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BY VEENA RAO
Photos courtesy Photography by Vinod.
The spirit of the Mahatma prevailed through the evening. The Georgia India-American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC) held its 11th annual gala on October 2, coinciding with Gandhi Jayanti, the 141st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, prompting the keynote speakers and guests at the event to pay glowing tributes to the father of India. The gala, which was held at the Sheraton Atlanta hotel, was graced by the presence of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, President and CEO of Woodruff Arts Center Joseph Bankoff, Consul General of India in Houston Sanjeev Arora and visiting dignitaries from India, Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council Chairman Dr. A. Chakrapani and Andhra Pradesh Sarvodaya Mandal’s GVVSDS Prasad.
In his address, Mayor Reed acknowledged the diverse and significant contributions of the Indian American community in Atlanta, adding, “With your help, we are going to turn Atlanta into the leading city of the world.”
He spoke about the newly commissioned $1.4 billion international terminal at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. “When the terminal is completed, it will increase the global competitiveness of Atlanta,” he assured.
Mayor Reed paid glowing tributes to Gandhi, adding that it was befitting that the great leader’s birth anniversary be honored by the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence. He spoke about his first trip to India in 2007 when he felt deeply inspired after visiting the Gandhi memorial in New Delhi. “A Gandhi memorial in Atlanta will someday be a reality,” he said, adding that a street would be soon named after the Mahatma.
The mayor said his doors were always open to members of the Indian community not only for commerce, but also for genuine friendship and appreciation of each other’s cultures.
Woodruff Art Center’s Joseph Bankoff, in his keynote address said Atlanta was a community of communities, and a creative one at that. “There is a move from being successful to being useful,” he said. “There are great expectations to participate in and improve the (local) community. And in no area is this truer, than in the arts.”
Earlier, Consul General Sanjeev Arora, in his address, reflected on the year that has been, and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. Promoting business between India and the US is a top priority for the consulate, he said. The GIACC was a great idea that was born in the 1990s and its growth has mirrored the growth of the consulate, he added. He commended the several companies in Georgia that are actively engaged in business with India.
Consul General Arora reminisced about the two high profile visits of Indian Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar to Atlanta earlier in the year. He said the proposed GIACC business mission to India in 2011 had the full support of the consulate.
Earlier in the evening, GIACC president Danielle Fernandes, welcomed the guests and members to the gala and provided an overview of the chamber’s activities through the year.
The GIACC 2010 awards were presented by chairman Ritesh Desai later in the evening. Bhupendra Patel of DIJP won the GIACC member of the year award (individual), while member of the year; corporate went to General Electric. Rajas Pargaonkar of Waddle Works, LLC took home the Friend of GIACC, individual award, while in the corporate category, Georgia Power won the honor. The Peach award, which is presented to an Indian company that has made major contributions to trade with Georgia, went to The Chugh Firm while the Chakra Award, which is presented to a Georgia Firm that has made major contributions to trade with India, went to Katrell Christie of The Learning Tea.
Dr Arti Pandya performed the national anthems of USA and India while The Pulse and Karma dance teams showcased Indian culture. The Syl Spann Jazz trio entertained with their jazz performance. Dr Raj Pandya and Ms USA Petite 2010, Sabrina Nooruddin coordinated the evening’s program with their able emceeing.
Unshakeable Belief In Gandhi: AP Speaker Dr. Chakrapani
Speaking to this reporter, chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council, Dr. A. Chakrapani who was a guest at the banquet, said during his month long tour of various countries, he saw that Gandhi was still remembered everywhere. “There is still an unshakeable belief in Gandhiji and his values,” he said. “The global peace march must continue.”
Dr. Chakrapani’s tour began with the 56th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Nairobi in September, and included a visit to the Gandhi statue in Durban, besides several cities in the US.
The Atlanta visit included a visit to the King Center where met with Martin Luther King III. The group paid tributes to Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. Chakrapani presented his book ‘Sonia Gandhi- Future of India’ to the legendary civil rights leader’s son, who, he said, appreciated the fact that Sonia had played a big role in getting the United Nations to recognize October 2nd as the International Day of Non-Violence.
Dr. Chakrapani said he was proud of the success of the NRI community in the US. “NRIs have reached great heights of success with their hard work, sincerity, intelligence and charisma,” he said, and exhorted the community to visit India more, invest in its future, and impact its commerce and tourism industries.
“Bring delegations during our major festivals to learn more about our traditions and culture,” he said.