After years of waiting, the Diwali stamp was released on Wednesday, October 5, by the US Postal Service, joining stamps that have marked Christian, Jewish and Muslim holidays in the United States.
P Rajendran reports from New York. Photographs: Paresh Gandhi
After a long wait -- 12 years of waiting -- the first-ever Diwali postal stamp was released in the United States at the consulate general of India in New York on Wednesday, October 5.
The ceremony was conducted in association with the United States Postal Service and the community-driven Diwali Stamp Project.
The stamp shows a traditional lamp, with a pair of rose petals before it, and set against a sequined gold background.
Scott Stringer, the New York City comptroller, delivered a proclamation on the occasion, ending it with some fervour, saying, 'I have my stamps for the holiday season -- and I'll be using them!!'
Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, India's consul general in New York, thanked the USPS for holding the historic event at the consulate and for making true the community's "dream to have a stamp they can call their own."
Pritha Mehra, the USPS vice-president, mail entry and payment technology, spoke of how the stamp addressed the wishes of the Indian-American community and spoke about growing up in India, lighting ceremonial lamps during Diwali and enjoying special dishes then.
Mehra spoke of how she enjoyed the fireworks of July 4, the food of Thanksgiving and the lights of Christmas, "all wrapped up in one: Diwali."
The US Postal Service receives around 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas. Of that, 25 suggestions are selected by the committee for the Postmaster General's approval.
After she stepped off the stage with a "Diwali Mubarak," a blue sheet in the backdrop of the stage was pulled off, and the new Diwali stamp, designed by Sally Anderson, was revealed.
And emcee Ravi Batra just couldn't contain his excitement when he exclaimed, "Isn't that a gorgeous, gorgeous stamp?!"
Ranju Batra, chair of the Diwali Stamp Project, was jubilant that the hard work in getting the petitions had paid off. Husband Ravi Batra later described how Ranju had even sought help from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made a note to tell US President Barack Obama.
Carolyn Maloney, the US Representative for New York's 14th District, and Ranju Batra's associate in the Diwali Stamp Project, said Diwali had come earlier this year, and said the Indian community was the only one without a festival to celebrate it.
She thanked Megan J Brennan, the USPS postmaster general, for making happen what had been put on the backburner for years, adding, "If you want a job done, give it to a woman."
Brennan is the first woman US postmaster general.
Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, india's former permanent representative to the United Nations, recalled the first formal discussion about the project seven years ago, on a blustery evening at the South Sea Seaport.
"The United States has been home to all the religious groupings in the world," Puri said, saying the lack of a Diwali stamp had been a "glaring omission."
Puri said there was some good organising and even that slightly unpleasant thing, lobbying, involved.
But, he added, the strength of the argument for the stamp lay not in mere numbers, but the fact that it was a sensible proposition.