Hindus of Greater Houston Presents Lifetime Achievement Awards

By Shashank Jain

Nikhil Jain receives Lifetime Achievement Award from HGH Chairman Rasesh Dalal.

HOUSTON: Hindus of Greater Houston (HGH) in collaboration with VPSS Houston, hosted their annual Lifetime Achievement awards ceremony at the VPSS hall on November 5th, 2022. An additional award – The Akhil Chopra Service award for 2021, was also presented as the ceremony, that had been postponed due to COVID-19.

Mr. Rasesh Dalal, Trustee and Comptroller of VPSS Haveli and HGH Board of Council Chairman initiated the evening program as he welcomed the audience & the special guest Mr. Kevin Cole – Mayor of the City of Pearland along with his wife Lisa.

HGH President – Mrs. Thara Narasimhan, who provided an overview & significance of the award ceremony. She also briefly described the role of HGH in the Houston area, which is to mainly provide a unified voice for the Hindu community. HGH also quarterbacked multiple events over the past year marking all major Hindu festivals in collaboration with multiple member organizations. She also recalled a major achievement this year wherein the Houston Chronicle published multiple articles covering local community event & celebrations. Thara ji also taught a class of HPD cadets, as HGH part of outreach programs to educate the mainstream about the community’s cultural sensitivities. She thanked the news media India Herald, Indo American news, the Radio media. HGH owes one special thanks to Manisha Gandhi of TV Asia who covers all HGH Events and who is also HGH Board Member.

Dr. Venugopal Menon receives Lifetime Achievement Award from HGH Chairman Rasesh Dalal.

Thereafter, Mrs. Rachana Shah – Principal Vallabh Vidya Mandir (VVM) & Board of Director Hindus of Greater Houston introduced Sarlabhen Patel. She introduced the young students of VVM Group dance and solo performance of “Madhurashtakam”, a Composition of Saint Shri. Vallabhacharya.

The MC for the evening, Ms.Maitreyi Asthigiri took over and requested the awardees to join her on the stage. The first recognition for Lifetime Awardee was Ms. Sarla Patel of VPSS. She was introduced by Ms. Rachna Shah who called her the Iron Lady of the temple and recounted how she started the temple out of her garage many years ago.

The 2nd awardee for the evening was Dr. Venugopal Menon of Sri Meenakshi Temple Society in Pearland. Dr. Menon was introduced by Mr. Tupil Narasimhan. Tupil recounted how deeply involved Dr. Venugopal has been since the formation of the Meenakshi Temple Society. The society was one of the first temples in the Houston area, and he continues to constantly guide and serve the Temple everyday as he lives next door to the temple premises.

The last presentation was the Akhil Chopra Service Award 2021 which was presented to Sewa Houston chapter coordinator – Mr. Nikhil Jain. He was introduced by Dr. Madan Luthra, who was also on past Awadree of this award. He spoke highly of Nikhil Jain’s deep involvement with multiple local initiatives & selfless service and always ready to lead programs not only for Sewa but also for other organizations.

Sarla Patel receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Pearland Mayor Kevin Cole.

With the honorees invited up the stage, the Awards ceremony began by inviting the Chief Guest, Hon’ble Mayor of City of Pearland, Mayor Kevin Cole. He presented the Awards to all the three Awardees and spoke about service and leadership being honored, and to model self into what people want you to see & do. He talked about his life of service, and on being an effective leader. He also talked about Houston as one of the most diverse cities in the country.

Sarla Patel accepted her award & spoke about hurdles in her early life, and how her move to the United States and then then her involvement with the VPSS organization almost from the beginning gave her a purpose in life. She wishes to continue to be always available to the organization in its future endeavors.

Dr. Venugopal Menon reflected on the founding days of the MTS and encouraged young to leaders & volunteers to get involved. One of his recent initiatives at the MTS is to involve more youth in leadership positions at the temple and emphasized the importance of Hindus to work together and unite all Hindu denominations and sects.

Sewa Houston coordinator – Mr. Nikhil Jain then took the podium and accepted the Akhil Chopra Service award. He recalled how he was inspired by his family and their individual contributions to their local communities over multiple years, and how this instilled the deep service values in him.

The last part of the program was the felicitation of the awardees by close friends/colleagues and family members. VPSS’s Akshay Bhai felicitated Sarla Ben, and well known Indian classical dance teacher Ms. Rathna Kumar & MTS Chairman felicitated Dr Venugopal. Mr. Jain’s daughter Ms. Suvi Jain felicitated her dad, and shared personal stories & memories, & lastly Sewa International President Mr. Arun Kankani spoke highly about Nikhil’s achievements with Sewa and all the other organizations he is involved with including JVB Houston & MP Mitra Mandal. The event ended with light refreshments.