Mira Nair named India Abroad Person of the Year

New York, March 29 (IANS) Mira Nair, the internationally acclaimed film director, was honoured as the Person of the Year 2007 by a leading ethnic Indian paper in the US, while the economist couple Padma and Jagdish Bhagwati were among other recipients of awards that recognise Indian American achievement.

Nair, maker of films like "Monsoon Wedding", "The Namesake" and "Salaam Bombay", received the award instituted by India Abroad - an ethnic Indian newsweekly.

Indra Nooyi, chief of PepsiCo, presented the award to Nair Friday at a function in Manhattan attended by prominent Indian Americans, community leaders and diplomats. Nooyi was the recipient of the same award last year.

Nooyi said of Nair: "She has, through her work, provided all of us immense joy. She has, through her excellence, captured the popular imagination, and thus built yet another important bridgehead between the (expatriate) community and the country."

In her acceptance speech, Nair reflected on her life's journey from Bhubaneswar, Orissa, where she was born, to Hollywood, where she is now among the A-List of directors. She paid rich tribute to her mother and other women who inspired and sustained her along the way.

The Bhagwatis, both distinguished professors at Columbia University, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from author Salman Rushdie, last year's honouree.

Jagdish Bhagwati is a leading advocate for free trade and globalisation who foresaw India's rise as an economic power many years ago. Padma Desai is an eminent expert on the Russian economy.

Renu Khator, president and chancellor of the University of Houston, received the Publisher's Special Award for Excellence. Former provost of the University of South Florida, Khator left India as a young bride 35 years ago, and is today among America's premier university administrators.

The Youth Achiever Award went to Somdev Dev Burman, 24, the first Indian ever to win the prestigious US collegiate tennis title last year. A product of Britannia Amritraj Tennis scheme in Chennai, Burman is the newest member of India's Davis Cup team. The University of Virginia senior could not receive the award in person.

Joy Cherian received the Lifetime Award for Service to the Community. In 1987 he became the first Indian American to be appointed to a US government position - commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Navin Shah, who helped pioneer a revolutionary ambulance service in India, was given the India Abroad Community Service Award.

Ajit Balakrishnan, India Abroad publisher, said on the occasion that the Indian American community is famed for its achievements across a vast spectrum of activity.

The India Abroad Person of the Year award was set up six years ago and in 2005 it went to the then US Congressman and now governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.

India Abroad, owned by rediff.com, is the oldest and most widely circulated news weekly for the Indian American community.

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