Fond Farewell for a Favorite Consul General

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Houston organizations sponsor farewell dinner for Parvathaneni Harish and wife Nandita Parvathaneni.
Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON: Since 1995, Houston has experienced its Indian Consulate administered by six different Consul Generals. Each had a unique personality and imprinted a different impression on the local Indo-American community. Judging by the farewell reception sponsored by 22 community organizations, Parvathaneni Harish and his wife Nandita were certainly one of the favorites.

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The Indo-American communitywide farewell reception was held Saturday, March 19 at the O.P. Jindal Center of India House. CG P. Harish has been promoted to the post of Indian ambassador to Vietnam. He is expected to report to duty in Hanoi sometime in April 2016.

A highlight of the evening was a video tribute recorded by the organizations, including the singing of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” recorded by India Culture Center board members. The all-vegetarian hors d’oeuvres and dinner were catered by Madras Pavilion.

The Ambassador-level sponsors were Indo-American Chamber of Greater Houston (IACCGH), Indo-American Political Action Committee of Greater Houston (IAPAC), India Culture Center (ICC) and India House Houston.

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For Consular-level sponsorships, Arya Samaj of Greater Houston was joined by Foundation for India Studies, Indo-American Cancer Network (IACAN), IIT Alumni of Greater Houston (IITAGH), Indian Muslim Association of Greater Houston (IMAGH), Indo-American Charity Foundation (IACF), Pratham USA, Sri Meenakshi Temple Society and Shri Sita Ram Foundation.

Supporting organizations were American Society of Indian Engineers and Architects, Bharathi Kalai Manram, Gujarati Samaj of Houston, Hindus of Greater Houston, International Hindi Association, Indian Senior Citizens Association, Mahatma Gandhi Library, JVB Preksha Meditation Center and the Tagore Society of Houston.

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“All it took was one email and the response from the organizations was tremendous,” explained Jagdip Ahluwalia, IACCGH Executive Director in his introductory remarks. “It is a testament to the popularity of the Consul General and a reflection of the outstanding consular services he and his consulate are providing for our community. Let’s face it – if the visa doesn’t come, nothing else matters. It all points to leadership and CG Harish has set a high benchmark.”

India House Trustee Dr. Virendra Mathur welcomed the gathering. Dr. Mathur recalled that the very birth of India House was crystallized as a result of biweekly meetings held by the first CG, Swashpavan Singh. Addressing CG Harish, Dr. Mathur continued, “You and your predecessors have helped immensely in the birth and growth of this community center and our community will always be grateful.”

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“When we came to Houston in July 2012, we didn’t know what to expect,” began CG Harish at the podium. “We realized the magnitude of the Houston assignment when we greeted almost 300 guests at the Independence Day function. We felt so encouraged by the warmth and friendship that each one of you showed to us that day.”

The Republic Day function also provided CG Harish an indication of the problems at the Consulate. “At the reception, one of the guests asked me to look at the access to the Consulate and the lack of toilets for Consular applicants. This comment made me wonder how this could be an important issue. But it did turn out to be a significant issue. We addressed it within a day.”

In addition, CG Harish addressed a whole array of small and big issues to make the Consular experience a pleasant one, and provide immediate access to applicants of dire need such as having to transport mortal remains back to India.

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Photos from top: Consul General Parvathaneni Harish and Nandita Parvathaneni with Organization leaders, ICC members, India House members, Houston Media.

Culture was another issue that CG and Mrs. Harish addressed. “In the early days, we had attended a classical dance performance by a decorated artist from India. In a large auditorium of 500, there were only 50 people. A week later, 20,000 people attended a performance by a Bollywood personality. Hence, we made it a point, at a great personal cost of time to us, to attend just about every performance of classical music and dance to encourage our young generation to preserve their cultural inheritance.”

CG Harish also highlighted his attendance at the International Yoga Day and show his affiliation with the Indian form of secularism by attending religious functions throughout the community.

Nandita Harish also expressed her appreciation to the Houston community. “I came to Houston to set up one house, but I find that have a home in all your hearts.”