NEW YORK – The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)-Connecticut Chapter honored six eminent Indian Americans at its 12th annual awards banquet in Stamford, last month.
“The evening is a celebration – a celebration not just of the accomplishments of our awardees, but also a tribute to a strong and vibrant Indian-American community that has excelled in almost all areas of life in this adopted nation of ours,” Dr. Thomas Abraham, Founder President and chairman of GOPIO International, who is also a Trustee of GOPIO-CT, chairman of the Awards Committee, said, in his opening remarks, while setting the tone for the 12th annual Gala and Awards, at the Marriott Hotel.
Describing how the Indian America community has grown tremendously, Dr. Abraham congratulated the elected officials of Indian origin in the US Congress, Senate, several states and towns.
Wishing greater success and recognition to the community in the US, Dr. Abraham said, “We will probably see two Indian Americans, Sen. Kamala Harris and Ambassador Nikki Haley competing to be next President of the United States in 2024.”
Dr. Rohit Bhalla, MD, Vice President of Stamford Health, was honored for his contributions to Health Care Administration; Prof. Sarbani Basu, Chair of Department of Astronomy at Yale University was honored for his achievements in Basic Sciences; Hasu Patel was recognized for community Services; Sharad Patney, President and CEO of VLink, Inc. was the awardee this year for his achievements in IT Services; Asha Rangappa, a CNN national security analyst, was recognized for her services as a former Special Agent of the FBI and currently a senior lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs for Service to Govt. and Non-Profit Institutions; and, Dr. K. Sudhir, was honored for his accomplishments in Business Management. He is a Professor of Private Enterprise, Management and Marketing, and founder-director of the China India Insights Program at the Yale School of Management.
In her presidential address, Anita Bhat described the many flagship events the organization organizes every year.
“Our mission at GOPIO-CT is to be active participants in the local community through involvement in community events and local politics, and by providing services to the Indian community at large here in Connecticut. This lofty goal of providing services and a political voice to the local Indian population has evolved into an exemplary community service organization thanks to the tremendous support of our local Indian community,” she said.
Describing some of the programs GOPIO-CT initiates, Bhat said, GOPIO members serve in local soup kitchens, do walkathons to support cancer patients, and jointly celebrate Diwali and India’s Independence Day with the members of multiple Indian groups in our community.
“We lack a voice for Indian Americans in the United States. We need a stronger voice. And I want GOPIO-CT to be voice for all Indian Americans in our state and beyond,” said Bhat.
Devi Prasad Mishra, Consul from the Consulate of India in New York, in his address, said, “There is so much potential I saw in the Indian American kids who have displayed their scientific research here today. It’s in these students the future of the Indian American community lies.” Describing how the Indian American community has excelled in education, income level, economic standing and contributions to the society, Mishra said, “You are the model for all other immigrant communities.”
“This country is the greatest nation in the history of the world because of the great contributions of immigrants,” Jim Himes, US Congressman from Connecticut, told the audience, describing the GOPIO gala held annually as a ‘Red-Letter Event’ in the state.
Himes, who represents Connecticut’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives, praised the contributions of GOPIO. Lauding the success and contributions of the fast-growing Indian American community, Himes said, “You are scientists, educators, engineers, entrepreneurs, community activists, philanthropists, who represent the success and contributions of immigrants to the country”
Criticizing the current impasse and uncertainty the nation and its immigrants face today, Himes called it “ugly” because the immigrants are not looked up by certain sections as contributors to the growth of the nation.
“We are experiencing one of the backsliding moments in the history of the where the core strength of this nation, the immigrants, are being threatened,” Himes said.
US Senator Richard Blumenthal complimented the Indian community for its success in various fields. A previous Friend of India awardee, Blumenthal said that US-Indian relations will be strong irrespective which ever party is in power in the US.
Prominent among those who had attended and spoke at the annual gala included, Stamford Mayor David Martin, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Connecticut State Senators Carlo Leone and Toni Boucher and Connecticut State Assemblymen Dr. Prasad Srinivasan and Charles Ferraro.
Two Indian Americans running for office in the election were also present: Republican Congressional candidate in the 4th District Harry Arora and Democratic Primary Candidate for Treasurer Dita Bhargava.
Echoing similar sentiments, Connecticut Assemblyman Dr. Prasad Srinivasan, in his eloquent speech, highlighted the need for Indian Americans to come together, stand united and work for the greater good of the larger American society. Dr. Srinivasan urged the elite gathering of Indian American leaders to join him as we work together to make Connecticut a prosperous state.
The event was attended by over 300 guests from across the state of Connecticut and New York, including community leaders, elected officials, and honorees and their families. The gala included a cocktail reception, dinner, music, and dances by participants, eloquent speeches, touching life-stories and inspiring narratives on the lives of the six distinguished honorees. The program was compered by Gayatri Mahesh. Earlier the gala began with a Odissi dance, by Ananika Nanda.
For the fourth year in a row, GOPIO-CT Scholarship for College Tuitions were given to four young students from Connecticut towards their higher education. The scholarships were presented to: Natalia Mohammed; Vedant Gannu; Meghan Prabhu; and Carolyn David.
Students of Indian origin from Stamford High School’s Mission 12 NASA Team, Vedant Gannu, Grihit Manchanda, Lalit Goli and Adarsh Sushant who won the national contest in Astro Science, were also honored for their accomplishments. They were presented with check of $2,150 for funding their travel to the Smithsonian Science Institute in Washington DC and to Florida to see the takeoff of the Space X Falcon 9 Rocket carrying their samples to International Space Agency where experiments will be conducted to analyze the effect of microgravity on the reproduction of the fungus Sordaria fimicola.
The executive committee of GOPIO-CT consists of Anita Bhat, President; Pradeep Govil, Exec. Vice President; Bhavna Juneja, Vice President; Prasad Chintalapudi, Secretary; Gayatri Mahesh, Jt. Secretary; Viresh Sharma, Treasurer; and Shelly Nichani, Immediate Past President. Board of Trustees are: Joe Simon – Chair; Dr. Thomas Abraham – Secretary, Comptroller; Neelam Narang, Shailesh Naik, Varghese Ninan, Sanjay Santhanam, and Anita Bhat- Ex-Officio.
The Scholarship Committee has Shelly Nichani (Chair), Shobhna Bhatnagar and Priya Easwaran (Executive Director) as its members. Board Members are: Meera Banta, Louella D’Silva, Jaya Daptadar, Santosh Gannu, Ritu Johorey, Sangeeta Ahuja, and Srinivas Akarapu.