FTV News, Stamford, CT: “This country is the greatest nation in the history of the world because of our diversity,” Richard Blumenthal, the senior United States Senator from Connecticut, told a packed audience at the 11th annual Gala and awards nite organized by The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)-Connecticut Chapter in the Ballroom at The Hilton Hotel in Stamford, CT on Saturday, July 8th, 2017. “We have become a great nation because of your contributions. We have welcomed talent, energy and dedication. There is no greater example of this than our relationship with India; two great democracies on earth. Our nation faces biggest challenge to rule of law today than ever before.”
The sold out and much anticipated event was attended by over 250 guests from across the state of Connecticut, including community leaders, elected officials, and honorees and their families. The gala included a cocktail reception, dinner, music, live DJ and dances by participants, eloquent speeches, touching life-stories and inspiring narratives on the lives of the five distinguished honorees. The program was compered by Gayatri Mahesh.
Prominent among those who had attended and spoke at the annual gala included, Congressman Jim Himes, Stamford Mayor David Martin, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Connecticut State Senators Tony Hwang and Toni Boucher and CT State Assemblymen Dr. Prasad .
In her presidential address, Anita Bhat described the mission and vision of GOPIO-CT under her leadership. “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.”
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. “This year we want to take our mission a step further and become the voice of Indian Americans living in Connecticut. This lofty goal is not easy to reach without your support. Please become a member of GOPI-CT and make our goals come true,” she said.
Congressman Jim Himes, who represents Connecticut’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives, said he was delighted to be at the event to honor the accomplishments of so many talented individuals. Congressman Jim Himes, in his felicitations, “This is the largest ever dinner you I have ever attended of GOPIO. 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. There is no bigger rebuttal than the people in this room. You are scientists, educators, engineers, entrepreneurs, community activists, philanthropists, who represent the success and contributions of immigrants to the country”
Riva Gaangulay Das, Consul General of India, in her address, “The Indo-US relationship has been strengthened by who you are; your accomplishments. Though you are only 1% of the US population, you have excelled in education, income level, economic standing and contributions to the society, you are the model for all other immigrant communities.” Describing the partnership as strategic, she pointed out to the fast growing and maturing of collaboration between the two nations.
Dr. Thomas Abraham, Founder President of GOPIO International who is also a Trustee of GOPIO-CT, chairman of the Awards Committee, said, “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 in Connecticut.”
“You are the community. You are not part of the community,” Mayor David Martin told the Indian Americans. Pointing to the historic nature of the upcoming general elections in November, Mayor Martin urged the members to register and vote, and thus become ensure that your voices are heard.”
Mayor Harry Rilling said, “I am honored to be here to celebrate among friends and am thankful for the warm welcome the Indian community has always extended to me and my family.” He also congratulated GOPIO-CT for its 11 years of service and bringing the Indian community together.
The founder and CEO of T V Asia, H. R. Shah, a charismatic Indian American, who is a well-known entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader who endeared himself as a close friend of who’s who of the world, and was honored with Padma Bhushan, one of the highest honors by the Indian Government, was honored by GOPIO for his accomplishments and contributions to the Indian American community. While thanking GOPIO, Shah said, “For getting success in life you have to have a goal, vision, and determination. Money comes later. You have to work hard.”
Ila Paliwal was honored for her contributions in the field of Performing Arts. A classically trained Indian vocalist, songwriter and producer based in New York, Paliwal released her album NAVARATNA in 2015 at the Carnegie Hall to a sold-out audience. NAVARATNA celebrates India’s secular and festive spirit and is executive produced by legendary music composer AR Rahman. In 2015, She also released a video, HOLI celebrating the Indian ancient phrase Vasudev Kutumbakam. Through her music, Ila focuses to spread the message of Unity in Diversity. Ila along with her family supports several philanthropic organizations through their Family’s Charitable Foundation. In her acceptance speech, she said, “May this award given to me today be an inspiration to the younger generation.”
Dr. Draupathi Nambudiri was honored for her accomplishments in the field of Medicine and Health Care. Currently serving as the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Stamford Hospital, Dr. Nambudiri is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and has been practicing psychiatry for over 30 years. She has been an active clinician, leader, mentor, and educator over the course of her career. In addition to being Board Certified in Geriatric Psychiatry, Dr. Nambudiri also holds Board Certifications in Addiction Psychiatry, General Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine. In her acceptance speech, Dr. Nambudiri said, “May the Lord grant me the grace to serve the neediest, and be able to dedicate my life to serve the country.”
Dr. Rupendra Paliwal, who was honored for his accomplishments in the field of Education, currently serves as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Sacred Heart University. Before taking on the role of provost, Paliwal served as vice president for strategic planning, special assistant to the president for strategic planning, associate dean of the Jack Welch College of Business (WCOB), interim dean of the WCOB, associate dean for Academic Affairs and associate professor of finance. Prior to coming to Sacred Heart, he was a senior officer of the National Stock Exchange of India. “It is very special for me to be in the company of so many distinguished persons,” he said and dedicated the award to his family.
Captain Alpa Ladani, a distinguished 20-year Veteran of the Connecticut Army National Guard, was honored for her services to the nation. Captain Alpa Ladani was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Germany and Bahrain in a number of different capacities. Most recently, Captain Ladani served as the Executive Officer for Forward Support Base, Headquarters Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her awards and decorations include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, NATO Medal, and Iraq Campaign medal with 2 Campaign Stars, amongst a host of other honors accrued over her lengthy time in service. Captain Ladani currently works as the Senior Program Manager of Emergency Planning for the Boston Public Health Commission’s Office of Public Health Preparedness. She applauded GOPIO and said, “Your efforts show that you are working to have our community integrated with the mainstream world.”
GOPIO-CT President’s Young Professional Achiever Award was given to Nitesh Banta. A Harvard alumni, Banta was selected for the well-known Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the New Venture Category. He is an active angel investor and is the CEO and co-founder of B12 which has been recognized as the hottest emerging startup by Nasdaq at the Founders Forum. Nitesh is a participant in the AI Xprize. In October 2016, Nitesh won the Rising Star Award for B-12. In 2012, Nitesh co-founded Rough Draft Ventures, a student-run venture initiative where each student entrepreneurs can receive up to $25k to fund their new start-up.
For the third year in a row, GOPIO-CT Scholarship for College Tuitions were given to four young students from Connecticut towards their higher education. The recipients are Praneetha Desu (Indiana University), Vivek James (University of Pennsylvania), Arjun Ahuja (University of Connecticut) and Ruhi Patel (Norwalk Community College), GOPIO-CT Scholarship Committee consisted of Shelly Nichani (Chairman), Shobhna Bhatnagar and Priya Easwaran coordinated GOPIO-CT efforts and led the fund-raising at the event to expand the scholarship to other parts of Connecticut in the coming years.
Over the last 11 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future. GOPIO-CT – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of PIOs through community programs, forums, events and youth activities. It seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities.