Vegas Comes to Club 24+ and Makes Diwali an Extravaganza

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From Left: Mahesh & Alpa Shah (Host) Special Guest: Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator & Dr. Suresh Khator, Club 24 Plus President: Asha Dhume and Pankaj Dhume
Photos: Bijay Dixit.

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By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND, TX: You could hear the Elvis impersonator crooning in the backyard from the street side of the house where the valet parking attendants took the car. He certainly sounded like the real thing but you couldn’t tell if it was a CD rolling out or a person. When you walked in the front door, and looked into the living room bathed in blue light, between two curved staircases, decked out in tricolored drapes of red and blue, it took your breath away. You followed the singing to the right, through the kitchen and on the right was the dance floor and a DJ (who would spin out music to exuberant couples later in the night) and a statue-model in gleaming gold fabric and gold body paint standing frozen on a three-foot raised pedestal.

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Was she real or just a great reproduction? Before the thought could linger, the model turned her arms and changed position and froze again, giving you an unsettled feeling. Out the back door, the singing got louder and there was Elvis, under a white canopy open-sided tent with admirers sitting on white chairs in front. He was belting out “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog” in that unmistakable hip-huggin’ white, sequined, bell-bottomed jump-suit, top unzipped to mid-waist, long pointy pork-chop sideburns, white boots making dance moves.

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Dr. Vivek Kavadi, Ashok Garg, Pradeep Gupta, Anuradha Subramaniam, Kamana Sharma & President AshaDhume, with members of the signature committee Dr. Asra Oberoi, Dr. Aparna Kamat & Vipra Bhasin.

Vegas had come to the house of Alpa and Mahesh Shah, the co-owners of Madras Pavilion and Dawat Catering, by the side of the man-made lake. “It was all an idea that I had on my own,” said Mahesh, usually the quiet one who makes sure that his staff is providing the right service at all the events that he caters around town. “Alpa didn’t know a thing what I had planned. The only thing was I was afraid of was the rain.” It had rained off and on all day that Saturday. “So at the last minute I rented the tent. Thank God it didn’t rain after all!”

But the rest of the arrangements were pure Alpa, Mahesh’s wife, who has an eye for the creative and the flair for Indian music, which she loves to join in with a song. She planned all the decorations, home furnishings, lighting, flower arrangement, Indian qawwalis, selection of songs, outdoor layout and the floating flower arrangement in the swimming pool.

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Every year Club 24 Plus holds two signature events: a philanthropy night in the Spring and a Diwali party for its members in the Fall, and usually these are at the homes of one of their members, who get a chance to showcase their dwellings and creativity in arranging for a lively night. A few years ago, Jugal and Raj Malani had put together an extravagant experience for the group, and after a long absence, the Shahs went all out to do the same.

The evening opened up with a melodious Sanskrit bhajan by Aparna Kamat, followed by qawwalis by appropriately dressed qawwals on a raised dais on the other side of the tent. Alpa Shah, who cannot resist a tune, joined in the singing. A magician went around the tent challenging the guests with card tricks and other illusions. And an eye-catching girl in a skin-tight gleaming gold body suit – the other half of the statue-model duo – climbed up on white drapes hung from a 20-foot-tall portable metal conical trapeze stand to do somersaults, flips and glides. She was a hit with the audience wanting to have photographs taken.

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Club 24 Plus (the Plus was a later add on); started eight years ago as a social, invitation only club for people interested in philanthropy and outreach into the mainstream community. Members usually pool their donations and match them to create a larger fund for the charities that they passionately support. C24+ aspires to build bridges and make connections by highlighting Indian culture, explained current President Asha Dhume. Other Signature Committee members Dr. Asra Oberoi, Dr. Aparna Kamat and Vipra Bhasin were responsible for organizing this evening.

Special guests of this year’s party were University of Houston Chancellor and President Dr. Renu Khator and her husband Dr. Suresh Khator. And C24+ special acknowledged Dr. K. T. Shah, who was present at the event, for his selfless service to the community through countless hours volunteering at the Indian Doctor’s Clinic and starting up the local chapter of Akshaya Patra, the Indian charity that serves hot lunches to millions of public school kids in India.

And since this party was at the house of a restaurateur, it was a forgone conclusion that the food would be marvelous, and it was. It started off with tempting appetizers with chole and aloo tikkis, shrimp on a spoon, chaat, a filled-avocado boat, pista koftas and lamb chops. The main course was laid out against the back side of the tent and the ummh! desserts were just too mouthwatering to ignore!

Vandana Prakash contributed to this article.