Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated on January 9 to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots. During a special Convention in New Delhi, select overseas Indians are also honoured with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to recognize their contributions to various fields both in India and abroad. We honour these members of the Indian diaspora for on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas this year.
Shobana Jeyasingh, Britain’s most sought-after choreographer
Born in Chennai and trained in Bharatanatyam, Shobana completed her formal education in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. She travelled to the U.K for her Masters in Shakespearean Studies and ended up finding her feet in the modern dance idiom. Shobana became an internationally recognised choreographer and founded Shobana Jeyasingh Dance 30 years ago.
Over the course of a distinguished career she has collaborated with scientists, gallery curators, composers, film makers, digital creatives as well as dancers and designers to make bold multi disciplinary work. Her work has toured extensively to Europe, USA, India and the Far East and is now part of the national curriculum in the UK. She was awarded the prestigious Woman of the World Award in 2017 and is respected by the Indian diaspora.
Kalwant Bhopal, race equality champion
Professor Kalwant Bhopal argues that white privilege continues to not only exist but thrive, with those in power overwhelmingly continuing to perpetuate systems that benefit them. She is Professor of Education and Social Justice and Deputy Director of the Centre for Research in Race & Education (CRRE) at the University of Birmingham.
The Indian-origin professor’s latest book White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society explores how policymaking has increased discrimination against black students using a mix of interviews and data. Prof Bhopal is Visiting Professor at Harvard University in the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Visiting Professor at Kings College London.
Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, international peacemaker
Born in Panjab, Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor learned the value of non-violence from his mentor, Mahatma Gandhi himself. He came to the United States in 1963. Since 1967, he has served as professor of Social Work, Community Development and Peace Studies at the California State University, Fresno. He has sought and taught about peace and justice through nonviolence.
Dr. Kapoor was the founder and first director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program. He established and coordinated the “Stop the Hate and Build the Culture of Peace Week” at Fresno State and in the community. He is the founder of Peace Garden project that currently honours world leaders Gandhi, Cesar E. Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jane Addams. He also served on the Board of International Peace Research Association and also on the board of International Peace Research Foundation.
Harpreet Virdee, diversity and inclusion supporter
Harpreet Virdee (Harry) has been awarded a Medal of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year’s 2020 Honours List, predominantly for his charitable work in his capacity as Trustee for the City Sikhs Foundation. This Indian-origin corporate is Managing Director for Capita, where he’s responsible for the company’s operations in Poland.
He is our choice for Pravasi Bharatiya Divas because throughout his life, he has championed diversity and fairness. He has also worked with a number of charities to raise awareness amongst the BAME community on issues such as promoting living organ donations and bone marrow transplants. He is part of the founding team of the British Sikh Report which is an annual report launched in parliament every year that assesses the views of Sikhs living in the UK.
Mindy Kaling, showbiz and comedy veteran
Mindy Kaling is the first Indian-American woman to have her own primetime TV show in America, The Mindy Project. Mindy was born to Indian parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2005, at the age of 24, Mindy not only made her film debut on The 40 Year Old Virgin, but she also became a director, producer, writer and performer on NBC’s hit sitcom, The Office. Mindy has since appeared in several movies, such Ocean’s 8, Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Late Night and is on the New York Times best-selling list for her comedic memoirs Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Why Not Me?
She has gone on to become a role model for young Indian girls overseas. In addition to winning numerous awards, including a Screen Actors Guild Award (2006 and 2007), Asian Excellence Award (2007) and Critics’ Choice Television Award (2012), her other accolades include being named one of ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ in 2012 by Time magazine, and one of Glamour’s ‘Women of the Year’ in 2014. She’s not surprisingly, our pick for Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.