Category Archives: NRI’s / PIO’s

PBD 2018 celebrated in Riyadh with fervor

SAUDI ARABIA :

IndiainSaudiMPOs17jan2018

Riyadh :

Indian Charge d’Affaires Dr. Suhel Ajaz Khan, during the recent Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) 2018 celebrations held at Indian Embassy auditorium here, advised Indian nationals to help each other and participate in assisting the community when needed.

Dr. Suhel, in his opening remarks while welcoming the gathering, said that the number of Indians living illegally in the Kingdom is very minute compared to its population after the completion of the recent Amnesty period. The Saudi officials, rounding up illegal residents, have revealed that so far among 250,000-300,000 rounded up in their sweep, that just 1,000 were Indians.

Even though this number is very small when compared to the overall figure and the number of Indians working here, Indian Embassy officials are regularly visiting deportation centers to see if there are any Indian still there needing their help, or is there any fresh Indians detained.

Dr. Suhel also said that during the amnesty period around 75,000 Indians were deported while adding, “It is a matter of satisfaction for us that Indians are very few among illegals.”

Highlighting the community outreach program of the Embassy, the DCM said that the Indian Ambassador traveled length and breadth of the Kingdom to meet the Indian nationals.

Embassy of India has actively implemented the flagship program of Indian government Madad and Emigrate.

He also said that the Indian Embassy would be merciless towards unscrupulous agents who send people to Saudi Arabia through illegal ways.

DCM disclosed that upon the request of Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi, the Saudi government had issued royal pardon to 291 Indians during last year, the highest for several years.

The DCM also had a message to aspiring job seekers in India to come to Saudi Arabia through legal means and work here with honesty and dedication.

The event started with the playing of recorded speech of Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi. Dr. Suhel briefed community members on the highlights of the speech.

This is a historic occasion as on this day the greatest Pravasi (traveler) of all time Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, returned to India and this day commemorated as PBD,

Every year, Jan. 9 is celebrated as Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD), an annual celebrations that marks the contribution of overseas persons with Indian Origin towards the homeland.

This year PBD is held at Singapore and the theme is Ancient Route, New Journey — Diaspora in the Dynamic ASEAN India Partnership

The Embassy of India selected four prominent members from the community to speak on the various flagship programs of the Indian government. The speakers included Salman Khaled, Yogacharya Soumya, Magesh Prabhakara, and Taqiuddin Mir Fazal.

The speakers stressed on various topics specially the flagship programs of the government like Digital India — Power to Empower, Yoga, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Gram Jyothi Yogna and Beti Bacho-Beti Padhaao.

The speakers were widely applauded for their depth and understanding of the government initiatives and its implications on Indian expatriates abroad, particularly from the Gulf region.

Anil Nautiyal, counselor, Embassy of India, conducted the proceedings and proposed the vote of thanks. Embassy staff actively participated in this event.

First Secretaries Venkateswaran Narayan, Dr. Hifzur Rahman Azmi, community members Architect Abdul Rahman Saleem, 2017 PBD recipients Zeenat Jafri, Shihab Kottukad, Ahmad Imthias, Deepak, Suhail Ahamad, Kundan Lal Gothwal, senior AGM Air India, principals of all Indian schools, managing committee members of various and large number of Indians and their families attended.

Students of Indian International Public School, Riyadh presented colorful cultural program depicting the unity and diversity of India.

source: http://www.saudigazette.com / Saudi Gazette / Home> Saudi Arabia / by Mir Mohsin Ali / January 16th, 2018

Meet Naeem Khan, Michelle Obama’s Fashion Designer

UTTAR PRADESH / Mumbai, MAHARASHTRA  / New York, USA :

Designer for power women had his life changed when outgoing First Lady wore his gown for a state dinner in 2009.

NaeemKhan01MPOs16jan2018

When he was an adolescent growing up in Mumbai, fashion designer Naeem Khan had just one dream.

“When I was 14 years old, I said to my then-girlfriend in India that one day I am going to design for the First Lady of America,” says Khan, who remembers being enchanted by images of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the now defunct Life Magazine.

Almost four decades later, the designer, now 57, has fulfilled his dream many times over. As one of Michelle Obama’s favourite couturiers, he has dressed her for various state dinners, as well as for more casual occasions, such as during a visit to Brazil.

________________________________________________________

“[Michelle] likes elegant glamour and loves her arms, so you have to make sure you enhance that.”

________________________________________________________

Since he launched his eponymous label in 2003, his uniquely glamorous aesthetic featuring figure-flattering silhouettes and lavish textiles have made him a firm red carpet favourite of some of the world’s most famous women, ranging from celebrities such as singer Beyoncé and actress Penelope Cruz to prominent public figures including Queen Noor of Jordan and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

In Singapore to present his Spring/Summer 2017 collection at Singapore Fashion Week, Khan says without hesitation that the moment Michelle Obama stepped out in his strapless, embroidered gown to host their first State Dinner for India in 2009, he knew his life had changed. He was propelled to global fame in that singular moment.

Khan was hosted at the U.S. Embassy by HE Kirk Wagar during his trip – here are the photos.

Mr Naaem Khan, Ms Crystal Meredith Wagar, HE Kirk W.B. Wagar (U.S.A)
Mr Naaem Khan, Ms Crystal Meredith Wagar, HE Kirk W.B. Wagar (U.S.A)

“I have always believed that if you are true to your dream and consistent in pursuing it, it will happen,” he says.

NaeemKhan03MPOs16jan2018

He grew up with a lifelong interest in fashion and honed his sartorial instincts by “osmosis”, thanks to his grandfather and father who both designed luxurious textiles and clothing for Indian royal families. At the age of 20, he moved to New York City to do an apprenticeship with legendary designer Roy Halston Frowick of the label Halston where he rubbed shoulders with Halston’s social circle, which included luminaries like the artist Andy Warhol, actress-singer Liza Minnelli and dancer Martha Graham.

His time with his guru Halston – who coincidentally shot to fame when he designed Jackie Kennedy’s pink pillbox hat which she wore to her husband’s presidential inauguration – laid the foundations for his own label.

He says: “My style is to use textures and luxurious fabrics in a form which is classic, yet relevant to the times. It works perfectly for powerful women because the garments send a very strong message – I am powerful, confident and fashionable. Look at me.”

NaeemKhan04MPOs16jan2018

The business of fashion is of course notoriously challenging, but Khan says he grew his to its current size by sticking to a simple principle. Besides his ready-to-wear business, he also launched Naeem Khan Bridal in 2013, and both lines are sold at over 100 retail outlets around the world.

“I don’t have investors and I’ve grown my business organically by watching the bottom line to make sure we are making money. It is not about having the largest business which is running at a loss,” he says. “Instead, my business philosophy is about having a good life, being profitable and enjoying what I do.”

One of his greatest rewards is having the privilege to develop relationships with movers and shakers of society, like the outgoing First Lady. “She gives full liberty to design for her. We have her form and we’ve create mannequins to drape on so it’s become a simpler process,” he says. “She likes elegant glamour and loves her arms, so you have to make sure you enhance that.”

Certainly, a designer couldn’t ask for a better muse. He adds: “She’s tall and has a great body for clothing so she is the perfect person to design for as she knows how to carry it off.

“She has said to me how much she loves my work. I love that she is so open with her compliments and has such respect for my art, which makes me want to do more for her.”

source: http://www.thepeakmagazine.com.sg / The Peak, SPH Magazines  / Home> Fashion & Watches / by Karen Tee / November 02nd, 2016

Nazeer Ahamed Mohamed Zackiriah

BRUNEI DARUSLALAM  :

NazeerMPOs16jan2018

Brunei :

Mr. Nazeer Zackiriah, Permanent Resident of the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, is an Indian-origin entrepreneur who has strengthened the links between India, Brunei and the Indian community of Brunei.

He has actively supported Government of India initiatives and events and has ensured meaningful interactions with local and Indian entrepreneurs for visiting Indian delegations.

He has heightened respect for the Indian community in Brunei by his active charitable endeavours, both in his individual capacity and as President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce of Brunei.

By virtue of the recognition that he has obtained from His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei for these charitable and community-building efforts, he has been instrumental in raising the prestige and profile of the Indian community in Brunei.

Mr. Nazeer Ahamed has achieved notable success in the textile retail sector in Brunei.

From humble beginnings, through hard work and acumen, he has built up the largest chain of textile stores of Brunei which is now providing significant employment and promoting trade.

He has contributed towards strengthening the link between the Indian community and Bruneians by organizing the active participation of the Indian community in Bruneian national events like the National Day of Brunei and the Birthday Celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan.

source: http://www.pbdindia.gov.in / Pravasi Bharatiya Divas / Home> Profile of Awardees / 07-09 January 2017, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

A hero who comes to the rescue of the dead

KERALA / UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE) :

AshrafMPOs16jan2018

Until December 2016, UAE-based businessman has helped transport 3,886 bodies to 38 countries

Heroes are often made out to be those who save lives, but here is one who comes to the rescue of the dead and their families. Ashraf Thamarassery, a UAE-based businessman, is credited with helping the final journey of the dead to their home countries.

The 41-year-old, a native of Kerala, was in Bengaluru to participate in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an event which saw him being conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Award in the past.

“It was 2002 when I saw the struggle of a family I knew when the father passed away,” he said, recalling how his tryst with the dead began. As he learnt of the money involved in transporting bodies to their home countries, the lengthy procedures, and the large amount of paperwork, he decided to dedicate a significant amount of his time to helping those in similar situations.

Until December 2016, Mr. Ashraf is said to have helped transport 3,886 bodies to 38 countries. Transportation to India is one of the most expensive, he said. This is because Indian airlines charge per kilogram of weight of the body, which often ends up becoming a huge financial burden on the grieving families.

“What if it is a poor worker here? Their families will have to contact around 16 departments and pay hefty airline charge,” he said, advocating for government intervention on this.

Though often perceived as morbid, his family is completely in support of what he is doing, Mr. Ashraf said, making it clear that he will continue to remain a call away for those who want his help at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Bengaluru / by K. C. Deepika / Bengaluru – January 09th, 2017

Awarding PIOs in recognition of their services

BRUNEI / LIBYA  / SAUDI ARABIA  :

President Pranab Mukherjee honours Dr. Antonio Costa, Portugal Prime Minister, who received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, as Suriname Vice-President Michael Ashwin Adhin and Union Minister V.K. Singh look on, in Bengaluru on Monday. | Photo Credit: G R N SOMASHEKAR;G R N SOMASHEKAR -
President Pranab Mukherjee honours Dr. Antonio Costa, Portugal Prime Minister, who received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, as Suriname Vice-President Michael Ashwin Adhin and Union Minister V.K. Singh look on, in Bengaluru on Monday. | Photo Credit: G R N SOMASHEKAR;G R N SOMASHEKAR –

Winners of Pravasi Samman Awards include Portugal Prime Minister Dr. Antonio Costa

Her son was three years old when she realised that there was no school she could send him to. British and American schools were too expensive and she didn’t want to send him to a local school.

That prompted Zeenat Jafri to start the second Indian school in Saudi ArabiaInternational Indian School — in 1982 with her husband. She was among the 30 people feted for her achievement on Monday during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, when the Pravasi Samman Awards were given away by President Pranab Mukherjee.

The 64-year-old MBA graduate from Bhopal, who was given the award for her contribution to the field of education, said she started the school from her house, gradually scaling it up   to now educate 12,000 people.

Another person of Indian origin who was recognised with the award was Ariful Islam, coordinator and nodal point in the Embassy of India in Libya.

The electrical engineer relocated from India to Libya in 1980 following a pact between the two nations. He has seen his adopted country go through the worst of times, but continues to live there alone, though his family has moved back to Aligarh. “I have spent half my life there. We have successfully rescued many Indians,” he said.

The rescuer

The most recent episode he was involved was in the rescue of three abducted Indians from the IS in a dramatic operation in 2016 from the deep Libyan deserts.

Among the organisations that were awarded were the Singapore Indian Association in the category of community service.

The event saw double the number of awardees as it was being held after an interval of two years.

Among the other prominent winners of the award were Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Luis Santos da Costa, Labour Member of the European Parliament representing the West Midlands Neena Gill, British politician Priti Patel and Mauritius Minister of Finance and Economic Development Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the United States Department of State, who was also among the 30 awardees, said persons of Indian origin, who were building bridges and connecting in an “increasingly divided world,” retained strong ties with India, she said.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> National / by K.C. Deepika / Bengaluru – January 10th, 2017

Ariful Islam

Aligarh, UTTAR PRADESH / Benghazi, LIBYA :

ArifulIslamMPOs16jan2018

Libya :

Mr. Ariful Islam resides in Benghazi, the second largest city of Libya.

Mr. Islam has been providing selfless service to Indians in Libya and has been instrumental in building trust between the Libyans and Indians.

Mr. Islam helped during the evacuation of Indian nationals from Libya during the civil unrest in 2011 and was amongst the last to leave from Libya.

His assistance in extricating Indian nationals from the eastern region was invaluable and was appreciated and recognized by Indian as well as the Libyan authorities.

He facilitated repatriating 287 Indian citizens from Benghazi by ship to Malta in August 2014.

He again helped the Mission in December 2014 January and February 2015 to evacuate subsequent batches of Indian nurses from Benghazi and arranged for their safe passage till Labrak airport, about 250 km from Benghazi, while the security situation was very fragile.

Although, he does not have active business now due to the civil war like situation and continuous fighting in Benghazi, he returned to Libya to assist in the evacuation of our nationals and to attend to other consular matters of our citizens and to follow up with the local authorities.

source: http://www.pbdindia.gov.in / Pravasi Bharatiya Divas / Home> Profile of Awardees / 07-09 January 2017, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

School for expats in Saudi Arabia wins Muslim woman top award

Bhopal, MADHYA PRADESH / SAUDI ARABIA :

Zeenat Mussarat Jafri with her sons at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru on Monday
Zeenat Mussarat Jafri with her sons at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru on Monday

Bengaluru :

“A Muslim from Saudi Arabia being recognized and awarded by the BJP government. This is India.” This is how Syed Mohsin rejoiced when his mother was conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman  017 in Bengaluru on Monday.

Zeenat Mussarat Jafri, 65, was given the award by President Pranab Mukherjee for providing quality education to children of Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia. She started the first Indian school in Riyadh in 1982. “My mother is also the first woman of Indian origin from Saudi Arabia to get the Pravasi Samman,” Mohsin’s elder brother Syed Mudassir told TOI.

A native of Lucknow and a former teacher at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Zeenat went to Saudi Arabia in 1979 with her husband Musarrat Jafri, a former DRDO scientist who later joined the Saudi government as a chemical expert.

Zeenat said: “I was moved by the plight of Indians living in Riyadh. Most of them had left their children behind in India because of a lack of educational opportunities. We wanted to do something and that’s when we met Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when she visited Riyadh in 1982. We requested her to speak to Saudi authorities and get permission to start a school for Indian children. We got the green signal.”

Zeenat established the International Indian School in Riyadh from the family’s savings. From the first batch of 20 students in 1982, the school now has 12,000 students and is affiliated to CBSE. “I get angry when people pull their children out of schools. I want them to complete graduation,” said Zeenat, who is running the school for the past four decades.

But what’s more Indian about Zeenat and her husband Jafri is that they haven’t given up their Indian citizenship.Since Saudi Arabia does not allow for dual citizenship, they have accepted permanent resident status. “I am an Indian and I will always be an Indian,” she said.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Bangalore News / by Rakesh Prakash / TNN / January 10th, 2017

‘Baghi Banjara’ traces life, works of Barkatullah Bhopali

Bhopal, MADHYA PRADESH :

Bhopal :

Centered on the life of freedom fighter Maulana Barkatullah Bhopali, a play ‘Baghi Banjara’ was staged at Shaheed Bhawan on Friday. Scripted and directed by Waseem Khan, the play was staged for the first time in the country.

Abdul Hafiz Mohamed Barakatullah, known with his honorific Maulana Barkatullah (7 July, 1854-20 September 1927), was an anti-British Indian revolutionary with sympathy for the Pan-Islamic movement.

The whole journey from birth to death of the great freedom fighter was beautifully shown in the one-hour-twenty-minute-long play.   Barkatullah was born on 7 July 1854 at Itwara in Bhopal.

He fought from outside India, with fiery speeches and revolutionary writings in leading newspapers, for the independence of India. In 1988, Bhopal University was renamed Barkatullah University in his honour. He was educated from primary to college level at Bhopal.

Later he went to Bombay and London for his higher education.  He was a meritorious scholar and mastered seven languages: Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, English, German, and Japanese. Despite a poor background he topped the list of successful candidates in most of the examinations for which he appeared, both in India and England. He became the Quondam Professor of Urdu at the Tokyo University Japan.

He was one of the founders of the “Ghadar” (Rebellion) Party in 1913 at San Francisco. Later he became the prime minister of the Provisional Government of India established on 1 December 1915 in Kabul with Raja Mahendra Pratap as its president.  He died in 1927 at San Francisco.

The play was presented by mainly young cast of Swabhiman Shikshan Samiti. Suggestive sets, costumes and lights were used.

A patriotic song ‘rang de basanti chola…,’ of movie ‘Shaheed’ (1965) was used in the play. Gaurav Jaat as Maulana Barkatullah, Badra Wasti as Tarik Nigar, Shakeel Chand as Kadar and others  were in lead role.

“For the first time, the play centered on the great freedom fighter is being staged for the first time in India. I don’t know why no play was staged on the tenacious fighter. I wrote the play at the instance of Shriram Tiwari, former director of culture. The writing took one year and the rehearsals lasted for one-and-a-half- months,” said Waseem Khan.

source: http://www.freepressjournal.in / The Free Press Journal / Home> Bhopal / by A Staff Reporter / January 28th, 2017

The Extraordinary Life Of Educationist Begum Zaffar Ali | #IndianWomenInHistory

JAMMU & KASHMIR :

Begum Zaffar Ali. Credit: Wikipedia
Begum Zaffar Ali. Credit: Wikipedia

In the year of 1987, Begum Zaffar Ali, the first woman matriculate of Kashmir was awarded a Padma Shri for her extraordinary perseverance in being a women’s liberation activist and working towards empowering women through education. Brought up in a conservative setting where women’s movements, ideologies and bodies were controlled by the patriarch of the family, the perseverance towards creating awareness regarding education was certainly extraordinary.

Early years

Born in 1900, Begum Zaffar Ali was an educationist, women’s liberation activist and a social workerShe was also a legislator. Her maiden name was Syyeda Fatima Hussain, she was the daughter of Khan Bahadur Aga Syed Hussain the first matriculate of Kashmir, later Governor, Judge of the First High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, and Home and Judicial Minister during Maharaja Rule. Her mother Syyeda Sakina Sadaat belonged to a Sayyid family of Sabzevar Iran, which was an affluent business family in Kashmir.

Even though the place was largely conservative and Purdah was considered an essential part of a woman’s life, her parents were mostly supportive of her natural inclination towards academics and encouraged her in her quest to be more informed and performing well in studies.

She had a Christian governess from Europe to familiarise her with formal education and there was also a separate tutor to teach Begum Zaffar Ali and her siblings religion. She was taught housekeeping, home science training, health education, society, family and childcare by her home governess.

Marriage and involvement with activism

She was married to her cousin – Agha Zaffar Ali and had three children. She managed to spare sufficient time for her education. Her husband was supportive of her endeavour and actively encouraged her to pursue academics and challenge herself.

In 1925, she was invited to join as a teacher at the girls’ school run by Miss Mallinson and Miss Bose in Fateh Kadal area of Srinagar. Despite her initial reluctance, she decided to join and started taking classes along with her children from their home tutor.

It was during this period she started her participation in social movements, and at a personal capacity started looking out for the girls she was teaching in schools. She taught them to maintain personal hygiene and inculcated good habits and etiquettes in them. Begum Zaffar Ali was not subtle about her love for education and she was suggested by the home tutor to take the matriculation exam.

Initially, she was hesitant as no woman in the Valley had passed the matriculation before, but putting her initial hesitation aside and giving precedence to her love for education, she decided to appear for the examination in 1930. She successfully passed in the second division in the exam and was celebrated for breaking the glass ceiling.

Since she was the first Kashmiri woman to achieve this feat, she was awarded a gold medal for the same.

Social Activism

She completed her graduation in 1938, immediately after which she started pursuing her post-graduation. As a credit to her qualifications, she served as Head Mistress for several different schools in the Valley. A staunch believer in women’s rights, Begum Zaffar Ali literally went door to door to raise awareness regarding girls’ education in the Valley and persevered to empower them through education. Shortly after, she was also appointed as Inspector of Schools in Kashmir, rewarding the passion she displayed as an educationist.

Begum Zaffar Ali was a fine orator, and would often indulge in public speaking to create awareness for the cause she backed. She would speak at several public events and in schools and inspired adulation among girls in the Valley for the very same reason. Her strong presence in public life and consciousness of Kashmir was further strengthened by the Teachers Club.

Teachers Club organised events and public gatherings, and Begum Zaffar Ali was instrumental in laying the foundation for it. She was a key member along with Tara Devi, the Maharani of Kashmir. The purpose of the club centred around discussion of women’s issues and their rights and she was actively involved in the conversation regarding women’s movement in India. She was the general secretary of the Ladies Club. Pre-Independence, she was also the secretary of All India Women’s Conference .

She later left the conference after a chance meeting with Muhammad Jinnah and his sister Fatima Jinnah, she directed her efforts towards the emancipation of women and their liberation.

She held several posts in the Department of Education and served in various capacities. She served as principal in several schools, she served as an education officer, she served as chief education officer as well as the chief inspector in schools of Kashmir.

As a chief inspector, she also introduced mid-day meals in school. Before her retirement, she was also appointed as the Deputy Director Education Kashmir for her relentlessness in the matter of empowerment through education. She was also a member of the Social Welfare Advisory Board, Jammu and Kashmir.

Later years

Begum Zaffar Ali also established a technical training centre for women of limited means in the Valley, in the capacity of Deputy Chairman of the advisory board. Between 1977-82, she also became a member of the Legislative Assembly and tried to bring out various reforms for education and women’s emancipation along with other social issues. The policies she endorsed were by and large progressive and directed towards the upliftment of women.

In 1987, she was the recipient of Padma Shri, India’s highest civilian award for her social work and her perseverance in working for women’s liberation and education. However, later in a televised protest in Doordarshan, she returned the award citing the then Government’s harsh and unfair policies as a reason.

Image Credit: Academy of American Poets
Image Credit: Academy of American Poets

Death

Begum Zafar Ali died in 1999 at the age of 99 at the residence of her son Agha Shaukat Ali  in the United States of America. Her grandson Agha Shahid Ali an award-winning Kashmiri-American poet, wrote a poem in memory of her which was included in the collection The Veiled Suite : The Collected Poem 

source: http://www.feminisminindia.com / Feminism In India.com / Home> History / by Shruti Janardhanan / November 14th, 2017

Indians for Collective Action Hosts 49th Anniversary Gala Awards Banquet

UTTAR PRADESH / Saratoga, California, USA :

The Indians for Collective Action's Annual Awards Banquet Oct. 28 honored (l-r) Indian Americans Kamil and Talat Hasan, seen here with Dr. Anuradha Luther Maitra (photo provided)
The Indians for Collective Action’s Annual Awards Banquet Oct. 28 honored (l-r) Indian Americans Kamil and Talat Hasan, seen here with Dr. Anuradha Luther Maitra (photo provided)

Menlo Park, Calif. :

Indians for Collective Action, a San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit established in 1968 at the UC Berkeley campus with a motto of ‘Development through Innovation’, celebrated its 49th year anniversary with its ‘Annual Awards Banquet’ at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center here Oct. 28.

The awardees this year were Sonam Wangchuk, founder of the Student Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, and founder of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives Ladakh; as well as Silicon Valley-based Indian American philanthropists Talat and Kamil Hasan.

The blockbuster Bollywood movie, “3 Idiots,” was in large part based on Wangchuk’s life. He has increased the high school graduation rate in Ladakh’s districts from 5 percent to 70 percent in a decade.

“It is pleasant to see that people from India in this country are connected and caring for the country of their origin. After having worked with schools to bring reforms, to make them future ready, we are now working with higher education universities to create an alternative university that does education as it should be—more engaged and practical rather than just theory, which is what happens in most institutes of higher learning whether in India or the U.S.,” Wangchuk told India-West.

“Just sitting down and listening to lectures is not in harmony with human nature. Youth are not suited for sitting for hours in a classroom. We are a more hands on species and that is how we learn. This is what we are working towards and hoping that it will not only solve the problems of higher education in a place like Ladakh but in other parts of India and the world too,” Sonam added.

“We are working to engage young people to solve real life problems and if it succeeds, the ripple effects will influence universities in rest of India and the world that needs something more engaging than what we currently have,” he continued. “Higher education is too theoretical, up in the air and abstract and not related to life in most places and people feel it. Higher education of today does not prepare you for real life and people are looking forward to something more real than mumbo jumbo of words.”

Working in partnership with dedicated social workers and organizations in India and the U.S., ICA has supported 370 development projects totaling to more than 8.5 million in 25 states in India.

Bhupen Mehta, the organization’s co-president spoke about some of ICA’s projects like SEWA Rural’s IamTeCHO mobile phone technology rolled out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in cooperation with WHO and UNICEF, as well as the Jaipur Foot Camp Rajkot that has been scaled by Modi in Rajkot.

“I request you all to give your tan, man and dhan (efforts, heart, and wealth) in whichever order that you want to ICA,” Mehta said. “We are getting senior in age and would like to retire. We are looking for youth to take over ICA and run it for the next 50 years.”

The foundation only works with NGOs with guiding principles of secularism, non-partisanship and democracy with a vision of a secure life for every Indian, in a sustainable environment and a just society.

It provides seed funding, ongoing financial resources, moral and technical support to innovative, community-based, scalable development initiatives.

Some of the initiatives of ICA include the youth project helping connect youth in the U.S. with NGOs in India for hands-on social development experience; and its fellowship fund to help activists in India, especially women, in securing opportunities to come to the U.S. for higher training in the areas of environment, women and child development work.

Kamil Hasan expressed his admiration for ICA’s work and went on to say that the main impetus of all the philanthropic activities that he and his wife, Talat Hasan ,have engaged in are to raise the profile of the Indian American community, so that it can make an impact on mainstream American society economically, socially and politically.

He opined that the Jewish community is a good example to emulate and there are four angles — economic success, philanthropy, cultural education and political involvement — that any community keen to raise its profile in U.S., has to work on.

“We have done very well in the area of economic success and fairly well in philanthropy within the community and in India and cultural dissemination via Bollywood movies, actors, yoga, etc.,” Hasan said. “But we have a lot of work to do in expanding our philanthropy to the mainstream community and in political involvement and public service.”

This was followed by a speech on the legacy of philanthropy by Talat Hasan, who amusingly narrated the philosophy passed down by her father, historian and ambassador, Nurul Hasan. She said that her father told her that since she had been privileged by accidental birth, she has an obligation to give back more to society than she had taken.

“I learnt from my parents that working for the community is not a feel-good activity. It is an obligation and should be an integral part of life,” Talat Hasan said. “You should not wait until retirement to do good, and anything that you take on should be sustainable, not just financially but also in such a way that long after you are gone, the work continues.”

source: http://www.indiawest.com / India West / Home> Featured  / by Shalini Kathuria Narang, Special to India West / November 02nd, 2017