Rep. Pramila Jayapal among those honored at Kerala Center’s 25th annual awards gala

(Long Island, NY: November 5, 2017) Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian American woman elected to the U.S Congress, representing Washington state’s seventh Congressional District, was among those honored at the 25th annual gala of the The Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center at the World Fairs marina, Queens, New York on Saturday, November 4thg, 2017.

Rep. Jayapal of Kerala origin, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was honored for her achievements in Political Leadership. Attorney Appen Menon, a partner at Wormser, Kiely, Galef & Jacobs LLP law firm in New York for contribution in Legal Services; writer Dr. Sheela N.P. for Literature; Dr. A.K.B. Pillai for Humanities; Community volunteer Sheela Sreekumar for Community Service; and Ginsmon Zacharia, for achievement in Media, were others who were honored for their achievements in their respective field of specialization or for their service to the society at its 25th Anniversary Awards Banquet.

The Center also honored five of its pioneers with Silver Jubilee Year Life Time Achievement Awards. The 25th Jubilee Year Life Time Achievers are Shanti Bhavan Founder Dr. Abraham George, Industrialist and Founder & Chairman of Sami-Sabinsa Group Dr. Muhammed Majeed; Philanthropist Sreedhar Menon; Columbia University Professor P. Somasundaran and Entrepreneur Dilip Varghese. Also honored with a ‘surprise award” was E M Stephen, the pioneer and first President and the Center’s current Executive Director for his visionary and hard work in establishing and running the center in the past quarter century.

While lauding the contributions and achievements of the Malayalee community, chief guest at the gala, Consul General of India in New York Sandeep Chakravorty, “Kerala Diaspora has made India so proud. They are incredibly strong and enormous,” he said. Referring to the strong Indo-US relationship, the Indian Ambassador paid tributes to the larger Indian American community for their contributions towards making the relationship between the largest and the greatest democracies to be growing and poised to be stronger for the next 100 years.

In her address, Congresswoman Jayapal shared with the audience her own growing up in a traditional Kerala family, immigrating to the US as a student and the aspirations of the family. “My parents would be delighted to hear of this honor today at the Kerala Center,” she told the audience, referring to her family’s long association with Sreedhar Monon, a founding member and pillar of the Kerala Center.

Pointing to the fast growing Indian American community, the lone woman Representative from South Asia in the US Congress said, “There are many more coming forward to fight elections and making our voices heard” in the decision making process of our nation’s destiny, she said, while referring to at least 8 persons of South Asian origin contesting elections in her state in the upcoming elections this week. Urging the Indian American community to be more politically active, Jayapal said, “If you don’t vote, you are giving away your voice.”

While describing today as the “greatest day for Kerala Center” the Executive Director E.M. Stephen said that the Center had recognized 140 achievers in the last 25 years, who have continued to become bigger achievers and contributors to the society. He called upon the new generation of Indian Americans to come forward and take on more responsibilities at the Center and in the larger community and the society.

“Kerala Center has been honoring outstanding achievers since 1991 and every year we invite nominations and the committee has to make a unanimous choice for a candidate in a category to receive the award and this year is no different from previous years in terms of their achievements,” said Kerala Center President Thambi Thalappillil. “In 25 years, Kerala Center has become a secular civic institution providing services to the Indian American community and we are recognizing those who were honored earlier by the Center and who went on to become successful achievers and contributors to society with Life Time Achievement,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the 25th Anniversary Dinner.

The gala began with the national anthems of both Indian and the Un ited states sung beautifully by the youth group members of the Kerala Center, and they entertained the audience with cinematic dances. The event concluded with light music entertainment and a sumptuous dinner.

Born in Chennai, India, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian American woman elected to the U.S House of Representatives. She is a Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus, Vice Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, First Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and she also serves on the prestigious House Judiciary Committee. Before getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Jayapal served in the Washington State Senate and was the founder and executive director of OneAmerica, the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington state.

Appen Menon is a partner at Wormser, Kiely, Galef& Jacobs LLP, a law firm in New York and has been providing legal service for the last 3 decades. He represents banks in problem loan workouts and litigation involving debt recovery and mortgage foreclosures and advises financial institutions in their compliance and regulatory matters and on Letters of Credit and secured lending. His corporate law practice includes domestic and foreign corporations in matters relating to domestic acquisitions, cross-border acquisitions involving India and the United States, while representing business entities in their corporate transactions, litigation and corporate governance. Menon also represents corporations in their professional visa matters such as H-1, L-1 and PERM. His clients include technology companies, banks and multinational corporations.

Dr. Sheela N.P. is an accomplished writer in numerous journals and periodicals. She has seven published works including a novel, for which she was the recipient of an international award. She began her teaching career at St. Xavier’s College, Aluva, where she served as the Head of Hindi Department for 35 years. She had also served as a visiting faculty in several seminaries for Malayalam and Sanskrit. She has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and elegy from Cochin University of Science and Technology. In addition, Sheela has post-graduate degrees in Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Malayalam and also diplomas in Theology and Christian women education.

Dr. A.K.B. Pillai is an integrated personality of wisdom, spirituality and creativity. He has higher levels of education in many disciplines, including an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in Anthropology, for which he held a Research Fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health, USA. He continues as an Associate of University Seminars (post- doctoral) at Columbia University. His specializations include Comparative Literature with techniques of creative writing, other disciplines in the humanities and medical sciences. Dr. A.K.B. Pillai is a practitioner of his own Integral Development Therapy, Personality Development System and Developmental Transcultural Psychiatry, with resources also drawn from psychological and mystical Yoga sciences. Dr. Pillai’s lifelong dedicated philosophy is that all wisdom is for social well-being, which he practices with his spouse, Professor Donna Pillai. He is listed in many Who’s Whos of the world.

Sheela Sreekumar is involved in many local, national and global community organizations in the US and is working for the community around her. Born and brought up in Vayalar, Kerala, she attended N.S.S. Women’s College, Trivandrum and later completed her Law Degree from The Government Law College in Ernakulam. After coming to the US, she has served as the President of Karuna Charities of New York; the President and Board of Trusty Chair of Kerala Association of NJ; Advisor to World Malayalee Council of NJ; Chairperson of FOMAA’s Mid- Atlantic Region; Representative of D.C. 37, and also as the Secretary of Asian American Association at New York City Housing Authority. Currently Sheela works as a Community Coordinator of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability Unit at the New York Housing Authority to help the residents for their job education and financial stability.

Hailing from Thodupuzha, Ginsmon Zacharia dedicated 17 years of his life to the news media. Currently he is coordinator of the Indo-American Press Club, an organization that he founded and chaired. His decision to choose print and visual media indeed served him right. He is also the Director of Jaihind TV USA, which made headlines hosting reality shows in all major North American cities. It served as a platform for young talents to be heard and seen and loved by the viewership of the channel. The weekly program US Dairy brought to the attention of the authorities the difficulties and problems the Indian immigrants face in the US. Having successfully started and established newspapers in UK and US with circulation in Canada, he strategized techniques to earn the reader’s trust. He is the publisher and chairman of Jaihind Vartha, Aksharam magazine and The Asia Era in the US. For more information on The Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center and diverse activities and programs throughout the year, please visit:

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