On being sworn in as a member of the Edison Township Council on New Year's Day, Dr Sudhanshu Prasad chose to take the oath of office on the Bhagwad Gita, a philosophical discourse that is set within the larger frame of the religious epic Mahabharat.
Dr Prasad said he chose the Gita because he grew up believing in it, and it is "where my conscience is," he said.
Melissa Perilstein, Wayne Mascola and Ann Marie Griffin-Ussak were the three other council members who took oath aloing with Prasad in Edison, New Jersey, January 1. All four are from Edison mayor Jun Choi's Democratic Party team. They will serve a four year term.
Dr Prasad, an internal medicine physician and former chairman of the JFK Hospital Department of Medicine, has lived in New Jersey for almost 18 years. "I've always been involved in the affairs of the township," he said when asked about his plunge into politics.
"I was involved in the election process in the past two elections, so it was almost like a natural progression." He was not desirous of holding office. "But my team almost pushed me into candidacy," he said on a laugh.
His parents, siblings, family members, friends and supporters were present at the ceremony. Dr Prasad comes from a family of physicians: his father has retired as a doctor; two of his three sisters are doctors, and all three are married to physicians; many of his nieces and nephews are also doctors. Dr Prasad is married, with two children.
Edison, named after Thomas Alva Edison and home to his laboratory, has a population of more than 100,000 people, according to the township's official Web site. Dr Prasad said among the issues that will top his agenda is property taxes -- the runaway expense that is cause of concern for not only the town's residents but all of the United States.
Almost two-thirds of the property taxes go to the school board, and are outside the purview of the town council, he explained. Of the rest, a large portion goes to support the police, the fire department and non-uniformed workers such as the public works department and town hall employees.
All these contracts are already in effect, some for several years, so it is not possible to slash down the property taxes. Dr Prasad said the council would, however, like to curtail the rate of growth of property taxes. "That's what we'll be focusing on -- making the government a lean machine so we can deliver the services at a better cost," he said.
Another goal is to aim for improved relations between the Indian-American community and the other groups in Edison, he said, hinting at a few incidents in the last few years that strained relations between the Indian community and the police.
"Indian Americans are by and large a law abiding people, and so are the others," Dr Prasad said. "We have a good police department and we want to work with them to bring more understanding of our issue."
He said he has been asked how he plans to balance a physician's life (he has a solo practice) with council responsibility. It is a matter of priority and commitment, he said.
"People play golf, they go to Atlantic City, they go to see shows and they volunteer," he pointed out. "My interest, of course, is public service. If you have an interest, you make a commitment and you keep it."