Manu Shah

HOUSTON, TX: Bollywood actor Anupam Kher treated Houstonians to the entire array of his onscreen avatars – serious, comic, patriotic, profound, candid, strong  and yet vulnerable – in his address at the  28th Janmashtami celebrations held at George Brown Convention Center on August 25.

Considered one of the finest actors in Bollywood with a soon-to-be-seen debut in Hollywood, the actor who was the Chief Guest of the evening, lived up to every bit of his reputation and spoke for a full hour only broken by applause and appreciative laughter.

The well attended event which brings all the communities of Houston under one roof to celebrate Lord Krishna’s birth, honors outstanding achievements by members of the community. It had a lively session of Dandiya to round up the evening organized by the Hindus of Greater Houston.

Kher, who arrived on the dot, took seconds to connect with the gathering. With self-deprecating humor, he explained why he came to the event in a formal suit and tie. The kurta he had ordered was three sizes too big! After taking off his jacket and tie and looking visibly more comfortable, he launched into a one hour “conversation” with the gathering using his brilliant storytelling skills, snippets of poetry, anecdotes and rich wit to deliver his serious message – that “failure is an event, not a person.”

This invaluable lesson was driven home when his parents and grandfather celebrated his academic failures instead of putting him down. Raised in a family that was poor in monetary terms but rich in affection and encouragement, he stated that life’s experiences are the best teachers and his many “encounters with failure” took away the fear of failure.

He advised the parents in the gathering to teach their children to be strong, to have the “hunger” to succeed, and challenge them without overprotecting them from the realities of life. He added that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the same “hunger” to take the country forward which is why he has always espoused the Prime Minister’s cause.

While dispensing some inspirational advice for the youth he said “Mera gyan meri zindagi ke anubhavo se juda hai. (My wisdom comes from life’s experiences).Judging from the audience’s reaction to his speech, the message of learning from our failures and “living life” clearly touched a chord.

When the applause died down, prominent industrialist Jugal Malani draped a shawl around Anupam Kher while Sushma Pallod tied a Rakhi to him to mark Raksha Bandhan. In a gesture that was touching, Anupam Kher reciprocated by giving her the traditional offering of money a brother gives his sister.

Sanjay Jajoo served as a lively Emcee while HGH President Partha Krishnaswamy appealed for funds for Kerala flood relief. Sewa International has collected $250,000 from generous Houstonians for relief work.

Two Houstonians were recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award – CEO of Star Pipes Ramesh Bhutada and Beth Kulkarni. Well-known philanthropist, Ramesh Bhutada who has served the community unstintingly with his time, effort and resources stated that he was humbled to receive the award and reiterated Anupam Kher’s words on encouraging and “recognizing our children for trying.”

In her acceptance speech, Beth, who has served many area organizations in leadership and advisory roles, hoped that the award would inspire other Hindus to serve the community in any way they can. The Akhil Chopra Unsung Heroes Award was presented to Richa Dixit, Manish Khatri and Nisha Bhatia.

Other highlights of the celebrations were the children’s costume contest where little children dressed as little Krishnas and Radhas, a cultural dance segment, food, apparel and organization booths. A 25 feet in diameter vibrant Rangoli by Sangita Bhutada with the theme of “makhan chor” welcomed visitors to the center.

First time attendee and IMAGH Secretary Saeed Pathan said that the Janmashtami celebrations and the atmosphere brought back wonderful childhood memories of the festival in India.

Members of the Young Hindus of Greater Houston (YHGH) also contributed substantially to the smooth execution of the event.YHGH President Raj Salhotra stated “The 2018 Janmashtami celebration showcased Houston’s wonderful tradition of diversity. It was wonderful to witness the outpouring of support from Houston’s youth. We are excited to work with youth from across the city to build an organization that represents Hindus from all backgrounds