Diwali is a reminder for all to push away darkness and usher in light, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has said, calling on people to embrace the spirit of Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Mahatma Gandhi and be better human beings. In his remarks at the annual Diwali celebration hosted at his New York residence, Gracie Mansion, on Tuesday, Adams asked people to embrace the endeavour to remove the darkness engulfing the world, which is witnessing the loss of innocent lives.
“Diwali is more than just a holiday. It is a reminder to all of us that we must push away the darkness wherever we see it and bring light. That is what the Festival of Lights is about,” Adams said. At the annual celebration attended by hundreds of prominent members of the Indian-American and South Asian community as well as diaspora from other nationalities and government officials, Adams said that Diwali is more than lighting a candle or oil but about “lighting up our lives”.
We’re gearing up for the Festival of Lights! Join us LIVE at Gracie Mansion for our annual Diwali celebration with our Hindu New Yorkers: https://t.co/y6NnRxIDOM— NYC Mayor’s Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) October 17, 2023
“There is so much darkness that we are seeing every day. So if we truly believe in the life of Ramayana, if we truly believe in the life of Sita, if we truly believe in the life of Gandhi, then we must continue Gandhi’s steps. We cannot only be worshippers; we must be practitioners,” he said Adams said that at a time when there is darkness all across the globe, and the world is witnessing the loss of innocent lives, “we cannot continue to watch this engulf our future and engulf humanity.” “Let’s be better human beings. Let’s live in the spirit of Diwali. Let’s live in the spirit of Gandhi. Let’s live in the spirit of Sita. Let’s live in the spirit of Ram, and then we will live up to the expectations of what this holiday really means,” he said.
New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who led efforts to make Diwali a school holiday in New York City, said that the Indian-American community has never been as powerful as it is now. “We are unstoppable, and we have arrived at the table of power in this state,” she said. She added that with everything going on in the world, in the Middle East where there is terrible violence, and amid the hatred and bigotry against different groups, ”we are the ones that can lead the way to peace.
“Ours is the culture of Martin Luther King Jr, who was famously inspired by Gandhi,” Rajkumar said. “We feel equally at home in a synagogue, in a mosque, in a church because as Hindus, we don’t just tolerate people that are different from us, we go one step further and actively love people that are different from us,” she said. “So now it’s time to spread our beautiful Dharmic light across the city, the nation, the Middle East and the entire world,” she added.
Deputy Commissioner at the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, Dilip Chauhan, urged people to spread love and peace in their communities and worldwide, emphasising that hate has no place in New York City or anywhere else. Chauhan recalled the hard work and efforts of the Indian-American community members and city and state officials over the last 20 years to make Diwali a public holiday in NYC schools.
He said that as Brooklyn Borough President, Adams had promised that when he became NYC Mayor, he would ensure that the sons and daughters of the Indian-American and Hindu communities do not have to go to school on the festival of Diwali. “He has fulfilled his promise,” Chauhan said.
Rajkumar, too, underscored the support extended by Adams to ensure that Diwali is made a school holiday in the city from this year onwards and said, “He is the Ram of New York City. Like Ram, he leads when others do not, and he leads our city in confronting the evils” of poverty, hatred, antisemitism, Islamaphobia and indifference. “For all that he has done for our community, we all call him the Hindu mayor,” she said.
Adams said that Lord Ram was the power and force against evil, and he pushed to rid the entire globe of darkness. He added that another significant part of the story of Ramayana is Goddess Sita, a woman of strength and integrity. “So as we move forward in a particularly male-dominated society, let’s not forget that we will never be able to defeat darkness if we do not acknowledge all the Sitas that are in the universe fighting on behalf and side by side with us,” he said. The Mayor also recalled his trip to India, his visit to the home of Gandhi and seeing the Mahatma’s steps permanently etched there. “It is symbolic that a bullet took his life, but it is up to us to continue the journey,” Adams said.
On the occasion, the Mayor also honoured prominent members of the Indian-American and diaspora community for their achievements and exceptional contributions to the community. The honourees were Grammy-nominated musician and renowned business leader Chandrika Tandon; geriatric psychiatrist and Executive Director of India Home, a centre for senior care, Dr Vasundhara Kalasapudi; Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) Chairman Nirmal Mattoo, Dr Hari Shukla and musician Ustad Kamal Sabri.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)