By Prabhjot Singh*
An Indian student in San Jose City College in California has taken upon herself the onerous task of spreading knowledge about Dr B.R. Ambedkar. Thanks to Aruna Masoorkar’s efforts, life, history and works of Dr BR Ambedkar have been included in the American curriculum of the college.
As the only Indian Buddhist student at her institution, Aruna Wasudeo Rao Masoorkar, who worked as an Air Hostess with Indian Airlines before emigrating to the United Arab Emirates and later went to the United States for studies,
successfully organised the 131st birth anniversary of one of the main architects of Indian Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar. Aruna comes from Nagpur.
It was the first of its kind major event sponsored by her college.
As a Committee Ambassador for Student Equity & Achievement Program and the voice of students in her college, she was pleasantly surprised to find that hardly anyone in her college ever heard about Dr. Ambedkar.
“They all became curious as I expressed my interest to celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar. Initially they thought I may be wanting to talk about Vaisakhi celebrations as most of them knew about various Indian festivals, including Diwali and Vaisakhi, besides a few Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, but had no idea as who was Dr B.R. Ambedkar, a pioneer of building a movement of empowering weaker and unprivileged classes of society.
“The Dean of the college immediately arranged a special meeting and offered US $1,700 for holding the event. I requested all Professors to have their students write a one-page essay on Bodhisattva Dr. B R Ambedkar. They appreciated the idea, granting students extra grade credit of 3%-7% besides agreeing to include the history of Dr. Ambedkar in the American curriculum at the college. They also advertised the in-person event in newspapers, emails and verbally encouraged students to attend.
“The Director and Professor of Journalism invited me to her class to make a presentation about Dr. B R Ambedkar. She assigned her students to create a special project on him for their final exam, advising them to interview me to know more about Dr Ambedkar’s life, struggles, achievements, and the current situation in India.
“The students, Professors, administrative staff and all my friends assisted me in organising this event as the college radio station broadcasted Dr Ambedkar’s songs on air, and interviewed me live on the day of celebrations,” said Aroona Masoorkar.
The Mayor of San Jose and the Congresswoman also sent their greetings for the Bodhisattva Dr BR Ambedkar’s birthday.
In her interview with the College Radio, she not only talked about Dr Ambedkar but also about Buddhism and minorities in India.
It took her almost two weeks to organise the first ever event commemorating the birth anniversary of great Indian Humanitarian leader. She had also invited Ash Kalra, an elected member of the California State Assembly. Since he was away to Santa Clara to attend Assembly meetings, he sent his representative Tuan Nguyen to read his message. Ash Kalra, born in Toronto, represents Democrats in the State Assembly.
Aruna presented a Blue pen with the words “ Bodhisattva Dr BR Ambedkar”
Printed and a big Buddha statue each to all the guests , crew members of radio station, and Professors and grey pen and a small Buddha statue each to all the students. They acknowledged it as a thoughtful souvenir that they would cherish for rest of their lives while remembering to practice humanity.
It was just the beginning. Now many people in San Jose area at least know about Babasaheb Ambedkar, said Aruna Masoorkar.
* Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows. For more in-depth analysis please visit probingeye.com or follow him on Twitter.com/probingeye