Lavish embroidered saris were en vogue at the Hilton Americas-Houston as more than 800 people from a cross-section of the city's diverse communities gathered to support the Annual Pratham gala.
The organization was founded in India in 1995 in the slums of Mumbai, and the USA headquarters were established in Houston by prominent Indian American Vijay Goradia. Pratham is one of India’s largest non-profits, with a presence in 21 of India’s 28 states, and has touched the lives of millions of children.
The gala was packed with Houston's affluent Indian American community as the organization honored UH president Dr. Renu Khator. Powerhouse gala chairs Lillie Robertson, Harriet Latimer and Beth Madison engineered the evening, which raised a record-breaking amount of more than $2 million.
Khator, looking resplendent in a beaded purple sari in place of the Cougar red attire she often wears, stressed the importance of education for everyone, no matter what socio-economic status. She shared with the large gathering her early arranged marriage experience, hardships upon arriving in the United States and the lack of knowing English. But her perseverance and passion led her to a successful career.
It was a special night for Pratham USA family to celebrate the organization's 20th anniversary and guests as they strictly followed the dress code of ethnic Indian wear. However one gorgeous Indian beauty opted for a different look: Former Miss America Nina Davuluri wore a tea-length floral dress as she emceed the evening. Davuluri said she was thrilled to be part of Pratham's 20th year celebration and she expressed her desire to travel to India and get involved with the organization.
Guests dined on savory Indian cuisine, marveled at a Bollywood dance performance and were touched by remarks by Pratham CEO Dr. Rukmini Banerji and Readathon superstars —13-year-old Sachin Chanchani and 11-year-old Indrani Maitra.
Joining Pratham's legacy of "every child in school and learning well" were Pratham USA president Marie Goradia, Fran Fawcett Peterson, Pankaj and Asha Dhume, Rick Pal, Tanya Bhandra Pal, William Kennerly, Akku Patel, Truett Latimer, Meena Dutt, Sanjay Rambhadran, Madhav Chavan, Swatantra and Bimla Jain, Manish Jain, Prithwiraj Ghosh Roy, Sippi and Ajay Khurana, Yogi Patel and Sameera Kapasi Mehendru and Chitra and Murthy Divakaruni.
Ruchi Mukherjee is a lifestyle feature journalist based in Houston for TV Asia and host of the online magazine, Lights Camera Action.