Indo-American Heritage Day Celebration: March 26


Project Team (from left): Krishna Vavilala(FIS Chair), Dr. Ponnada Narayana (FIS Event Chair), Judith Hiott (HPL Chief of the Houston Area Library Automated Network, Blanca Quezada (HPL Communications Specialist), Hiren Sarma (FIS Director), Roland Lemonius (HPL Digital Projects Manager) and Joe Martinez (HPL Special Events).
Photo: Allen J. Westrick (HPL)

HOUSTON: The preservation and promulgation of a community’s history are important aspects of a civilization. Through a decade long community service, the Foundation for India Studies (FIS) has accomplished a remarkable series of projects to enrich the understanding of India’s contributions to the world as well as to the understanding of the role of the Indo-American community in Houston city’s multicultural tapestry.

A celebration of FIS’ 10th anniversary and the completion of its 50 oral histories will take place on Saturday, March 26,  at the historic and beautiful Julia Ideson library building in downtown Houston. Scheduled to take place from 1 pm to 4 pm, the celebration will include entertainment and light refreshments. A presentation will highlight the video recordings of the Oral histories.

Congratulatory messages from special dignitaries will be followed by a keynote speech by Dr. Stephen Klineberg, founder-director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Having conducted a series of demographic studies about the city of Houston and the role of immigrants, Dr. Klineberg will speak on the “Changing Face of Houston.”

“FIS was established in 2005 as a non-profit 501(c3) organization with a vision to promote knowledge through education about India’s contribution to the world in the field of languages, literature, arts, sciences engineering, politics, economics, and spirituality,” explained FIS founding Chairman Krishna Vavilala.

The Foundation’s first successful project was the initiation of India Studies program at the University of Houston, instituted in 2006. The program, which initially began with Hindi language courses and classes in Hinduism and Jainism, was expanded to 12 courses and is now funded by the university. Students taking these courses are awarded a minor certificate in India Studies.

Having successfully launched the India Studies program at the university, FIS embarked on a project called the “Indo-American Oral History Project”. Thus far, FIS has recorded 50 life stories of first-generation Indian immigrants to Houston. The project is being accomplished in partnership with the Houston Public Library (HPL) and the Houston Community College (HCC). The recordings will be stored in HPL’s digital archives for posterity.

Other FIS activities have included the India Bee Quiz, aimed at educating children under age 18 about India’s history and cultural diversity. FIS has also strived to bring together Indian and American universities for exchange of students and faculty by facilitating memoranda of understanding (MOUs ). An example of such an endeavor was the successful MOU signed between the Central University of Hyderabad and the University of Houston.

In order to connect India with mainstream America through Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and peace, which Martin Luther King Jr. had adopted in his civil rights movement, FIS routinely participates in the annual MLK Grand Parade in downtown Houston and won last year MLK Grande Parade’s prestigious 2015 Grand Marshal Award.

The India Heritage Day celebration is free to the public. Parking will be free that Saturday on downtown streets. Free parking is also available in the underground parking below the main library (entrance on Lamar Street).

“We encourage everyone in the community to join the celebration,” suggested Dr. Ponnada Narayana, FIS event coordinator. “It will be a great learning opportunity for young and old alike.”

For sponsorship details, visit: For additional information, call Krishna Vavilala at (713) 795-5169 or Dr. Ponnada Narayana at (281) 804-4912.

 RSVP by email to is recommended before March 11.