October was Hindu Heritage Month. Here’s why Apu of “The Simpsons” would have approved!

In many ways, the Hindu Heritage month will try to achieve the same every October.

In many ways, the Hindu Heritage month will try to achieve the same every October.
In many ways, the Hindu Heritage month will try to achieve the same every October.

First-ever Hindu Heritage Month celebration

As we wrap up the first-ever Hindu Heritage Month celebration this weekend, it is clear to many of us in the organizing committee that there was a huge pent-up demand for something like this. The response from the community has been heartwarming, a spontaneous coming together of various organizations, temples, and diasporic Indians under the tent of Hindu Heritage Month.

21 governors across the US have issued official proclamations and Mayors of 40 city councils have declared October as Hindu Heritage Month. Recognizing that “the communities of the faith have long served as beacons of hope, sharing their beliefs, and bettering their communities through service. Hinduism has contributed greatly to our state and nation through its rich culture, history, and heritage.”

Many organizations launched celebratory and educational events on this occasion to highlight the multitudinous arts, dances, and music of India. Additionally, COHNA and Hindu Parent Network have launched a Hindu Heritage Challenge for children that bring them closer to their culture.

For more please visit https://hinduparentsnetwork.org/ and write to CoHNAContest@Gmail.com.

The natural progression for this October Fest will be to take it globally over the years. The Global Diaspora has reached out with congratulatory messages for the launch of the Hindu Heritage Month and hailed the World Bindi and Tilak day as occasions to mark the glorious traditions of our faith while also renewing and reviving them.

In the USA, Hindu Heritage Month has the potential to rise up to become as significant and valuable as Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, or Native American Heritage Month (happening in November). The potential is endless, and this launch is hence a ripe beginning with endless possibilities.

The celebration of our music and dances, Yoga and Meditation, rich diverse culture and practices such as intermittent fasting and eco-friendly lifestyle is of great value to the world. The Hindu Heritage Month is a platform and vehicle to carry that cultural representation to the world.

This is of utmost importance as Hinduism misses the mainstream consciousness as shown in one of the episodes in “The Simpsons.”

Hindu! There are 700 Million of us!

This was Apu Nahasapeemapetilon’s slightly indignant reply when a Reverend identifies all Homer’s neighbors by major religions but fails to remember Apu’s faith.

Apu’s quip above is a telling social reality regarding the low level of awareness about Hinduism as a religion and as a culture.

Arguably, the height of cancel culture was when Apu was taken off the air.

As the sole voice on TV for over 25 years, Apu was the Indian American connected to the mainstream. He may have had simplistic aspects, but he was a “three-dimensional character” says comedian Rajiv Satyal, objecting to the cancelation of Apu. “Apu’s accent may have been funny, but “that was no reason to silence a character who cracks intelligent jokes, fights against stereotypes and experiences a journey across the emotional spectrum” adds Satyal[1].

The producer Mr. Shankar who has an ear to the ground, related his understanding of the issue, ‘When a lot of people hear ‘The Problem with Apu’ (2017 documentary by Hari Kondabolu) they roll their eyes, ‘there is no problem with Apu, it’s these millennials, they’re out of control.’[2]

The Silencing of Apu or the Hindu American?

No one asked the average Indian American what he thought of Apu’s exit. The silencing of Apu was the subversion of the Hindu American as he was stripped off the model minority tag while being hurled with labels of terrorism through Quantico (Priyanka Chopra) and caste through the game of identity politics and woke campus resolutions.

A mild-mannered, genial Apu was systematically replaced by a crafty meta-narrative.

In schools and campuses, parents complained that children were being taught false stories regarding CAA and a Pakistani narrative on Kashmir.

The vicious attack on Hindu Americans reached a crescendo with a so-called Academic Conference that spewed vengeful vitriol on Hinduism. As Hindu Americans get targeted in the political city council, in academia, in schools, media, and corporate, there is a growing sense of unease at the open agenda to misrepresent our faith.

It is time indeed, to move from the introverted Bhajan, Bollywood, and Buffet parties to a more conscious world view and representation of who Hindu Americans are, chiseling the differentiating factors of our micro minority that simultaneously boasts of one of the highest per capita income and the lowest rate of crime.

Never Have I Ever been called Princess Jasmine

In the Netflix series, “Never have I ever” a scene in Season 1 shows the lead protagonist Devi wearing her traditional half saree outfit and stopping at a Dunkin Donut, on her way to Ganesh Puja. A little girl in the store creates a cute oops moment when she asks if Devi is Jasmine, the middle eastern princess! Yet another cultural faux pas occurs when the store clerk asks Devi if she is dressed up for “Ramadan.”

Sounds familiar? How many of us have been stumped with that question? I have been there!

After all Pop culture only reflects ground reality.

The canceling of Apu has not helped the Hindu Americans. He is still missed by many of us for whom Apu was the quintessential Indian American, highly educated (Ph.D. no less) family man, and a workaholic convenience store clerk at Kwik E Mart, slightly lacking in a sense of fun. With his quirky, geeky, and sardonic quips, Apu often showed his inability to see the world through another’s eyes and yet endeared himself to many with his thick Indian accent, penny-pinching ways, and sarcasm.[3]

As he mingled with Simpsons and friends, Apu showed the world that despite his unique cultural identity, his prosaic existence transcends all religious and regional affiliations, and yet his presence adds to the ethnic tapestry of his adoptive country.

In many ways, the Hindu Heritage month will try to achieve the same every October.

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

References:

[1] The problems with The Problem With ApuApr 11, 2018, CBC

[2] ‘The Simpsons’ Is Eliminating Apu, But Producer Adi Shankar Found the Perfect Script to Solve the Apu ProblemOct 26, 2018, Indie Wire

[3] October is Hindu Heritage Month. Here’s why Apu of ‘The Simpsons’ would have approved!Oct 21, 2021, RNS

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Richa Gautam is an entrepreneur and investor working in media, data analytics, and social projects. Richa works with several welfare organizations and is actively involved in human rights issues and amplifying the minority voice.

She writes on current issues in the Indian American framework. She will soon be launching her own radio show and is actively involved in conducting webinars on current and historical perspectives.
Richa Gautam

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