VHP offers pizza, coke to attract 2nd gen Indians | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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VHP offers pizza, coke to attract 2nd gen Indians

PTI | ByLalit K Jha (HindustanTimes.com)
Aug 03, 2005 12:27 PM IST

It might be against western food back home, but in the US it does not mind offering pizza and coke to its youths.

It might be against western junk food back home, but when it comes to attracting second generation Indians in the United States of America, to teach them a few lessons of Hinduism and great Indian culture, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) does not seems to mind offering them Pizza and Coke.

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All for a noble cause, argues its leaders as they have to adapt to the needs of the country far away from their "punya bhoomi" if they have to bring the second generation Indians – who normally do not show much interest in knowing about their language and culture – to the Hindu fold.

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In fact, it is because of the adaptability and flexible and practical approach shown by the leaders of the VHP in the U.S. that its Hindu Heritage Youth Camp over the past several years has been able to attract much larger number of second generation Hindus than any other similar cultural camps organized by the other Indian organizations.

"We are not dictated by any one. It is we, who decide what to do and what not to do. We just receive guidance from our leaders," Rishi Bhutada, am emerging second generation leader, who has been camp director for the past two years, told The Hindustantimes.com. This five day camp this year concluded at Ida Gordon Campsite at Richmond Texas past weekend.

Emergence of second generation leaders like Manish Mehra, who along with others of his group, have set up organizations like the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) to fight for cause of the Hindu is considered as a success story of the camp – being organized almost every year since 1984 – by the VHP-America leaders.

Manish was one of the youngest and earliest directors of the camp at 18.

"In the American milieu, it is very tough for any religion to attract young people to places of worship. But this camp indicates that, we are successful to some extent in doing so, as parents too are eager to send their children to our camps," said Suresh Patel, head of the local VHP-A chapter.

The camp having a capacity of 100 is always overbooked weeks in advance, even if the VHP-A charges $175 as the camp fee held at a Jewish Community Ranch, 25 miles North West of Houston.

Coming to the Hindu Heritage Youth camp for the past several years, Alok Kanojia, who is a student of neurobiology at the University of Texas, said it has brought him closure to Hinduism. For the past two years, Alok has been visiting India to learn Yoga. This year, he even took a class on Ayurveda for the campers.

"It helps a lot in understanding my religion and culture. Otherwise, I do not get much of a chance in school or college," said Alok, son of a successful doctor couple in Houston. It is a tough schedule for the campers all these five days. Unlike the luxurious life style in their homes, they sleep in bunkers and wake up early in the morning wherein they have to share the toilets and bathrooms.

A typical day begins with Shakha which includes Surya Namaskaar – a yoga exercise – and games. Even though the camp rules specifically mentions that only Hindi has to be spoken at the campsite, English with the American accent is the language of the day, and the VHP leaders do not have any complain as long as students show their desire to learn about their religion and culture.

"We have a mix of both Indian and U.S. culture," argues Rishi, who is a graduate from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

"If we have American food during day time, it is traditional Indian food in the evening," he said. But given the response, it was very evident that Pizza and Coke was more sought after than "Chhachh" or "upma" specially prepared by women VHP-A volunteers for the campers.

While the day time is mostly pre-occupied by educational sessions, wherein the campers are given classes in various aspects of Hinduism by senior members, it is the time of aarti and bhajan in the evening, which comes along with its English translation.

A lot of emphasis is given on ensuring that the campers learn their Indian languages. This year, they were taught singing bhajan and aarti in three Indian languages: Hindi, Gujarati and Malyalam. Such decisions, Rishi said are taken by the camp councilors, who start the preparations at least three months in advance. It is members of Hindu Students Council, who play a crucial role in making all the arrangements, preparing the detailed schedule, the education class topics and even the diet.      

And in the night it is the cultural extravangza every day. This includes Garba, Bhangra and even dances to the tune of bollywood songs, which traditionally is not associated with the VHP functions in India. This was because, as one of the leaders said, the organization has to adapt to the environment of the country if it was to penetrate among second generation Hindus. "If we become successful, they would prove to be more aggressive and focused than we," he said.

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