Mr. Ramesh Patel, 78, the Chairman of The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and a veteran Indian American community leader has died of Covid-19 on Sunday, June 6th, 2020, a deadly pandemic that has consumed over 100,000 people’s lives in the United States. He was under treatment for Covid-10 complications for over two months.
Mr. Patel was the proud recipient of prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor and many other National and International recognitions. Mr. Patel is survived by his wife Suchetaben, his son, Dr. Suvash Patel, Daughers, Manisha and Kunjal, and their families.
India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu expressed condolences on the death of Patel. “Very sad to learn about the passing away of Ramesh Patel, the Founder Member and Chairperson of Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), after 2 month long fight against COVID-19. A highly respected Indian American Community leader, we will miss him very much. RIP!” Sandhu tweeted.
India’s Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty tweeted that Patel’s death is a “big loss to the Indian American community.” “A pioneer who brought together the Community & worked on many issues. I particularly value his strong support to the Consulate,” Chakravorty tweeted.
In a condolence message sent to the Indian American community, announcing the passing away of Mr. Patel, Mr. Anil Bansal, the current President of FIA, said, “The loss of the effervescent Mr. Patel who is a doyen of the Indian American community and a man of many skills, is irreplaceable. The Founder of FIA, Mr. Patel has been the face of the organization since it was formed in 1970. In his death, we have a lost a great leader, pioneer, visionary and community leader who had dedicated his entire life for the Diaspora.”
“We as the members of the Indian community have lost a great visionary, who has been the pioneering community leader who was instrumental in bringing all the communities of Indian origin in the US together under one organization that has become the face of the Indian Diaspora,” Mr. Bansal added.
Mr. Patel has grown with the expansion of FIA, just as this organization has grown with him as he led FIA to newer heights. He was responsible for rendering this most important organization of the Indian Diaspora to be among the largest umbrella organization representing over 500,000 Indian Americans in the tristate region.
It was his initiatives after the visit of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the United States in the 1970’s that gave birth to FIA and the many accomplishments that this great organization is proud of today.
In 1970, a group of Indian-Americans led by Mr. Patel decided to form the Federation of Indian Associations in order to showcase India’s culture and history to the U.S., something that simultaneously allowed them to keep in touch with their roots and to bring them closer to each other and to India. FIA was founded with the goal of enhancing and promoting the rich culture and traditional values of the motherland and to achieve this goal the FIA, the largest, non-profit umbrella organization in the tri-state area, was formed.
10 years later in 1981, FIA finally got a permit to host the first India Day Parade in New York City on Madison Avenue. There was only one float and around 100 people in the parade. Zubin Mehta was the Grand Marshall, along with the then Indian Ambassador to the US, Mr. K R Narayanan.
Thanks to community leaders such as Mr. Patel, FIA has a very illustrious and inspiring track record of the largest celebration of India’s Independence Day anywhere in the world. It has attracted thousands of spectators from the tri-state area and other states, representing a spectrum of diversified ethnicities of people,
The India Day Parade in New York has become the stellar milestone event celebrated to mark the Indian Independence Day. Mr. Patel emphasized the fact that FIA along with the celebrations of Indian Independence and Republic Day is also at the forefront in addressing and fighting for burning community issues like immigration, domestic injustice, discrimination, bias and hate crimes etc.
In the very beginning these celebrations were held in school and university auditoriums and finally in the 1981, FIA was able to get a permit to hold the first India Day Parade on Madison Avenue between 56th and 23rd Streets and thereafter got permission to hold it each year on the Sunday closest to Aug. 15.
As the head of one of the joint forensic sciences departments, Mr. Patel reflected in brief on how the parade as an event has evolved and how the support from the community needs to grow to further the outreach and grandeur of the parade festivities. It is the only event in New York City that showcases India’s glory on a large scale.
A man who was recognized and was invited to meet and dine with almost every Prime Minister of India, diplomats and the US Senators and Congressmen in the past four decades, Mr. Patel advocated strongly for stronger cooperation between the world’s largest and greatest democracies. He had advocated for the India’s Nuclear Deal with the US and worked hard with the Senators and Congressmen to speak for India and the concerns of the Diaspora.
Mr. Patel had initiated the efforts to have the iconic Empire State Building lit in tricolor in celebration of Diwali and India’s Independence Day. The tower lights up with millions of festive lights in Orange, the color of the Diya or the lamp and cast a beautiful hue across the night sky of New York City spreading the message of oneness in celebrating the victory of good over evil.
In addition to organizing the largest Indian Day Parade in the world celebrating India’s Freedom, Mr. Patel was instrumental in imitating several noble initiatives for the wellbeing of the Indian American Community. He was in the forefront to voice our concerns to the US government and be the spokesperson for us.
Mr. Patel was instrumental in hosting the first ever First Indian Visa Camp in New Jersey, March 2015, spearheading the initiative to address problems Indian-Americans face to go through the consular process for visas and other documentation needed,
Mr. Patel served as President of the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) from 1992 to 1996 and as its Chairman from 1996 to 1998. While serving as President of FIA (1988-1990), Patel assisted in the NFIA organized First Global Convention of People of Indian Origin, held in New York in 1989, where Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) was formed.
Mr. Patel adored FIA and was elected President of FIA in 1988 and 1989. He served as the President of NFIA, and as the Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of FIA, until he breathed his last.
Vandana Sharma who had worked in USA as Regional Manager USA & Canada and is now in Delhi serving as the Deputy General Manager Commercial for Air India, said, “Ramesh Bhai was a vocal supporter and true friend of Air India. As Air Indiais the bridge between the land of birth and the land of karm, Ramesh Bhai valued the importance of sustaining and strengthening this bridge for the well being of the Indian American community. I am grateful for his staunch support to Air India and Air Indians. Today his energizing voice is silent. Today his contagious enthusiasm, his animated persona, his laughing visage- have been stilled. His work to foster unity and harmony amidst celebration of cultural diversity will go on. His place in our hearts, will live on. Memories will overtime become a comforting blanket to guide and comfort those who live on.”
Mrs. Chitra Sarkar, Retired Executive Director Air India. Who has known Mr. Patel during her tenure in New York, said, “I’m deeply saddened to hear that Ramesh Bhai lost his courageous battle against the Corona virus. We will miss him very much, both personally and as Air Indians. Ramesh Bhai was on a mission for the good of India and the Indian American community – he had dedicated his life to this cause, and succeeded at it so well. It will be difficult to find another father-figure like him. We pray for the peace of his soul. Please take good care of your health in this hour of grief.”
Seema Andhare who was Air India’s Regional Director USA & Canada. And now living in Pune, India, said in a message, “I’m saddened by this news and most because of a prolonged suffering due Covid virus. I remember him as a most energetic sincere personality. He always had a soft spot for us all at Air India and found time to chat with me whenever he could despite being a busy person with numerous Indian community events. Like you said he remembered names and never failed to acknowledge us past RDs by name whenever the occasion arose. He was large hearted and gracious and had the requisite personality to carry his community members forward – lending guidance and a helping hand. I last met him about 2 years back when I was in NYC and we had nice talk reminiscing about our earlier interactions when I was posted there.”
Mr. Andy Bhatia, Past President of FIA and a current BOT Member, described Mr. Patel as “one of a kind, who had dedicated his life for the betterment of his fellow human beings and especially the Indian American community. His dedication to serve the community will never be forgotten. His legacy will live on. He leaves behind a young and dedicated team that will carry on his work in serving the community. As a visionary, Mr. “Patel had mentored and groomed many of our young men and women for leadership roles. They all called him ‘Kakka’ affectionately and Suchita’Kakki’. We mourn his loss but the best tribute we can pay to him is to celebrate his life- a well lived life in service of others,” Mr. Andy Bhatia added.
Mr. Bhatia, while describing him as “a very good friend of Air India. There is 14 days morning period and Zoom prayers are being held every night at 9 pm for next two weeks for the departed soul. He was one of a kind and dedicated his life for the well-being of Indian community. I remember he used to tell people at gatherings to fly AI so that the money goes to the airline of mother India.”
NFIA President Angela Anand said, “NFIA family is saddened to learn the passing away of Ramesh Patel, a fixture of India Independence Day parade on the streets of New York with film personalities as parade marshal with lot of pomp and show,”
“His legacy will live on and his contributions to India and Indian Americans of this country will be remembered for a long time to come – a vacuum requiring dedication by several which he did year after year with little help from others in fund raising to make the event successful, “ Mr. Anand added.
GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham said, “Ramesh should be credited with highly successful India Day Parade in New York City, year after year, from the late 1980s. There are only very few community leaders in the USA who have over forty years of continuous community service and we will miss him in our community campaign and service activities,” Dr. Abraham added.
Calling Mr. Rameshbhai Patel as “a very visionary dynamic veteran community leader with a distinguished track record of community service for 55 years,” Mr. Chandrakant Trivedi, a member of FIA’s BOT said, “He was the champion of community causes. He was the pillar of Indian American Community and a very bold leader. He was a great patriot and was loved by his vast circle of friends all over the world. He fought with authorizes for the sake of the Indian American community and advocated for Simpson Mazoli Immigration Bill, Dot Buster, and to deny military weapons to Pakistan that were often used to undermine India.”
Ms. Indu Jaiswal, Chairperson of Indian American Forum Inc,. said in a message: “We are extremely sad to hear the news of passing away of Mr Ramesh Patel. He and his family are well known in the Tri state area for their leadership, support and contributions. We express our condolences to their families. Please keep them in your prayers. Our prayers, condolences and sympathies are for the family.”
To pay homage and pray for his dep0arted soul, a Drive By Viewing has been planned for Thursday, June 11th from 4 to 8 pm.
“In his death, we have a lost a great leader, pioneer, visionary and community leader who has dedicated his entire life for the Diaspora. I want express my sincere condolences to Mr. Patels’s family and all of his dear ones,” Mr. Anil Bansal, President of FIA, added.