Date: June 13,2018
By MANU SHAH
For five days a week, Dr. Abhaya Asthana is a lead researcher at Nokia/Bell Labs. He heads a program that is working on cognitive, self-reliable networks of the future which, in layman terms, is self-learning artificial intelligence that can track, monitor and predict future events.
His evenings and weekends are taken up with the 2018 World Hindu Conference details of which he is the Convener. Any spare minute out of this goes to his duties as President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. He quips he’s holding down three jobs for the last six months but considers himself blessed for this “opportunity and experience.”
A soft spoken man who fluently quotes from the scriptures to underscore his point, Dr. Abhaya explains the importance of “boosting the profile of Hindus” on the world stage.
A practical educational system, a significant presence in the media, the youth on the political stage, women at the forefront and being financially strong are imperatives for Hindus.
Hindus, he emphasizes, need to come together collectively and establish their presence, and only then can they wield their clout to make a positive difference.
The WHC 2018, to be held in Chicago from 7-9 September, seeks to address these issues and is a bold step in this direction.
Who is a Hindu?
Dr. Abhaya explains that Hindu is a civilizational term. It denotes a people, thoughts and philosophies that originated in Bharat. No other civilization can boast of such a rich heritage, no other civilization even talks about “Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu”…May all the creatures of the world be happy. This wisdom, he emphasizes, must be shared with the rest of the world.
It’s easy to see where Dr. Abhaya gets his sense of nationalism and pride in his rich heritage. His father was a prolific writer on nationalist topics and his mother who he “salutes for her determination” went from a high school student at the time of her marriage to completing her Bachelors, Masters and a teacher’s program while raising a family of five children.
As a child, he loved to tinker with things and opted for engineering from IIT, Kanpur.
This was followed by a Doctorate in Computer Engineering from Tulane University which yielded a job at Bell Labs.
After a brief stint at Intel and a teaching position at IIT Kanpur, he returned to Bell Labs where he has been working for the last 37 years.
In 2009, he was awarded the Bell Labs Fellow Award – the highest honor given to an employee for technical excellence and in 2011, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his communitarian efforts.
A life lesson he shares freely with other parents is when his wife Jaya and he decided to settle in the US with their three children. His father accepted his decision gracefully but gave him four nuggets of wisdom: always eat dinner together, pray before a meal, play together and teach each child one Hindustani art form because “the depth of our values are imbibed in our art forms.” Dr. Abhaya believes this insightful advice had a huge impact on the family.
Today, his children take pride in their heritage and are paying it forward by being engaged with their parents’ community work.
The second World Hindu Congress is a mammoth undertaking to awaken the 1.2 billion Hindus around the world. 2000 delegates from over 80 countries will convene to listen to renowned leaders such as HH Dalai Lama, Chandrika Tandon, Madhu Kishwar, Swami Parmatmanand, Prof. S.P. Kothari and Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy.
This conference, Dr. Abhaya says, is not just a historic event but a platform to connect, listen, reflect, and act. He encourages everyone to attend and is confident they “will return inspired.”
To learn about or participate in the 2018 World Hindu Congress, visit http://whc.2018worldhinducongress.org