October 21, 2016

INTERVIEW: Ravi Batra Reminisces about Long Years of Ranju Batra Efforts Behind Diwali Stamp


ranju-vandana-ravi-for-web

Ravi Batra, National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs; Air India Maharaja holding Forever Diwali Stamp; Vandana Sharma, Air India Regional Manager and Ranju Batra, Diwali Stamp Project Chair

New York – The United States Postal Service decided on October 5 to “commemorate the joyous Hindu festival of Diwali with a Forever stamp,” and hosted the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony at the Consulate General of India, New York. The event marked a crowning glory for Ranju Batra, Chair Diwali Stamp Project. Assisted by Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Ranju reached a successful completion of her unflinching efforts to make the dream of a Diwali Stamp a reality.

IAT reached out to Ravi Batra, the support system and husband of Ranju Batra to get his views on this long journey.

IAT:
A dream came true with the Forever Diwali Stamp. How does it feel in reality?

Ravi Batra:
Upon the realization of the Diwali stamp on October 5, I was so overcome by this unique and massive acknowledgment: every small hamlet, village and town across America was tied into one nation by the United States Postal Service – and now, for all time hereafter, in fact, forever, Diwali stamp will grace every post office counter and will serve to welcome every American who’s ancestry or faith connect them to India or Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism.

IAT:
Can you walk our readers down the memory lane of this journey?

Ravi Batra:
Seven years ago, I thought Ranju was crazy when she came to me and said she wants to get a Diwali stamp – so that our religion, Hinduism, is also recognized as American. Her goal was great and laudatory, but the vehicle of achieving it at such a mass level of a Diwali stamp was a most difficult goal.

I have watched her work until 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning at home on the computer designing different types of paper petitions, and various and sundry acts and ideas that she tried during her journey. On a few occasions, I may have yelled at her to shut off the light because it was 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and I had to be in court and that she was interrupting my sleep working on her impossible dream.

After Ranju was already doing Petitions on this for a year or two, she and I sat down and discussed all of our dear friends in Congress. We decided that this social goal needed both grassroots support, which Ranju was spearheading, and a political leader who would partner with Ranju and provide national political leadership – and Carolyn Maloney agreed, and became a tireless advocate as Ranju was relentless at the grassroots level.

And then started her visits to Washington with our miracle daughter, Angela, our son, Neal – now a lawyer – getting support from other members of Congress for Carolyn’s House resolutions in support of the Diwali Stamp. In fact, I personally assisted in getting the powerful Eliot Engel, Ranker on the foreign affairs committee and who got chairman Ed Royce, co-chair of the India caucus.

I especially enjoyed getting the support of the civil rights giant, our nation’s soulful Conscience, John Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King and excitedly telling Carolyn that her office should follow up for his support. Of course, we have support from our local members of Congress such as Grace Meng, Greg Meeks, Nita Lowey, Joe Crowley to name a few.

IAT:
The Forever Diwali Stamp seems to have taken off instantly. How?

Ravi Batra:
Well knowing Ranju, even though she’s quiet and humble, her determination knows no limits. After Carolyn and Ranju announced on August 23at City Hall that the Diwali stamp was going to be issued and the dream was being realized, Ranju reached out to Air India and spoke to the regional manager, Vandana Sharma. Given Air India’s support of the Diwali Stamp Project, and Ranju’s hyper activity, the stamp did not have to crawl, walk, and then run.

Instead, it was airborne just by the Pre-Sales done by the Diwali Stamp Project in partnership with Air India, such that the Diwali Stamp on the First Day is already USPS’s bestseller! So, my hat off to Ranju’s idea and Air India’s support, to make the Diwali stamp the best in Postal Service history as our community’s very big and very real “thank you” to postmaster general Megan Brennan and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

The role of the United States Postal Service is to stitch each neighborhood, each community, each hamlet, each village, town, city and state from sea to shining sea into one nation – what our Stars & Stripes does as a symbol, the USPS did in-fact since its founding.

IAT:
After the long journey, do you feel it was worth?

Ravi Batra:
Over 100 years ago on the West Coast, retail establishments after taking down the sign No Irish Need Apply, or NINA, new signs had gone up: “No Indians and dogs allowed.” So for all those honest and hard-working Indian-Americans who suffered quietly with insult and shame, it is very worth it.

But best of all, for children yet unborn, who feel some connection to our faiths or India, they belong as full fledged Americans – as only the United States Postal Service can make you. Next to the American passport, the next most important American document is the American stamp. Now, all of us have both!

So for all the people who wonder why America is the best nation on earth and why we are exceptional, they need look no further than Ranju’s journey to our Diwali stamp.

All I know is that the Diwali Stamp is already a profitable bestseller for the United States Postal Service due to a most overjoyed and grateful community: all of us. Our pride in the Diwali Stamp will be forever, just like the Forever Diwali stamp.

The equal protection clause of the Constitution has been honored now in full measure, and forever more, and by so doing, we have helped to form a more perfect union as Thomas Jefferson decreed.