Orlando Magic Joins Indian American Chamber of Commerce to Host the Second Annual India Day presented by Chase

By John Denton

ORLANDO – Part of the genius of former South African president Nelson Mandela was that he realized that the power of sports could bring different and divided cultures together as one.

It was Mandela, who so loved the meritocracy of athletic endeavors, that he once said in 2000 that “sport laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

In an attempt to channel Mandela’s ideals of inclusion and equality in sports, the Orlando Magic are making great attempts to recognize others from different cultures and backgrounds. Just as the franchise and Chase have both been committed to multicultural efforts in the past, hosting Noche Latina Night and Black History Month activities, the Magic will join with the Indian American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) on Jan. 19 for the second annual India Day presented by Chase. The IACC executive committee includes President Tino Patel, Varesh Patel, Yog Melwani, Jay Shah, Beena Parikh and Sanjay Srinivasan.

Dr. Amish M. Parikh, who has lived in Central Florida since 1980 and is a long-time Magic season ticket holder, lauded the Magic for their strong desires to make a difference in the community. Dr. Parikh is also of the belief that sports can be the one common denominator in bringing people of various cultures together to celebrate.

“We were encouraged last year that we were able to bring everybody together on one day and celebrate the Indian American community. And it was a sporting event that brought all of us together,’’ said Dr. Parikh, a successful Maitland cardiologist. “Sports create a venue where we can all enjoy a good time and be happy and sad together. We’re excited that the Magic are our local sports team that we can all rally around.’’

This season’s India Day presented by Chase, which coincides with the Magic’s Jan. 19 home game against the Boston Celtics, will feature an appearance by 2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri, an Indian American who will share the story of her rise to fame and her platform on racial diversity with fans. There will also be a special ticket offer (call 407-916-2679) and a street festival that will include Henna tattoo artists, Indian dances and Indian cuisine.

Also, the Indian American Chamber of Commerce will donate 1,000 tickets to nonprofit organizations throughout Central Florida. That’s up from the 600 tickets the Indian Chamber donated last year during the first-ever India Day. In the past, the chamber has also done extensive work with students at Walker Middle School in an attempt to educate and curb the epidemic of childhood obesity.

Dr. Parikh, whose wife, Beena, is a past president of the Indian Chamber, said the group wants to grow the India Day event again this year and build a long-term relationship with the Magic. Having the reigning Miss America as a spokesperson for India Day in Orlando shouldn’t hurt, he joked.

“We’re excited to announce that Miss America, Nina Davuluri, is coming. She just happens to be Indian American and she just so happens to have cultural diversity as her platform,” Dr. Parikh said. “So we saw her inclusion as God’s way of helping us out so that we can beat that so-called sophomore slump. The second year has to be better than the first – that’s just my nature. So after many, many e-mails and calls we were able to secure her for an appearance, and we think it will only add to the event.”

Last year’s event, which included a street festival and the Magic Dancers being trained to perform several popular Bollywood dances, was such a hit that the Magic were eager to continue the tradition on a yearly basis. The success in Orlando also caught the eye of the NBA and several other India Nights are being planned this season throughout teams in the league.

The overall goal of India Day, Dr. Parikh said, is to broaden the awareness of a thriving culture growing every day in Central Florida. More than 30,000 Indian Americans live in Orange, Seminole or Osceola Counties and Orlando has one of the fastest-growing Indian communities in the country.

“When I was approached to do a theme night I thought it would be a wonderful experience for the Indian Americans, but also for the community of Central Florida,” Dr. Parikh said. “I’ve been here since 1980 and went to high school in Kissimmee. Indian Americans here have a great appreciation for this community where we’ve lived and raised our children and have been successful.

“The reason for this is not for us to know our community; we know this stuff and Indian Americans know us,” Dr. Parikh continued. “It’s about spreading an appreciation of a community that we’ve grown up in and become successful in. It has nothing to do with us showing off to ourselves; it’s for us to increase the awareness of Indian Americans and give appreciation back to the community. And we want kids who don’t have many opportunities to be able to come to a Magic game.”

Dr. Parikh said the Magic should be lauded for using their sports platform as a way to encourage harmony and inclusion to people from various races in Central Florida. He said that it’s become quite clear to him that the Magic are far more than just a basketball team and instead one that is focused on making a difference in the lives of those throughout Central Florida.

“The inclusion of everyone is something that us in the Indian American community really appreciate,” he said. “I’ve been here since 1980 and I’ve seen the respect that everyone in the DeVos family has and it spreads down to everyone in the organization. They’re not just about making money, but to also give back to their community.

“I really have enjoyed working with different segments of the Magic for years now,” he added. “Like the Magic, we want to give back to the community and help people who don’t usually have the opportunity to come to the Amway. Last year, we donated 600 tickets and this year we’re donating 1,000 tickets to charity. A common bond between us and the Magic is that we have an appreciation for our community.”