Focus Person of the Week 28

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28
Friday, October 5, 2007 • Indo-American News
Focus Person of the Week
Vijay Pallod Lauded as Karma Yogi and Role Model for Youth
By Kalyani Giri
HOUSTON — Vijay Kumar
Pallod’s capacity for perseverance is legendary; he personifies the proverbial squeaky
wheel that demands attention
and he effectively expedites
whatever task is on hand. He
is a gifted spin-doctor and can
find a positive slant in any
given circumstance, however
dire. No problem is too big for
him to solve; he thrives on challenges. He is generous to a
fault, a simple family man of
great humility, a devout Hindu,
a patriotic Indian-American,
and an indefatigable social
and community activist. Those
who know Pallod either like
or dislike him; but the general
consensus is that he is almost
impossible to ignore.
“Vijay is a very simple grass
roots worker and a true karma
yogi,” said Dr. Sudha Rajan,
President-USA of the Vivek- Pallod Family: From left, Bharat, Sushma, Kavita, Namita and Vijay
Photo: KrishnaGiri
ananda Yoga Anusandhana Pallod at Kavita’s graduation party.
article.
the
past
27
years
since he first
Samsthana (VYASA). “He is
“Vijay
takes
his
social
and
set
foot
on
American
soil is one
large-hearted and deeply dedvolunteer
work
very
seriously,
of
toil,
sacrifice,
and
achieveicated to the Indo-American
which
is
inspiring
to
youth.
He
ment,
not
unlike
the
journeys
youth. He embodies Sanatana Dharma. All we need in strongly supports the contribu- of so many immigrants that
Houston is to replicate Vijay tion of young Indo-Americans,” made this country their home.
The difference is that despite
and clone him into a few thou- Ahluwalia said.
The
IACCGH
award
was
a
the hardships he and Sushma,
sands!” added Dr. Rajan.
recognition
that
many
in
the
his wife of 23 years endured in
This year, Vijay Pallod was
local
community
believe
was
the early years, they have comthe soul recipient of the Indolong
due.
Jagat
Kamdar,
the
mitted to giving of themselves,
American Chamber of ComChairman
of
the
Indo-Ameritheir time, and their financial
merce of Greater Houston’s
can
Political
Action
Commitresources unstintingly. Hailing
(IACCGH) Community Sertee
(IAPAC),
and
a
co-host
on
from the Maheshwari commuvice Award. On behalf of the
the
popular
radio
talk
show
nity, Vijay arrived in HousIACCGH committee, CongressOpen
Forum,
told
Indo-Ameriton in 1980 to study commerce
man Nick Lampson and Harris
can
News
that
Pallod’s
concenat the University of Houston.
County Judge Ed Emmett certration
is
on
encouraging
the
His uncle Raj Pallod supported
emoniously hand-ed the award
young.
the young student. When Palto Pallod at the organization’s
“Pallod
is
recognized
as
the
lod graduated, jobs were hard
8th Annual Gala and Awards
face
of
the
Hindu
community
to come by. After he married
Banquet held on August 25 at
and
is
doing
excellent
work
for
Sushma, the couple moved to
the Westin Galleria. IACCGH
Hindus
in
Greater
Houston
and
Boston. Vijay provided for the
Executive Director Jagdip AhHindus
in
general.
He
avidly
family while Sushma stayed
luwalia commended Pallod for
supports
various
causes,
politihome to create a nurturing
being a role model for the youth
cal
and
social
both
here
and
in
environment for their young
of the community. It was a
India,”
said
Kamdar.
daughter Kavita. To supplecommendation that was echoed
Tracing
Pallod’s
odyssey
over
ment their meager household
by many interviewed for this
income, Pallod took a second
job on a newspaper route that
entailed him braving the icy
snow-embanked dark mornings to distribute newspapers.
“We struggled but we never
gave up hope,” said Sushma
with quiet pride.
When the opportunity to relocate to Houston presented
itself, the young family moved
in with close relatives Ramesh
and Kiran Bhutada for a few
months — a couple whom Pallod gratefully acknowledges as
his mentors and confidants. Ramesh Bhutada employed Pallod at his company, Star Pipe
Products. The Pallods found
their niche in the community
and with their growing family – Kavita’s younger siblings
Bharat, and Namita — moved
into a modest subdivision close
to the Bhutadas’. But it was at
the Bhutada home that Pallod
felt the first sparks of community conscience. It was for him,
an educational experience.
“I saw a steady stream of
Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) workers giving
time and energy to worthy
causes. Ramesh jijagi (brotherin-law) would give money to
charity. I learnt how to be productive and to help and to give
from Ramesh jijagi and the
sangha workers,” said Pallod.
When Pallod needs feedback on ideas that constantly
pummel at him, he seeks the
wisdom of his cousin Kiran
Bhutada, and his rakhi sister
Beth Kulkarni.
The defining event that propelled Pallod into the national
spotlight was the devastating
6.0 magnitude earthquake
in Latur in Maharashtra on
September 30, 1993, that stole
7601 lives and crumbled over
30,000 homes. Pallod worked
tirelessly with the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF)
and helped raise over $125,000
for the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Latur
and in adjoining Karna-taka.
Along with the then President
of Gujarati Samaj of Greater
Houston Suresh Patel, Pallod
collected and sent shipments
of clothes to the survivors in
Latur. He urged the Houston
Chronicle and local media to
cover the multi-community
endeavor, a first for this city.
His natural aptitude to raise
awareness of the plight of the
unfortunate drew the attention
of the elders in the community
who nominated him as Vice
President of IDRF, a position he
held from 2000 until 2005 during which he channeled over
10 million dollars to various
crucial reconstructive efforts in
India such as in the aftermath
of the Orissa cyclone of 1999,
and the Gujarat earthquake of
2001. Pallod credits the swayamsevaks for his introduction
to seva.
“It is the greatness of Vijay
to call me his mentor. I am very
proud of him and glad that he
saw value in serving others. It
is a matter of gratification to
see someone younger than you
grow and get ahead in terms
of gaining trust and recognition in the community. Vijay is
genuine and good-hearted and
will help whoever needs help,
regardless of the time, energy,
or inconvenience to himself,”
said Bhutada.
The Indian Ocean tsunami
of 2004 drew on Pallod’s savvy
as an intuitive media coordinator, who relentlessly liaised
with print and news media
to create awareness and help
garner $1.3 million to help a
stricken South Asia. His ability
to leverage the Indo-American
community publications and
mainstream media has won him
the admiration of many in the
community. In his chest beats
—Continued on Page 34
Friday, October 5, 2007 • Indo-American News
34
Friday, October 5, 2007 • Indo-American News
Focus Person of the Week
Vijay Pallod Lauded as Karma Yogi and Role Model for Youth
Continued from Page 28
the heart of a closet journalist.
“Pallod’s strong suit is media
liaison — especially mainstream
American media,” said Rajeev
Gadgil, respected journalist and
the publisher of the local weekly
India Herald.
“Before him our workers were
clueless about getting the Houston Chronicle to take notice of
our community. Pallod’s drive
and enthusiasm are admirable.
He can be very persuasive without being a pest. He can take no
for an answer then come back
later with another proposal. So
how many times can you say no
to him?” asked Gadgil humorously.
From my personal initial tentative forays into journalism,
a field in which I had no training, Pallod became my self-professed mentor. He badgered me
to write, and nagged me out of
lazy ineptitude. It was his faith
that forced me to work harder.
Pallod convinced the international Kauai-based magazine
Hinduism Today to publish my
work as a correspondent writer.
In hindsight, I know it wasn’t
what I knew that helped — it
was whom I knew! And that was
Vijay Pallod. I remain indebted
to him.
Shibani Khanna, a 20-yearold student at the University of
Texas in Austin was similarly
blessed. “Pallod uncle motivated and guided my efforts as a
young journalist-trainee. I tried
to give the youth perspective
on national Hindu events such
as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad
of America’s (VHP-A) heritage
camp for youth, the Global Dharma Conference 2003, and Janmashtami — and other events
where youth take active philanthropic roles. Pallod uncle’s
guidance helped me pursue a
public relations internship with
CNN,” said Shibani.
Photo: KrishnaGiri
Vijay Pallod lends his support to Katrina relief in Houston
Pallod’s influence with the
youth is acclaimed. When the
number of kids signing up for the
VHP-A youth camp dwindled,
Pallod took up the gauntlet and
personally called community
leaders and parents to encourage the youth to participate. He
sponsored several with funds
from his own pocket. In 2006
he persuaded ICC President
Harinath Medi to dedicate the
Indian Independence Day program to youth. Pallod serves on
the executive board of the Hindu
Students Council (HSC), a very
successful organization with
over 80 chapters nationwide.
He aided in instituting three
chapters in Houston, the latest
at Rice University.
“Vijay ji taught me a lot of
public relations work,” said Rishi Bhutada, HSC’s National
Vice President. “I can’t think of
anyone more deserving of the
IACCGH award,” he added.
An inveterate kingmaker,
Pallod had mentored the late
Akhil Chopra, who was murdered while meditating in a
park August 2005. With Pallod’s
grooming, 28-year-old Chopra
was destined to become a community leader and activist in the
ilk of his mentor. As providence
would have it, the local community was left bereft by his tragic
demise. Again it was Pallod who
galvanized the community into
seeking justice from the authorities, who investigated and arrested Chopra’s killer.
Ramesh Bhutada recalled
that a couple of years ago, a
young Indian man telephoned
Pallod from Huntsville Prison.
Isolated and far from home, the
man was held on an immigration
violation. Not only did Pallod
venture early mornings to visit
the young man with gifts of food
and books, he facilitated his release and helped him resettle in
India. Ask Pallod of the incident
and he brushes it off casually.
Longtime employee and credit manager at Star Pipe Products, Natalie Duran-Ariz works
very closely with Pallod.
“Vijay is a humanitarian to
the fullest, very caring of people’s needs. He cultivates a great
environment and helps maximize your strengths. He has
no hidden agendas, his motives
are very pure and always for a
higher cause,” said Duran-Ariz.
Pallod was a founder member
of the Indic Culture and Traditions Seminar (ICATS) forum,
an organization geared to educate and clear up misconceptions
about Hinduism. A couple of
years ago a topless bar in Austin
added a picture of the celestial
beings Radha and Krishna to
their logo. Pallod convinced the
owner of the bar in a series of telephonic conversations to remove
the picture of the gods. Earlier,
when toilet seats with the pictures of the god Ganesh printed
on them emerged for sale, Pallod
led the team that launched nonviolent protests and the products
were recalled.
“He is first a human being
who gives everyone equal respect. I have known him for 15
years and we are like one family”
said Pallod’s neighbor Mohammed Sayeed.
Apart from lending financial
support to major organizations
such as the education-geared
Ekal Vidyalaya, Indo-American
Charity Foundation, and DAYA,
the shelter for families in crisis.
He actively helped DAYA with
their seminar Hidden Nightmare: Alcohol and Drug Abuse
because it was geared to create awareness among youth.
Sewa International USA, an
organization that sends relief
funds wherever needed, also
receives media assistance from
Pallod. The annual Krishna
Janmashtami event hosted by
the Hindus of Greater Houston
scored a major coup this year
when Pallod invited actor and
social activist from India Nittesh Bharadwaj, renowned for
his role as Lord Krishna from
the epic television series Mahabharata, to attend the occasion as
guest of honor.
The first thing Pallod does
every morning is feed the birds.
Then he follows a disciplined
routine of yoga, meditation, and
prayer. Aside from his fulltime
job as a Financial Controller at
Star Pipe Products, his calendar
is consistently full of community
andhumanitariancommitments
that barely leave him enough
time for family, home, or hobbies such as reading, swimming,
and table tennis. Photography
is one hobby that he indulges at
myriad community events in the
community.
“The house may have needed
some repairs. I learnt to handle
so much by myself, including the
kids,” said Sushma. “In all the
years we’ve been together Vijay
has never refused me anything. I
used to be resentful of the things
that took him away from us. Now
I am not. I understand that this
is what he loves to do. I hope that
our children will continue to do
the good work that we are doing.
I believe now that the more Vijay
gives, god gives back,” added
Sushma. She conceded that being resourceful in her own right
has made her stronger. Sushma
took her training in therapeutic
yoga from the renowned authority in the field, VYASA’s Rama
Rao, and is a volunteer yoga
teacher at the Keshav Smriti
weekday mornings. She has also
volunteered for many years at
the Hindu Heritage camp, and
young people return to their
homes raving about the delicious
vegetarian meals she cooked on
site. The couples’ three children
are a great source of pride; Kavita is a 2nd year student at UT
Austin and an officer with the
HSC on campus, Bharat is a senior at Taylor High School, and
Namita is a 7th grader at The
Village School. All three emulate
their parents in values. They do
reserve some healthy disdain
for their father’s choice of the
Toyota Prius, a hybrid electric
vehicle, which they consider of
no aesthetic splendor. But it does
not bother Pallod who is very
environmentally empathetic.
How does the unlikely hero
feel about the community recognition? “I can only say that I am
successful because I have Sushma by my side.” said Pallod.
Kalyani Giri is a freelance
journalist living in Houston. She
can be reached through email at
[email protected]
Friday, October 5, 2007 • Indo-American News
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