Indian-American community leader loses battle against Covid-19

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ag Ramesh Patel, Indian-American community leader, chairman of the Federation of Indian Association of Tristate, and founder of India Day Parade, died June 6, 2020 in New Jersey.

Ramesh Patel, 78, a community activist and leader of long standing in the Indian-American community, lost his battle against the corona virus June 6, 2020 afternoon at approximately 4:30 pm, at Hackensack Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J. Patel struggled against the deadly infection for exactly two months, having been admitted on April 6.

For five days before his death, Sister Sheetal of the Brahmakumaris of Edison, had been leading daily prayers for Patel online. On the day he died, more than 100 people, family and friends and those who knew him, joined the prayer on Zoom, a participant told News India Times.

Patel, who worked with the NYPD in a senior position in the forensics investigation department till he retired around 12 years ago, was instrumental in starting the famous India Day Parade which falls around India’s independence Day August. 15, annually, and attracts tens of thousands of people from around the tri-state area and beyond, to Madison Ave. in Manhattan. It is considered the largest parade to celebrate India’s independence anywhere in the world outside India.

Born April 20, 1942, in Gamdi Anand, Gujarat, Patel dedicated his life to the advancement of Indian immigrants settled in this country. “No matter how many decades he lived here, he was quintessentially Indian at heart,” said a number of those News India Times spoke to.  founded and headed some of the strongest community organizations over his lifetime, including as president of the National Federation of Indian Associations from 1992-96, and the Federation of Indian Associations -NYNJCT, the latter one of which he was the chairman when he passed away.

A measure of his standing with the community was the tributes that poured in along with condolence messages from various elected officials including Congressman Frank Pallone, D-NJ, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, and other notable people including Parikh Worldwide Media Chairman Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh.

A tweet from India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Taranjit Singh Sandhu,  just a few hours after Patel breathed his last, read, “Very sad to learn about the passing away of Ramesh Patel, the Founder Member and Chairperson of Federation of Indian Associations ( FIA) after 2 month long fight against Covid 19. A highly respected Indian American Community leader, we will miss him very much. RIP!”

India’s Consul General in New York, Sandeep Chakravorty tweeted his condolences.

“A big loss to the Indian American community of USA. A Pioneer  brought together the Community & worked on many issues,” Consul General Chakravorty said, adding, “I particularly value his strong support to the Consulate. Rameshbhai before you could give me farewell you bid goodbye yourself. Not fair. RIP.”

Dr. Parikh, expressed his thoughts in a Shraddhanjali on ITV Gold, calling Patel a “legendary community leader, my very good friend, my family friend,” and “selfless leader.”

“His love and dedication to Bharat guided him to unite the community under one umbrella,” Dr. Parikh said.

Ramesh Patel, center in white kurta pajama sporting the Indian tricolor, with Bollywood personalities on a float during India Day Parade.

“He founded the India Day Parade 50 years ago,” making 2020 the Golden Jubiliee of the celebration. “This is another loss to the community due to the coronavirus. His spirit will guide us. Rameshbhai you will be missed,” Dr. Parikh said, ending with the words, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.”

Anil Bansal, the current president of Ramesh Bhai’s passing away leaves behind many of us FIA-NYNJCT, issued a statement upon Patel’s death.

“Ramesh Bhai’s passing away leaves behind many of us whom he had been spending so much time with. He had been grooming us for the leadership role in carrying out the duties of FIA,” Bansal said, adding, “He was kind, supportive and strong at the same time. Always staying on top of what was needed to be done. The void is too big to be filled…”

“I am personally totally devastated and heartbroken to see Ramesh Patel leave us,” said Dr. Romesh Japra, a close friend of Patel said in a message to News India Times. “I have fond memories of working in National FIA under his astute stewardship when we traveled together all across America to unite Indian-Americans,” Japra said.

“I could feel his unconditional love for me,”Japra went on to say. “I learnt tremendously from him about dedication and devotion for community activism. Ramesh had phenomenal commitment & profound passion towards volunteerism. He touched multitude of lives and his leadership will be missed dearly by everyone. I personally lost a good friend, guide and mentor. Om.”

Ankur Vaidya, trustee and two-time president of FIA, told Desi Talk, “Kaka had this ‘Indian’ in him. And his reach to the Indian community around the country was unmatched. You could pick any state, any town around the country and he would tell you who to contact. He would tell you to contact so-and-so in some town and tell them, ‘I am coming so have some warm khichree ready’.”

“If anyone was looking for a job, he would advise them. Anyone, whether richest or middle-class or poor, Rameshbhai would be the same for everyone,” Vaidya said. There are so many anecdotes of Patel’s life. “One he told the Consul General -‘I have not worn my shoes out, I have worn your steps out,'” Vaidya recounted. “How to enhance the image of India was his goal.”

Condolences began pouring in remembering Patel for his good deeds and great friendships.

“His sphere of influence was wide and very credible. He worked tirelessly to arrange conferences, seminars, and exhibitions. It is a tremendous loss for the Indian American
community,” said Angela Anand, president of the NFIA.

Both India and the United States “lost a champion who represented India and Indian culture in its best form. The image of
India he projected to all American citizens in the streets of New York will live on. We salute his love and dedication to India,” Anand said.

The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin credited Patel with helping to establish the organization back in 1989. The Chairman of GOPIO, Thomas Abraham said, “There are only very few community leaders in the USA who have over forty years of continuous community service and we will miss him in our community campaign and service activities.”

Sharad Shah, president of Share and Care in U.S., a non-profit that works on several projects in India, told News India Times Patel was a “good dear friend and always stood with my family.”

“Respected Rameshbhai was a strong advocate, supporter and a well-wisher of Share and Care Foundation.  He recognized the humanitarian force of our foundation a few decades ago and was instrumental in honoring the foundation not once but twice. He had an open offer to support our foundation for any help we required,” Shah recalleds.

“His vision for society and humanity was unique. He worked diligently to present India and its people with great dignity. He did it well and was a success,” Shah said.

“The loss of someone dear to our foundation, to the society and to the family is never easy,” Shah added and sent his prayers and “heartfelt condolences” to the family.

“I lost my friend Ramesh Patel,” said Bhailal Patel of Chicago, no relation, said on Facebook, encapsulating the sadness members of the community feel. “He was my long time friend, classmate at J J College of Science in Nadiad, and we worked together at the Federation of Indian Associations and National Federation of Indian Associations.” Bhailal Patel said, adding, “I miss my dear friend.”

Funeral arrangements were being coordinated as this went to press.

Patel is survived by his wife Sucheta, his two daughters Manisha and Kunjal, and son Suhash.

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