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June 21, 2014updated Jun 22, 2014

Passage From India

By Chris Boyle

In the travel industry, former National Geographic Traveler Publisher Dawn Drew is well known for her long time work promoting travel to Pacific Asia and in particular India, a country she has visited dozens of times and explored virtually in its entirety.  So while my normal Friday night plan would not be to attend 750-person sit down awards dinner, Dawn as anyone who knows her, is both very persuasive and generally keeps an interesting calendar with people one wants to meet, so it wasn’t hard to say yes.

The Invite was to India Abroad‘s annual gala, an Indian American version of the Oscars.

There’s no question that India and the United States are closely bound. According to the State Department, the U.S. is one of India’s largest trade and investment partners. “U.S.- India bilateral trade in goods and services has increased four and a half times over the last decade, to more than $86 billion in 2011. Bilateral trade between our two countries is up 40 percent since we began our Strategic Dialogue three years ago. The stock of Indian FDI in the United States has increased from $227 million in 2002 to almost $4.9 billion in 2011, supporting thousands of U.S. jobs,” the report states.


U.S. exports to India include diamonds and gold, machinery, oil, and fertilizers. U.S. imports from India include diamonds, pharmaceutical products, oil, agricultural products, organic chemicals, and apparel. U.S. direct investment in India is led by the information, professional, scientific, and technical services, and manufacturing sectors. India direct investment in the U.S. is primarily concentrated in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector.


For anyone who thinks the relationship between world powers is only about dollars and rupees, Friday evening at The Pierre, owned by Indian conglomerate TATA through its Taj group of hotels, would have erased any doubts.  Past winners of India Abroad’s Person of the Year awards have included PepsiCo Chairman Indra Nooyi, Congressman Bobby Jindal, CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, New York Southern District Attorney General Preet Bharara and Congressman Ami Bera.


Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who clerked for Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor was named 2013 Person of the Year.  And while America may be a melting pot, the strength of the family unit of Indian Americans was clearly on display despite migration halfway around the world.

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The evening underscored the contribution Indian Americans have made here and to the world.  Arogyaswami J Paulraj followed the Salman Rushdie and Zubin Mehta as winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award.  His work in “spatial multiplexing” enabled the WiFi you may be using to read this.


Mallika Dutt earned the Gopal Raju Award for Community Service and an introduction by President Bill Clinton speaking about her work to prevent violence against women was a highlight.  As Dutt noted, “how can the world realize its potential with only half of its people?”


Anuradha Bhagwati, a former marine earned the Publisher’s Special Award for Excellence for her work spotlighting rape in the military.


Oscar winning filmmaker James Ivory and scholar Sheldon Pollock were awarded as Friends of India while National Geographic Spelling Bee champion Sathwik Karnik and Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Arvind Mahankali charmed the adults in collecting their awards.


According to the 2010 United States census the Asian Indian population in the United State rose to over 2.8 million, about 1 percent of the total population, with a growth rate of 69 percent in the decade, one of the fastest growing ethnic groups.  In a world where elite travelers often find themselves based thousands of miles from their homelands, Friday night was a nice example of how it’s possible to be part of one’s adopted homeland and remain true to one’s history, all while changing the world.

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