Community Hosts Reception for Outstanding Embassy Officials

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July 5, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville – Indian-American community leaders bid a fond farewell, on Friday, June 29th to two outstanding officials of the Indian Embassy: Dr. Debapriya Dutta, Counselor, Science and Technology; and Dr. Ranbir Singh, Counselor, Community Affairs. 

July 5, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville – Indian-American community leaders bid a fond farewell, on Friday, June 29th to two outstanding officials of the Indian Embassy: Dr. Debapriya Dutta, Counselor, Science and Technology; and Dr. Ranbir Singh, Counselor, Community Affairs. 

Indian-American community leaders bid a fond farewell, Friday, to two outstanding officials of the Indian Embassy: Dr. Debapriya Dutta, Counselor, Science and Technology (fifth from left); and Dr. Ranbir Singh, Counselor, Community Affairs (sixth from left).

The reception, held at the India Garden restaurant, was organized by the National Council of Asian Indian Associations (NCAIA), in conjunction with community activists.

It was high on emotion, low on protocol.  As Dr. Dutta pointed out, “This is my last day in the Embassy as a Counselor of Science and Technology.  This gathering, this dinner, is a wonderful culmination of my tenure”, he said.

Dr. Debapriya Dutta (left) and Dr. Renuka Misra at a reception hosted by community stalwarts

Dr. Dutta and his talented wife Ayona Dutta have been in the forefront when it comes to reaching out and interacting with community members and the reception was a mere token of appreciation for all their kindness!

Speaking with sincerity and sensitivity, straight from the heart, Dr. Dutta shared the experience of their “wonderful stay here during these four years”.  He told the gathering, “We found a temporary home in this foreign land.  Never in these four years did we feel that we are a tourist here.  We thought that we are a part of the community, we are a part of your family”.

Mrs. Ayona Dutta (left) receiving a floral bouquet from Mrs. Promila Banik at a fond farewell reception

On the professional front, too, he said, “These four years have been a life-changing experience for me.  When I landed in 2008, change was in the air”.  It was an American election year.  On the global scene, political and economic upheavals were rampant.  Amidst all the turmoil, Dr. Dutta noted a “wonderful change” in India-US ties.  The two nations were now being described as natural allies, forging a strategic partnership.

“In the fields of science, technology and education, the relationship has been elevated to a new level”, he said.  “My experience, my horizon expanded when I came to the US.  I saw the importance of science diplomacy in bringing the two largest democracies together”!

Mrs. Ayona Dutta (right) and Gisela Ghani at the reception in Rockville

Dr. Ranbir Singh told the gathering, “My job here was very simple unlike Dr. Debapriya Dutta” and he explained that it fell on his lot “to connect Indians in this country with India, to strengthen the relationship between the Indian Diaspora and India”.  The sense of satisfaction was clear when he said, “We have a better relationship today than 22 months ago when I came here.  The credit doesn’t go to me; the credit goes to you because the community is very energized, very active.  It is looking to India with a lot of nostalgia, a lot of hope, a lot of pride.  That is the engine for the self-feeding cycle of more and more engagement between India and the Diaspora”.

Dr. Singh candidly admitted that when he came to Washington, about two years ago, “there were some tensions between the Indian-American community and the Embassy”, tensions relating to OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India), PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cards, he explained.  The process was so long and cumbersome, it would take several months to get an OCI card.  It goes to his credit that Dr. Singh heeded the concerns of community members and worked on addressing the issues.  “Today, I can say with a lot of confidence that we have solved the problem with the cooperation of everyone”, he declared, at the reception.  “The process is extremely stream-lined, very simple, and predictable.  Now, it is taking 5-6 weeks for an OCI card and 3-4 days for a PIO card.  That has strengthened the bond between the Indian-American community and the Embassy”, he said.

Dr. Singh drew attention to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs which, he emphasized, is providing a lot of services.  He urged community members to avail of its programs such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas which is celebrated in India, in early January each year, to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.

Dr. Singh, who was accompanied by his wife Savita, waxed eloquent about community stalwarts.  “My interaction with community leaders has been very rewarding”, he gushed.  “I met many of them.  They are all very outstanding individuals in their own fields and they have made a lot of contributions to the community”, he said, singling out the “towering personality” of Dr. Sambhu Banik.

Dr. Singh emphasized that he is indebted to the community for appreciating his work and making his job so easy.  “There are some debts which can never be repaid”, he told the gathering.  “Feelings are difficult to convey; words always fall short.  I received a lot of cooperation which I never anticipated.  That speaks for the greatness of the Indian Diaspora.  The greatest experience was being able to meet all of you, interact with all of you.  I will always cherish these memories”!

Dr. Ranbir Singh (left) with Mr. Benoy Thomas, President of NCAIA

Among the community leaders at the reception were: Dr. Krishna Banaudha, who served as the emcee; Dr. Sambhu and Mrs. Promila Banik; Mr. Benoy Thomas, President of NCAIA; Dr. Suresh K. Gupta; Dr. Renuka Misra; Mr. Kumar Singh; Mr. Sunil Singh; Mr. Har Swarup Singh; Mr. Pavan Bezwada; Mr. Ashok and Mrs. Alka Batra; Mr. Jay Bhandari; Mr. Yogendra Gupta; Mrs. Promila Gupta; Mr. Walton and Mrs. Merrylin Dawson; Rupen Shah; Gisela Ghani; Dr. Chandrika and Mrs. Urmila Prasad.

In warm and welcoming remarks, Mr. Benoy Thomas commended Dr. Dutta and Dr. Singh for their fruitful tenures.  The farewell reception, he noted, is “an opportunity for us to celebrate and thank them for the dedicated services which they have rendered to the community and our motherland India.  Many of us here got an opportunity to know them very well.  We have been to their homes; they have been to our homes.  During a span of 2-4 years, they became a part of our families and our community”, he said.

The triple-digit temperatures that day did nothing to deter community activists from attending the reception.  Looking around the packed venue, Mr. Thomas pointed out that such a turnout for the honorees “on a hot day like this, shows the amount of love, affection and respect they have gained from each one of us.  It reflects their popularity”, he said.