BY VEENA RAO
Atlanta, GA, August 1, 2023: National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), a national umbrella organization of Indian American associations established in 1980, launched its Scholarship Program during a musical charity concert with popular ‘The Voice’ fame Bollywood singer, Garima Khiste at Berkmar High School Auditorium on July 8. The event also celebrated the Independence Days of India (August 15) and the USA (July 4). State Rep. Matt Reeves and Georgia Senator Jason Esteves were the guests of honor.
With tributes through national anthems (sung by Esha Singh and Shasank Jagirdar) and lighting of the lamps, the NFIA program, which was co-organized by Senior Citizens Program of Georgia, launched the following five (5) national scholarships spread over a period of 4-year academic curricula: NFIA-Heartfulness; NFIA-Bhandari Nirankari Trust; NFIA-Sardana (Innova); NFIA-Sheth (Jagdish & Madhu Sheth) Foundation; NFIA-Kashmiris of Georgia (KOG).
Gandhi Foundation of USA chairman (and former President of NFIA) Subash Razdan, who was the emcee for the evening, thanked the sponsors, volunteers, and attendees while reminding the audience that his engineering degree from IIT, a world-class Indian institution, cost only $110 over five years. “The heads of Microsoft and Google and other MNCs are from IITs and got their education for more or less the same amount. That is because their home country and their parents gave importance and support to quality education,” he said.
Raj Razdan, president of NFIA expressed profound gratitude to those who helped raise funds for the scholarships.
“Today, we have the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of young individuals who deserve a chance to pursue their dreams and unlock their true potential,” she said in her remarks. “Education is the greatest gift we can offer our future generations. It is the catalyst that ignites innovation and empowers communities and progress in our society. Unfortunately, many individuals face barriers in accessing quality education due to financial constraints. That is where our scholarship comes in—a beacon of hope for deserving students yearning to fulfill their ambitions.”
By supporting the scholarship initiative, we are investing in future leaders, innovators, inventors, and change-makers of tomorrow, she added. “We are opening doors that were once closed. We are not only helping their education, but helping them break the cycle of poverty, empower others, and make a lasting difference in the communities.”
Rep. Matt Reeves, in his remarks, said education is expensive these days, but it is not nearly as expensive as ignorance.
“We need support for education. Hope scholarship in Georgia has been great, which a lot of folks in the Indian community have supported.”
Rep. Reeves said the Indian community in Suwanee, Sugar Hill, and Duluth (the areas he represents), are showing the rest of the community how to live the American dream every day.
State Senator Jason Esteves, who is also a former at-large representative and Board Chair of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, said India and the US share common values, particularly around freedom, liberty and democracy. “Those values are incredibly important because they enable us to pursue happiness for our families.”
“As I travel around the country, I see so many of our families want the same thing. We want to raise our families in a safe and welcoming environment and ensure that our children live better lives than we lived ourselves,” he said. “That’s why I started my service on the school board. Education is one of the most important gifts one can provide.” Sen. Esteves congratulated Subash Razdan for his vision in drafting the Georgia State Senate Resolution SR 1248 on Indo-Georgia Friendship which was spearheaded by Senators Hill and Pearson and approved by the Senate unanimously.
Senator Esteves also talked about PM Modi’s recent address to the Congress. “He (Modi) called upon both countries to leverage our diversities to make our communities stronger. He called us to ensure that no group is left behind or unseen or discriminated against. To build democracies that are inclusive.”
Both Gandhi and Dr King understood the golden rule, he added. That we should treat others as we want others to treat us.
“Hold us accountable to build a more inclusive Georgia and United States because our children are counting on us to make sure it happens,” he said.
Lifelong educator and retired school principal Savitri Gauba, in her spirited address, said knowledge is power. “Education gives us confidence. It gives us the power to know ourselves, our society, culture, religion, country and the world at large. In Sanskrit there is a saying: If you educate a boy child, you educate one person, but if you educate a girl child, you educate the whole family. We should emphasize on equal education for boys and girls,” she said.
A message from Kapil Bhandari, one of the Grand Patrons and major sponsors of the scholarship initiative, said his family trust, the Bhandari Nirankari Trust, was happy to participate and support NFIA in their endeavor to make a difference in youth education with the shared belief that better education can make a person understand the world better, be a good neighbor, and a good citizen.
Heartfulness, another Grand Patron of the scholarship, was represented by Suraj Sehgal, (son of Heartfulness Atlanta’s Sanjay Sehgal), who emphasized that “Education was so important to them. It helped my dad (Sanjay Sehgal) become the first person in the family to come to the US. Education has transformed my life as well,” he said.
Manish Mahajan said Heartfulness is a global organization focused on spreading heart-based meditation. “It is available in 100 countries around the globe. We have 50 trainers in Atlanta.”
Mahajan also talked about Heartfulness’s global guide, Padma Bhushan Kamlesh Patel or Daaji’s upcoming book, ‘Spiritual Anatomy’.
NFIA was launched in Georgia in 1988 when Subash Razdan was appointed as the Regional Vice President of Southeast USA region. In 1992 NFIA organized its 7th Biennial Convention in Atlanta with Ted Turner as its Keynote speaker and with the launching of the film festival with Bollywood actors Amol Palekar and Moon Moon Sen (recent member of parliament of India). Concurrently then, two (2) taskforces namely, Sister City Relationship between Atlanta and India and Gandhi Memorial in Atlanta were launched.
“Now, 31 years later, in 2023, NFIA has diversified with emphasis on youth education, mentorship and scholarships”, remarked NFIA President Raj Razdan. She added, that NFIA has 12 regions in the USA nationally and thus those RVPs of NFIA are a tremendous resource for the logical administration of youth scholarships across the expanse of the USA.
So, it was naturally befitting to recognize NFIA past and present officers with presentations of plaques.
Some of the noteworthy accomplishments, service, and philanthropy of NFIA in the past include:
NFIA hosted a historic banquet in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of India’s Independence in Washington DC, which was graced by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton; NFIA also hosted a Banquet in honor of India’s former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral in New York.
Thirty years ago (in 1993), NFIA had partnered with the North South Foundation (NSF) and jointly launched the Spelling Bee across the same resourceful 12 regions of NFIA. The rest is history as the children of Indian diaspora have monopolized the Spelling Bee Championship in the USA.
NFIA Philanthropy: NFIA facilitated a $100,000 donation through Coca-Cola for the Andhra Pradesh Cyclone victims; Donation of $10,000 to the Scholarship fund for the Kashmiri refugees; NFIA contributed $ 25,000 and got a NFIA school at Latur, Maharashtra in the aftermath of disastrous Latur Earthquake; NFIA contributed $30, 000 during the Kargil war towards the Kargil Army Family Welfare Fund; contributed towards Gujarat Earthquake relief fund; Donation of Mammogram machines to a hospital in Bhavnagar, Gujarat; Donation of an Echo cardio imaging system to the Medical College, Simla; Partnered with Sewa International and donated to Sewa for their own relief efforts; Contributed $10,000 towards Children Wish Foundation/hospital in Georgia; NFIA donated $ 5000 to Oklahoma Governor’s fund for the welfare of the families of the victims of senseless bombing; Contributed $5000 for Georgia flood relief fund; etc.; etc. The list of donations is pleasantly long and impressive!
About SCP: The Senior Citizens Program (SCP) of Georgia founded in 1996, endeavors to enrich and empower the lives of the Senior citizens through music, dance, fun games, fraternity, and camaraderie during its monthly luncheon events courtesy support of sponsors and at no cost/charge to Seniors. SCP also deems serving the community as its duty and commitment to the society and has been in the forefront towards charity relief, donating approximately $ 25,000 for the PM Care fund for relief to the victims of Covid pandemic.
Light dinner and refreshments were sponsored by Narendra Patel of Madras Chettinaad/Mantra.
A moment of silence was held in tribute and prayers for the passing away of Dr. Christine King Farris, sister of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and a true friend of the Indian American community.
The evening continued with a live concert by the very talented versatile singer, Garima Khiste and her band, who mesmerized the audience with Bollywood and regional hits, both old and new, over a standing ovation into the wee hours of the midnight at the Berkmar Arts & Performing Center