ICC Woos its Donors with a Classy, Heartfelt, Musical Embrace

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The Board of Directors of the India Culture Center along with the Board of Trustees at the Donor Appreciation Dinner held on Saturday, November 1 at India House. Photo: Jawahar Malhotra


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By Jawahar Malhotra and Vanshika Vipin

HOUSTON: In the four decades that the India Culture Center has been around in the Bayou City, it has focused on bringing together a diverse and growing Indian community, which has mushroomed, into multiple groups with varying agendas. Trying several approaches, even when it has been sometimes hampered by dissenting views, the ICC has struck true to its roots in bringing culture to the masses by attracting all area wide organizations under its vision of a unifying umbrella to make sure that the spark of connection to the Motherland stays lit.

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The Donor Appreciation Dinner that the ICC held this past Saturday, November 1 at India House featured a live musical program by Mahalakshmi Krishnan, Hardik Jani, Kamaal Haji, and Darshak Thakkar. Photo: Vanshika Vipin

That was the essence of the Donor Appreciation Dinner that the ICC held this past Saturday, November 1 at India House, as the Directors and Trustees of the organization welcomed and serenaded its major donors with an elegantly laid out banquet hall and a live musical program by Mahalakshmi Krishnan and Hardik Jani. Their backup band featured Kamaal Haji, a self-taught musician, on the synthesizer, and the energetic drummer Darshak Thakkar whose Krishna Sounds provided the sound system. The event was catered by Daawat, whose co-owner, Mahesh Shah was attentive to the roomful of guests.

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From left: Chief Trustee Swapan Dhairyawan, Parul Fernandes, Ketki Shah from TravelGuzs, and ICC President Charlie Patel.

They were welcomed by ICC Director Dr. Raj Bhalla, who can never resist telling a funny joke or two, and President Charlie Patel who announced next year’s Republic Day event set for January 31, followed by Chief Trustee Swapan Dhairyawan; all of whom echoed the same sentiments of the ICC’s inclusiveness and legacy of community service, notably the Indian Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations, which are its two signature events.

“The Donor Appreciation is tantamount to a Gala that the ICC holds every two years”, explained Dhairyawan before yielding the floor to the musical program. Years ago, the ICC used to hold an annual celebratory dinner in various settings, most notably the elegant and colorful one at the Conrad Hilton at the University of Houston during the Presidency of Dr. Susan Jacob in the mid ‘90s. The ICC pulled out all stops to add the same elegance for this event, replete with satin tablecloths, covered and bowed chairs, centerpieces and a small, dice-dotted white goodie bag.

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Elegantly laid out banquet hall.

A slide presentation highlighted the ICC’s major events through 2014 and later a live auction was held to generate funds from bids on eight donated items, two of which were Tanjore gold-foil paintings by Houston’s resident artist Anju Mittal and Rajiv Bhavsar and the rest a picture made of 3,500 pins by Ismaili artist and Houston resident Barkat Khowja; an Indian land travel package by TravelGuzs; an iPad by Dhairyawan; a diamond pendant by Karat 22 Jewelers; a 6-day stay at Summer Bay Exploria Resorts donated by Parul Fernandes and a basket of cosmetics donated by Nidhika Mehta. Dr. Subodh Buchhar worked the crowd as the auctioneer, netting $10,000 for the ICC.

The musical program for the evening proved to be the most memorable portion of the program with Mahalakshmi and Hardik opening up with the ghazal, “Dil Cheez Kya Hai, Aap Meri Jaan Ligiye”  and then mixing it up with new melodies like the latest song from Dabangg 2 “Dagabaaz” and from Parineeta, “Piyu Bole” with old classics like “Chaudavi Ka Chand” and “Aaja Aaja, Mein Hoon Pyaar Tera” which got people swaying in their seats. Mahalakshmi cajoled the audience to come onstage and sing, with an enthusiastic Manisha Gandhi venturing to perform a Sufi song from the movie Dirty Picture. Though most people didn’t want the music to end, it came to a close with “Damadum Mast Kalander” which got everyone dancing in front of the stage.

As the guests left, they had a final bit of memorabilia to take back: their portraits, which were taken early on arrival, in a cardboard frame, from the photographer Raghu Thakkar or Image & Motions; superimposed on different graphics.