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GOPIO-Atlanta launched with pomp and pride

By: Mahadev Desai and Viren Mayani
June 2011
GOPIO-Atlanta launched with pomp and pride A diverse cross section of Atlanta’s Indian-American associations, including professionals, academics and community activists, attended the inauguration of GOPIO-Atlanta (Global Organization of People of Indian Origin) at its first awards gala & banquet on Saturday, April 23, 2011. Coincidentally it was also the inauguration of the beautiful Season’s Event Center in Patel Plaza, Decatur, GA.

Emcee Rifka Mayani, with her infectious cheerfulness, welcomed chief guest Consul General of India (Houston) Honorable Sanjiv Arora along with guests of honor, Vice President and GOPIO’s National Coordinator Dr. Piyush Agrawal, Gwinnett County Chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners Charlotte Nash, and former Member of House of Representatives Mike Glanton to the stage, along with GOPIO Atlanta’s President Bhairavi Nadgonde and Chairperson Dr. Paddy Sharma. Rifka also recognized GOPIO Atlanta’s Executive Committee members, Vice President Upendra Bhatt and Secretary/Treasurer Mustafa Ajmeri.

President Bhairavi gave a PowerPoint presentation on GOPIO, a global organization dedicated to community service, with 25 chapters in 19 countries. She exhorted all PIOs and organizations to be members. Dr. Paddy Sharma noted the proposed opening of the Indian Consulate in Atlanta and recognized the many and varied contributions of the PIOs in Atlanta: Freedom Fighters, entrepreneurs, educationists, philanthropists, journalists and pioneers like the first person of Indian origin to become President of a University in America and the first female Olympian. “Just as we are proud of their achievements, we are also indebted to them for making the road ahead easier for us. So my big thanks to all the awardees tonight” said a beaming Dr. Sharma.

Dr. Agrawal, a UNESCO expert in education, administered the Oath of Office to the GOPIO -Atlanta Chapter’s new President, Bhairavi Nadgonde. Dr. Agrawal then lauded Mr. Arora for his hard work and commitment. In a brief but light-hearted speech, Mr. Arora welcomed the new chapter and touted about the increasing volume of work at his Consulate: 58,000 visas,15,000 passports, 7,006 PIO Cards, 10,000 OCI Cards, 30,000 Surrender Certificates, and 7,200 miscellaneous services were all provided in 2010 by a staff of only 9 individuals.

A cake-cutting ceremony featured a tricolor layer cake depicting people and topped with the Gopio logo, made by Julie Thomas of Artisan Cakes.

GOPIO presented 18 Awards: Community Awareness – Chittaranjan Jyotishi; Community Development – Shiv Aggarwal; Community Service – Chander Aggarwal, Vijay Vemulapalli; Cultural Awareness – Ms.Varsha Patel; Education Development – Dr. Beheruz Sethna, Dr. Bikramjit Garcha; Gandhian Freedom Fighter – Mrs.Lilyben Desai, Mrs. Leena Kotak; Goodwill Ambassador – Subash Razdan, Dr. Narsi Narasimhan; Leading Entrepreneur of Atlanta – Mafat Patel; Media and Journalism Service – Mahadev Desai, Ravi Ponangi; Outstanding Young Entrepreneur – Nimish Patel; Philanthropy and Health Service – Dr. P. Ravi Sarma; Service to India’s Freedom Movement – Dr. Bhagwan Singh Gyanee; and Sportsperson of Atlanta – Ms. Mary D’Souza Sequeira.

After dinner by Mirch Masala, Saaz Aur Aawaaz regaled the audience with singers Dattaprasad Ranade and Saavani Ravindra, and accompanists Kedar Gulvani on violin and Amod Kulkarni on tabla. Narration scripted by Salim Arif was given by Milind Oak. Commentary covered Ghazal’s history, language, poetry, glamorization, its foray into Indian cinema and its global popularity on music CD’s and live TV shows today. Albeit Marathi singers, Dattaprasad & Saavani delivered Urdu Ghazals by Farida Khanum, Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali, Pankaj Udhas, Qateel Shifai, Faiz and many more, with ease; they have presented over 50 concerts in the U.S. this year alone. The sound system was managed by Shyam Brahmbhatt.

And the highlight of this part of the program was when Consul Aroraji was asked to present shayari, as he is known to indulge in this art form. Without hesitation he garnered the mic to state that it was his late father who had studied Urdu and and inspired young Arora. Modestly, Consul Aroraji recited a few couplets by famous poets with expert diction and a mellifluous voice.

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