Woburn, Massachusetts: A grand three-day conference titled “Threads 2019: The Hindu American Saga” was hosted by the World Hindu Council of America November 1-3 at the Hilton Hotel, Woburn, Massachusetts, with more than 400 delegates from 29 states of the US and Canada participating.
Threads was the first of its kind community-driven conference with one goal: to tell the story of the Hindu American and share its heritage and beliefs for larger appreciation and understating with the larger American community in order to shape a collective future.
After the registration, the inaugural session began in the Flagg Grand Ball Room with conch blowing and amp lighting by the chief guests, special invitees, the sponsors, and prominent citizens. This was followed by the convener’s welcome speech by Dr Jai Bansal, Distinguished Fellow, Argonne National Lab.
The opening remarks were made by Scott Galvin, Mayor of Woburn, and a keynote address was delivered by . Michael Stanley Dukakis, former Governor of Massachusetts. Another enlightening keynote speaker of the evening was Rajiv Malhotra, founder of Infinity Foundation. The host’s remarks were made by Sanjay Kaul, ice president of World Hindu Council of America
He said that the Threads conference is about sharing the comprehensive, multi-dimensional contributions Hindu Americans (not just Indian Americans) have made over the past six decades to make America better. Later, a vibrant cultural program was presented by young star of Carnatic and Hindustani music, namely Aishu Venkataraman, a violinist, accompanied by Trivandrum Balaji on mridangam and ghatak and Karthick on ghatam. Vivek Pandya played magical tabla with Ramchandra Joshi on harmonium.
Next day early morning, a rare musical treat was provided to the audience by singing of melodious morning ragas by. Rachna Bodas. This was followed by the second session on “Raga Parampara: The Pursuit of India Arts and Aesthetics in the Americas”. In this interactive session, an artist, a performer, a writer and a cook told the audience the story of their journey and narrated their dedication and how they tackled their challenges to achieve their goals. Moderator Dr Shekhar Shastri handled the session with interesting answers to questions.
The third session focused on exploring opportunities in the US-India commercial relationship and the panelists were of the opinion that the opportunities for innovation and commerce in the bilateral corridor have never been greater. So, there is a need for more exploration in commercial relationships to see the impact on the rest of the global economy. Dr Mukesh Aghi, moderator of this session, did a good job in bringing out the panelists’ perspectives and answers to the audiences’ questions.
After the break, the fourth session highlighted the views of the panelists on the “Ancient Wisdom-Modern Applications: The emergence of Hindu Americans in the Public Square”. The panelists talked about various mechanisms to expand the role, visibility, and influence of Hindu Americans in these spheres while cultivating skills and opportunities at the grassroots level through effective training, mentoring, developing support systems and networks for young Hindu Americans to enter and succeed in the public square. They touched upon using the positive Hindu approaches that are driven by inquiry and sustained by truth, moderation, universal well-being, as well as comfort with difference and plurality of ideas and opinions. Moderator Suhag Shukla conducted the session in a professional manner and got intelligent answers to the questions raised by the audience members.
The panelists of the fifth session five talked about a world where humanity and the planet enjoy peace, harmony and health. According to their research, a holistic lifestyle benefits us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually: watching diet, keeping our mind and body active through the practice of yoga and meditation. They recommended that consistency, regularity and self-discipline are the keys in living a holistic lifestyle and keeping a positive outlook and attitude. Moderator Hillary Garivaltis, executive director of the national Ayurvedic Medical Association, coordinated the presentations and panelists’ viewpoints and answers to the questions very methodically.
Later, in the sixth session, “Innovation: Thinking Non-linearly” brought out the standpoints of the eminent enterprisers, investors, and scientists about what attributes allow one to think outside the proverbial box and whether these are innate or acquired or both. What factors help one to cultivate them in his/her life? They shared their own stories and the role these attributes played in their success. It was very interesting to listen to the panelists and their answers to the questions with an intelligent moderator, Mukesh Chatter, who coordinated the discussion very well.
In the seventh session, the panelists talked about the ethics of emerging lifesaving therapies and technologies and shared their perspectives on how they are collectively working across the healthcare system – in hospitals, in the pharmaceutical industry (both large and start-ups), in academia, in the tools industry – to accelerate efficient and effective access to lifesaving therapies and technologies and how they can do so ethically. The curiosity and concerns of the audience in having accessibility of tools such as Crispr for gene-editing were managed very nicely by moderator Dr Udit Batra by bringing together wise responses from the panelists.
The eighth session eight planned its panel’s presentations on the “Science of Consciousness: Lessons from Modern Science and Vedanta”. Eminent scientists and philosophers from physics, medicine, biology and cosmology talked about a new field of inquiry, inspired by quantum physics, and argued that consciousness is much more than electrical impulses and chemical interactions within the brain, and precedes all living things by being fundamental to the universe and how Vedanta holds that consciousness is the only reality. Moderators Dr Subhas Kak and Dr Anand Venkatraman synchronized the ideas of the experts very carefully.
In the last session of the day, 11 young ladies and one young person shared their stories on how they are making their own ways into the American dream and realizing their ultimate goals. Moderator Priya Samant did a wonderful job in putting this large panel comprising students and young professionals from various fields who showed their confidence and determination in their endeavors to the audience.
On November 3, the early morning session began with Suchita Rao’s morning melodious ragas that appeased the souls of the delegates. Two morning sessions focused on “Imperativeness of Pedagogy for Achieving a Model Society” and “Knowing Your Motivation: The Thoughtful, Effective, and Joyful Philanthropist”. The panelists said that a good education system constructively molds the minds of the next generation, Its absence causes a nation to stagnate, its people to become ignorant, and its ideas to get frozen in time.
They said transmission of civilization happens due to a good education system and parents/joint family support. The panelists on philanthropy shared their life experiences that inspired them to give and some things that hold them back from giving in certain ways or to certain areas and how they handle them. Their insight certainly provided some giving strategies to the audiences. Both the moderators, Amit Tandon and Dr Kumar Nochur, managed their respective sessions very prudently.
Lastly, in the closing session, two keynote speakers – Tahir Gora, founder of Canadian Thinkers Forum, and Darshak Hathi, international director of AOL – made brilliant speeches. Mahalakshmi Pula and Neeraj Kumar did wraped up the session. Sanjay Kaul thanked all the delegates, panelists, invitees,media people, cameramen, sound engineers and stage and venue decorators, Hilton staff, all the members of different committees of the conference and the dedicated volunteers for their time and services and helping the main conference team in making this event a grand success.