BY LUIS GRONDA
Dr. Uma Mysorekar migrated from India and has become a prominent member of the South Asian community both in Queens and beyond.
After coming to the United Sates in 1970, she continued her medical studies, which she started in her native Bangalore, practicing obstetrics and gynecology in New York City.
Although she does not practice gynecology full-time anymore, only seeing long-term patients and not taking on any new ones, she has switched gears to promoting the South Asian community and its culture in Queens.
On July 4, 1977, she opened the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing. It was the first of its kind in the United States and it gave Hindus, with a smaller population back then compared to what it is now, its first place to gather and practice their religion.
Mysorekar said, in those days, not as many Hindus were over in the United States, but she saw the need for that population to open the temple not ready as a place of worship, but as a community center as well.
The Hindu Temple, sometimes referred to as the Ganesh Temple, after its main deity, Ganesh, remains one of the most well-known Hindu temples in New York and the country, even though thousands of temples have opened up around the country since then.
The temple plays host to activities and events that educate residents about the Hindu religion and culture and promote togetherness within the community.
Mysorekar also promoted the Hindu religion on a popular TV show, making an appearance on “The Colbert Report,” hosted by comedian Steven Colbert, in 2008. During the interview, Colbert asked her if many people convert to Hinduism.
She said that Hindus do not believe in conversion but if people can follow the religion if they choose to.
“So you guys do the soft sell?” Colbert joked, which drew laughter from the studio audience.
“No, we don’t do any sell. We are born Hindus, we are proud to be Hindus, we practice our faith and that’s it,” she said in response.
Mysorekar said she had to face some challenges that many immigrant women dealt with when assimilating in a new country. She said that, when living in South Carolina, she was not immediately accepted because of her different appearance and the religion she practiced. Mysorekar said she would get remarks for wearing a saree, a traditional outfit that many women in India wear and would get questions like “’Do you have telephones in India?’”
“It was like we came from a different planet down there,” she said, referring to her time in South Carolina.
But that has not been the case in New York, she said. Its diverse population allows for people of different cultures to be accepted quicker into society.
This also occurred, to a lesser degree, when she was training to become a doctor, according to Mysorekar. While specializing in Gynecology allowed her to avoid some scrutiny in that field, she said she would read in between the lines and could often tell some people who had a negative attitude towards her as she made her way up the ladder.
Despite facing challenges like that, Mysorekar said she has persevered to carve out a successful career in the United States.
She said she attributes that to her religion for getting her through that struggle. Her main advice for people who may face a conflict like that is to just ignore it and continue working towards whatever goal you set out for yourself in life, whatever profession you are trying to be successful in.
“You’ve got to have faith and strongly believe in what you do,” Mysorekar said.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.