For those seeking the bright lights and big parties, Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is where it's at. The Network of Indian Professionals (NetIP) Canada's hosted a major celebration Friday in honour of the most important holiday of the year in India, and there was no shortage of luminaries in sight.
The 7th Diwali & Awards Gala took place at the opulent Infinity Convention Centre. It was held in support of the Queensway Carleton Hospital and was chaired by Sid Kumar, a 2017 Forty Under 40 recipient and president of NetIP Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to boosting the achievement and advancement of South Asian professionals.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi served as honourary co-chair with InCa Synergies founder and chief executive Raj Narula. The gala is NetIP’s way of connecting with the broader community, he told OBJ.social.
“I think what’s important, in my view, is that we start bringing our (Indo-Canadian) community into the mainstream,” said Narula. "I think our community is reaching out more and more. It's a great story, in terms of leadership and in terms of giving and in terms of getting involved in the community."
The gala saw the first-time induction of three exceptional individuals into NetIP Canada's Hall of Fame. They were: developer Cuckoo Kochar, president and CEO of platinum sponsor Phoenix Homes; High Commissioner of Canada to India Nadir Patel (he delivered a thank-you message via video); and Canada Post president and CEO Deepak Chopra.
Chopra accepted his award on behalf of the 65,000 employees who work at Canada Post. He lauded their entrepreneurial innovation in helping to create new services, such as drive-thru parcel pick-up centres and fitting rooms for faster merchandise exchanges.
“In 2011, when I started, it was left for dead; most people had written off Canada Post," said Chopra. "But, these 65,000 people have transformed Canada Post to become Canada’s No. 1 parcel company.”
Last month, Canada Post released a new stamp celebrating Diwali, to reflect Canada as a land of diverse faiths, customs and celebrations. As well, India Post and Canada Post have entered into bilateral agreements to open up e-commerce between the two countries.
Event sponsors included Carleton University, represented by interim president Alastair Summerlee and his predecessor, Roseann O’Reilly Runte, now president and CEO of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. They handed out the awards on stage.
Summerlee told an uplifting story about the importance of light, based on his humanitarian work in refugee camps in Kenya.
The girls there were denied the ability to get an education due to the fact that they had to work all day and had no electricity to study at night, when it was dark. The solution – to provide them with solar lamps – led to a big jump in the number of girls getting an education and, moreover, winning scholarships.
"The power of light and what it means to people across the world is really important," said Summerlee. "To be here celebrating with you during Diwali and to be able to share the power of light together is very meaningful. Thank you for including me in this very auspicious occasion."
There was a group of students there from Carleton, being hosted by Kochar. The students are from India and are part of a $1.2 million-scholarship program, funded by Kochar, so that they pursue graduate studies in civil engineering, architecture or urban planning.
Also handed out at the gala were Upcoming Business Leader Awards to Monica (Geeta) Channa from Akran Marketing, and Umesh Kumar, co-founder of CellChem Pharmaceuticals.
Early in the evening, Yasir Naqi took to the stage with Kanata-Carleton Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon, regional president Tina Sarellas from platinum sponsor RBC, Mayor Jim Watson, and India’s deputy high commissioner, Arun Kumar Sahu, for the diya lighting ceremony.
Diwali is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year and is recognized by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in Canada and around the world.
During the festival, houses and shops are decorated with candles and lights. This is meant to represent light over darkness and the Hindu belief that good will always triumph over evil. For many observers of the holiday, Diwali honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
Attendees included Tom Schonberg, president and CEO of the Queensway Carleton Hospital. It serves one of the fast growing and aging populations in all of Canada, the room heard.
Other supporters included Milan Topolovec, president and CEO of TK Financial Group, Jeff Mierins from Star Motors of Ottawa, Cistel Technology CEO Nishith Goel, and Drs. Nalin Bhargava and Rani Telang, principal dentists at Southgate Dental.
The evening was emceed by lawyer Amita Chandra and Ottawa CBC News anchor Adrian Harewood.