By Anwar Feroz
Princeton, NJ — October 8, 2017: The South Jersey chapter of Association of Indians in America (AIA-SJ), hosted its 14th annual Gandhi Arts & Writing Awards Function and the celebration of 148th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and for the 12th year Princeton University was our host. AIA is one of the oldest non-profit social organization of Indian Americans established in Princeton, New Jersey, in the year 1967, with 17 regional chapters all across the United States. The primary goal of AIA-SJ is to promote community integration, racial harmony, and bring Indian Art & Culture to mainstream America.
AIA-SJ conducts an Art & Writing competition amongst all Middle School and High School students in the State of New jersey. The project aims at spreading the message of Mahatma Gandhi about social harmony, peace and justice through non-violent activism. The project runs through almost whole year starting in January/February with a focus theme based on one of Gandhi’s quotes, inviting entries from students until mid-June, followed by rigorous evaluation of thousands of entries for 2-3 months, and closes at an award ceremony for the winners, usually the first Sunday after Gandhi’s birthday on 2nd October.
Most parents and many teachers accompany the winning students to support them and share their excitement. AIA-SJ is living Gandhi’s vision of making a difference in this world, one student at a time. As Gandhi had said “If we want to reach real peace in this world, we should start educating children”. “In the last fourteen years more than 40,000 students have participated and AIA-SJ has given awards and recognition to 248 Middle and High school students”, remarked Mr. A. Feroz Siddiqi, President AIA-SJ in his opening address. He also expressed sincere appreciation by the AIA Executive team, Shiekha, Rekha, Vinod, DC Agarwal, Sachin, Madhavi, Archana, Ankita and Atul Govil.
AIA-SJ has collaborated with several community based organizations, including the South Asian students and employees of Princeton University that is the host for the event as the goals of this program are so well aligned with University’s mission statement on Diversity & Inclusion, the South Asian Affinity Group (SAAG). Some of the other prominent governmental and non-governmental organizations include NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission, NJ State Council on the Arts, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), Princeton Foundation for Peace & Learning, Aurora Hospitality Group and Paradigm LTC.
Several speakers addressed the audience; including chief guest Dr. Ashutosh Pathak, Founder of Princeton Foundation for Peace and Learning, former Deputy Speaker of NJ General Assembly and current Commissioner of Public Utilities Upendra Chivukula, AIA-SJ President Anwar Feroz Siddiqi, AIA National Executive DC Agrawal, SAAG Vice President Vineet Chandra and SAAG President Emeritus Vinod Gupta, all stressing the importance & relevance of Gandhi’s philosophy in today’s world. The students of Shishya School of Performing Arts gave scintillating dance performances on devotional songs dear to Mahatma Gandhi. One of the contestant, Ameyavikram Pathak rendered Gandhi favorite hymn, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. The auditorium was jam packed and dozens of people had to stand in the aisles for hours.