Maheshbhai was a unique leader who dedicated his life for Hindu cause. My wife Ranu and I have been serving Hindu community since March 1969 and came in contact with Maheshbhai in the year 1972 at a cultural gathering in New Jersey. In the year 1969, when Ranu came to the USA, she decided to preserve and promote Hindu culture especially among youths and families arriving from India due to the relaxed USA immigration laws.
We organized and coordinated many Hindu projects in NJ and the tristate area where Maheshbhai was invited as a main speaker along with Hindu saints. In those days when Hindu Temples where practically non-existent, we used to conduct programs at rented school and college halls, community centers, Church halls, Gymnasiums and even Church School facilities during weekends. All sects of the Hindu society took part together and Maheshbhai was always informed and whenever possible he did attend.
Maheshbhai often visited our home and discussed on-going VHPA programs. He took part as a speaker at several Youth Conferences in NJ at Caldwell Collage, Parsippany High school, Passaic High school and also at Youth Camps in NJ during1980s and 1990s.
We were impressed with his interest in listening to new ideas patiently and thinking about practical approach at proper time. He spent time in turning ideas into reality by designing functional aspects of them. During his visits and at meetings with him we proposed among others: formation of Vanprasthi programs, Dharma Prasar Yaatra, Hindu Languages and Hindu Dharma Education at Temples during weekends, etc. Ekal Vidyalaya idea was also discussed at one of such meetings. He encouraged hundreds of youngsters to serve and work to sustain and promote Hindu Dharma. Thanks to Maheshbhai’s inspiration, many young campers are now enthusiastically carrying the torch of Hindu Dharma forward.
NJ and NY are the entry points for visiting dignitaries from India. So, it is natural that the established institutions and mandirs there attracted their presence. Thus, Hindu Mandir, Garfield, NJ, Sanatan Mandir, Parsippany, Swaminarayan mandirs, Jain Temples, etc. held many programs in the presence of visiting saints and other dignitaries. We invited Maheshhbai to many such programs and he was kind enough to attend as many of them as possible (since he lived far away in Boston.) Maheshbhai attended our mandir’s Hindu Cultural School functions to bless and advise 240 students. A number of those students have become Hindu leaders in their own right and serving mandirs and the Hindu society.
Maheshbhai’s sphere of influence was not only limited to the USA. He often visited India and communicated with Hindu saints and leaders. The list includes Swami Chinmayanandji, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, Pramukh Swamiji, Shri Narendrabhai Modi and many others. He coordinated with tribal and rural area leaders in India. He was honored with ‘”Pravasi Bhartiya Samman” by the President of India in 2017.
Maheshbhai had great support from many other Hindu leaders and organizations in the USA including Sanskruti Parivar USA, Jain Society USA, Shri Swaminarayan Sansthas, and Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh USA. The major illuminating strength of Maheshbhai was advice he received from many Hindu Saints including Swami Chinmayanandji, Swami Dayanand Saraswati ji, Sadhwi Ritambhara Ji, Shri Shri Ravishankar, and others.
Now during our “Sanyasa Ashram’ living at Shantiniketan in Florida with seven prominent VHPA leaders and families, we continue activities to promote our Dharma. We can imagine Maheshbhai smiling up from the heaven and looking at hundreds of the past and present dedicated wonderful Hindu leaders in the USA! Very many present and past volunteers’ names are listed in 50 years of annual reports of VHPA. Hats off to all of them.
God had given Maheshbhai an opportunity and heart to listen to others and as a Hindu Torchbearer. He has left long lasting impact on Hindu society in the USA.
Shri Arvind Patel has been on VHPA’s Governing Council for many years. He has actively contributed to youth conferences, youth camps, Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conferences and served as the Director of HAVAN, Hindu American Vanprasthi Network project. He leads active seniors living in Bharatiya Senior Citizens’ residential community Shantiniketan in Central Florida.