Inauguration of the Vishwa Gujarati Samaj branch in Atlanta
The inauguration ceremony of the Vishwa Gujarati Samaj (USA) Inc. was held at the Impact Conference Center (Global Mall) on Friday, May 27th. Atlanta's Indian American community and especially its Gujarati cluster has every reason to take pride in the fact that the Vishwa Gujarati Samaj (VGS), which has acquired a world-wide recognition, has chosen Atlanta as its USA center. The VGS is going to be spearheaded in the U.S. by Jaykumar Patel, a noted hotelier and social activist in Atlanta.
Krishnakant Vakharia, a founding member and four-time President of VGS, in his speech remarked, "Atlanta is a land of pines, and I wish that the new center under Jaykumar Patel steadily attains the stature of a tall pine tree; and just as the gentle breeze of a pine tree gains momentum and blows over a wide area, so will this new center gain in popularity and fame over the world." He also said that he felt happy to be in Atlanta because it was on this hallowed land, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had spread Mahatma Gandhi's message of non-violence, proclaiming, "The only alternative to non-violence is non-existence."
Atlanta activist Upendrabhai Patel acted as the Master of Ceremonies and briefly introduced VGS office-bearers: Krishnakant Vakharia, Hemraj Shah, Himanshu Vyas, Meena Ambani and Amit Shah (President, Gujarati Samaj, Atlanta). Mustafa Ajmeri of India Tribune then extended a hearty welcome to all, congratulated Jaykumar Patel and wished the inauguration ceremony a big success. The visiting VGS officials, along with local leaders and entrepreneurs Mike Patel, Bharatbhai Shah and P. Joy Mukerjee, lighted the inaugural diyas.
Tarla Daftari of Indian American Cultural Association (IACA), in an introduction, said that Nairobi-born Jaykumar Patel has an enviable track record. He is a successful business magnate, a philanthropist, an accomplished singer and a composer. Jaykumar said that though he was born in Nairobi, Kenya, he had spent several years in Gujarat and is deeply attached to it. "I want to do something for Gujarat and Gujaratis and that is why I have assumed this responsibility. The Gujarat government is deeply appreciative of the role played by NGOs like the VGS, so I am confident that with support of the organizations like BAPS here, we can join forces and do a lot towards the upliftment of thousands of villages in Gujarat. I am proud of Gujarat where renowned world figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and scientist Vikram Sarabhai were born, and where the inventor, technocrat, and visionary Sam Pitroda contributed his expertise in the field of communications." he said.
Speaking over the phone from Chicago, Chief Guest Sam Pitroda apologized for his absence. He expressed his abiding love for Gujarat by saying, "There is something in its air, its sights, sounds, smells, colors and warmth that binds one for ever. He felt that Gujaratis in the U.S. should help Gujarat catch up with other leading states in India. Pitroda, who is greatly influenced by Gandhi stressed the need to take Gandhian philosophy and values to the schools and colleges in India. He appealed the community to help renovate the Gandhi Ashram, preserve Gandhi legacy and to build hotels, motels, gas stations and other tourist amenities along the Dandi Marg which has been recently declared a heritage Marg by the honorable Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
VGS, founded in 1989, is a democratic organization and holds elections every five years. It provides a platform for interaction between the global Gujarati diaspora and the state of Gujarat. It undertakes publications of Gujarati literature, including ?Vishwanidam' magazine. To preserve and promote Gujarati culture, it organizes annual ?Gujarat Utsav" festival, ras-garba and Gujarati folk dances, competitions and plays. Krishnakant Vakharia stressed that VGS had no intention to compete with any other Gujarati organizations but to complement them and assist them in fulfilling their objectives.
Upendrabhai Patel announced the donation of $10,000 for Highway development in Chikodra gam and $5,000 donation from Atlanta's well known Pattani family for water project in his jilla.
Jayantibhai Patel (BAPS) introduced Hemrajbhai Shah, a practicing advocate of High Court and Supreme Court, Gujarat, a successful businessman, and one of the founding members of the VGS. A Mumbai resident, he has written several books in English, Gujarati and Marathi and is a popular columnist with Mumbai Samachar and Gujarat Samachar newspapers. Hemrajbhai said that in order to help the Gujarati tourists with accommodation, Brihad Gujarati Samaj, Mumbai has started the construction of Gujarat Bhavan, which would be built by January 2006. He advised the community to reach out to other communities as well and to integrate and live in harmony with the mainstream community.
Commemorative plaques were presented to Krishnakant Vakharia, Hemrajbhai Shah, Himanshu Vyas and Meena Ambani by Dr. Amit Desai, Mr. Kantibhai Patel, Mr. Ratilal Patel and Mrs. Roopaben Vyas respectively.
During the sumptuous dinner, served by Mrs. Pannaben Patel of Impact Conference Center, Gujarat's renowned comedian Mr. Jagdish Trivedi regaled the audience with rib-tickling jokes.
- Mahadev Desai
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