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The Civic Scene: Sikhs celebrate Indian spring harvest festival

Two of the people who took part in the program at Queens Borough Hall were Jagir Singh Bains and Harbachan Singh, who are both members of Community Board 8. Both had been appointed by Marshall to the Queens General Assembly where Queens residents from the different ethnic and religious groups meet and get to know about each others customs.Harbachan Singh, who is president of the Sikh American Friendship Foundation, explained that there are an estimated 30,000 Sikhs living in Queens. Since they wear turbans, they are sometimes subject to hate crimes. There have been a few incidents where they have had a problem obtaining and keeping a job because of the turban. Problems are being solved with understanding and pressure for a solution.During the ceremony at Queens Borough Hall salads, lamb and mildly spicy chicken, soft drinks and honey sweet deserts were served. People of different cultures and religions mingled. Professor Jit Singh Chandan explained about the holiday of Baisakhi. We learned that all Sikhs take the name Singh so all would be equal without regard to caste.Marshall noted that the Sikh community has been working with the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities to provide relief to the tsunami victims. These groups also came to a rally at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center to help those devastated by the tsunami. Last year, when there were desecrations of Jewish temples with hate symbols, these same groups came to a rally in front of the Hillcrest Jewish Center to show unity against hate actions. A number of members of these groups also serve on the board of the Holocaust Resources Center at Queensborough Community College.During the ceremony Marshall presented citations of honor to several people. Bhai Sajjan Singh was honored as an educator, musician and spiritual leader. Kavita Mokha received a citation as a teacher in MS 137 Q and because she set up a camp for children after Sept. 11. Jagir Singh was cited for his community work as a philanthropist. Pulman Singh was honored as businessman who helps the community and supports parades.The late afternoon ceremony was very interesting, especially when Bhangra dances were performed by dancers of all ages dressed in colorful costumes. One of the dances was a harvest dance. It was an interesting event, but all of Marshall's cultural events are interesting.Good news of the weekA Discovery space shuttle mission is scheduled for May 15 and a Queens resident, Charles Camarda of Ozone Park, will be one of the astronauts. Camarda graduated from Archbishop Molloy HS, Briarwood, in 1970 and then from Polytechnic Institute in 1974.Another astronaut, who should be flying in the future, is Fernando (Frank) Caldeiro, who graduated from William C. Bryant HS, Long Island City, then the State University of New York, Farmingdale in 1978 and from the University of Central Florida in 1984. It is interesting that when he came here from Argentina in the early 1970s he didn't speak a word of English. He learned it at Bryant HS.Yet another astronaut from Queens is Dr. Ellen Baker, who made three space flights. She attended Bayside HS in 1970, the State University at Buffalo, Cornell University and the University of Texas. She is the daughter of former Borough President Claire Shulman and Dr. Melvin Shulman of Bayside.Bad news of the weekBroken parking meters subject drivers to a catch-22. I just read that if you come upon a broken meter, you are supposed to call DOT at 718-CALL-DOT and report the broken meter, so if one is ticketed one can plead "not guilty" and explain the situation on the ticket. The article also says that if you put a plastic bag over a broken meter, you can be charged with "obstruction of government property." Some meters indicate they are broken, but others don't and just eat your quarter. Do the meter readers call in the broken meters? I certainly hope so. Also, 10 percent of our parking meters don't work at any given time. One can park for one hour at a broken meter. Why can't the meter readers put their own marker on the meter until it is fixed?

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