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South Indian culture Showcased at ICC’s Annual Dinner

By Diana Rohini LaVigne/ Special to India-West

Milpitas, Calif.—On Saturday evening, the India Community Center hosted its annual dinner and fundraiser that treated over 500 attendees to an array of South Indian flair.  Bejeweled and brightly costumed greeters in dresses mimicking various animals delighted guests on entry to the Milpitas location of the India Community Center.  Starting with a cocktail reception, it was clear to see that who’s who in the Indian community was in attendance at this second-ever sold out ICC annual dinner.

“The ICC is fortunate to have Trustees and Directors who bring their varied expertise, knowledge and years of experience to the organization. Their leadership of events like the Annual Banquet and continued guidance is key to ICC's long term success, “said Tanuja Bahal, Executive Director of ICC, to India-West.

It was soon after the cocktail reception, where guests spent an hour mingling with old friends and making new ones, which the official program was kicked off by three-time Emmy award winning Raj Mathai who recently shifted to his new position to weeknight news anchor for NBC.  His charm and quick wit grabbed guests’ attention and kept the program moving with ease.  But it was his words about the community that struck a deep cord with the audience.  He spoke about the Indian community’s successes but not just within the community but as a role model to other communities. In his experience, he said has met many leaders in other communities that look up to the Indian community for their ability to bring their community together, support one another and achieve so much.

Entertainment was not short in supply on Saturday evening. Xpressions dance provided the over 50 performers that showed an impressive display of dancing in nearly a dozen different snippets of dance lasting each under 3 minutes.  It was not only a colorful and entertaining display of dance; it was a visual educational opportunity to showcase folk dance to a diverse group of people. The shorter pieces made the program fast-moving and engaging from beginning to end. Dinner was served after and provided by a local favorite chain, Amber and featured a buffet and paan to end the meal. As always, there were a few twists and turns in the program from a popular dance number featuring ICC trustees which drew wild howls from the audience and a massive fundraising drive and live auction that helped make the night a major financial success. But the biggest highlight of the evening went to the Seva Awards.

The Seva Awards, facilitated by ICC, awarded $20,000 in total to four non-profit organizations for their organization’s achievements. The ICC Seva Awards, established this year, recognize top leaders in an effort to reward the organization with a $5,000 unrestricted funds grant and create a powerful community role model for other organizations to follow. An independent committee comprising of volunteers, ICC Board and staff worked on the parameters, structure and categories as well as invited judges from the South Asian Bar Association and the South Asian Journalists Association to ensure that the awards were constructed and evaluated accurately, appropriately and fairly.

The 50 non-profit organizations that participated in this year’s Sevathon, an event held annually that draws thousands of attendees and helps groups raise funds for their cause, were eligible to apply for a Seva Award. Judges were carefully selected from members from the South Asian Bar Association and the Bay Area Chapter of the South Asian Journalists Association and applicants were critiqued on their organization’s case for receiving an award in one of the four categories; Scale, Local Community, Youth and Innovation. Winners who received the most points were awarded the $5,000 award for that category. The esteemed panel of judges included Jigar Mehta; President of the South Asian Journalists Association; Vivek Shankar, Bloomberg News; Rituparna Chatterjee, Foreign Correspondent at The Economic Times; and Kiran Jain, Past President of the South Asian Bar Association.

 “The Indian community is known for producing some of the best doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and academicians here in America. However, there is remarkable work being done by members of our community in volunteerism and philanthropy,” said Raju Reddy, ICC board member and Sevathon Co-chair, to India-West.  “So we are putting  the spotlight on such heroes in our community through Sevathon and ICC Seva Awards.”

The Youth award was for an organization that has been founded by youth, lead by youth or has active youth involvement. The award recipient wass: The Khan Academy. Their mission is to change the landscape of education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.  With over 2,400 educational videos, over 75 million lessons delivered since their inception, and a website that allows youth to learn by watching, learn by practice and learn via a coach, it’s no wonder this organization immediately stood out as the front-runner for the youth award. Providing education at the pace of the student, at anytime and many different formats; The Khan Academy gives youth a fighting chance of getting the best educational resource possible at no cost to the student.

The Innovation award goes to an organization that has demonstrated innovation in its processes, its services, its marketing and/or in its capacity to leverage technology to address a need in the community. The award recipient was: MySahana. They are dedicated to increasing awareness about mental health, emotional health and well-being in the South Asian community. MySahana uses many social media tools to reach the community where they are which is often in the comfort of their own home. This allows individuals to learn more about mental and emotional health in privacy and without the perceived restrictions that the community might have to an open dialogue about this sometimes taboo subject.  Their Twitter feed, Facebook presence, and ever changing content keeps browsers engaged and up-to-date with what is happening.  It also gives a voice to those who wish to remain anonymous. Videos help bring personality to the site and MySahana’s mission.

The Local Community award is for an organization that focuses its services on serving the local Bay Area community. The award recipient was: Maitri. This organization helps South Asian women in situations of domestic abuse, cultural displacement, or unresolved conflict. This leading Bay Area organization provides South Asian women with valuable tools to deal with their situation including Peer Support & Counseling, Culturally appropriate private counseling, culturally appropriate counseling, Subsidized housing, case management ESL training, translation services, emergency shelters and short-term grants and loans. Maitri empowers Bay Area women to change their life course towards a more safe and healthy environment.

The Scale award goes to an organization that has significantly scaled and grown its impact over time (e.g. volunteer numbers, service to community, raising funds for the organization, number of staff). The award recipient was: Pratham. Their mission is to improve the quality of education in India and to ensure that all children in India are not only attending but also thriving in school. Established in 1994, they already have reached millions of children living both in rural and urban areas through a range of interventions including pre-school education, library development, Pratham’s flagship program, Read India, data collection projects, government advocacy projects, computer aided literacy and a vocational skills program.

Amar Rao, President of Pratham Bay Area Pratham told India-West by e-mail,” Pratham is really honored to win the Seva award in the scale category. In a country where 25 million children are born every year, India needs low-cost, scalable education programs to create lasting change in India. I want to thank Sevathon and the ICC for creating such an amazing platform to bring together so many great organizations.”

Lawyers Trade in Their Suits for Glamour for the Annual SABA Gala

posted Oct 27, 2011, 1:29 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

By Diana Rohini LaVigne / NRI Achievers Magazine

San Francisco, Calif.—The 17th South Asian Bar Association (SABA) Gala was held this past Friday at the breathtaking San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.

Guests, who traded in their typical legal suits for gowns and black tie attire, arrived at the historical building while guests mingled at the cocktail reception.  An awards presentation followed dinner where community leaders were recognized. The awards included: Mentorship award to Monty Agarwal, Arnold & Porter LLC and Inderpreet Sawhney, The Chugh Firm; President’s award to Hozefa Botee, SABA Treasurer and pro bono Committee Co-chair; Community Impact award to Jayashri Srikantiah, Stanford Law School, Immigrants’ Rights Clinic; and the Trailblazer award to Councilmember Ash Kalra, City of San Jose, District 2.

"I am incredibly honored to receive the Trailblazer Award from SABA, an organization which blazed a trail for South Asian attorneys when it was started almost two decades ago. I look forward to continuing to work with SABA in ensuring that South Asians have the opportunity to make their mark in the legal community as we have been successful in doing in so many other fields," said council member Kalra.

Keynote speaker, Halim Dhanidina, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney spoke about his upbringing and explained how he always wanted to be a lawyer, despite his parents’ non approval of his career direction. In the end, he wanted the opportunity to help an underserved community and his role as Deputy District Attorney has provided this.  With parents who emigrated from Tanzania, he grew up in the 1980s when bombs that were going off around the globe and causing widespread violence and were being done so in the supposed name of the religion he shared.  Kids teased him.  He longed to be ethnically neutral and felt someone saying “you don’t even look Indian” was the highest compliment.

“So why pick a law career when there are so few people who look like us in it? Although our numbers are small, they are growing… It is the power to loose ourselves in serving the community,” explains Dhanidina.
"This year's South Asian Bar Association of Northern California gala showcased the great strides our members have made in law and public service by celebrating the successes of accomplished SABA-NC members like San Jose Councilmember Ash Kalra and Stanford Law Professor Jayasri Srikantiah. With over $40,000 raised, the gala was a resounding success in raising money for public interest law school students, as well as supporting other SABA-NC programs including our pro bono legal clinics, ‘Know Your Rights’ seminar series and ongoing civil rights work. This is by far the most successful gala SABA-NC has ever had despite the economy, which speaks volumes about the strength of our organization and our sponsors,” said Kiran Jain, SABA-NC President.

SAJA BAY AREA Night at the Opera

posted Oct 22, 2010, 11:36 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) Bay Area 'Night at the Opera'



San JoseCA— On April 20, 2006, the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) Bay Area hosted an evening at the Opera in conjunction with Opera San Jose and Emile’s Restaurant.  The event drew approximately twenty broadcast, print and online journalists from around the bay area and featured an introduction to Opera San Jose by Glenn Wong, who leads the opera’s business partnership development. 


Emile’s Restaurant served up fetching appetizers and fine wine to SAJA members in a private party room.  Members had a chance to hear more about opera, enjoy the food and wine, and network with other SAJA members.  There were a lot of connections being made and topics of discussion ranged from work to social activities.  Nearly everyone commented on the elegance of the event.


The hour-long reception ended in a walk to the nearby California Theatre which houses Opera San Jose.  SAJA members were treated to the dress rehearsal performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The most intriguing of anti-hero, Don Giovanni, an insatiable libertine plagued by past conquests who come back to haunt him, the Don unknowingly faces his last day on earth in this indefinable mix of tragic, comic, and farcical scenes.  As always with Mozart, the music is rewarding from start to finish, and the characters are enormously memorable.  For information on the opera, please visit them online

SAJA Bay Area Panel Discussion 'How Journalists Can Stay On Top'

posted Oct 22, 2010, 11:33 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

SAJA Hosts Expert Panel Discussion at Menlo College



South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) Bay Area hosted a networking and panel discussion event on Jan. 30 at the Menlo College’s International Russell Center in Atherton, CA. The expert panel of three provided the attendees with valuable knowledge on how stay at the top-of-their-game, what journalists can do to keep new story ideas generating, and what risks and pitfalls to avoid or embrace in the world of journalism.


With so much publishing happening online, panelist Roger Strukhoff, West Coast Bureau Chief and President of SYS-CON Media offered some timely information regarding online media.   Strukhoff suggests, “Find your own voice and stick with it. This will help you achieve better success.  It’s also important to find out what you really like and then go out and do it.  Stay with what you like to do.”


Successful freelancer and panelist, Dan Turner who works for major media outlets including MacWeek, Eweek, and The New York Times, adds, “As a freelancer, you are really jumping into the process without a net. But remember that although each publication owns the article, the writer always owns the knowledge gained in the process.  Use this knowledge to build other story ideas using those new contacts.”


“To be successful, you have to understand its all about the story.  Does the writer have a natural sensibility towards the story? They need to have this to survive.”, notes book author, Jim Fadiman.


Although the panelists came from vastly different segments of journalism, they agreed on many points made during the event.  One mentioned was once you’ve written siginificantly in one area or in one style, it is hard to get editors and publishers to recognize you outside this framework.  Each panelist spoke about trying to maintain diversity in your writing by taking on new assignments, even if pro-bono and trying different length articles on occasion.


Journalists attending also learned that good articles are written that ask questions, that good writers can find something intersting in everything, and to resist all impulses to resort to ‘cut and paste’ journalism.


Attendees were from a range of industries and levels of experience from newbie to established but the discussion was driven by audience participation and geared towards their individual needs.   One of the SAJA event coordinators noted that although the attendence fell short of their desired target, it was the first solo SAJA sponsored event hosted in the Bay Area in recent history and brought in two new memberships.  With Menlo College donating the space and media equipment and The Spirit of India donating the wine for the event, it  was a solid step towards building a strong and active SAJA Bay Area.  For more information on SAJA, visit them online at

January/Feb Cocktail Party with Indian Film Portal

posted Oct 22, 2010, 11:33 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne   [ updated Oct 23, 2010, 12:59 AM ]

More Details Coming Soon

Mumbai Attack Candle Vigil at ICC (Thursday, Dec 4th at 6:30pm) & Online Petition

posted Oct 22, 2010, 11:22 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

Dear Community Members,


As the aftermath of the horrific Mumbai attacks unfold, the Indian American community has come together for a candle lighting vigil to show the solidarity in our communities and our zero tolerance for terrorism globally. Please join us in our effort.

Date:   Thursday, December 4th

Time: 6:30-7:30pm

Where:  ICC, Malavalli Auditorium, 525 Los Coches St. Milpitas, CA 95035

What: Brief program with words of peace from key community leaders; and candle lighting for all members of our communities to participate; and the opportunity to sign a petition stating your zero tolerance for terrorism globally.

What can you do to help?  Circulate this email to your friends, family, neighbors and community. Attend Thursday’s Mumbai Attack Candle Vigil at ICC.

Contact Info: For more information, call Vishnu at 408.934.1130 or email Rohini at

Also, please consider signing and passing along our online petition to show our support for these efforts against terrorism.

Petition Link:


Many thanks to you for your support and our thoughts are with those impacted by this atrocious act.


Sincerely yours,


Community Partners’ Program Committee

Abhay Bhushan, Co-Chair & President IIT Kanpur Alumni Association

Anu Sethuram, Co-Chair & Co-Founder of Anuradha Foundation

Deepka Lalwani, Co-Chair & Executive Director IBPW

Diana Rohini LaVigne, Co-Chair &  SAJA Bay Area Chair Coordinator

Naren Bakshi, Advisor & President ICC Board of Directors

Perminder Tumber, Member &  SIPA Member

Ravi Shankar B., Member & Trustee Kannada Koota NC

Roy da Silva, Co-Chair & President IIT Foundation

Sunil Erraballi, Member & President India Rural Development Fund

Vinod Jain, Member & Past President RANA

Vishnu Sharma, Member & Associate Executive Director ICC

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