The Haj subsidy given to Muslims by our secular government of India is a well known fact and despite it being against all the constitutional norms continues. Remember BJP also did not overturn this anomaly when it was at the Center for a full term. Outside India, there is a huge Indian diaspora (Hindus including) living is Carri bean countries (popularly known as West Indies, examples include Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and nearby country Suriname), Fiji and many other nations spread across the globe. These people fondly call Bharat as the land from where their ancestors came. If you are so magnanimous, give them the subsidy to visit the land of their ancestors!
Last week on the evening of Deepawali, we decided that we will visit a Carribean Hindu Temple and thus headed for a local temple in the Queens which we had visited in the past also. We were impressed to see the people there celebrating Deepawali with the same spirit as Hindus in India celebrate. Majority of these Guyanese Hindus have not visited India in their life times, their children probably do not speak Hindi, nor do they understand, but it was impressive to see them clad in traditional Indian dresses and offering their prayers. In New York, I have often come across many Carribeans Hindus and many of them will say that they want to visit India and see Ganga river and visit other pilgrimages. There are tours available from Caribbean countries to India , but what I understand is that the distance and economy and the receding connexions between the Hindus of two countries are the prohibiting factors. It is clear that West Indian Hindus (who are now in there 4th or 5th generation settled there) and Indian Hindus have no active links. This is a matter of concern. Whereas US Indians -though they majority of them may be 2nd generation of settlers- actively seek to maintain their ties with India in form of visits, matrimonial alliances and other cultural activities, such is not the case between West Indian Hindus and Indian Hindus. The two communities in USA also have not been able to forge good alliances, though there are reasons behind it. It is here that Hindu leaders need to step in and seek more active community interactions.
That day while we were discussing dietary preferences, and one of our Indian colleagues said something. An American physician-who happens to be a cardiologist- who was listening the conversation said: “You might be vegetarian since you are from India.” She said that she was not a Hindu and hence ate meat. Whereas people in general think that Indians are vastly vegetarian, this concept of ‘waiver’ from vegetarianism because you are not a Hindu kind of ‘impressed’ me. Needless to say, I did not jump into the fray there! Anyway vegetarianism is a universal concept that should not be seen through the prism of religion. Having said that, vegetarianism is a fundamental concept to Hinduism. Before starting meals, a typical Hindu will recite the Bhojan -Mantra (Bhojan = Food): Om sahna vavtu, Sahno Bhunaktu…. (the essence being that we pray to the Almighty for peace). The recital of this mantra is not in harmony of sacrificing animals for your food.
Also the growing indulgence in non-vegetarianism, alcoholism and smoking amongst Indians (in India) is of concern. Despite the medical proven benefits of vegetarianism, the West has not been able to adapt to it to the desired extent (it is still difficult to find vegetarian meals with ease and choice in USA, whereas non veg stuff is easily and abundantly available). The variety of meat products and amazing varieties of recipes that we get in the West is sometime mind-boggling for an individual who is looking for a decent vegetarian meal! Back in India are we far behind in this matter, but unfortunately are fast catching up!