By Venugopal Menon
Source: Voice of Asia
Hindus of Greater Houston wishes all a very happy Deepavali, the festival of lights. The ‘Festival of Lights’ signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. As an appropriate gesture, and corresponding to their 25 year observance of Janmashtami together, the several Hindu temples and organizations of Houston are celebrating Diwali by helping the Food Bank of Houston and serving the needy.
Close on the heels of the role of air and water, to sustain life and to carry on the body functions, the most essential requirement is the availability of food. And there is no better expression of human compassion than offering food to the hungry. According to WHO, hunger is the gravest threat to the world’s public health and the biggest contributor to child mortality, an estimated three million dying every year without enough food.
Even in a land of plenty like the USA, the distressing reality is that a sizeable number of people are fraught to get adequate food for sustaining their lives. It is estimated that almost one in seven of our people, a staggering 18 million household of the US population are not getting enough food to eat and about 40 million live under poverty level.
Towards meeting the needs of such hungry, the world’s first food bank was established in the US in 1967, and since then several thousands of such have come up all over the world. There are several food banks in Houston offering food to the hungry on a regular basis, and there are periodic ‘food drives’ initiated by various organizations.
‘Feeding the hungry’ has remained an essential tradition of Hindu faith as it is in most other religions. Hindu temples have always provided free food to the devotees and the hungry; Hindu homes have made it a tradition to ensure that passers-by would be invited to eat. Before we closed the doors at night it was a daily practice in our homes to call out for anyone around who has not eaten, and serving them food.
‘Athidhi Devo bhava’, the axiom meant that we considered our guests, godly. Hindus of Greater Houston have been involved in food bank drive, during Diwali, initiated by HMEC a few years ago and this year we are doing it collectively. As per the celebrated practice of our faith, all our temples and other organizations will collect food and feed the hungry. Individual temples are setting up the drive, collecting the food and passing it on to the common food bank. HGH coordinator Anshuman Desai has been coordinating the project this year with Arya Samaj, Chinmaya Mission, Sri Meenakshi Temple, VPSS, JVB Preksha Meditation, Sewa International and Ashtalakshmi Temple initiating the drive, as more organizations would soon join the effort.
As a community we are joining hands and pitching in our efforts as a united group. As much as we have several temples and different ways in the practice of our devotional adherence, our philosophy is essentially based on our Eternal Vedic principles, Sanatan Dharma. And the food bank drive is an opportunity for us to present ourselves as a unified force. Being the third most practiced faith of humanity, it is important that Hindus stay organized and be recognized as one group, for our presence and the profound principles that we believe in. It is our hope that each one of us stands up to that ideal and does our part, and does it with conviction and compassion.
Let the Food Bank Drive promote our unity to provide for the deprived.
The views expressed here are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston