For the millions of Indians who live in the United States (4 millions approximately), a Diwali celebration at work or school or in the community is becoming as common as are the celebrations for Christmas or Hanukkah. Diwali traditions such as creating the Rangoli or decorating and lighting of the Diyas are as mainstream now as much is decorating the tree for the Christmas. The White House too officially celebrates Diwali every year now with much enthusiasm.
For most major religious festivals, there is a representative postal stamp from the United States Postal Service. These postal stamps become predominantly available during the festival and can be used for greetings and letters in the sprit of the festival. Though Diwali is a widely celebrated festival in the USA, there was no postal stamp for it up until recently.
There have been various online petitions from the Indo-American over the years to get a Diwali stamp issued. One such effort led by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard – had around 300,000 online petitions.
Until finally this year, on 5 October, 2016, the USPS printed and issued the Forever Diwali stamp.The stamp has a picture of a lit clay diya with a festive golden backdrop.
It is a historic effort and momentous occasion for the diaspora.
To put things in perspective, the USPS receives approximately 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas annually from the public. The suggestions received are then reviewed by a committee. Of that, approximately 25 topic suggestions for commemorative stamps are selected for the Postmater General’s approval.
The postmaster general’s approval of a new postal stamp then takes a minimum of 10,000 postcard petitions to be sent to the postmaster general. A campaign to get 10,000 signatures on 10,000 postcards began about two years ago, when Meera Prahlad happened to meet with M.R.Rangaswami of the Indiaspora.
Meera at first picked up 100 postcards to get signed by family and friends, but upon learning that 10,000 physical signatures were required, she had to come up with a new strategy to fulfill this requirement
She then got involved in the campaign at a grass root level, reaching out to the larger Indo-American community and dedicating her time to the cause. She was able to get a significant percentage of the petitions signed, 6500 to be precise. This drive was particularly carried out within the Indo-Amercian community in Silicon Valley and the result is a collective effort of everyone in the community.
“People tend to think of stamps as functional. This Forever stamp is definitely functional, but also hugely symbolic! Indians are a relatively new minority in American history. If one thinks of America as a patchwork quilt, with every community being represented by its own patch, the Diwali stamp signifies that Indians have now arrived. We now have our very own patch on this wonderfully rich, cultural quilt which makes the American mosaic.” ~Meera Prahlad | Freelance Writer & Diwali Stamp Ambassador
The stamp is available at the USPS locations or at www.diwalistamp.com. The issuance of the stamp has been a laborious process and the prints will continue only if there is more demand for it. So send away your festival greetings, letters and packages using the Diwali forever stamp. It will be moment of pride for the sender and the receiver.
Story By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra