First Indian Senior’s Convention a Beautiful Twilight for the Young at Heart

Judge Ed Emmet and ISCA president Lalit Chinoy at the convention.

Judge Ed Emmet and ISCA president
Lalit Chinoy at the convention.

By Malay Vyas

STAFFORD: “Live in the Now”, proclaimed the banner proudly as it hung over the entrance to the first ever North American Indian Senior Citizen’s National Convention that was held at the Stafford Civic Centre on the weekend of September 14 and 15. The group about a thousand senior citizens from across North America – and even India – were certainly living by that motto as gathered in the Metroplex to celebrate Life.

Judging by the excitement and hustle and bustle of activities on Saturday morning, you would have assumed that there was a huge college reunion going on. “We were in the midst of our Silver Jubilee celebrations in 2010 when we thought about a national level convention. The idea was to bring seniors from all over North America under one roof to celebrate life and live in the now”, explained Lalit Chinoy, President of the Indian Senior Citizen Association of Houston, excitement in his voice. “I am thankful to have such supportive committee and Board members; as a team we worked hand in hand”. He also singled out Devendra Patel who managed the kitchen and food arrangements; Shailesh Desai who managed the Backstage; Arvind Patel for helping in registration of all participants and Neetin Vyas for his IT and computer expertise.

ISCA Houston Committee Members and other dignitaries on stage.

ISCA Houston Committee Members and other dignitaries on stage.

On opening day, after the Indian and American National Anthems,  the Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish delivered the keynote address lauding the seniors for setting an example for others to emulate followed by encouraging words from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Sugar Land Councilman Harish Jajoo. Harris County along with cities of Stafford, Sugar Land and Richmond all gave Proclamations making September 14, 2013 Indian Senior Citizen Association. The program brochure included Texas Governor Rick Perry and even Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi among the event’s well-wishers.

Ghazal Singer Atul Brahmbhatt (right) who flew in from India.

Ghazal Singer Atul Brahmbhatt (right) who flew in from India.

The convention program was both informative and entertaining. Parag Mehta explained the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare; followed by bhangra and garba performed on stage. After lunch on day one, various ISCA presidents, as well as Ramesh Butada – the chief guest – addressed the gathering. Then the seniors took to theatre in the first skit of the convention – “Swami Vivekananda’s Life Journey”. This was followed by break out meetings on informative subjects such as “Challenges of Bones & Joints after 60” by Dr. Vishal Shah; “Social Security Retirement benefits” by the local social security outreach office; “Long term Care” by Nationwide Insurance; Supplementing Retirement Income Insurance by Gita Patel of AGLA Insurance. This was followed by the semifinals of a talent show aptly titled “Sing for Seniors Talent Hunt”.

Late afternoon information sessions included “Choosing your retirement path and strategies” by Dr Ramesh Cherivirala of New York Life. Entertainment after the tea break was provided by the Matki band as well as local Houston singers. Dinner was preceded by another skit enactment titled “Aao Khushiyo Se Phool Sajaaye” by JVB Preksha Meditation Center. After a sumptuous dinner catered by Madras Pavilion, the seniors settled into a calm evening listening to soothing ghazals by Atul Brahmbhatt followed by the finals of the Talent Show.

The second day opened with a yoga session for all attendees followed by information sessions on US Federal Income Taxes – FBAR by Ajit Thakur CPA; Social Security Disability Benefits by Brent Klender; a Medical/Medicare Q&A session; Will, Trust and Estate planning by attorney Deepa Thakur as well as “Indians and Diabetes” by Dr. Alok Kalia followed by “How to Save Money and Protect Yourself in the Present Healthcare System” by Dr. K T Shah.  To switch moods, Dr. Subodh Bhuchar came on stage to do “Hasyaras” creating a laughter riot among the seniors. The post lunch session saw ISCA Houston’s members performing a satirical play on the Indian government office system by enacting “Jamun Ka Ped” to roaring laughter from the audience.

The afternoon session had more entertainment in store as Salil Bhadekar performed a musical program, ISCA Austin members performing “Thakur Rangla Sathe” and “Shaakwali”. There was a garba session involving senior citizens, kabir vani, lok geet and kathiawadi duha by the ISCA Dallas group, which brought the convention to a close. The final ceremonies included awards followed by dinner and more ghazals by Atul Brahmbhatt, who had flown in all the away from India.

After the convention, Chinoy and his team, had a great sense of satisfaction of a job well done, an event well conducted. As Chinoy put it, “we thank all our donors and sponsors. The key challenges were the logistics in getting people from outside Texas to join us”.  The ISCA Houston team more than just overcame this challenge, the convention had attendees flying in from Connecticut, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida as well as major Texas cities like Austin and Dallas. Of course, Houston had the most members attending. The Houston Chapter of the Indian Senior Citizens Association has about 800 members who meet twice a month at India House and often plans excursions and day trips.

In the twilight of their lives, these young at heart seniors and members of ISCA Houston have made the community proud by setting an inspiring example in hosting such a national event in Houston for the first time in North America. Their success can be gauged by the fact that other ISCA associations are already lining up for future conventions. New Jersey is keen to host in 2015 while Orlando, Florida wants to host the seniors convention in 2017.

Photos: Priyan Mathew, Shobana Muratee and Navin Banker.