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Hearty felicitations for Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awardee, Ramesh Shah

Ramesh Shah with his wife Kokila Shah. Photo by Bijay Dixit.

by Manu Shah
HOUSTON – (Feb 20, 2017)
Ramesh Shah was at an eye camp in India when he received a call from the Consulate in Houston to inform him that he had been awarded the 2017 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award for his 40 plus years of tireless community service.
Whether it was co-founding the Gujarati Samaj or Ekal Vidyalaya, leading a silent hunger strike, garnering funds for Gandhi Bhavan or block marching for political campaigns, Ramesh Shah always led from the front.
On 18th February, community members turned out to applaud this huge and well deserved honor at an event cohosted by India House and the Indian Consulate. Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, in his address, put it best when he stated that Ramesh Shah “personified the Indian ideal of service.” The packed room not only agreed wholeheartedly but also highlighted wife Kokilaben’s support in standing “”shoulder to shoulder” with him in this journey.
Hasita Kartick’s rendition of Vande Mataram was the lead-in to the event while Emcee Achalesh Amar kept things moving briskly inviting old friends, close associates and community leaders to share their thoughts about Rameshbhai as he is affectionately known.
President of India House Dr. Manish Rungta welcomed the gathering and described the honoree as a “role model.”

Ramesh Shah with all the speakers Arun Kakani, Subhash Gupta, Jugal Malani , Dr. Manish Rungta, Rupal Shah, Hon Consul General of India Dr. Anupam Ray, Kokila Shah, Ramesh Shah , Col. Raj Bhalla , Arun Sharma. Photo(s) credit: Vijay Pallod.

Ramesh Shah with all the speakers Arun Kakani, Subhash Gupta, Jugal Malani , Dr. Manish Rungta, Rupal Shah, Hon Consul General of India Dr. Anupam Ray, Kokila Shah, Ramesh Shah , Col. Raj Bhalla , Arun Sharma. Photo(s) credit: Vijay Pallod.

In an introduction that captured the deep affection between the two community leaders, Jugal Malani observed that his mota bhai (older brother) Ramesh Shah always worked “without any expectation like a true karmayogi.”
Jugal Malani also described Ramesh Shah’s two unique qualities – his helpful nature which intuitively empowers him to “land down like Superman” to help those in need and his strong personality and determination. He quoted a dialogue from a film which he said best described Rameshbhai’s spirit of determination – “ek baar jo maine commitment kar di, phir main apne aap ki bhi nahi suntaa.” As the laughter and applause subsided, he added that it is these qualities that have made Rameshbhai a “genuine, outstanding and successful leader” of the community.
Other heartfelt observations came from all corners of the room – Kulbhushan Uppal spoke of the many times Ramesh Shah dug into his own pockets to organize community events, Anu Mahendra, described by Emcee Achalesh as Ramesh Shah’s mentor, cheerfully conceded that this is an instance where “the chela (disciple) has become better than the guru”, Dr. Harsad Patel spoke of being inspired by Ramesh Shah while Arun Sharma remarked on his simplicity as good Swayam Sevak
It seemed that everyone in the room wanted to share their thoughts about Rameshbhai. Arun Kankari highlighted his ever smiling face and observed that he is a manifestation of a “rishi” who not only dedicates his life for service but inspires others to do the same. Well-known community leader Abeezar Tyebji asserted that Rameshbhai epitomizes the saying – “reach for the stars and keep your feet on the ground.”
It was an emotional moment for daughter Roopal, who fought back tears before stating that she is “super proud” of the fact that of the one billion Indians on the planet, India recognized Rameshbhai and Kokilaben’s lifetime of service – two ordinary people with an extraordinary commitment to using this life for something more.

Rajeev Gadgil, Publisher, India Herald, his wife Bina Gadgil with the Shahs at the event.

Rajeev Gadgil, Publisher, India Herald, his wife Bina Gadgil with the Shahs at the event.

This spirit of service, she added, was a common feature during their years growing up where the three children were often roped into activities from drafting letters to helping set up chairs before an event. Roopal concluded her gratitude to the community by asking each one in the gathering to expand their circle to “add one more person, one more cause, one more act of kindness” towards each other in these trying times.
Ekal Vidyalaya confronts illiteracy in India’s remotest corners – a cause close to Rameshbhai’s heart. Subhash Gupta, an Ekal associate, revealed that the organization’s US Chapter originated in Ramesh Shah’s house and added that Rameshbhai would travel extensively on red eye flights fundraising for Ekal Vidyalaya all on his own dime. His dedication to the cause is such that he will be spending the next four months travelling in a van across the US with nine artists from India to raise funds for Ekal.
The biggest tribute for Ramesh Shah’s work with Ekal came from Consul General Dr. Ray who noted that every child saved by Ekal could well be a child saved from becoming a Naxalite or insurgent.
The final word came from the Pravasi Bharatiya awardee himself. Humble to the core, Rameshbhai shared his honor with the community which he stated had supported him in all his endeavors. He also reflected that he was deeply influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s writings and asked for only one thing from the gathering – their blessings to continue his work till his last breath.
At the end of the day, one thought prevailed in the room “Manushya tu bada mahaan hai”
Amit Mishra capped off the evening by thanking the evening’s hosts and organizer Vijay Pallod for his efforts in bringing the event together.


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