India House Announces $8 Million Culture Center at Annual Gala

India House President Jugal Malani (center) with trustees Dr. Durga Agarwal (left) and Dr. Virendra Mathur (right).            Photo: Bijay Dixit

India House President Jugal Malani (center) with trustees Dr. Durga Agarwal (left) and Dr. Virendra Mathur (right). Photo: Bijay Dixit


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By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON: At its 8th annual gala, India House announced plans to build a community culture center to host activities for 800 people at a cost of $8 million.

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Future India House Community Center

The gala took place on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Hilton Post Oak Hotel with attendance by more than 400 India House dignitaries, council members and their guests.

India House President Jugal Malani presented architectural plans for the new community center, promising “A five-star banquet facility that community organizations and private individuals could use at a reasonable price.”

A new culture center is reasonable goal for India House that has achieved a number of milestones recently, including the establishment of the Sareen health clinic in association with Harris County Health System, after-school educational activities, yoga classes and weekend cricket.

The keynote address was to be provided by North Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, but she could not attend due to the extreme cold weather emergency in her state

Instead, Gov. Haley sent a video message recalling her earlier visit to India House and congratulating the community for building such a vibrant center for educational and cultural activities. Also providing a video message was Texas Senator John Cornyn, who has visited India House several times in recent years.

Among the other speakers at the gala included Indian Consul General P. Harish and Dr. Dennis Golden, who will be instrumental in setting up the India House Eye Clinic. India House Trustee Dr. Virendra Mathur presented a written message from the famous Houston heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley, a long-time well wisher of India House.

In Gov. Haley’s absence, University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khator called upon Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar to give the keynote address. A veteran of several space shuttle missions, Dr. Dunbar is now the director of the Cullen College of Engineering Aerospace Program. Dr. Dunbar recalled her career path from her childhood in rural Washington to the NASA space program. She also paid a tribute the late Indo-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla.

In his welcoming address, President Jugal Malani said the gala had raied $1,250,000. Malani also presented the architectural plans designed by Ray de la Reza, who had also designed the existing India House building. The culture center shares many of the design elements with India House. Instead of the cone, the cultural center will have a two-story inverted cone at its front, which opens to the sky at the top.

India House recognized several entities, including the late Dr. M. Paul Mehta for outstanding community service. The Dean of Education at Prairie View A&M University, Dr. Mehta served as the India Culture Center president and was a founder of Punjabi Culture Club.

Recognized for Outstanding Service to India House was Ravi Arora, a veteran of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department, Arora helped supervise the construction of India House. Dr. Devinder Bhatia was the recipient of the Cultural Bridge Builder award.

Recognized for Public Service in Media were publishers of the three community newspapers. Pramod Kulkarni and Vanshika Vipin received the award for Indo-American News. Entertainment for the evening consisted of three dance performances by Naach Houston, Natraj School of Dance and Solera Flamenco.

As the gala concluded, the India House trustees, executive committee, and council members girded themselves to raise funds to host the 10th India House Gala at its own community culture center!