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News From Connecticut

Ajay Ghosh

In the one year since its official inauguration, the Connecticut Chapter of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO-CT), has come a long way. The large number of community leaders and the presence of dignitaries, including Congressman Christopher Shays and Consul General of India, Neelam Deo, bore witness to this fact on Sunday, April 22, 2007 as the GOPIO-CT Chapter celebrated its first anniversary with a grand Award Banquet at the prestigious Italian Center of Stamford, CT.
Attended by over 200 community leaders from across the state, the solemn ceremony showcased to the world the strength and vibrancy of the large Indian American community in the New England region. The event began with a brief introduction to the origin and goals of GOPIO by Amarjeet Singh, who said, GOPIO was founded at the First Global Convention of People of Indian Origin in New York in 1989. The initial thrust of GOPIO was fighting human rights violation of people of Indian origin. Although this has been improved in the last one decade, human rights violations continue to be a major issue for PIOs living outside India. GOPIO has now set its priorities in pooling our resources, both financial and professional, for the benefit of PIOs, the countries they come from and India.
“There is something unique about being an American, and you, the members of this vibrant Indian American community, contribute to make this uniqueness,” said Congressman Christopher Shays. “Diversity is the hallmark of American life, and each one is called upon to enjoy, respect, and appreciate the beauty of very culture around,” the leading Congressman from Connecticut said. He lauded the contributions of the Indian American community and greeted GOPIO-CT for its efforts to foster fellowship and communion among people of all backgrounds.
Neelam Deo, Consul General of India, felicitated the members of GOPIO-CT for the many remarkable achievements. She recalled the fondest memories of Jackie Kennedy’s visit to India, and particularly to the Taj Mahal, which are still cherished. “India has very strong cultural ties with all of her neighbors,” the diplomat said, “and we all need to work together in addressing all the outstanding issues, including terrorism.” Deo complimented the NRI community in the United States for its significant contributions in fostering close relationshiup between India and the United States, and praised Rep. Shays for his strong support to India, especially in making the nuclear deal a possibility.
In his introductory remarks, Dr. Thomas Abraham, GOPIO International Chairman, felicitated GOPIO-CT for its tremendous growth in one year and conveyed greetings from the members of the GOPIO International. ““In one year, GOPIO-CT has become a very active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with many policy makers, youth mentoring and networking, parent’s day and health awareness series,” said Dr. Abraham.
GOPIO represents and has become the voice of the over 20 million people of Indian origin (PIO) living around the globe, who have become highly successful in business and the profession they hold. If their professional expertise and financial resources are to be pooled together, it will benefit not only people of Indian origin but also their countries and India. In addition, people of Indian origin could assume a new role in providing help in case of crisis to their communities around the world. GOPIO serves to fecilitate this objective and thus enriching the PIOs as well as their motherland, India, Dr. Thomas Abraham said.
Then he went on to introduce the four awardees: Prof. T.N. Srinivasan of Yale University for his accomplishments and contributions to economics and public policy; Dr. A.V. Srinivasan for his contribution to engineering and social work; Rajendra Shukla for community service; and  Namaskar Foundation which has been bringing Indian artists to perform in America for the last two decades will be honored for promotion of arts and culture.
Rajendra Shukla, who has been serving the Indian American community and the larger society for the past four decades. And has been philanthropist for community causes in the US as well as in India, received the plaque of appreciation from Rep. Chritopher Shays. In his response, he said, “ I am accepting this award on the behalf of each and every one of you who has contributed to the growth and vibrancy of the NRI community in several ways.
Dr. T.N. Srinivasan, who is the Samuel C. Park, Jr. Professor of Economics and former chairman of the department of economics at Yale University, where he has taught since 1980, received the award from Neelam deo. He said, “My job has been to teach students everywhere. Our culture has been one that has welcomed everyone and made our homes welcome to all. This diversity is the hallmark of our culture and tradition, and the cause of our success wherever we are.’He was chosen as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association in 2003. In 2008, President of India conferred Padma Bhushan to Prof. Srinivasan.
Dr. A. V. Srinivasan, who has served in the Senior Executive Service at the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Washington, was the recipient of the 1997 Intl. Scholar Award presented by the Intl. Gas Turbine Technology Institute (IGTI) of ASME. He co-authored a report while serving as a member of the Indo-US Commission on Aeronautics in 1984-86 set up by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In addition to a collection of archival papers in Jet Engines Technology, Management and Hindu Philosophy, his publications range from Smart Structures, a leading edge textbook to his current book, The Vedic Wedding: Origins, Tradition and Practice. He said, “This adapted land of ours (USA) needs us a lot put it back on track, as we have lots of innovative ideas, and can contribute to shape the future of the world.” He appealed to all to work towards creating an Indian Center in Connecticut.
 Namaskaar Foundation, which  was founded in 1988 with a specific goal to promote, preserve and raise greater awareness and appreciation for the traditional performing arts and culture of India, among Indians and American friends through presentation of music, dance and theatre from all regions of India, was represented by Dr. Jayarama Krishnan, who received the award from Neelam Deo. . Dr. Krishnan responded to Dr. A. V. Srinivasan;s suggestion and said, “We are already working towards the establishment of an Indian Center in Connecticut.”
 Earlier, Sangeetha Ahuja, president of GOPIO-CT welcomed the delegates and the awardess to the reception. She thanked Dr. Thomas Abraham, whom she called described as “true Indian energizer bunny for his vision and guidance” and her executive committee for making the gala a grand success. Sangeeta Ahuja who has been elected as the chapter’s first president said that to become a distinguished organization involves a lot of voluntary community service work from its members. “We will assess our community’s needs for the future, set right priorities and plan new activities for our community. Whether it is investment opportunities in India, health care in the US, promoting our culture, preserving our heritage or providing support for our members….we will continue to develop collaborative relationships with other organizations and navigate our way to the future.” Ahuja added.
The program includes Indian classical dances, Odissi by students of Kala Shakti School of Indian Dance directed by Sonal Vora and Kathak by students of India Performing Arts Center directed by Rachna Agarwal.  And added attraction will be the jazz band of King and Low-Heywood Thomas School directed by John Propper.
Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize inaugurated during Vaisakhi celebrations at Hofstra University

“The Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize in the amount of $50,000 will be awarded biannually beginning in 2008 to an individual or organization chosen by a distinguished panel of judges,” declared Tejinder (T.J.) Pal Singh Bindra, senior vice president of Jeetish Group of Companies, during the first ever large scale celebrations of Vaisakhi, organized at Hofstra University’s Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center on Long Island, NY on Saturday, April 21, 2007.
Elaborating on the goal of the award, Bindra, who has been instrumental in establishing Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies at Hofstra, said, “The award is to enhance awareness of the critical role of religious dialogue in the pursuit of peace as well as to provide direct support for the furtherance of such activities.” The rising community leader of Indian Origin in the US went on to add, “As the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak taught that we discover our oneness with humanity by exploring the differences that separate us. The Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize recognizes and supports the efforts of those individuals and organizations who work to advance that vision.”
In his welcome address, Dr. Herman A. Berliner, Provost and Senior Vice President for Acaemic Affairs, Hofstra University, drew attention to the long association the Bindra family has with Hofstra University. “The Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize was established with a gift from the family of Sardar Ishar Singh Bindra and Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra, prominent Sikh-Americans living in Brookville, New York. In September 2000, the Bindra family endowed the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies at Hofstra University in honor of the family's matriarch,” he said and added, the Chair in Sikh studies has become an important source of religious studies at Hofstra University.
In his opening remarks, T. Sher Singh, the event’s Master of Ceremonies, how New york is uniquely suited to have the celebration of Vaisakhi held as it represents multiethnic culture and diversity that Vaisakhi stands to celebrate. “According to Guru Nanak, religions are paradoxical. They help us to discover and cultivate what is best and most hopeful about one another and the world that sustains us. And yet, they often spark conflict and violence. The Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize is based on the conviction that religious dialogue helps to minimize religious conflict by cultivating awareness that we each view the world from the limitations of our own traditions, and we have much to learn from the traditions of others,” he said.
Thomas DiNapoli, Comptroller, State of New York, alluded to the theme of tolerance, unity, equality, and universalism that the celebration of Vaisakhi calls us to foster, especially in these days when the world is divided by forces of division and selfishness. He lauded the Bindra family for their efforts to foster this “unity and connectedness among all sections of the people.” And he went on to add, “The Bindras are deeply involved in philanthropic activities that benefit both the Sikh and non-Sikh communities. The Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize is an expression of Sardar Ishar Singh Bindra's longstanding dedication to interfaith harmony.”
Neelam Deo, India’s Consul General in New York, gave a brief intro into the significance and the relevance of Vaisakhi in modern times. “The arrival of Spring is celebrated across the many parts of India by celebrations that include several cultural festivals that celebrate our cultural diversity,” she said. “And to the Sikhs living all around the globe, Vaisakhi has a special significance.” Deo lauded the contributions of the Bindra family to spread the Indian and, particularly, the Sikh culture, in North America, and made special reference to their efforts to organize a full exhibition of Sikh art Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. “T J BIndra’s  efforts resulted in Baisakhi, the Khalsa New Year, being recognized as a "Sikh American Day" by the state government, and in the introduction of a New York State Assembly resolution for the freedom of state police and other state employees to wear turbans,” she added.
Attended by over 300 delegates and community leaders from around the world, the colorful evening also included cultural dance performances by students from Hofstra University, New york Institute of Technology, and Baruch College. Prominent among those who graced the occasion with their presence were, Dr. Warren Frisnia, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religion, Hofstra University, A R Ghanashyam, Deputy Consul General of India, John Kaiman, supervisor of town Hempstead, Reverend Dr Calvin Butts, President Suny, Westbury, Ellen Israelson, Executive Director of Jewish Committee, representing Rubin Museum of Art was Lisa Schubert, Reid, Commissioner of Parks of Nassau County and Commissioner of Tourism, Sant Singh Chatwal, who has initiated the Indian American for Hillary 2008 ( IAFH)in  support of Senator  Hillary for Presidential Campaign, Ajay Banga, Chairman & CEO – Global Consumer Group- International – Citibank, President of International Punjabi Organization R.S Uppal, President of  Punjabi Organization, Inder Bindra, president of B.A.P.S - Niranjan Patel, president of Clinton Club of Queens - Dr P.Sabarwal, who is also a patron of Sikh Art and Film Foundation, and the leaders and presidents of the leading ten Gurdwaras from  New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut and Queens.
Regarding the interfaith prize, it was made known that a panel of judges composed of religious leaders, academics and individuals known for their commitment to interfaith dialogue will consider the recent and career accomplishments of nominees. Award recipients will have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, courage and a capacity for inspiring in others a willingness to embrace the vulnerability that is the key to true religious dialogue. For the 2008 prize, all nominations are due by July 1, 2007.
Anand Sharma launches World Hindi Conference website in New York

During a ceremony that was attended by over a hundred community and academic leaders from the New York State area,  Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs. Launched the  Logo and Website of the 8th World Hindi Conference at the Indian Consulate in New York on Monday, April 23, 2007.The conference will be inaugurated at the United Nations headquarters on 13th July. A large number of distinguished guests and senior dignitaries from various countries are expected to attend the conference along with eminent Hindi scholars, writers and poets from across the globe.
Sharma announced that the 8th world Hindi conference will be held at the United Nations head quarters in New York from July 13-15, 2007 in New York , and the theme of the conference will be “Vishwa Manch Par Hindi,” which means, “Hindi at the World Stage.” The event, started nearly three decades ago, at the initiative of Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, is being organized in New York in cooperation with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New York
Speaking on the occasion the Minister said that it was a coincidence that the 8th World Hindi Conference was being organized in a year which was the year of 150th anniversary of our first freedom struggle, 60th anniversary of our Independence and 100th anniversary of Satyagrah launched by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa. “Hindi represents the basic spirit of these historical events,” he said, and added, “Hindi is fast gaining ground as an international language, especially among the youth through the medium of Bollywood movies.”
Sharma underlined the role of the Hindi film industry in the spread of Hindi all over the world. He said that organizing the conference at New York, the seat of the UN Headquarters is of special significance and would attract the attention of the world towards Hindi. He appealed to all those who love Hindi to help in propagating the aims and objectives of the conference.
Sharma said, “Hindi is the second most spoken language in the world following the Chinese. Geographically, people who speak Hindi are scattered all over the world including in the United States, which has been chosen as the host of Eighth World Hindi Conference.” So far seven World Hindi Conferences have been held at Nagpur (India), Port Louis (Mauritius, twice), New Delhi (India), Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago), London (UK) and Paramaribo (Suriname). This time the conference is being organized in the Americas where a large number of Non Resident Indians (NRIs) or People of Indian Origin (PIOs) are settled.
The Conference will deliberate on issues relating to the growth and presence of Hindi in the world including teaching of Hindi in foreign countries, use of information technology and necessary measures to increase its popularity. Sharma said, Hindi, the national language of multi-linguistic India, due to its linguistic characteristics, simplicity, ease of use and rich literature is growing in popularity in the country and abroad. Hindi carries a rich linguistic, literary and cultural tradition which not only strengthen the Indian identity but also contribute to international understanding. It unites Indians, people of Indian origin and other Hindi enthusiasts all over the world. Both government and non-government organizations, as well as Hindi scholars and Indians living abroad have contributed towards the growth and expansion of the language. There is hardly a country in the world which does not have Hindi speakers and enthusiasts, he added.
In addition to focusing on increasing the use and propagation of Hindi world wide, an objective of the Conference is to maintain and strengthen its heritage. World Hindi Conference provides a forum to scholars and supporters of Hindi all over the world where they can experience the global process of growth and development of our national language. The common goal of reaching Hindi to the people of the world as a language of understanding and harmony unites them in a bond free from the limits of geography.
Other objectives of the Conference are to highlight the role of Hindi as an international language, to assess the status of teaching of Hindi as a foreign language in various countries and to suggest measures for improvement, to recognize the contribution of foreign scholars to Hindi language and literature, to help develop Hindi as a medium of expression among Indians living abroad, to increase the use of Hindi in the fields of science and technology, economy, communications and information technology. This Conference also affords us an opportunity to strengthen our links to the people of Indian origin and to express our goodwill towards them.
Speaking on the occasion, Neelam Deo, Consul General of India, called upon all to work towards organizing the conference successfully in New York, and to make Hindi, a truly an international language. She said that advantage should be taken of growing prestige of the Indian community all over the world, interest in Indian culture and language, particularly in Hindi.
Dr. Neena Malhotra, Minister at the Consulate in New York, welcomed the audience and appealed for greater support and cooperation to make the conference a successful event. Dr. Jayaraman, chairman of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, proposed the vote of thanks.
Anand Sharma inaugurated the Logo of the conference was unveiled and website of the conference website www.vishwahindi.com , which contains information about academic sessions, procedure for registration as delegate, procedure for submitting papers for the conference and details of cultural programs. It also contains information about previous World Hindi Conferences and rare photographs taken during these conferences.

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