Festival of Lights: “A Flicker of Hope”

Pratishtha & Manar

As I entered the warm hall­ways last week at the White House Diwali, it dawned upon me that exact­ly a year ago, on Novem­ber 4th, 2012, the pos­si­bil­i­ties in my life had expand­ed – it was the day I received my approval for Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals (DACA). But I nev­er imag­ined a day when I would cel­e­brate Diwali at the White House.

I was hon­ored to step into such des­ig­nat­ed, renowned halls; halls that wit­nessed the proud­est and per­haps hard­est times in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. These halls were a tes­ta­ment to how acknowl­edg­ing the exis­tence and strug­gles of Amer­i­ca’s immi­grant youth build upon its hon­or. As I walked them, I remem­bered the morn­ing of June 15th, 2012 again, the day that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma announced his exec­u­tive order, “Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals.”  While it seemed such a small change, the result is that I and many like me are able to live with dig­ni­ty – to work, attend state uni­ver­si­ties, and freely be com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers with­out the fear of being pun­ished by the sys­tem. As I cel­e­brat­ed my own pos­si­bil­i­ties for the future how­ev­er, I could not for­get the mil­lions of undoc­u­ment­ed indi­vid­u­als – over 240,000 Indi­ans alone – who remain in the shad­ows.  I remem­bered the hard­ships of my par­ents who strug­gle to make ends meet: my father, a fifty-nine year old, dia­bet­ic who still works four­teen to six­teen hours a day and my moth­er, a long term min­i­mum wage work­er, who recent­ly suf­fered a brain hem­or­rhage. As I looked around the room, I real­ized that every­one in the room was prob­a­bly a first, sec­ond, third, or fourth gen­er­a­tion South Asian Amer­i­can. I was stand­ing amongst those who live their Amer­i­can DREAM every day. This was my flick­er of “hope and change.”

I could final­ly see myself liv­ing my Amer­i­can DREAM, going to med­ical school and one day, prac­tic­ing med­i­cine in dis­ad­van­taged areas around the world. My DREAM is one that fol­lows the core Amer­i­can ide­olo­gies, to help those who are less for­tu­nate, extend a hand in time of need, and be the hope and change for oth­ers. As an audi­ence to the First Lady’s Diwali wish­es, I was in the pres­ence of advo­cates and activists, Mem­bers of Con­gress, judges, offi­cers from the armed forces, busi­ness per­sons, and ambas­sadors from the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. In this moment, I could not help but won­der about my future as a South Asian Amer­i­can and the future of all immi­grants.  And, I yearned for the cel­e­bra­to­ry day when the “land of the free and home of the brave” accepts all its immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties as Amer­i­cans. A day when those who long for their “flick­er of hope” have a chance at their AMERICAN DREAM.

Pratishtha Khan­na

Among the 11 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed peo­ple liv­ing in this coun­try are South Asians, includ­ing those from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pak­istan and Sri Lan­ka.  Many are stu­dents who seek to go to col­lege, spend time with friends and fam­i­ly, and pur­sue their pro­fes­sion­al inter­ests.  If you are undoc­u­ment­ed and South Asian, you might be eli­gi­ble for assis­tance under the Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals pol­i­cy.  Find out more at: http://saalt.org/south-asian-and-undocumented/