Mahadev Desai is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Along-term Community News Editor for India Tribune until he left for Florida in 1999, Mahadev is now back on the Atlanta scene, and writes for various community publications. He says he enjoys covering community events, writing ‘profiles’ and ‘humor’ articles. His articles have been published in Khabar, Voice of India, Darpan, India-Today, Woman’s Era, Desi etc. 
Antony Thaliath: One Determined Man
“Antony has always appeared to me very calm, very cool, who always rises up to the occasion. He reminds me of Joe DiMaggio, the ‘Yankee clipper’ known for moving gracefully around the ball park!...” 

Wherever a worthy cause beckons, he follows with quiet resolve, putting his business acumen, impressive academic qualifications, and his compassion for the down trodden and often neglected sections of the Indian society, to commendable use. Antony Thaliath is soft spoken, self-effacing and publicity shy, but stands tall where humanitarian work, and outreaching to the common man at the grassroots level is concerned. 

“ We are fortunate to enjoy exceptional advantages in our land of adoption and we must learn to give back to our motherland as well as the country we have pitched our tents in,” asserts Antony.

Antony with Senator Hillary Clinton (left) and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Antony with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and wife Dr Lizy Thaliath (right) at the SAI Health Fair in April 2004.
With Congressman Frank Pallone during the latter’s visit to Atlanta in 1990.
Daughter Lucy Thaliath performs at the Gandhi Statue banquet in 1996.
 The Sweet Auburn Festival Peace March in May 2004. Antony with the Gandhi Foundation of USA and Victory Over Violence International Campaign associates.

He is passionate about organizing and participating in Health Fairs held all over Greater Atlanta. He has initiated projects to collect medicine and medical equipments from the US and deliver them to deserving medical institutions in India, free of cost. He has been a director of ‘Care and Share’; a Chicago based international charitable Organization. ‘Care and Share’ conducts medical camps in poor neighborhoods in the US as well as in India. Six years ago, Antony was personally involved in collecting a mammography machine and arranging for its delivery to Lourdes Hospital in Ernakulam, Kerala, India. 

“I feel happy to say it is working well and proving of great benefit to the poor patients visiting that hospital. My dream is to present a mammography machine to every district in Kerala” says Antony, and continues, “This initial endeavor encouraged me to send several pieces of medical equipment including an ultrasound machine and two cardiac monitors to the Mission Hospital in Trichur, Kerala.”

He worked strenuously to collect $250,000 worth of medicines to help the victims of the disastrous Orissa cyclone. He also raised $100,000 worth of medicines for the families of the Kargil War victims. In 1998, he personally donated $10,000 for medicine to the ‘Flying Doctors of America’ on their Himachal Pradesh Mission.

Antony was born in 1941 in Cochin, (Kochi) Kerala, a palm green port on the Malabar Coast in south west India. He grew up in a place whose rich history, diverse culture and landmarks reflect the former influence of the Portuguese, the British and the Moslem rule-the Portuguese Palace, St. Francis Church; the Jewish Synagogue, Chinese fishnets etc. But what exerts its magnetic pull on Anthony even to this days are the sparkling blue lagoons, the backwaters of Kerala, the languid moonlit beaches, the gently swaying rice boats and the cultural festivals. He enjoys his frequent visits to his birthplace.

Young Antony obtained a degree in Physics from U.C.College, Alwaye, Kerala. While at college, he was a member of the college volleyball and soccer teams. He emigrated to the US in 1972, for further education. Like other immigrant students, he worked during evenings to pay for his tuition and studied diligently to earn a Degree in Business Adminstrationin Hotel Management from the University of Denver, Colorado and went on to get an MBA in Accounting from St. John’s University in New York. 

“Quite a chequered academic career,” quips Antony. He met the charming Lizy in New York, where she was doing her residency at Downstate Medical after graduating from Alleppay Medical College, Kerala. They got married in 1975. After moving to Atlanta in 1978, Antony found that there were many immigrant families from Kerala, India, who could do well by interacting and bonding with each other. He was one of the co-founders of the Greater Atlanta Malayalee Association (GAMA) in 1980. Currently there are more than 800 Kerala families living in Metro Atlanta, and GAMA has flourished into a vibrant cohesive association that tries to promote social, cultural, educational, literary, and artistic heritage of the Malayalee community in Greater Atlanta.

GAMA was Antony’s first foray into community service. In 1996, when Atlanta hosted the World Olympics, Antony served as the vice president of Indo-American Host Committee, which extended Southern hospitality to the Indian Olympic contingents. In the same year, he became the director of one of the leading national organizations- the National Federation of Indian American Associations, (NFIA). In 1998, he rose to become its national vice president and currently he is one of the trustees. NFIA is an umbrella organization of regional Indian organizations. It works with the US Congress, the White House, the Indian Embassy in the US and the Government of India, on political, social and other issues. It was instrumental in passing legislation to get minority status for Indian Americans in the US and continues to defend other human rights issues. It helped to form an India Caucus in the US Congress whose membership has now grown to 175 Congressmen.

Antony also serves as director of the Gandhi Foundation of USA. He has been an active member of the Gandhi Task Force since its inception and was a proud witness at the installation of the resplendent Gandhi Statue at the hallowed Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site, in Atlanta, Georgia. Antony enjoys organizing and participating in many diverse activities of the Gandhi Foundation, including health fairs. In the year 2000, he was bestowed the Gandhi Foundation Award for humanitarian services. His immense role and contribution didn’t go unrecognized, as only recently, he has been elevated to the Gandhi Foundation of USA’s deputy executive director’s position.

Antony was part of the delegation that accompanied former US President, President Clinton on his historic five days goodwill visit to India, to revitalize friendship between the world’s most powerful and largest democracies, to recognize India’s emergence as one of the super-powers with extraordinary economic opportunities, particularly in the information technology sector. He was also one of the invited guests at the White House,in September 2000, when President Bill Clinton held a reception to welcome India’s then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to the US.

Antony’s outreach efforts also extend to Kerala’s farming communities. When the pineapple farmers there were unable to maximize their returns due to perishability of the fruit, Antony formed an investment group and started a pineapple processing plant, in Cochin, Kerala, to produce canned pineapple for export. The factory building is ready and the machinery (all imported from the US) is being installed now. Once production begins, the farmers are sure to reap great benefits from it. His concept of “value added agricultural products” will help improve the lives of many farmers.

A successful entrepreneur, Antony is sole proprietor of Taliat Investments, Inc., which manages his real estate investments in Atlanta. Additionally, he and his two partners run ‘American Software Consultants’. Previously, he was chairman of United Travel, Inc. that was bought out by a leading travel corporation,’ World Travel Advisors’.

Antony and his wife Lizy have been blessed with two children, son Hormis, 28, a graduate of the University of Texas, Austin, who runs a business in Atlanta, and daughter Lucy, 26, a Univ. of Georgia graduate in Management Information Systems and Finance, who is currently with IBM as Project Manager. Lizy has been practicing Psychiatry in Atlanta for over 25 years. She too is actively involved in many community service projects and is a very loving and supportive wife. Their children too participate in community service projects whenever they can.

Antony is very appreciative of his two chief mentors; Subash Razdan, acting chairman, and Giriraj Rao, the executive director of the Gandhi Foundation of USA. 

“I have learnt a lot from these two dear friends who have been constant guides, mentors and philosophers to me,’ he says. 

“Antony has always appeared to me very calm, very cool, who always rises up to the occasion. He reminds me of Joe DiMaggio, the ‘Yankee clipper’ known for moving gracefully around the ball park!” comments Giriraj Rao. Subash echoes Giribhai’s sentiments when he says, “It is a delight to have Antony as a colleague for community projects as well as a great friend. We have worked together on many projects, for NFIA, for Gandhi Foundation, and have shared fun moments during our trip to India as part of then President Clinton's delegation.”

“Antony's commitment towards projects propagating the message of peace and non-violence is obvious and his track record speaks for itself,” Razdan adds. “The banquet that he coordinated at Westin Peachtree to celebrate the installation of Gandhi Statue in Atlanta in January of 1998 remains unmatched. A record 1000 people attended, as numbers jumped from the original plans of 400 to 1000, adding almost 500 attendees at the 11th hour. While the whole team panicked, not only did Antony remain calm, but kept the team in good humor, accommodated all the last minute requests and made sure the event went smooth...which it did. His greatest quality is that he can finesse his execution of his assignment in good humor even if operating under extreme duress....failures, though hardly any, he shirks away, smiling, only to be rejuvenated for the next launch of the community project. He dresses immaculate, yet, will not hesitate to fold the sleeves of his brand new suit to get into the trenches at the firing line. Antony is the deputy executive director of the Gandhi Foundation and we have no doubt that the Foundation is going to flourish under his leadership.”

Antony is imbued with buoyant optimism. He feels NRIs have a big role to play in India’s economic advancement. “There are countless humanitarian projects out there. Even one determined man can make things happen. And no one is going to stop me!” he enthuses.