IACF Gala Stresses Contributing to Charitable Causes Where We Live


The Board of the Indo American Charity Foundation at its Annual Gala held at the Hilton Americas, with President Ramesh Cherivirala with microphone


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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: The emphasis of the Indo American Charity Foundation’s Gala this past Saturday, September 20, could be succinctly summed up by the event handout which featured the ad that had been making the rounds in the weeks running upto the event: “We live here …we give here” and the whole program drove home that point.

In a day that featured three other Galas elsewhere in the city (this is afterall the kickoff of the Fall Gala season!), the IACF’s 24th Annual Gala at the Hilton Americas downtown was a more subdued event than previous years, which have featured elaborate stage shows and fashion shows. In keeping costs in line, the IACF instead opted this year to use home grown talent and feature presentation of checks and have a conversation with the audience of about 300 people.

IACF President Ramesh Cherivirala (left) with Congressman Al Green.              Photos: Murli Santhana

IACF President Ramesh Cherivirala (left) with Congressman Al Green. Photos: Murli Santhana

The Gala was tagged as the “Yellow Brick Road to Charity” and in keeping with the theme, gold-colored paper bricks marked with the names of the donors were posted on a folding partition at the lobby. Also, the aisleway floor leading to the stage was a shade of gold, partitioned to look like large pavers.

The emcees for the Gala this year were Houston’s favorite DJ and showman, Sunil Thakkar and Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate for Harris County District Attorney, who came in a bright red outfit that she bought especially for the event in Little India. Thakkar was his usual effervescent self, cracking one liners and making comments on cross-cultural conflicts as he strode around the stage and then among the guests on the floor, encouraging them to open their hearts and wallets to donate freely to the IACF.


Another radio host, and a personality himself for ad-libbing and witticisms, Dr. Nik Nikam played the role of the auctioneer for the first time, but who would have known that he was a natural for it. Pulling off the stunt with a black Stetson he bought for the occasion. He rattled off the bidding fast, like a pro, and managed to sell the five auction pieces – a diamond and 14 karat gold earrings from SB&T Jewelers; a Movado women’s watch from Karat 22 Jewelers; a modern art painting by Gopaal Seyn, a Kashmiri semi-antique rug from Abrahams Oriental Rugs and a framed Alaskan wolf skin donated by this reporter.

The three Presidents of the IACF – Murthy Divakaruni of 2013; Ramesh Cherivirala of this year and Kamala Raghavan for next year – all came to the stage and spoke about their year at the helm and their hopes for the future. Raghavan remembered the 2012 IACF President David Raj, who passed away last year due to cancer, for his passion and devotion to charity and especially to educating the young. The three presented checks of support to two new emerging charities, PEACE and PAIR as the representatives came to the stage. Hubert Vaz Nayak, a past director of the IACF, presented a solo musical number in tribute to David Raj – “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel – accompanying himself on the guitar.

The main feature of the program was a conversation that IACF past presidents Anu Bala and Sushma Bhan had between themselves on stage, remembering the achievements of the IACF and the important role that it continues to do for the community at large. They invited four people from the audience on stage to share their thoughts on charitable giving: Robert Sakowitz, a prominent member of the Houston business community; Councilman Ken Mathew of Stafford; Rita Lucido (who came in a sari), Democratic candidate for State Senate District 17, Sugar Land Councilman Harish Jajoo and John Healy, Ft. Bend County District Attorney. Bala and Bhan asked them several questions relating to the support that IACF can provide to the local communities in various areas of need to which each person gave a thoughtful answer.

The program opened and closed with a dance by students of the Anjali School of Performing Arts, although its director, Rathna Kumar could not attend. After the dinner, which was provided by Dawat Catering, the guests broke out into dance to music pumped out by Darshak Thakkar of Krishna Sounds, which also did the sound and lighting for the event.