BY MAHADEV DESAI
The Indian-American community of Georgia was represented by their respective leaders in full strength to meet and greet India’s new Consul General in Houston, Hon. Sanjiv Arora at the Palace Restaurant on Saturday, December 13..
The Gandhi Foundation of USA (GFUSA) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) along with support from numerous other organizations hosted the welcome luncheon reception for Hon. Arora.
The Chairman of GFUSA, Subash Razdan who emceed the event welcomed the Consul General upon his arrival. Hon Arora then patiently mingled with the guests. The Executive Director, GFUSA, Antony Thaliath narrated, recalling that when Hon. Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India, Vayalar Ravi was in Atlanta in July 2006, GFUSA in collaboration with NFIA, had hosted a luncheon reception, when, three Appeals/Resolutions/Petitions had been presented to him by GFUSA. The petitions were for an independent India Consulate in Atlanta, direct flight from Atlanta to India and for support by the Government of India to GFUSA to spread the message of peace and non-violence of Gandhiji across the world. On behalf of the Indian American community in Georgia, Thaliath expressed his thanks to the Govt. of India for its decision to open India Consulate in Atlanta and also its support for direct flights between Atlanta and Mumbai by Delta Airlines.
“GFUSA has many ambitious plans for the future including launching a Gandhi Center in the proximity of Martin Luther King Center and the Carter Center. The MLK Historic Site, presently houses the King Center, the Gandhi Room and the Gandhi Statue. Thaliath also referred to the recent historic celebration of the passage of Senate (GA) Resolution 1248 (on Georgia-India friendship) by the GFUSA and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of GA jointly with the help from Senator Judson Hill of Georgia.
President of Georgia Association of Physicians of India, (GAPI) Dr. Pravin Patel who had come all the way from Columbus, Georgia addressed the gathering. He said that GAPI, formed in 1987, has 600 members and serves more than 1200 physicians in Georgia. It organizes health fairs, projects on preventive health care and also provides merit and need based scholarships for the youth.
Razdan recognized the Secretary of AAHOA, C.K. Patel who will in the near future assume the coveted position of the Chairman. AAHOA is the largest, richly endowed and most influential organization nationally.
Razdan also recognized Global Mall owner and noted philanthropist, Shiv Aggarwal. “Global Mall, the largest Indian-American mall in the nation has become a center of attraction for frequent Indian and Asian American activities. He has de facto created a flourishing India Center there”, quipped Razdan.
Introducing India’s new Consul General to Houston, Chandrakant Patel highlighted Hon. Arora’s credentials adding that Arora joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1984 and has served in various capacities in India –in Diplomatic Missions in Egypt , Saudi Arabia , Germany , Sri Lanka and Czechoslovakia During1991-94, he dealt with Sri Lankan Affairs at the Foreign Office. Arora is a graduate and MBA from Punjab University and has briefly worked in the corporate sector and India’s Central Bank before joining the Foreign Service.
Mrs. Sneha Mehta, a dedicated community activist, welcomed the Consul General Arora with a floral bouquet.
In his brief remarks, soft spoken Arora said he felt very happy to be visiting the charming, vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Atlanta, known for its southern hospitality and thanked the gathering for its overwhelming hospitality. He requested all to observe a minute’s silence for the innocent lives lost in the recent Mumbai attacks. He lauded the work done by Razdan and GFUSA members in cementing the bond between the peoples of U.S. and India and also legacies of Gandhi and Dr. King promoting universal peace and brotherhood. “ It is befitting that on 15th June 2007, U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2nd October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, as the ‘International Day of Non-Violence,” he said. He also referred to the recent Indo-U.S Civil Nuclear Deal and the Senate (Georgia) Resolution 1248 (On Georgia-India friendship). These show the strong and growing Indo-American cooperation and friendship based on mutual benefit in trade, and commerce, science, culture and field of education between the two democratic and secular countries with pluralistic societies. He alluded to the opening of the new Consulate office with a staff of over 20 in Atlanta being a serious priority. He concluded his speech by assuring the GFUSA and Indian community in Georgia of his full support in implementing their goals.
A brief Q&A session following his speech covered broad based issues from dealing with the aftermath of the terrorism, future preparedness for similar attacks, to the deceptive coverage by CNN showing map of India without Kashmir, and more responsive and efficient handling of Visa and passport requests at the Indian Consulate in Houston.
Razdan recognized and thanked dedicated volunteers, Mrs. Sneha and Vasav Mehta, Organizing Secretary, and Asst. Treasurer respectively of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, S.E. region for their help in organizing the event.
Razdan also recognized the media representatives and also Arun and Manju Kothari of Palace Restaurant for sumptuous snacks and luncheon.