A Community Icon Turns 92 with a Bang: Col. Raj Bhalla

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: When Raj Bhalla and his wife Kanwal moved to the Houston area in 1995, they had no idea that how much they would become the beloved couple of the community. It was a combination of their affection for people and causes as well as willingness to give of their time and money that brought them in touch with many of the movers and shakers of the South Asian community here.

But Raj Bhalla’s enormous influence also permeated through the Morton Masonic Lodge No 72 in Richmond that he became attached to, after having spent most of his life in service as a Free Mason in India and New York. He gave generously to the remodeling of the Lodge and many of its charitable causes.

The philanthropy did not end there. In 2020, Raj and Kanwal Bhalla gave away $1 million to a huge list of charities and non-profits, half of that amount going to the Houston Methodist Hospital Foundation. They made another large donation earlier this year towards the completion of the Memorial Eagle Plaza off University Blvd. in Sugar Land.

So when the Bhallas asked a few dozen of their close friends to celebrate Raj’s 92nd birthday on Wednesday, October 5, it was an invitation not to be turned down. They were able to enjoy his company over dinner at the Songkran Thai restaurant in Uptown Park. Never one at a loss for words, Raj acknowledged in a short speech of his affection for his close-knit group of friends. There were huge sparkler candles on the cake, and they felicitated him with a song and short, warm words by Songkran owner Ashok Rao.