Ambassador Navtej Sarna: “I think we can all do with a lot more love in our hearts”
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, November 18, 2016 – Newly appointed Indian Ambassador Navtej Sarna warmly welcomed community activists to a Diwali celebration at the Chancery, a heart-warming event which featured an unveiling of the popular Diwali stamp recently released by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Greeting the Diaspora, the envoy said, “It’s a very significant evening for me personally. This is my first public function as ambassador since I arrived ten days ago. It’s very nice to be back to the city after about 15 years”.
Times have changed; it’s a new era, seemingly unfathomable! The community together with much of the nation is still reeling from the most toxic election in US history.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi on the first Diwali of independent India, the envoy said: “Crowds of people go to see artificial illumination, but what we need today is the light of love in our hearts. We must kindle the light of love within”.
Ambassador Sarna noted, “It was as true in Partition-torn India in 1947 as it is in the world today. I think we can all do with a lot more love in our hearts”.
Referring to the commemorative stamp, he told the gathering, “I think this has been a particularly good year for Diwali and India. Not only did we have this stamp, we also had ‘Happy Diwali’ emblazoned on the UN building” in New York.
In an inspiring address, Ronald Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General of the USPS, noted, “There are times in our nation’s history when it becomes necessary to reaffirm our commitment to freedom and justice of all people. This may be one of those times. The elegant dignity of the Diwali celebration shines a light into the darkness of religious intolerance and can help lead us down the path of love and brotherhood”.
In his remarks, he dwelt on diversity which is a hallmark of USPS, the largest postal organization in the world. “Our stamps allow us to weave together the many threads of our national tapestry”, he said. After many years and much community activism, Diwali has received its own commemorative stamp, rightfully joining the ranks of other major religious and cultural festivals such as Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Eid.
About the USPS workforce, Stroman described it as “one of the most diverse in America”. On hand at the Embassy function was Indian-American Pritha Mehra, Vice President of Mail Entry and Payment Technology, at USPS.
“We are proud of our inclusive environment which values every individual and encourages the contributions of people from different cultures, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives”, Stroman said. “It makes us strong as an organization just as it makes us strong as a nation”.
He pointed out that the Diwali stamp in bright hues of red and gold, featuring a diya surrounded by rose petals, conveys the joyousness of the festival of lights.
“Although Diwali has occurred this year, the values, the central messages of renewal and hope, of wisdom and love can speak to us every day of the year”, he averred.
Ambassador Sarna noted, “It’s very auspicious that we are celebrating Diwali, the quintessential Indian festival — the festival of joy, light, celebration, and renewal. Every community in India celebrates Diwali joyously and sometimes too joyously”, he said, evoking much laughter from an audience all too familiar with the effects of lighting manifold firecrackers.
The Embassy program included: Ganesha Vandana, an opening invocation song beautifully rendered by Krishna Priya of Chinmaya Mission – Frederick, Maryland Chapter; a talk on the significance of Diwali by Carrie Trybulec, Director of the Gandhi Memorial Center based in Bethesda, Maryland; film and folk songs in the melodious voice of Swati Kanitkar, accompanied by Nabeel Riaz on tabla and Tej Kanitkar on keyboard; and an Indian vegetarian feast by Woodlands restaurant in Maryland, owned and operated by Anand Poojary. Attache Y.K. Batra served as the eloquent master of ceremony.