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A Tapestry of Faiths Binds Houston’s Diverse Communities with a Common Goal

Murthy Divakaruni, Fatima Mawji, Anu Bala, Shazma Matin, Arshad Matin, Paula Sutton, Bill Gross, David Raj

Murthy Divakaruni, Fatima Mawji, Anu Bala, Shazma Matin, Arshad Matin, Paula Sutton, Bill Gross, David Raj

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: The mood at this year’s annual Tapestry Gala by the Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston was restrained but decidedly jubilant as the 44 year-old non-profit celebrated the biggest achievements of its long existence looking forward to its expanded facilities that will serve upto 10,000 hot meals a day for the needy and often lonely elderly in the metropolitan area.

IM4

The organization will soon move into a renovated bank building at 3300 Main St. which will serve as its administrative offices, with the familiar Meals on Wheels program moving into a new distribution center across the street. The entire project will cost $12 million and with the architectural elements that are planned for it, will become “an iconic symbol of the Houston’s diversity,” as past Board Chair Bill King exclaimed at the halfway mark of the gala.

The fifth annual gala also was filled with crisp and colorful details, from the décor for the banquet hall of the Hilton Americas which featured small, gold fabric settees built around a column topped by an immense vase filled with a bouquet of flowers, to the centerpieces that had a row of bright red and orange roses with blue hydrangeas down the middle.

Ash and Leena Shah

Ash and Leena Shah

The staged entertainment featured performances much different from last years in that there was a cross between Indian Bollywood fusion dances by Naach Houston and the West Indian folk dances by Urban Souls Dance Company, interspersed by The Treble Choir, the Gary Norton Trio and opera by Kenneth Gayle and Julia Laskowski. While the gala took place on a weekday evening – it was held on Thursday, May 9 – it was elegant, to the point but just long enough to end by 10:30 pm.

The evening opened up with Dr. Fatima Mawji describing the four pillars of IM’s work: meals for the elderly, refugee program, disaster preparedness and interfaith dialogue. She marveled at how she, a Shia Muslim native of Mumbai, was able to work with a team led by a Jewish President (Elliot Gershenson) and work with Christian volunteers for the better of society in Houston. “Some day it will all end and lists will not matter,” she said philosophically, “How will the value of your days be remembered – your integrity, character, sacrifice. A life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.”

The emcee for the evening, one time television sportscaster and now head of her own production company, Lisa Malosky moved the gala along throughout the night. A video presentation touched on all the areas that IM works in and featured a short clip on a Bhutanese refugee Dhan Tamaj and the Interfaith Dialogue held at Bobby and IM Director Jasmeeta Singh’s house.

Fred Zeidman, Bobby Singh

Fred Zeidman, Bobby Singh

Another video showed how the iLead program taught young people from different faiths to respect each other’s cultural and religious differences. After the video, the youngsters featured in the video came onstage, with their spokesman concluding that “no one can say why some fields are green under the August sun and some others are not.”

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the 2013 Tapestry Award to long time Houstonians Marie and Vijay Goradia who have been great benefactors of many charities and community events in the Bayou City. In presenting the award, Aziz Jamaluddin said they were a “gracious and very generous couple” and quipped that “Vijay was often considered the Godfather of the Indian community. But while Vijay focuses on his business supplying industrial, automotive facilities, Marie is his intellectual and social compass.”

After dinner, Marie and Vijay came onstage to speak of their love for the community that they have settled in after leaving their native India. Ever mindful of how Life has blessed them, Marie said she realized that their contribution was but a drop in the ocean of need. She explained how she went on a Meals on Wheels tour last year and met with some elderly citizens whose only contact with others in the whole day was the driver. She talked about her multi faith household – she’s Catholic and Vijay is Hindu – and how that fits in with IM’s philosophy of co-existence.

Marie went on to add that she never dreamt that she would be given this chance to give back to her community and “leave a positive footprint in the sands of Time” and “make a difference in what happens when Life throws you a curve ball.”

Vijay Goradia spoke his feelings through an incident that happened to him as he sat on the pier in Boston harbor and was eating a sandwich. “An old man with a scraggly beard, unkempt hair and a limp came and sat next to me,” he recalled of that incident which made him change his outlook on life. The two got around to talking and Vijay learnt that the man was a Vietnam Veteran with several injuries which never fully recovered, had been in rehab, his wife had left him and then died and had a grown daughter who didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

Vijay was taken aback by the quiet dignity of the man who wasn’t asking for anything. Still, as the two broke away, Vijay took all the money in his pocket and gave it to the man who thanked Vijay and said that he had an angel looking over him. Touched, Vijay said that the experience taught him that you can be an angel to those who need your help.

As the evening drew to a close, Vijay and Marie Goradia were joined onstage by the President of the Indo American Charity Foundation Murthy Divakaruni to thank them for their support for the IACF and presented the IM with an outsized check for $61,000, as previous IACF Presidents Anu Bala and David Raj looked on.

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