Hindu Americans in Houston Celebrate a Decade of Advocacy


HAF Houston Chapter Team celebrates a successful event. Top row (from
left): Chirag Randeria, Vinay Sarda, Kirit Mehta. Bottom row: Aarti Randeria,
Shradha Bhutada, Rishi Bhutada, Rahul Pandit.

HOUSTON: Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) joined over 200 Houstonians in celebrating the Hindu American Foundation’s (HAF) tenth anniversary of advocacy on Saturday, September 21 at the India House in Houston.

The only Indian-American currently serving in Congress, Congressman Bera lauded the HAF for its important advocacy efforts on behalf of the community while urging the younger attendees to consider a career as a US Representative.

Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) speaks at the annual HAF Awareness and Fundraising Dinner.

Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) speaks at the annual HAF Awareness and Fundraising Dinner.

“My legacy is not measured by anything I’m going to accomplish,” said Congressman Bera. “My legacy is going to be measured in what that next generation accomplishes…I see high school kids in the audience, I see college kids in the audience. What I’d like to see in this next decade would be four or five Indian-American Congressmen and Congresswomen. What I’d like to see in this generation is our first Indian-American Senator. That would be remarkable.”

Sharing the dais with Congressman Bera was HAF’s Director of Education and Curriculum Reform, Murali Balaji, PhD, who energized the crowd with his presentation on the Foundation’s efforts, both nationally and locally, to improve the manner in which Hinduism is taught about in public school classrooms.

“This isn’t teaching religion,” Balaji said. “This is teaching about religion in a way that gives Hinduism parity with other faith traditions. We want African-American children, Latino children, white children, and Vietnamese-American children to all have the same basics about Hinduism as they have with every other religion taught in our schools.”

The evening began with a Hindu prayer sung by Sanghamitra Misra, a classically trained musician, while Congressman Bera and Houston’s own Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) lit the two diyas adorning the stage.

Houston native Rishi Bhutada, who serves on HAF’s Board of Directors, and Sheetal Shah, HAF’s Senior Director, updated the audience on the Foundation’s latest multi-faceted advocacy efforts, from providing assistance to Pakistani Hindu refugees to speaking up against a controversial decision by the Council of a Parliament of the World’s Religion to withdraw support of a Hindu-sponsored event.

Bhutada, along with a team of 26 committed volunteers, has organized the annual HAF dinner in Houston for the past five years, raising just over $100,000 this year alone. This dinner also saw the establishment of a HAF chapter for the Houston area.

“This dinner event was a wonderful way to celebrate a decade of HAF’s achievements,” said Bhutada. “Congressman Bera’s personal story was inspiring to all and illustrative of the importance for the Hindu American community to engage on public policy issues. The Houston Hindu community has shown its support for HAF time after time, and I am thankful they did it again tonight.”