Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hindus of NYC...let's leave the city

Yes, it's done. The mayor, Bill de Blasio, has openly proved discrimination for part of his constituents with the latest official holiday on lunar new year. Previously, back in March, he had already passed legislation to give two days off for the holy days of Eid for Muslims. As a Hindu born in a discriminated Bangladesh as a minority, coming to the US gave a new hope with equal opportunity and rights. With the naturalized citizenship process, that hope became more dense that no matter what religion, race, gender or nationality you may have, rights and opportunities are distributed evenly in this "land of the free".

It is with more experience and understanding over the years that I began to realize that equality that the US professes to the outside world has a deep hollowness inside it. Though the international organizations like United Nations don't utter a word against 'Uncle Sam', the reality cannot be denied, at least by those who have lived in the heart of the country. New York City, San Francisco - are two of the pivotal points for the immigrants to reside in the early days of their US experience. Not surprisingly, my family, like many other Bangladeshis, moved to NYC after coming from Bangladesh.

While studying the public school system of NYC during my teenage years, I have had holidays during Christian Christmas, Jewish Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, African-American Kwanzaa. As a young boy, I would love those holidays as most of my classmates even though I was neither a Christian, Jew or an African-American. The mere celebratory season at the end of the school semester filled students like me with joy & wonderful moments.

My Hindu culture's festivals would fall during October-November period with Diwali and Navratri time. Though Diwali is a one-day festival, Navratri is a 10-day event with major religious rituals on the last 5-days. The last day of Navratri, known as Dusshera, is celebrated widely among Hindus in the Asian countries. As teenagers, we would always hope that any of those 5-days, especially the last day, Dusshera, would fall on a weekend so that as family we all can enjoy the festival with friends and relatives in temples and at home.

That was the case up until about last year for Hindus like me who are still in the K-12 program. Early this year in March, the current mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, has passed new legislation, officially recognizing two holy days of Muslim calendar, Eid. That means, in addition to the Christians, Jews and African-Americans, Muslim students (K-12) of NYC can also celebrate their religious festival as a public holiday. Then, the mayor added Chinese festival during the lunar new year as another public holiday in the school calendar this week. The Hindu community of NYC have raised their voice for their religious festival's holidays during an April demonstration outside City Hall. The willingness of the mayor to commit to Muslim holidays with fervent support while "hesitant" on Hindu holidays clearly delineates to the city residents that the mayor does not care about his Hindu constituents. If this not discrimination, then what is, my reader?

If you are a Hindu who crossed about 8,000 miles to come to a land with the hope for equal opportunities, equal rights, equal treatment for all, how would you feel? How would you feel as a teenage boy who saw his classmates call him by derogatory terms in a classroom in Bangladesh, suddenly came to the US, seeing the minority status being applied again to you and people like you? How would you feel when the same classmates who used to use abusive language to you, who have their cousins in the US enjoying the religious privilege as in Bangladesh and the US with public holiday? How would you feel when your Christian classmate tells stories about his Christmas presents, Jewish friend about his new year blessing, African-American buddy about his Kwanzaa feast, Muslim schoolmate about his Eid prayers, Chinese acquaintance about his traditional dinner, and you would have nothing to say since you were still finishing up your project on the night of Diwali?

I know you may or may not admit it. But if you were in this shoes, you would definitely feel betrayed, biased, unfairness, rejected, denied, segregated, discriminated. Wouldn't you? Ask yourself reader. Just imagine yourself in such position for a moment. If you cannot think in neutral terms then don't bother reading this any further.

I'm glad that I moved out of that city just prior to this mayor came into office. Ever since I've moved to RI, I've been constantly encouraging my family to move out of the city also. Now that with these legislation have been passed, I would urge more of my friends and relatives to move out of that city. Though equality would not be experienced in RI or other states either, but at least you would find more classmates like you who also don't get to have a day off for their festivals also.

No comments:

Post a Comment