Mr. Lal K. Motwani
President – National Federation of Indian American Association (NFIA), New York (USA)
With a passion for promoting India and doing community service, Lal Motwani has carried on his tireless voluntary work for the past three decades, not requirting rewards in the form in the form of awards or positions in community organization that he has so diligently served. In recent years, however, the arrival of well deserved rewards has speeded up.
In 2010 he was unanimously elected President of NFIA (National Federation of Indian American Association), the apex organization of half a million Indian origion people in the country. He organized two Congressional luncheons for NFIA on Capitol Hill. His initiatives for NFIA aim to cover the less served groups: women, senior citizens and youth. Nearing the end of his term as President, he is set to ascend as its Chairman.
In late 201, city of New York (Office of the Comptroller John C. Liu) gave him a Commendation for his dedicated to strengthening India-US ties, for coordinating the First India Day Parade in Manhattan in 1981 and for his contributions to cultural exchange and mutual understanding among different communities and for his tremendous contributions to the City of New York.
He also received the Sindhu Award, the highest award received by any Sindhi in the US, from the Alliance of Sindhi Association of America. He is himself President of Sindhi Circle NYNJ & CT and Past Regional Vice President Alliance of Sindhi Association of America, NY.
Motwani has served the cause of India and the Indian community through his long and active association with the most consequential community organization in the US, two of which he helped found: NFIA, Which came into being 32 years ago, and GOPIO (Global Organization of People of Indian Origin) started in 1989. The third, FIA (Federation of Indians in America-NY-NJ-CT chapter) is well known for organizing the annual India Day Parade in New York, the largest event celebrating India’s Independence Day outside India.
To give credit where it is due, Motwani was the Coordinator of FIA’s very first India Day Parade held in 1981. He was the one who decided, based on sun’s movement over the course of day that the parade should move down Manhattan streets to be able to click better photographs, and not up as initially it area known as ‘Little India’ would decorate their shops and the neighborhood, giving it a festive look, something missing since Madison Avenue was chosen over Lexington.
Motwani also recalls that the floats in early years of the parade used to be more thematic, a practice the FIA leadership is plumping for again in recent years. Also, in early years senior film stars such as Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt and Jeetendra used to be invited as Grand Marshal and they did not charge a fee despite contributing hugely to the popularity of the parade down the years.
Motwani has always been on the FIA Board of Directors since and went on to serve as its vice-president (1984-86) and he says with pride, “I have not missed a single India Day Parade.”
Both NFIA and GOPIO, Motwani points out, were born out of FIA. Today, Motwani is President of GOPIO’s New York chapter. Through GOPIO Forum, he has organized receptions for a number of dignitaries such as Indian Presidents APJ Abdul Kalam and KR Narayanan, and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and heads of state of Guyana, Fiji and Mauritius who happened to be of Indian origin.
NFIA has been in the forefront of strengthening US-India ties: organizing Congressional lunches, White House briefings, lobbying for better US-India relationship and prepared position papers on this relationship for US Congress and Senate. It has also campaigned against hate crimes against Indians, for instance in the Dotbusters case in New Jersey in the 1990s. Motwani’s own focus at NFIA has included bringing more and Indian organizations under the NFIA banner, creating a better image for the Indian community in mainstream America, and supporting Indian American politicians.
NFIA celebrated its 30TH anniversary at a convention in September 2010 in New York with Motwani as Convenor. In his message for the convention, themed ‘Indian Americans Celebrating Success, Overcoming Challenges’, Motwani commended FIA, NFIA and GOPIO : “During the last 30 years, they helped us to highlight our identity and preserve our tradition in the US and elsewhere.” He has also been in the vanguard of the initiative to form a loose alliance of these organizations as well as AAPI (American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin), and AAHOA (Asian American Hotel Owners Association) to safeguard the interests of the Indian community in the country and foster stronger Indo-US ties.
On his bottom-up formula for making community organizations effective, Motwani says: “I always focus on building up the membership base as well as the financial base – and always succeed in achieving both.” Though an architect by profession but an artist by inclination, Motwani has worked on over five dozen souvenirs for various community organizations. He has come to be known as one of the best designers of such publications and fundraisers through ads there.
Not one to remain confined with in the Indian community, Motwani says : “I believe we must introduce our art and culture to exposing the mainstream community to our art and heritage. I was part of the initiative to start the Diwali celebration in Manhattan, now attended by over a hundred thousand people every year at South Street Seaport with a spectacular fireworks show sponsored every year by Air India, the second best to Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks show.”
A veritable art impresario, he has recently been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Jamaica Center for arts and Learning in New York.
Even as most people coming to America, the ‘land of opportunity”, pursue pelf, what motivates motwani to continue with community service, which necessitates sacrifices in one’s personal and professional life? Motwani’s one word answer is : “India.” Like many others, he admires its civilizational and cultural wealth. India’s treasure of art is one aspect, he feels, that has not been exposed adequately to the world.
Never content to rest on his laurels, Motwani is looking forward to the next NFIA convention to be held under his presidentship towards the end 2012. In August he was to organize a Jhule lal Cruise to the Caribbean for a Sindhi organization.
Born in 1936 in Sindh, now in Pakistan, Motwani moved after Partition to Baroda in Gujarat, where he had his Education. Starting his professional career as an archietect in Lucknow, he came to the USA in 1977, making New York his home. He retired as assistant director of New York City’s Housing Authority’s Office of Facility Planning and Administration. He has been the recipient of New York Governor’s Award of Excellence and Distinguished Service Award as Manager of the Year from NYC Managerial Employees Association.
He lives in Bellerose, Queens, with his wife, Kavita and son, sunil. He also has a daughter, Deepti, now married, having two sons.
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