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 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

 We invite associations, organizations and clubs from cities around the US to send in press releases accompanied with high resolution photos for publication in City News. Contributions may be sent to

Send Gifts to India!

Georgia Indian Associations Welcome Ambassador Nirupama Rao

Photos by Kiran Mudigonda, Prashant Kollipara, Bytegraph

The coalition of Indian-American Associations in Georgia held a banquet reception in honor of Her Excellency Ambassador of India, Nirupama Rao on Saturday, March 3 at the Ashiana Banquet Hall in Global Mall, Norcross, GA. 

A diverse cross-section of the Indian-American community, represented by over 80 ethnic and cultural associations of Georgia, with over 200 of the Atlanta’s eminent community leaders and dignitaries graced the occasion.

In her keynote address, Ambassador Rao said, “People speak of democratic values that unite us. Indeed United States, the oldest democracy and India the largest democracy are meant to be friends and partners. There are no two opinions about it. It is natural, as it should be.”

She also noted that the “university in diversity” factor applies and binds both the nations. She talked about the unique adaptation technique of the Indian community that manages to preserve its culture yet well adapt and merge into the western culture. Addressing everyone, she said that each of us in this country is a bridge between the US and India, of fellowship and of humanity. 

“Your work is very relevant to us” she noted. She added the strategic partnership between the countries would indeed be fruitful to both as it would be inclusive and would be two way traffic where India will grow and the US will progress. 

The evening began with program emcee Subash Razdan, founding chairman of Gandhi Foundation USA welcoming the Ambassador and guests. “This gives us a great opportunity to showcase our community, the Georgia Indo–American communities” he said. 

Distinguished guests of the evening, H.E. Ambassador Nirupama Rao, Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, Greg Pridgeon, Hon. Ajit Kumar, Consul General of India, Atlanta, Hon. Vinay Kwatra, Minister of Commerce, Embassy of India, and Emory Morsberger and their spouses were recognized with bouquet presentation by prominent members of the Indo American community including Dr. Dilip Patel, President of Georgia Association of Physicians (GAPI) and Hemant patel, Chairman of Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), Anu Kathuria, Anushi Agarwal, Dr. Meena Shah and Pravina Shah. 

Razdan then invited Kaushal Tripathi, President of IACA on stage. “With great southern hospitality, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the heart of deep south , Atlanta GA, on behalf of IACA” , Kaushal Tripathi, opened his welcome greetings. Talking about IACA, he said IACA represents Indians from all regions of India in Georgia. Describing Indian-Atlanta residents as a vibrant community, he said the community is thankful and proud to have the Consulate in Atlanta.

Dedicating the evening to the Ambassador, Razdan invited Ujjagar Wassan, a noted artist who has also painted a portion (Gandhi’s panel) of the majestic 1250 sq. ft mural at the King historic site, on stage for shairee/poetry recitation. “yaadein”(memories) the theme of the shairee, surely enriched the evening.

Razdan also reminisced about the growth of the Indo-American community since the seventies all the way to having a Consulate in Atlanta. He fondly recollected the seven year journey that began with the intention of naming a road in honor of Gandhiji that had transformed into the installation of Gandhi statue, a glowing and inspiring beacon to thousands of visitors to the M.L.King National Historic site. 

Introducing Greg Pridgeon, the Chief of Staff at Rockdale County as his half-brother, Razdan invited him to address the gathering. Greg Pridgeon’s witty opening remarks” “Always nice to be introduced from your brother from another mother” added humor and provided for lighter moments of the evening. But he was not joking when he noted, “The Indian American community is a vital part of the great Atlanta society”. He also offered to walk hand in hand with the Consul General and the Ambassador. 

Razdan talked about the Jewish community as a role model. He talked about people who lost lives and about the bodies that had to be shipped back to India and urged the organization heads to pledge $50 from each organization for the special fund for funeral, cremation services and last rites for the needy, through their organizations to the already established restricted fund at Gujarati Samaj for this very purpose. Almost the entire congregation in the Banquet Hall endorsed the purpose with their show of hands. Razdan added that the community should also consider having a Legal Defence Fund for contingency purposes.

Razdan recognized Mayor Eva Galambos a great friend of the Indian American community and her husband John for his contributions in the medical field. “It is my great honor and pleasure to welcome the Ambassador to our Atlanta” opened Mayor Eva Galambos, “The infusion of talent that the Indian community has brought into our region is phenomenal. It is in the entrepreneurial areas, professions, in software or IT, it has enriched us tremendously” adding that it was indeed appropriate to have the Consulate in Atlanta “she added.

Razdan periodically acknowledged during the evening the accomplishments of exemplary Indian community achievers such as University of West Georgia President Dr. Behruz Sethna, author and Emory University professor Dr. Jagdish Seth, Global Mall CEO Shiv Agarwal, Ashiana Restaurant owner, Zahid Chaudhury. He noted that Georgia provided many national leaders to the Diaspora such as Harish Patni, Nitin Shah, Mike Patel [all former Chairmen of Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA)] , Krishna Srinivasa (IAFPE) and Subash Razdan (NFA). Businesses also grew so did the mushrooming of Chambers starting with Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), Asian American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) and Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC), he continued. He applauded Shiv Aggarwal for the sprawling Global Mall and the majestic architectures of numerous temples such as BAPS, HTA, Shakti Mandir, etc.. He pointed out that there were so many achievers that it would take all night long to recognize them all. 

Razdan next invited Mayor Bucky Johnson, a well-known musician. Mayor Bucky extended a warm welcome to Ambassador Nirupama Rao. He lauded Shiv Aggarwal and Emory Morsberger who he said had been active with CID projects in Gwinnett County. Mayor added he would like for the Gwinnett County to be an international gateway in the tapestry that is created for Indian and other communities. “We are blessed to have the Consul General here and especially the Ambassador, as he looked forward to working together”, congratulated Mayor Bucky

Continuing the theme of showcasing the community and highlighting the intellectual acknowledgement, Razdan shared a rather interesting tidbit about one of the banquets back in the 80s where Newt Gingrich addressed most Indians as Doctor this and Doctor that. When Razdan pointed out that he was not a doctor, he said it was alright, because he was right 98% of the times. Razdan also recalled that the community gets involved, be it Latur Earthquake, Andhra Pradesh Cyclone, Kargil war or the Bhopal Gas disaster.

Wassan was invited back on stage for another recitation. He chose to talk about Lord Byron interpretation of wine. He said, Lord Byron, known for his love for wine and women had summarized wine in just one sentence “Water saw his master and blushed”. Wassan entertained the audience with many more shairees including one for his wife.

Razdan then welcomed Ajit Kumar, Consul General of India, Atlanta on stage thanking him and his staff for the unflinching support with respect the invitations and the guest list. 

A very warm Consul general Ajit Kumar thanked Atlanta for its love and support. He went on to list the illustrious career of H.E. Nirupama Rao, who has assumed her responsibilities as Ambassador on India in September 2011. With an M.A. in English Literature, she joined the IFS in 1973. In a diplomatic career spanning over three decades, she served in various world capitals such as Washington, Beijing and Moscow. Her other ambassadorial assignments include Peru, Bolivia and Sri Lanka, where she was the India’s first woman High Commissioner. On completion of her ambassadorial tenures in Sri Lanka and China, she was appointed Foreign Secretary, the highest office in the IFS. Ambassador Rao was a Fellow at the Centre of International Affairs at Harvard University in the early 90s. She was also a distinguished international executive in residence at the University of Maryland College Park in 1999 – 2000. Ambassador Rao is married to Sudhakar Rao, a distinguished Civil servant and former member of the Indian Administrative Service who retired as the Chief Secretary of the State Government of Karnataka. They have two sons, Nikhilesh and Kartikeya. 

Razdan informed the gathering that every time Ambassador Rao visited Atlanta, she brought us luck starting with paving the path along with then Ambassador S.S. Ray for entry of Delta Airlines into India. He urged the Ambassador to ensure that Delta resumes its direct services soon after the recent lapse. He also hoped to have a Gandhi Center in the triangle of peace with the help of the Embassy of India. A slide presentation of the Ambassador’s various recent visits and her service achievements in the USA was followed by a Shairee recitation by Atlanta’s Sadaf Farooqui, who chose an apt poem for the occasion. “….Jitne haseen log hain, utna haseen shehar” she concluded. 

The most awaited moment of the reception, the Keynote address of the evening, by H.E. Nirupama Rao was certainly worth waiting for. “It is indeed a pleasure to come back to Atlanta after 17 long years” she started. She fondly recalled her days in Atlanta when she worked here and had first been to the Martin Luther King center. Ambassador Rao had been to the King Center earlier in the day and said that she was there to renew her friendship and pay respects and homage to memories of the King. “The King Center represents a very special bond between India and the US. Dr. King was inspired by ideas, works of Mahatma Gandhi during the epic moment during the Civil Rights movement” she said. 

It was perhaps the literature background of the Ambassador that added more flavor to her oration, as she played with words noting that the power of an ideology - force of non-violence had propelled people to the cause of justice and path of equality. She also noted that the friendship between India and the US was a very natural relationship and an organic connection. 

Being an avid reader herself, she talked about her fondness for ‘Gone with the Wind’. She said she knew Subhash Razdan personally and his dedication was something we all admire and celebrate. Expressing her deepest regards, she noted that there was no one more qualified than Hon. Ajit Kumar for the position of Consul General on India, Atlanta. She also said that she was from the deep south of India, Kerala, so proclaims herself as a southerner, in that respect. She said she enjoyed the poetry very much, particularly the Lord Byron’s line the wine adding, “I don’t drink it myself, but the words were quite intoxicating.” She concluded to a standing ovation saying she looked forward to coming back to Atlanta and more close friendship and co-operation between Atlanta, Southeast, US and India. 

Subhash Razdan thanked everyone for being at the event, Hon. Ajit Kumar and his staff, the Media, the Sponsors of the event Ashiana, Embassy National Bank, Global Mall, Gwinnett Clinic, Touchmark National Bank, United Central Bank and Davis Printing, volunteers and supporters professional videographers, professional photographers, audio and stage set up and decorations.

The Ambassador had visited the King Historic Site for homage to Gandhi and King, UPS headquarters for a Business Luncheon and to deliver a keynote address at the Economic Summit at the Emory University in Atlanta during this visit.

The gala event concluded with a sumptuous dinner by Ashiana, providing everyone the opportunity to meet and greet the Ambassador. A true honor and pleasure indeed!

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