CHENNAI: Good Afternoon! Vanakkam! Asalamu alaikkum!
As U.S. Consul General, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity over the last three years to travel widely throughout South India and see first-hand the tremendous cultural diversity that enriches this region – from language to food; from clothing to political views; from religious practices to traditional celebrations, from history to architecture – South India is truly a varied and fascinating land.
I have been reminded on these travels of what eminent African-American poet Maya Angelou – who passed away recently – once said: “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter their color; equal in importance no matter their texture.”
DakshinaChitra, is a wonderful showcase and celebration of South India’s rich cultural texture. I have personally enjoyed each and every visit to DakshinaChitra – learning something new on each trip – and regularly recommend our U.S. visitors come here to better understand South India’s history and cultures.
So, I was particularly delighted that the U.S. Consulate had the opportunity this year to partner with DakshinaChitra on this ‘Chikmagalur House’ project, showcasing the unique traditions of the Muslim community in South India.
The U.S., like India, derives our strength from our democracy and diversity, and adding to my country’s rich tapestry are our Muslim Americans. Our U.S. citizens of the Islamic faith come from extraordinarily diverse backgrounds themselves – with roots in South Asia, the Middle East (West Asia), Southeast Asia, Europe’s Balkan region, and Africa, as well as a small but growing group of Hispanic Muslims.
An interesting statistic in our demographics is the strong concentration of our U.S. immigrant Muslim population in professional, managerial, and technical fields, where they are contributing in areas as varied as information technology, education, medicine, law, and in the corporate world.
And our U.S. citizens of Indian descent, with their antecedents drawn from every region and cultural tradition of India, have emerged as one of the most influential communities in the United States.
Despite constituting less than 1% of the U.S. population, Indian-Americans comprise 3% of the United States’ engineers, 7% of our IT workers and 8% of our physicians and surgeons. This community, including many U.S. citizens from Chennai and all over South India, has served as an invaluable bridge between our cultures.
And our Americans of Indian descent have brought with them – like hundreds of other ethnic groups across the world – unique traditions in food, music, dance, fashion, literature, poetry, and religious rituals — which over generations have adapted within the context of living in the United States, and also influenced U.S. society and traditions.
You can clearly see this intermingling of global cultures in the wide diversity of community celebrations across the United States, and which include today, official celebrations of both Diwali and Ramadan at the White House.
As a citizen from a fellow democratic and multicultural society – and as an enthusiast for great museums – it is my pleasure to be here to inaugurate the ‘Shared Heritage’ exhibit at Chikmagalur House.
Exhibits like this one serve not only to inform foreign visitors of the traditions and history of the region, but also to educate the youth and local residents about their own rich and unique heritage. I hope that for years to come, this exhibit, among the many fine exhibits in DakshinaChitra, will tell thousands of daily visitors the story of not only the various cultural traditions of South India – but also its the shared values.
I congratulate Deborah Thiagarajan and her team, including Ms. Nalini Radhakrishnan, Ms. Sarojha Gurunath, and many others on the opening of this informative new exhibit in the “Chikmagalur House.”
The U.S. Consulate General Chennai is very proud of our association with this project.