceremony at the Consulate General of India in New York City was in every way a celebration of the new stamp, which has been requested for many years by members of the Indian community in the United States.
Expressions of gratitude were abundant, often directed at U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan for approving the new stamp, and to U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney of New York’s 12th Congressional District, who worked alongside the Indian community in New York City to achieve the goal of issuing a U.S. Diwali postage stamp.
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The formal ceremony began with a presentation of colors and the singing of the U.S. national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, followed by the singing of the Indian national anthem, Jana Gana Mana.
A large number of dignitaries and guests participated in the event, including Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, Consul General of India; India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Member of the United Nations Security Council (Ret.) Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri; and Sand Hill Group Managing Director M.R. Rangaswami.
U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York’s 6th Congressional District and Congresswoman Maloney also participated in the event.
The master of ceremonies was Ravi Batra, chair of the National Advisory Council for South Asian Affairs. However, it was his wife, Ranju Batra, who was one of the day’s biggest celebrities, as chair of the Diwali Stamp Project and a driving force behind the project’s eventual success.
|After years of effort, U.S. Diwali stamp finally a reality: "Also known as Deepavali, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil," the U.S. Postal Service stated. "Spanning five days each autumn, it is considered by some to be the start of the new year."|
Pritha Mehra, USPS vice president of mail entry and payment technology, led the official stamp dedication.
All of the dignitaries appeared together as Ambassador Das led the ceremonial lighting of the diyas, the lamp closely associated with the Diwali celebration, which is represented in its traditional form on the stamp design in a photograph by Sally Andersen-Bruce, who was also present at the lavish ceremony.
Along with the often moving comments by the participants, the capacity crowd also enjoyed a delightful dance performance by members of Shaan Mutiyaaran Di Bhangra Club.
Mrs. Batra spoke about the long process of working to win approval for a stamp to mark the holiday, which is celebrated worldwide by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs.
“For 1.3 billion Indians in India, for about 4 million Indian-Americans, and for many more around the world, the festival of light is here,” she announced.
Congresswoman Maloney echoed Mrs. Batra’s comments when she referred to the new stamp as “a dream come true,” and told the crowd “we’ve sold over 100,000 stamps already!”
The stamp marks the bringing together of the friendship of two great democracies, Maloney observed: “The world’s largest democracy, and the world’s oldest democracy.”
Ravi Batra also remarked on that friendship, adding, “The Diwali forever stamp represents nothing short of respectful inclusive indivisibility: E Pluribus Unum — within America and between two sovereigns.”
The celebration continued into the afternoon with the unveiling of the Diwali stamp design, and a gracious invitation to all who attended to enjoy food and beverages after the event.