Back Share Group

India’s 69th Republic Day;
befittingly observed and poignantly celebrated.

By Mahadev Desai & Viren Mayani
Photos: Courtesy ByteGraph

India has become an important inclusion in all Global matters with its recent strong narrative; irrespective of its economic successes or social challenges. Correspondingly and as it has become customary, since the establishment of the Indian Consulate in Atlanta, Hon. Consul General Nagesh Singh and Mrs Pragjna Singh, hosted quite an eclectic gathering of guests from all over the southeast, for the Republic Day’s glitzy reception on Sunday January 28th 2018. The grand affair was staged at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North’s super-packed Ballroom, and for which the hotel staff left no effort in adding shine to the overwhelming glitter.
It is rare that not one, but four elected officials in Georgia, attended the event in support of and resonating the current and sustainable Federal climate of the multi-faceted Indo-US cooperation. Chief Guest, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; Congressman Rob Woodall; Mayor Rusty Paul (Sandy Springs) and Senator Mike Dugan certainly made their presence felt in addition to dear friends: Amb. Charles Shapiro, CG Christopher Smith of Denmark, CG Takashi Shinozuka of Japan, and CG John E. Parkerson of Hungary, besides notable others. Hon Nagesh Singh and Mrs. Pragjna Singh, along with the entire Consular Staff including but not limited to Vice Consul D. V. Singh, Vice Consul Timothy Jetty, Consul Prasad Vanpal et al, superbly executed the on-time event, to the delight of all guests.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle

The reception venue full of cheer; as attendees mingled and exchanged Republic Day greetings, was set with hors d’oeuvres and beverages for guests to enjoy before the main event. The program was emceed with flair by Pratibha (Patty) Tripathi, a former CNN News anchor in Atlanta. With giant screens running live video-streaming of the event, on either side of the stage; hair raising renditions of both: the U.S. and the Indian national anthems, were performed by Levin Koshy and Johnson McDonal respectively.

CG Nagesh Singh

CG Singh began his welcome address by thanking all the guests attending the celebrations, especially those who traveled from far. He continued, speaking of India adopting its Constitution on January 26, 1950, and declaring itself a democratic republic. Inspired by the American Constitution, he stated, it also starts with ‘We the people.’ He spoke of India’s unparalleled diversity of: 1.3 billion people speaking 35 languages of which 23 are recognized as state languages…. And of its economy, which in the last 2 years has become the fastest growing in the world, and which, according to McKinsey, will be 3rd largest by 2025 in real terms and also according to McKinsey, by 2050 it will overtake the U.S. to become the 2nd largest global economy. “The partnership with the U.S. is essential for India’s economic and social transformation”, he said, “and is its major bilateral relationship, based on common concerns. In the state of Georgia, India has 60 companies, not all in IT, but also in manufacturing”. He articulated how about 200,000 students from India studying in the U.S. are contributing roughly 6B dollars in (fees) revenue and how a million Americans and Indians travel to each other’s nations, every year, generating significant travel revenue as well as opening their hearts and minds through their in-person cultural exchange experiences, derived not just through books.

CG Singh statistically compared the Indian-Americans (25 years and older) of which, 77% have at least a Bachelor’s degree as compared to the U.S. national average of 31%, and 44% have a Masters or Ph.D., compared to the U.S. average of 11%. The median household income of four million Indian-American households is $107,000 compared to other households in the U.S. which is at $53,000. He paid tribute to the USA, emphatically stating to a loud applause, that “this wouldn’t have been possible in any other country. Meritocracy works in this country like in no other. That is why Indian-Americans who immigrated here with scant resources, have risen to the top by hard work, and are in formidable positions in Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, etc”. He quoted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in his marvelous speech entitled ‘Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century’ described India and the U.S. as two bookends of peace, prosperity, and stability.

Chief Guest: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle lauded Nagesh Singh: “I enjoy a wonderful relationship with him. He has passion, love, and affection, which he brings to his office every day.” He also recognized and praised Atlanta’s committed Indian-American Republican, who is also a great philanthropist; Dr. Indrakrishnan: “We have recognized him on numerous occasions for his work as a physician and his services to others. He is a wonderful man.” Georgia relies on the talent and strength of India, he said. Georgia has the busiest airport in the world, strong infrastructure, a fast growing port, many Fortune 500 companies, and top research institutions. But “the value and dignity of work is the important fabric that unites us together tonight.” He spoke of being raised by his mother, who worked two jobs, instilling values of faith and a work ethic. India is a great example of sacrifice and commitment to service, he said. Georgia’s workforce is diverse, and it needs skilled workers, but 25% of its kids live in poverty. “Education is a great equalizer. Small businesses can fulfill their hopes and dreams here. He ended with “Thank you for all you do for GA”.

Congressman Rob Woodall

Congressman Rob Woodall who spoke next, in jest, requested all his bosses in the audience to raise their hands! He obviously meant the guests living in his district. A fan of Indian-Americans who are significant in his district, he spoke of the great strides undertaken and recognizing much needs to be done. Up until 1990 there was only one Indian-American Congressman in the U.S. Congress: Judge Dalip Singh Saund in CA. Later, Bobby Jindal was the second in 2004. Now there are five! He too recognized and complimented Dr. Indrakrishnan by saying: “He was the first to open his home to me. He would phone me and suggest solutions to problems and not simply call and complain: “We have a program working for kids who are hungry. Government is helping, but we are doing something special here. Come, see and learn how we can make things better.” And “We have cancer screening data here. Can you help me talk to the Insurance mediators? We can make a difference in people’s lives if we let them have access to the very best”. Or “I see some problems and I have some solutions. How can we partner together and get it done to make some difference.” Those remarks drew a huge applause. He continued: “That spirit changes everything - what it means to be a constitutional republic, what it means to be a self-governing people”. He closed by saying that: “only recently I learnt the literal translation of ‘Namaste’, which means ‘I bow to the divine within you. That is very powerful.” Woodall noted that Nagesh Singh’s biography shows no assignment lasting more than three and half years; “I fear the call will be coming soon. We must request Prime Minister Modi to let him stay a bit longer! (Loud applause). He quipped how we must all unite and strategically plead PM Modi to extend his stay as CG! In closing to a continued applause, he compared: “Modi’s powerful exhortation at Madison Square Garden: ‘India is open for business. Come on home.’ My message is: ‘America is open for business. Come, stay, grow and build with us.’”

Mayor Rusty Paul

The last official to take stage and address the gathering, Mayor Rusty Paul, was in India last year, visiting companies, and was impressed with the young men and women. Our President also declared: “America open for business just like all countries are saying the same thing”. My message goes further: ‘If you are going to invest in USA, there is absolutely no better place to do it than in Sandy Springs, Georgia.” He thanked all for their friendship.

Anjaneya Sastri & Kakali Bandyopadhyay

Dr. Kakali Bandyopadhyay, a sitar disciple of maestros: Pt. Shri Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, who is also an affiliate faculty in Emory’s Music Department, regaled the audience with her performance of raga Desh. She was accompanied on tabla by Anjaneya Sastri, disciple of tabla maestro Pt. Prithviraj Bhattacharjee.

With all the remarks and short speeches completed the guests were invited to the warm and delicious dinner, while Johnson McDonal & Sharoon Farhat entertained them with popular Bollywood songs. Amritsar-born John grew up in Chandigarh. He has been influenced by Punjabi folk songs and Sufi-style singing. In the late 80s he formed a Western band called c-Boyz, joined by Bollywood playback singer Krishna Beura. John came to the U.S. in the 90s and is drawn to Bollywood music. In 2008, he made his first album with playback singer Alka Yagnik, which was released in the U.K. in 2009. Besides desi genres, John sings gospel music. The elegant décor, stunning lighting effects, music & sound system, photo and videography, was all professionally set-up & managed by ByteGraph Creations; Atlanta’s dominant vendor for sound & lights.

Performers with Emcee Pratibha (Patty) Tripathi

Earlier in the week on January 26th; India’s Republic Day, the Consulate had staged the festivities at its offices. Again, as has become customary, the “Tiranga” (the tri-colored India’s Flag) was unfurled to release rose petals in the Consulate’s lawns with the attendees and consular staff cohesively singing the Indian National Anthem. Hon. CG Nagesh Singh also gave brief remarks of the strong progress in Indian’s Economy as well as read aloud India’s President: Shri Ram Nath Kovind’s, address to the Indian Nation. The short and sweet ceremonial gathering ended with refreshments for all, mingling of the guests and photo taking with CG and Mrs. Pragjna Singh; who smilingly & gregariously welcomes all for the same.