It was a memorable evening in every possible way. The Ballroom at The Hilton Hotel in Stamford, CT was filled with more than 200 invited guests from across the state of Connecticut, including community leaders, elected officials, and honorees and their families on Saturday, June 18, 2016. The event was the 10th annual Gala and awards nite organized by The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Connecticut Chapter honoring five for their achievements and contributions to the community: The gala included a cocktail reception, dinner, music, live DJ and dances by participants, eloquent speeches, touching lifestories and inspiring narratives on the lives of the five distinguished honorees.
Prominent among those who had attended and spoke at the annual gala included, Congressman Jim Himes, Stamford Mayor David Martin, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Connecticut State Senators Tony Hwang and Toni Boucher and CT State Assemblyman Dan Carter.
Sachin Lawande, President and CEO of Visteon Corporation (Van Buren, MI), was recognized for his achievement as a Corporate Leader. Visteon is one of the world’s leading suppliers of vehicle cockpit electronics, serving auto manufacturers around the globe. Sachin was described to be leading a rapid evolution of electronics technology and software to meet the demands of the connected car era. In his response, Laweande, while thanking GOPIO-CT, he said, “May this award given to me today be an inspiration to the younger generation.”
Anjali Sharma, a Greenwich resident, was honored for Community Service and promoting philanthropy. Anjali, a Trustee of AIF, has worked tirelessly to as a humanist and philanthropist to promote India’s development. She won the loudest applause from the audience for her simple narration of the many effort she and her organization do to bring a little cheer in the lives of hundreds of people in India she has been instrumental in touching with her monetary help. While acknowledging the award, Sharma applauded GOPIUO and said, “Your efforts show that you are working to have our community integrated with the mainstream world.”
Annapurna Duleep, a former Norwalk Councilwoman, was recognized for her contributions and achievements in Political Involvement. Anna is the first woman and South Asian to be elected Sheriff of Norwalk City in 2014. She is an ardent proponent of gun control. Duleep urged the participants and the larger Indian American community to “Join with me in the effort to take the community to the next level.”
GOPIO-CT President’s Young Professional Achiever Award was given to Roopa Modha of Shelton, who has been working tirelessly to promote women’s issues using her legal expertise to further women’s causes. Her commitment is to empower women and bring the issues of domestic violence and rape into the public domain. A lawyer by profession, She attended the White House’s United State of Women Summit in 2016.
Dr. Thomas Abraham, Founder President of GOPIO International who is also a Trustee of GOPIO-CT, while introducing, David Smith, FACHE of Stamford Hospital as the recipient of the Friend of GOPIO and the Indian American community award, said, “For the first time, GOPIO-CT is recognizing an employee of an institution. Mr. Smith currently serves as Senior Vice President, Strategy and Chief Strategy and Network Development Officer at Stamford Health, Stamford, Connecticut. He has worked in the Health Care Sector for over 35 years. He is an ardent supporter of good health and healthy food habits. David has supported IndianAmerican community for many years.” In his response, shared with the audience as to how he developed an increasing taste for India and the people from this large nation. He spoke about his his close association with many people of Indian origin in the US.
GOPIO-CT President’s Young Professional Achiever Award was given to Roopa Modha, who has been working tirelessly to promote women’s issues using her legal expertise to further women’s causes. Her commitment is to empower women and bring the issues of domestic violence and rape into the public domain. In her passionate address, Modha hoped that “this award will inspire many more to join in the efforts to make a just world.” She urged the audience to “be passionate about making a positive impact on others.”
For the second year in a row, GOPIO-CT Scholarship for College Tuitions were given to Gunja Shah, a prospective student at Massachussetts College of Pharmacy; Tanusri Balla, entering University of Pennsylvania; Nikita Jaaswal, who has enrolled to begin her studies at University of California; and Sirin Vahora, amother of two, who has accepted into Norwalk Community Ciollege’s Nursing Program. GOPIO-CT Scholarship Committee consisted of Sanjay Santhanam (Chairman), Hari Srinivasan, Tara Sharma, and Priya Easwaran coordinated GOPIO-CT efforts and led the fundraising at the event to expand the scholarship to other parts of Connecticut in the coming years.
Proclamations from Governor Malloy, Mayor David Martin, and US Senator Richard Bllomenthal to the awardees were read out at the awards ceremony. In welcoming the guests and dignitaries, Shelly Nichani, President of GOPIO-CT said “We are celebrating the achievements of five distinguished individuals and the award is a reflection of their remarkable accomplishments and commendable services.” He said, over the last ten years, GOPIO-CT has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future.
Congressman Jim Himes, who represents Connecticut’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives, where he is serving his fourth term, said he was delighted to be at the event to honor the accomplishments of so many talented individuals. He complimented the IndianAmerican community as the highly educated 3.2 million strong, making tremendous contributions to the economic quality of this country.
“You are the community. You are not part of the community,” Mayor David Martin told the Indian Americans. Pointing to the historic nature of the upcoming general elections in November, Mayor Martin urged the members to register and vote, and thus become ensure that your voices are heard.”
Mayor Harry Rilling said “I am honored to be here to celebrate among friends and am thankful for the warm welcome the Indian community has always extended to me and my family.” He also congratulated GOPIO-CT for its 10 years of service and bringing the Indian community together.
Niraj Baxi, the President of International GOPIO congratulated the awardees for “bringing honor to your Indian heritage. We are all very proud of you.” He said he was “delighted to be part of the celebration in Connecticut honoring distinguished IndianAmericans and David Smith, a Friend of GOPIO.”the Friend of GOPIO and the Indian Community award.