A Momentous Event in ICC’s 40 Year History


From left: Meena Garside (AIA), Ambassador K.S.Bajpai,Mrs. Sonia Gandhi,Dr. Suresh Moonat, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, ICC President Vilas Muzumdar, Indian Security Chief Mr. Subramaniam, Saraswathi Bajpai, ICC Secretary Krishna Vavilala and Kamlesh Nigam

By Krishna Vavilala

Secretary of ICC in Yr.1985

HOUSTON: As we celebrated ICC’s 40 year history, it must be remembered that June 15, 1985 was a momentous day in ICC’s  history.  Kathy Whitmire was Houston’s Mayor and Ronald Regan was the US President. It was the day, when ICC along with community organizations held a Texas size reception to the newly elected youngest Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and his wife, Sonia Gandhi. It was the only State visit to Houston by any Indian Prime Minister in history. The importance of the visit was highlighted by the fact that US Vice-President George Bush and Barbara Bush personally escorted the Gandhis from Washington, D.C. to Ellington Air Force Base in their Air Force Two plane. President Ronald Regan extended extra FBI protection to Rajiv Gandhi in view of the threats by the Khalistani activists. Jawahar Malhotra, a reputed journalist of Indo-American News described the highly charged political atmosphere as follows: ”Outside in the hot sun, the pro-Khalistani Sikhs screamed slogans of protest ….. and two blocks away, a group of Indians, mostly non-Sikhs demonstrated their support for peaceful co-existence.”

The Indian Ambassador to US, K.S.Bajpai and his wife, Saraswathi Bajpai also flew in from Washington, D.C. to participate in the event.   The Prime Minster who at 40 became the youngest elected Prime Minister of India noted in his speech that Indians in US are not Brain Drains, but they are Brain Banks for India. Acknowledging Houston as a Centre for Technology, Gandhi said he was looking forward to new areas of cooperation in many fields.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his wife, Sonia arrived at the venue an hour or so late, maintaining the proverbial Indian Punctuality. Uma Mantravadi, then a newcomer to Houston and other local singers engaged the audience until the Prime Minister arrived. Dr. Suresh Moonat, the Vice-President of ICC was the EMCEE for the event and this writer as ICC Secretary had the privilege of giving Vote of Thanks to the Prime Minister.

A debate ensued as to why ICC should charge admission fee $5.00 per head to hear their country’s Prime Minister and whether the event should be a fund raiser.  As usual, ICC had no money. The revenues from ticket sales and Souvenir advertisements and donations from wealthy community members helped cover the expenses.  Brown and Root, my employer then, agreed to my request to support the event by taking a cover page advertisement for $1500/-in the special Souvenir published to commemorate the event. That was the first time any major US Corporation had advertised in an ICC souvenir. Other Patrons and Sponsors for the event were: Dr. V.S.Mathur, Durga Agarwal, A.Dave, Ashok Dhingra, Dr. K. Gupta, F.S. Halim, Dr. Satish Jhingran, N. Kasal, S.Puranik, J.Sharma, R.Shah, M.Vyas, Damm Dees, Dr. Mishra, R.Syal, Dr. Nandeti Rao and Gopal Savjani.

ICC Board members in 1985 were: Vilas Mujumdar, President; Dr. Suresh Moonat, Vice-President; Krishna Vavilala, the Secretary; Leela Krishna Murthy, the Treasurer, Shailendra N. Endley, Ajay Kapoor, Kulbhushan Uppal (Souvenir),Vibhuti Shah, Abhey Jain, Anil Rajguru, Arun Mukhopadhyaya (who sang the national anthem),  late Gogineni Subbarayudu, Ramesh B.Shama Rao,Vik Bhagia and late Mohini Sindhwani.

The organizing Committee for Rajiv Gandhi’s reception also consisted of Kamlesh Nigam, Meena Garside of Association of Indians in America (AIA) and Raj Syal, all of whom were elected to represent the Indo-American community-at-large and share the stage with the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi.

Although, I do not pretend to remember the names of all people who actively participated and made the event a grand success, a special mention must be made of Mayekar family’s art work which produced the three-sided lion emblem which hung over the center stage as a back drop; Dr. Sunita Moonat and Shailendra Sacheti family for overall  venue management including decorations; Lakshmi Vavilala for keeping tab on all ticket sales and attending to phone calls; Ajay Kapoor, the volunteer coordinator who ensured all attendees take their respective seats in an orderly fashion. I shall be pardoned if I have missed any other names, all from memory.

After all, a 28 year old event that made history for ICC is hard to recap in greater detail without further research.