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Indian American Heritage Foundation

23rd Annual India Heritage

Two Declared Winners for Top India Heritage Award
on Sunday, April 26, 2009
The chief guest, Ambassador Susmita Thomas, Consul General of India, San Francisco


Los Angeles, April 26, 2009
Swaran Dabgotra/Gary Singh

Pooja Desai and Anirudh Venkatesh were declared winners as the first place winners in the high school category while Nikeeta Shah took the top award in the middle school category on April 26, 2009 in a glittering ceremony at Crystall Ballroom, Golden Sails Hotel, Long Beach. The first place winner in high school category gets $2000 cash award instituted by Sanjiv Chopra in memory of his father Kishan Gopal Chopra while the second place winner gets $1000. Since there was a ‘tie’ between the two, Drs. Rajesh and Darshna Kadakia, sponsors of the community service award and trophy, sitting in the audience, announced additional donation of $1000, so both the winners got $2000 each. The first place winner also gets “Profiles in Excellence” revolving trophy instituted by Ashok Madan & family in memory of Ashok’s parents, Thakar Singh and Shanti Rani Madan. The trophy will bear the name of both the winners for the year 2009. Incidentally, Pooja Desai was also the first place winner in 2005 for the middle school category. The third place winner, Anupama Murthy got a check of $750 and the next five winners, Laxmi Kasaraneni, Sameer Gupta, Anish Sawant, Prachi Nene and Aarti Garg each got $500 as the cash award.

Pooja also won the Outstanding Achievement Award for Math, Science and Technology while Anirudh Venkatesh, Bhavna Chadalavada and Vijay Venkatesh each won Outstanding Achievement Award in Community Service, Sports and Visual & Performing Arts. Each one of the four winners received a revolving trophy and cash award of $500. The revolving trophy in science has been instituted by Dr. Mani Bhaumik in recognition of the “most important numeral ZERO invented in India,” in Community Service by Dr. Rajesh Kadakia in memory of Maniben Manilal Kadakia, in Visual & Performing Arts by Kumar Jawa of India Sweets and Spices, in memory of his father, Jiwan Dass Jawa, and in sports by Uka Solanki in memory of his brother Bhikhubhai G. Solanki. Dr. Mani Bhaumik and Dr. Rajesh Kadakia were personally present to give the award and trophy to the winners.

In the junior high school category, Nikeeta Shah got $500 as cash award and “Founders” revolving trophy instituted by Dr. Awtar Singh, philanthropist and businessman, in memory of his late wife, Teji A Singh. The second place winner was Neil Argade while the third place winner was Amrita Shankar. The fourth and fifth place winners were Vighnesh Iyer and Anshal Gupta respectively. Nikeeta Shah also won the Visual and Performing Arts award instituted by Mollie Rachna Singh in honor of “Teachers, parents and family.”

To qualify for the awards, the applicants needed to have a GPA equal to B or higher, have at least one parent of Indian origin, and be a graduate from a Southern California school. For high school category, GPA and SAT were evaluated at 70 percent while extra-curricular activities and quiz on India and Indian Americans were each evaluated at 15 percent. There were four applicants Anish Sawant, Anirudh Venkatesh, Gaurav Agarwal and Pooja Desai who each scored over 2300 in their SAT while Arvin Wali, Gaurav Agrawal, Laxmi Kasaraneni and Pooja Desai each had unweighted GPA of 4. In the Middle school category, Vignesh Iyer and Sakshi Walia each had perfect score in Algebra in the Star test.

The panel of judges who undertook the grueling task of evaluating the applicants included Bobby Kumar, Hanif Nensey, Prof. Keshav Patel, Dr. Lakhbir Singh, Dr. M.C. Gupta, Manjit Singh, Niranjan Bhatt, Raj Pakianathan, Ranjit Bhatia, Ratna Butani, Simran Singh, Dr. Satinder Bhatia, Suma Hareesh & V.J. Singh.

The chief guest, Ambassador Susmita Thomas, Consul General of India, San Francisco, congratulated the organizers for well organized program and for recognizing and honoring excellence among the Indian youth. She was particularly pleased to know that all the contestants have to take a quiz on India and Indian Americans. She complimented the winners for their well earned recognition. She also praised the young applicants for learning Indian culture, dances, vocal and instrumental music.

Ambassador Thomas released Dr. Mani Bhaumik’s book, “The Cosmic Detective” which is packed with interesting facts and dazzling color photographs and is an ideal primer on cosmology for people of all ages and backgrounds. The organizer, Inder Singh thanked the Consul General for presiding over the function. He also thanked two guests of honor, Dr. Prakash Narain, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Cypress and Ashok Kumar Sinha, Consul of Community Affairs in Indian Consulate, San Francisco.

The Indian American Heritage Foundation has been recognizing the achievements of Indian Youth, graduating from High and Middle Schools in Southern California for the last 22 years. The Foundation is the leading Indian American organization in the USA to publicly recognize, reward and celebrate excellence of the community’s best and brightest graduating students in Southern California.

The Foundation started with eight scholarship awards and now eighteen scholarships are given -- eight academic excellence awards ranging from $2000 to $500 in the high school category, five ranging from $500 to $100 in the junior high/middle school category, four of $500 each for Outstanding Achievement Awards in math and science, sports, community service, visual and performing arts in high school category and one of $250 in visual and performing arts for the middle school category.

The annual event has been made possible with the committed support of some well meaning people from the community including Ashok & Manju Madan, Dr.Awtar Singh, Dr. M.C & Usha Gupta, VJ & Simi Singh, Dr. C. R. Viswanathan, Harbhajan Singh Samra, Jagdish Khangura, Kumar Jawa of India Sweets & Spices, Dr. M.L. Bhaumik, Mollie Rachna Singh, Dr. Rajesh Kadakia, Sanjiv & Renu Chopra, Dr. Satinder–Ranjit Bhatia,, State Bank of India, and Uka Solanki. We also had some supporters including Group Captain A.S. Ahluwalia, Noni Rana, Navi Doshi and Rachel Saran. All the sponsors were introduced through a Power Point presentation by Simi Singh and Amrit Bhandari.

The entertainment program was provided by Bollywood professional queen Harish who enthralled the audience with his professionally choreographed dances. Three applicants, Pooja Desai, Anupama Murthy and Anirudh Venkatesh also gave excellent performances.

Inder Singh, Foundation president thanked all the sponsors who provided necessary funding for the continuity of the awards program. He particularly thanked his “working Crew” -- team of volunteers -- who have been working hard to make the event a success. He said, “An individual, howsoever brilliant, intelligent and smart, would find it difficult, if not impossible to match the collaborative efforts of an effective team and he is blessed with a team which has been providing selfless service for the cause of our youth.” His team included Abdulgani Shaikh, Ashok Madan, Deepi Singh, Dr. Pammi Bevli, Ajoy Dube, Kewal Kanda, Amrit Bhandari, Dilip Butani, Prakash Pancholi, Ajmer Singh and Swaran Debgotra. The program was started on time and finished on time, a record for an Indian program.

High School Category
1. Pooja Desai
2. Anirudh Venkatesh
3. Anupama Murthy
4. Laxmi Kasaraneni
5. Sameer Gupta
6. Anish Sawant
7. Prachi Nene
8. Aarti Garg

Visual & Performing Arts
Vijay Venkatesh
Community Service
Anirudh Venkatesh
Math, Science & Technology
Pooja Desai
Bhavna Chadalavada

Middle School Category

1. Nikeeta Shah
2. Neil Argade
3. Amrita Shankar
4. Vighnesh Iyer
5. Anshal Gupta

Visual & Performing Arts
Nikeeta Shah





Hon. CG Susmita Thomas accompanied by hon. consul Ashok Sinha at 4.35 p.m. at Best Western Hotel L.B. on Sunday Apr 26 for a meeting with So. Cal. Indians and community leaders.