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 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

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Over 1000 Members Attend Gujarati Samaj Diwali Celebrations

Photos by Vinod Karia

Over a thousand members and guests attended the joyous annual Diwali dinner, hosted by the Gujarati Samaj of Atlanta, at the beautifully decorated ‘Sardar Patel Bhavan’Hall on Saturday November 5. The celebrations were graced by the attendance of the newly appointed Consul-General of India in Atlanta, Hon. Ajit Kumar and his wife Mrs. Margaret Kumar; and also Lilburn Mayor Mrs. Diana Preston and her husband, and other Atlanta organizations.
After sumptuous dinner, children under the careful supervision of parents and volunteers, celebrated Diwali with exciting fireworks .Hon.Ajit Kumar, flanked by Mrs.Margaret Kumar, long time member and dedicated volunteer Shree Ram Mangaldas Motibhai Patel(Mangalkaka), Kaushik Desai, Navin Patel,Vasudev Patel, Ketan Shah,Girish Patel(Mukhi),Vinod Kaswala,Vinodbhai Patel, Jitubhai Patel, and in the presence of the other distinguished guests, and members garlanded the bust of Sardar Patel.
In a very stirring speech, 89-year-old Mangalkaka paid glowing tribute to the world-renowned indomitable statesman and social leader of India who was very loyal to Mahatma Gandhi and followed in his footsteps. Sardar Patel, ‘Iron Man of India’ was a unique integrator who played a major role in India’s struggle for freedom and later in forging a united India from 565 self-governing princely states. He concluded his speech amidst cheers, applause and shouts of ‘Sardar Patel amar raho’;’Bharat Mata ki Jai’; Jai Hind ‘and ‘Jai Bharat’.

Paresh Patel, who emceed the event, welcomed all and Hon.Ajit Kumar lighted the ceremonial diya. 

The BOG President Kaushik Desai welcomed all, wishing them a Happy Diwali. On behalf of the BOG and the Executive Committee he extended a hearty welcome and greetings to the Consul General of India in Atlanta and Chief Guest, Hon.Ajit Kumar and his wife Margaret Kumar and Lilburn Mayor Diane Preston and her husband. Kaushik then thanked the Gujarati Samaj founders, BOG team, and all the members of the Executive Committee for making Gujarati Samaj into a robust vibrant organization. He also thanked representative members of other organizations for attending the Diwali program. Kaushik went on to thank Kalpesh Patel of Patel Brothers for their contribution to the Diwali dinner; and Raj Shah for sponsoring the event. He, then invited Sai Prasad Raval of Global Tutoring to present J.B.Shah and Mohanlal N.Shroff Scholarship Awards for 2011 to Neil Patel and Sona Sadsalia respectively.

Kaushik Desai informed the attendees that the BOG would make strenuous efforts to renovate the halls and make them more attractive, purposeful and inviting. He appealed for more donors and volunteers to enable the BOG to arrange more programs for the Senior Citizens and Youth and also more fun activities for the guests. Efforts are being made to accommodate more applicants to the Summer Camp so that no one is left out. He lauded Sanjay Patel and his team of volunteers for going the extra mile to decorate the hall and arrange the loving preparation and serving of delicious Diwali dinner. Kaushik also thanked K.B.Zaveree for being a generous donor.

The Gujarati Samaj President Chatur Chhabhaya began his remarks with a cheerful greeting , “Namaste, Happy Diwali and kem Chho? “and thanked all for participating in the Diwali celebrations. “Diwali is a festival of light-light of energy, guidance, hope and dignity. This divine light guides us in all aspects of our lives. Years ago, the founders of our Gujarati Samaj used to get together with a few friends and celebrate Diwali with ‘pot luck’ dinners but look now-today we have over a thousand attendees celebrating Diwali together(Applause). I wish to thank the BOG and my executive Committee for working tirelessly in organizing various activities and functions throughout the year. I also wish to thank all the donors who graciously donated funds and services unconditionally and passionately. My special thanks to Kaushik Desai and Rupa Desai for their donation to renovate the JJ Hall and their commitment for the kid’s playground. 

Amidst cheerful applause, the President Chatur Chhabhaya presented a plaque to the Hon.Ajit Kumar ,in appreciation of gracing the Diwali dinner reception as the chief guest. 

Hon. Ajit Kumar greeted the audience with a spirited “Sal Mubarak, Nootan Varshabhinandan and kem chho?(and instantly won their hearts). “It is a great honor and privilege for me to come to Gujarati Samaj and to greet you all as the chief guest. It is indeed an auspicious occasion of Diwali, a great festival of joy. Basically its essence is the triumph of good over evil. It is being celebrated all over the world today. I congratulate the BOG, Executive Comm. members and especially the volunteers and the community which has been a catalyst in strengthening the Indo-US relations. I would also like to pay a tribute to the great Indian-American community here who have kept their cultural values and are celebrating major festivals such as Diwali. In conclusion, I would like to inform you that we are in the process of establishing Consulate-General of India in Atlanta . It would take a few months because we have certain formalities to be completed. We seek your cooperation and guidance, especially of established bodies-non-profit organizations like Gujarati Samaj, Gandhi Foundation of USA and others.”

The Lilburn Mayor Mrs. Diana Preston was invited on stage and presented with a bouquet by Ketan Shah. Next, GFUSA Founding Chairman Subash Razdan was presented with a plaque. Thanking the Gujarati Samaj, Razdan said, “I feel honored and privileged to be here at this lovely gathering and to enjoy the company of some of the community’s well known and respected veterans. I accept this Award on behalf of the GFUSA. Please allow me to recognize GFUSA Executive Director Antony Thaliath and his wife Lizzy and GFUSA Vice Chairman Greg Pridgeon. Finally I would like to thank Gujarati Samaj for being the first to make a pledge when GFUSA was working on installing the Gandhi Statue in Atlanta. We greatly value your friendship.
Ashwinbhai Shah, who sadly passed away this year, was a well-respected and loved community member who played a pivotal role in Gujarati Samaj Seniors programs. An Award was presented to his wife Ashaben and daughter Parina.

Awards were also presented to Gujarati Samaj Youth Camp leader Bina Jasani; Ami Shah, (most dedicated and committed volunteer) and to audio team by BOG Samir Sheth, Trushad Patel and Vipul Patel. The President also thanked and complimented various activity leaders and volunteers for their vision and commitment, and adding that the Samaj would not survive without them. 

During the program, Chhabhaya announced that during the year, Samaj organized a unique OCI/VISA help camp under the leadership of Navinbhai Patel. With the help of 72 volunteers and core team they served 150 applicants. Even after, the core team has been helping other applicants. Finally, Mr.Chhabhaya lauded the fabulous sparkling decorations put up by indefatigable team of Girish Patel(Mukhi) and his team. 
The audience was treated to vintage and also latest Bollywood numbers and light jokes by the Hungama 2011 Group. 

Diana Preston effusively commented, “My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the Diwali Dinner. The food and entertainment were wonderful and we were honored to be seated with the new Atlanta Indian Consul General Kumar and his wife. Later we enjoyed watching the children shoot fireworks and it reminded me of the meaning of Diwali: of light overcoming darkness. The Indian culture has brought many wonderful customs and festivals to our community and I enjoy learning their origins and meaning. I have been truly inspired by the Gujarati Indian community in our midst. Happy Diwali!”

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