A Diwali Stamp for the Diaspora

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Diiwali stamp

Diiwali stamp       (Photo: HAF)

 

A Diwali Stamp for the Diaspora

A Chance to Win Air Tickets to India on Air India

 Well, it’s certainly the giving season! Not only do Indian-Americans and Indian immigrants finally get a Diwali stamp but in buying it, they also get a chance to win an air-ticket to India.

 Many years ago Indian immigrants who came to America were connected to their homeland by a scratchy, disjointed and expensive phone line, telegrams and flimsy blue aerograms on which they would affix an American stamp and send it on its way. Little could they have dreamed that technology would connect them in many ways – and their own efforts would finally bring them a US Diwali stamp to put on the envelope, making them feel truly at home in their adopted home.

Indeed, after trying and trying for years, the Indians in America finally have their own Diwali stamp, with the USPS blessings. It was very much a grassroots effort, spearheaded with dedication by Ranju Batra, Chair of the Diwali Stamp Committee.

Now you can get these historic stamps and first day covers – and also a chance to be entered in for a drawing for Air India tickets to India at a dedication event on October 5 at the Indian Consulate.

The Consulate General of India, New York, in association with the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the Diwali Stamp Project is hosting the inaugural ceremony of Diwali Stamp on October 5, 2016, at 3 East 64 Street, New York, 10065. Following the inaugural ceremony, purchase and cancellation of the stamps, for collectors and customers will be facilitated at the Consulate. The Diwali stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp which will always be equal in value to the current First Class Mail 1-ounce price.

The Forever Stamp issued for Diwali

The Forever Stamp issued for Diwali

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get Your Stamps

Details from the organizers

12  noon – 3 pm:  Diwali Stamp Sales and Pre-Sale Orders Pick Up;

1pm:  Dedication Ceremony begins, and is followed by “autographing”; and First Day Covers will be available, with Cancellation.  “Winners” of the free Air India round-trip tickets will be selected and announced on Oct. 5th.Every person who comes to the October 5th Dedication and buys even 1 sheet of stamps or by pre-order – will have a free chance to win 1-reserved Air India round-trip ticket to India! In addition, those who buy multiples of 10 sheets (20 stamps per sheet) will get one chance per 10 Sheets; more sheets you buy, more chances you get. In addition, anyone who buys $10,000 or more worth of Diwali stamps by pre-sale will get 1 round-trip ticket (limited to first 7).

Please Note: Only Pre-Order Retail Forms received by Diwali Stamp Project on or before October 3, 2016 are eligible for Air India Free Raffle Round-trip Ticket per the rules. Raffle Drawing will occur on 10/5/16 at CGI – 3 East 64 Street, Manhattan. Attendance at the Diwali Stamp Dedication is most welcome and encouraged as our Community’s show of force and heartfelt thanks to USPS for the Diwali Stamp and for Air India’s support of the historic  Diwali Stamp.  .For more details email ranjubatra@aol.com or call 9148825670

 

Diwali Stamp Project Committee on the steps of City Hall

Diwali Stamp Project Committee on the steps of City Hall

 How the Diwali Stamp Became a Reality

“For me, this journey started in 2010,” recalls Ranju Batra. “ Over the number of years, with my children born here and going to school, I was well aware that all the major religions were warmly celebrated; only Hinduism was unrecognized and excluded in schools and mainstream society. Like all Americans, we celebrated the happy symbols of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and Eid. I wanted Diwali celebrated also.”

She learned that many before had tried, and had given up. Originally she started with both paper and online petitions, and got major office holders in New York to sign the paper petitions. She was able to get Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to partner with her, providing national political leadership to her own grassroots efforts with the Indian community. Maloney introduced .Res#47 in 2013 and H. Res#32 in 2015.  The Batras visited Congress and got other members of Congress to sign on, including  John Lewis, Eliot Engel, Greg Meeks, Grace Meng, Ami Bera and Tulsi Gabbard.

A meeting with the Postmaster General was defining, recalls Ranju Batra. “We informed him that we were doing paper petitions and online petitions. And then I asked him what more can I do – and with a smile he answered –  ‘You are asking the United States Postal Service to issue a stamp and a stamp does not go on emails, it goes only on paper!” I had my answer: I took that to heart, and focused on paper petitions only.”

Batra and her community supporters got tens of thousands of these paper petitions signed and sent them to USPS’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee.   In 2013, the Postal Service sent Batra a letter informing her that the Diwali Stamp was under consideration. Finally on August 23, 2016, on the New York City Hall Steps, the announcement was made that the Diwali Stamp would be issued on October 5, 2016.

“The time has come for our community to now show our excitement at being so richly recognized forever by the United States,” says Batra. “We need to talk to everybody we know, so all of us need to turn out and buy the Diwali Stamp in record numbers on the first day – October 5th  – right here at the Indian Consulate. Buy the stamp as keepsake, for personal or business use. And this year, let’s give Diwali gift in Commemorative Diwali Stamps.”

The Postal Service receives approximately 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas annually from the public.  Stamp subjects are reviewed by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. Of that, approximately 25 topic suggestions for commemorative stamps are selected by the Committee for the Postmaster General’s approval. So it is very satisfying for the Indian-American community to have the Diwali stamp idea become a reality.
Batra adds, “The Postal Service has made history by giving us the stamp. Now, we need to make history for the Postal Service by having the most amount of stamps sold on the first Day. This is a unique opportunity for our community to come together and buy sooo many Diwali Stamps that our community will be recognized – forever as being together and united!”

Now delighted desis in America have can send each other sheets of stamps – instead of mithai on Diwali! Surely, Indians who love setting records, could set a new one for huge first day sales of the Diwali stamp.

 

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About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. Twitter@lavinamelwani & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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