HAF Announces Winners of Second Annual NextGen Essay Contest

New York, NY (July 6, 2010) - How do you live your Hindu identity differently than your parents live theirs?  This was the question posed to young Hindu writers as part of the Hindu American Foundation's second annual NextGen Essay Contest.  Contestants, in two categories based upon their age - 17 - 22 years and 23 - 27 years, were judged on their creativity, focus and style by a four person panel composed of HAF staff and Executive Council members.
From the many worldwide entries, four outstanding essays, two in each age category, were selected as the winning entries.
"I do, however, live my Hindu identity in a very different way," wrote Hamsika Chandrasekar, 19, who received $300 as the first prize winner in the 17 - 22 year age group. "Having learned both Bharatnaatyam and Carnatic vocal music for over ten years, I connect with much of Hindu lore through the medium of song and dance. Draupadi’s pain, Arjuna’s struggle, Ravana’s anger, and Krishna’s wisdom are all concepts I understand through hand gestures, footwork, facial expressions, and lyrics."
Chandrasekar, who also won the first prize in HAF's 2009 NextGen Essay Contest, is originally from Sugar Land, TX and a rising sophomore at MIT, pursuing a major in Brain and Cognitive Sciences with hopes of going to medical school or working in the field of Global Health.  She is trained in both classical Indian dance and Carnatic music.
The winner of the first prize and $500 in the 23 - 27 year age group was Pramal Lad, 25, who was born and raised in the UK.  Lad left his career as a Tax Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers  to join the NGO sector in Karnataka, India to train rural graduate students with the aim of securing well-paid employment. He is currently a Fellow with Indicorps, a grassroots partnership organization that places young Indians who have a willingness to give themselves fully for one year in the development of local communities in India.
"Whilst my parents continue to spend many hours everyday in devotional worship or Bhakti Yoga, I invest all of my time supporting the neglected rural communities of Karnataka, adding value to their lives, both present and future," Lad wrote in his winning essay. "My parents worship a statue, spending many hours offering food, clothing and attention to the divine representation, whilst I work with living, breathing manifestations of the divine spirit – a subset of the hundreds of millions of Indians who are in desperate need of the same clothing, food and attention. I worship by serving the underserved..."
The second prize of $200 in the 17 - 22 age group was awarded to Aprameya Mysore, 18, a stand-out sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, originally from Houston, TX.
"I was conversing with my mother the other day over dinner about religion and politics, and asked her what the Hindu perspective on the Middle East or other political conflicts might be," he wrote. "She replied by reminding me that Hinduism would maintain a critical stance towards a "right versus wrong" method of political inquiry--all things good, bad, ordered, chaotic, familiar, and strange are components of the very Brahman or cosmic symphony that implicates us all, many times in ways of which we are unaware."
Shweta Thakur, a graduate of UCLA, won the second prize of $250 in the 23 - 27 year age group.
"So while my parents can feel grounded by doing pujas and considering actions of today affecting the far future, I find it more comfortable to live my Hindu identity using more tangible concepts like writing and thinking about the near future. While we believe in the same principles, we live our Hindu identity in some different ways," Thakur wrote. "The beauty of our religion is its ability to embrace all kinds of practices."
HAF congratulates these young Hindus for their outstanding essays and strong understanding of their Hindu identities.
"We received dozens of well-written essays and making a final decision was challenging," said Sheetal Shah, HAF's Senior Director and member of the grading panel. "These four individuals truly stood out in their ability to distinguish their Hindu identities from their parents'. It is important that HAF as an organization engage the future generations of Hindu leaders.  We look forward to continuing the NextGen Essay Contest for years to come."
Please click on the name of the winner to read his/her respective essay in entirety.
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