The New Jersey chapter of the Association of Indians in America celebrated its 50th anniversary June 15, at the FairBridge Hotel & Conference Center Somerset-Bridgewater.
Established in 1967, AIA is one of the oldest organizations of its kind for Indians in America, and the gala highlighted the achievements of the organization in advocating for changes in laws, networking, helping youth in the community, and raising public awareness about this immigrant group, over the years.
Founding members of AIA explained their unique vision in forming this organization as they foresaw the challenges of the Indian American community.
The event also marked the release the AIA founders’ book: Indian Heritage – American Commitment , a historical record which they hope would be the blueprint for all Indian-American organizations to come, a press release from the AIA said.
Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold; Padma Shri H.R. Shah, chairman and CEO of TV Asia; H.K. Shah, World Vegan Vision founder; former New Jersey State Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula who is currently a commissioner of the N.J. Board of Public Utilities; and N.J. Freeholder of Middlesex County Shanti Nara, helped in releasing the book.
A pool party, live music by Gypsy Funk Squad, folk dances from Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, music performance by Kundalini Shock Attack, marked the evening. The event was emceed by Ram Tirumala, vice president of AIA-NJ Chapter.
The AIA-NJ Chapter President Uma Swaminathan welcomed the audience with her opening remarks. “The celebration is to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past, and set goals and priorities for the future, especially to accommodate challenges of old age, discrimination, unemployment and family instability, such as domestic violence, divorce etc.,” Swaminathan said at the event, adding, “I hope the younger diaspora will not forget what their parents and grandparents had to go through to build themselves and provide the safety net for their children.”
Swaminathan urged youth to “carry the torch and lead, but not forget their heritage, not forget their aging parents, and build a world that shows compassion, love and unity.”
Co-founders of AIA,Dr. Tapas Sen and Dr. Roshan Chaddha, spoke about the formative years of the organization and its goal which was to help and encourage the Indian Diaspora to be a vibrant group, participating with mainstream Americans in all aspects of their social, professional and political life.
Roshan Chaddha a senior founding member spoke of the fundamental challenges the Indian diaspora in the U.S. needs to address, such as engaging the elders and the youth in dialogues, supporting young people as they aim for leadership roles in politics and other fields, support of elderly, and engaging policymakers in the U.S. and India to strengthen bridges between the two countries.
The keynote speaker was Sanjoy Chakravorty, professor at Temple University. Krishna Andavolu, editor at VICE Media, also addressed the attendees.
The highlight of the evening was the honouring of Jaswant Mody to recognize his lifetime of service to the Indian-American community in the tri-state area. Mody was presented a plaque by Swaminathan, Parikh, H.R. Shah and H.K. Shah.
Key builders of AIA who were present at the event, including past national president Dr. Piyush Agrawal, past N.J. chapter presidents Bharti Phalkiwala and Aridaman Jain, and member Mani Subramanian.
Present National President Dr. Urmilesh Arya, and New York chapter president Harish Thakkar were also present.