Swadesh Chatterjee’s, “Building Bridges” Flies off the Shelves at TSH Gala

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Photos: Jit Biswas

By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: In a very well thought out program organized by the Tagore Society of Houston (TSH) on  the evening of April 30, at the India House, Houstonians had the pleasure of meeting several important dignitaries from Washington DC, North Carolina, Sri Lanka and of course our very own Houston. The chief guest and speaker of the annual talk this year was Swadesh Chatterjee who launched his book, “Building Bridges” at the gathering.

The evening took off with a presentation of Tagore’s, “Ekla chalo re,” by the TSH choir. TSH president, Debleena Banerjee welcomed all the dignitaries and attendees and thanked her committeee. The illustrious career of the  new CGI Houston, Dr. Anupam Ray, who made his first public appearance in Houston was introduced by Jagdip Ahluwalia of the IACCGH, the dynamic emcee for the evening. He joined the Indian Foreign Service after completing his education in neurosurgery. After representing India as a diplomat in various high ranking positions in several different countries,, he mentioned he was glad to be in Houston and participating in the TSH function.

A brief audio visual introduced Swadesh Chatterjee from North Carolina, who is an Indian American leader and activist dedicated to fostering a better relationship among American and Indian people, politicians and businesses. Chatterjee as Chairman and Co-founder of the U.S.-India Friendship Council, was instrumental in the passage of the historic US-India Civilian Nuclear Deal bill, which was signed into law in 2008. A recipient of the Padma Bhushan, he wrote “Building Bridges: The Role of Indian Americans in Indo-U.S. Relations.” He familiarized the audience with the memoir which is a chronicle of his deeply personal family story and the ups and downs of the immigrant political empowerment movement. It serves as a blueprint for younger Indian Americans and other immigrant groups raising their voices in the United States, and is an inspiration to all.

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Raymond Vickery, a leading author and advisor on US-India relations and a former US Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Trade Development, took the stage next and was elated to be a part of the TSH program on his birthday. He had been inspired by Tagore and his works for the longest time, since he first visited India and quoted Tagore’s famous lines, “I slept and dreamt…..”

This was followed by a very learned panel discussion on Tagore’s dream of universalism and inspirational global vision. The panel consisted of Ray Vickery, Mallika Rajarathnam, Neel Bhan, and Rathna Kumar. The session was very ably moderated by Pradeep Anand. Neel Bhan, winner of a prior year’s annual TSH essay contest is now a medical student at Southwestern Dallas, and he touched on one of Tagore’s short stories, Kabuliwala which still has it’s universal appeal through the feelings of an Afghani trader, who has left his little daughter back home, sees in little Mini living in Kolkata, the same daughter he has left behind. Mallika, a Tagore scholar from Sri Lanka, who is a Lecturer at the Dept of Philosophy and Psychology at Peradeniya talked about the relevance of his writings even more in these days and ages and talked about his foresight and his extensive travels to cities all over the world. Rathna Kumar, the renowned danceuse, teacher and choreographer, and the Founder-Director of the Anjali Center for Performing Arts, the first Indian dance school in Texas, alluded to her strong family connections with Tagore and how she had been influenced by his works her entire life.

The evening ended with a delicious dinner catered by Nirvana, a cake cutting ceremony by Ray Vickery, and book signing by Chatterjeee. TSH continued Tagore’s 155th birthday celebrations at the Tagore Grove (at Ray Miller Park on Eldridge Pkwy) on May 7 at 10 am, where “Tagore Day Proclamation” from Honorable Judge Emmett was read and garlanding of Tagore statue took place. A FREE community event full of cultural activities at  Houston Durgabari, was arranged for  May 7 evening.

TSH would like to invite one and all to attend future programs and make them a huge success. For further information please visit www.tagoresociety.org or call Debleena Banerjee at (281) 757 5669.

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