India Culture Center (ICC ) : Looking Back- A Journey of 40 Years

Dr. Sewa S. Legha

Dr. Sewa S. Legha

By Dr. Sewa S. Legha

HOUSTON: The Year 1973 has a special significance in the social and cultural life of the Indian Community of Greater Houston. It was during this year- 40 years back- that the early Indian Immigrants to Houston area felt the need for  establishing the ICC as an organization for celebrating the National festivals of India and holding cultural events to keep them and their children in touch with their Indian roots. The leadership to organize and promote ICC was provided by Dr. Harb S. Hayre who was the First ICC president and remained at the helm for 2 years(1973-1975). The Indian community of early 1970s was quite small, no more than 5,000 people, mostly students, teachers and a handful of Engineers and Physicians. ICC gained momentum quickly and became and continues to this day, to be the cultural hub of the entire Indian Community, serving as the umbrella organization during all these years. As a matter of our great pride in ICC and for its many accomplishments during these years, ICC is celebrating its 40th anniversary along with the upcoming Independence day function to be held on August 25. We want the entire Indian community of Metro Houston to participate in these festivities and take pride in the accomplishments of ICC and celebrate this milestone with great enthusiasm.

 Let me now highlight the contributions of ICC to the welfare of the Indian community of greater Houston. As a former President of ICC (Year-1986), I have personally benefited in more than one ways as my life has been enriched and is more fulfilling due to that opportunity to serve the Indian Community of Houston. During my presidency, I came in contact with many wonderful people from all regions of India and learned more about the rich culture of India than I had known from my early life in India. Indians generally tend to be quite parochial in their social life and in their mobility across our varied regional festivities and social celebrations. Growing up In Punjab I was quite ignorant about the rich heritage of India especially from the South and Eastern regions of India. During my term as an ICC Board member, I met and made so many wonderful friends from various States of India ( Andhra,  Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Bengal and Bihar) and learned a great deal about the celebrations of their regional festivals which greatly broadened my outlook about the country of my birth. So I would encourage anyone of you, who yearn to know about the older past of the Indian Subcontinent, to join ICC in any capacity you like(Volunteer or Board member) and enjoy serving our local Community . Besides the personal gains, there were many opportunities to make an impact on the life of our fellow Indians living in Houston and to the community at large. We held many varied functions like a Sports day for the youngsters, Spelling Bees, Leadership training and creation of local Indian PACs. During the recent years we have started holding much bigger functions to bring our community together. These included India bazaars and India fest type of celebrations which are fertile grounds for not only meeting many older friends and families but also networking with professional colleagues and the local American leaders of our City government(Mayor and County officials)who are always eager to meet a progressive and very educated community which is impacting the Medical Field and the Engineering field which Houston is famous for.

 I would also like to enlist the key city-wide accomplishments of the ICC during the first 40 years. Efforts were regularly made to acquire property to build a large Indian Community Center where we can hold our festivals and larger community meetings on special occasions. This ultimately bore fruit and the India House was built(2003-2007) as a result of the persistent efforts by many of the ICC Presidents of the past years. Special credit for this accomplishment goes to the community stalwarts like Raj Syal, Lachhman Das, Ashok Dhingra, V.K Sethi, Dr. Virendera Mathur,  Durga Agrawal ,  Kul Bhushan Uppal and many others whom I may not remember or know well. Krishna Vavilala was instrumental in Bringing and installing the Statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the Hermann Park for all the local citizens to know and learn about. ICC leadership was also responsible in making efforts and successfully establishing the office of the Consulate General of India in Houston , greatly benefitting the local Indian community for nearly 20 years now.

 In this year of its 40th anniversary, it is quite legitimate to ask the question of about the present and future relevance of ICC to the Indian Community of Houston. I am sure there would be varied opinions on this subject, but my personal view on this subject is that the institution of ICC is  essential for the present and the future generations of Indians who have made Houston  area as their future home. Although we are blessed with over one hundred Indian organizations operating in the Metro Houston area, these are all fairly small  groups, largely from each State of India or one of many religious groups. So none of them are prepared or would be able to hold large community wide Celebrations like ICC is set up to hold. For this reason, all our national celebrations(two key ones being Republic day and the Independence day of India) and our major Festivals like Diwali and Holi require a strong  organization like the ICC which fosters unity among all Indian Americans and genuinely represents the entire Indian community of greater Houston area. But we do need strong leaders to run this organization as it does take up a lot of personal time and resources  in order to lead a big Organization like ICC. It is not for the faint hearted, with a short sighted agenda to be a good leader of ICC for the benefit of our Indian Community of Houston. I would like to commend and congratulate the present Leadership and the board of the current ICC, who have organized the 40th year celebration of ICC.  I hope and pray that I may still be around to see an even bigger celebration for the Golden Jubilee of ICC’s Founding.