Indian-American doctor commits $4 m for Hindu advocacy and awareness in US

Fremont (California):  Hinduism is not just a religion, it’s a way of life, a prominent Indian-American physician, who has committed $4 million to advocate Hindu advocacy and awareness causes in the United States, has said.

Emergency care physician Mihir Meghani, who founded the Hindu America Foundation along with his friends two decades ago, at the annual Silicon Valley gala early this month of the organisation pledged to donate $1.5 million more to the Hindu cause over the next eight years.

This contribution will raise his total donations for the cause to $4 million in two decades.

The announcement by Dr Meghani possibly gives him the distinction of being the biggest Indian American donor for the Hindu cause in the United States.

“My wife, Tanvi and I, have contributed USD 1.5 million to the Hindu American Foundation thus far. We’ve also contributed a million dollars more over the last 15 years to other Hindu and Indian organisations and causes. Over the next eight years, we’re making a pledge of USD 1.5 million to pro-India and Hindu organisations,” Dr Meghani told PTI in a recent interview.

“I say this to all of you who are viewing this to realise that I don’t have a startup company. I don’t have any side businesses. I’m an emergency doctor on a salary. My wife is a fitness instructor and a jewellery designer. We’re not making millions of dollars a year. We don’t have stock options. We’re doing this because it’s our Dharma, it’s our duty,” he said.

Just out of university, Dr Meghani and three of his friends Aseem Shukla, an associate professor in urologic surgery; Suhag Shukla, an attorney and Nikhil Joshi, a labour law attorney co-founded the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) in September 2003, the first of its kind Hindu advocacy group in the US. Responding to a question, Dr Meghani said Hinduism is not as easily understood by most Americans because most Americans are Christian. “They come from an Abrahamic background. When they look at different religions, they can’t understand that Hinduism is not just a religion, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of thinking about life,” he said.

Hindus who are coming from India don’t quite understand that they have a Hindu identity and an Indian national identity, he said, adding: “We need to talk about that”.

What we need are Hindus to be strong in the Bharatiya or Indian identity, which is the political identity for our civilisation, but also they should be very proud and open about their Hindu identity. And when they have that, their coworkers, their friends, and neighbours will understand us better,” he said.

One of the early successes of HAF in Washington DC, he said, was to get Diwali recognised in the US.

“Now you can see that Diwali is celebrated at the White House, with the Vice President, in the US Congress and all across different state and local governments across the country. But it took time to get there,” he said about the three-year effort by them.

The Hindu American Foundation, which in its initial years was all based on volunteerism, now has an annual budget of USD 2.5 million and has several full-time staffers. Its goal is to increase its budget to USD5 million next year and USD 20 million by the end of the decade, he said.