Indian-American Pratima Dharm speaks of her deep links with India, and shares her thoughts on Hindus in the U.S. military and the kind of leader she hopes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be.
Indian-American Pratima Dharm has been a pioneer on multiple counts – last month she was appointed as the first ever Hindu chaplain of a U.S. university and in 2011 she made history after the Pentagon named her as its first Hindu and inter-faith chaplain.
She served in the U.S. military through some of the hardest times faced by its soldiers in the battlefields of Iraq, and she counselled many of them afflicted by PTSD, steering them away from suicide, and helping them reclaim their familial relationships. She also participated in humanitarian aid missions into the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq, an experience that left her with a lasting ties to the people there.
In a conversation with Narayan Lakshman Ms. Dharm spoke of her deep links with India and the principles of Hinduism that she associates with her upbringing in the country, and also shared her thoughts on Hindus in the U.S. military and the kind of leader she hopes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be.
Your appointments as a Hindu chaplain at a major U.S. university, and before that as an inter-faith chaplain in the U.S. army were unprecedented, and made headlines in India. By way of background could you tell us about how you came to take up these roles, and what links you have with India?
I grew up in northern India, primarily Maharashtra and some parts of Gujarat and I ended up doing some parts of my schooling and my college education in Mumbai. So I still have ties with India because I have family members from both from my side and my husband’s side in India. My husband’s family is in Bangalore and Chennai. We visit India so that our children remain connected to all their family in India.
My appointment in the U.S. army came about with my years of training as a chaplain, studying for it in the U.S. I have a master’s degree in psychology from India and in the U.S. I have a master’s degree in theology and years of training to become a chaplain.