Given that the Indian-American community is renowned for the care and nurture it provides its children, it was perhaps appropriate that the award ceremony kicked off with young faces. Sameer Mishra, who won the iconic Scripps National Spelling Bee; Akshay Rajagopal, the 11-year-old from Nebraska who at his very first attempt won the National Geographic Bee, and Shivani Sud, winner of the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search that recognises the most outstanding young talents, were named joint winners of the Young Achievers Award.
Hardly had the audience settled back after saluting the three precocious talents, than it rose again to salute a prodigy. As a child, Manjul Bhargava was devising a personalised accounting system his mother, a math professor, couldn't fathom. While working on his doctoral thesis, he cracked a crucial math problem that has outwitted the best minds over a span of 200 years.
So prodigious is his talent, so immense his potential that Harvard and Princeton, two of the best research institutions on the planet, competed fiercely for his services. Princeton won -- and at age 28, Bhargava became one of the youngest full professors in the institution's history.
Awards, typically, salute quantifiable achievements. There are, however, some achievers whose promise for the future exceeds even their remarkable achievements of the present. To honour such, India Abroad created this year the Face of the Future award -- and Manjul Bhargava walked away with the inaugural honour.
A theme that emerged during the calendar year was the paradigm shift in the community's political activity: In 2008, leadership both in activism and fundraising, clearly passed on to the younger generation. At a point in its history when the Indian-American community clearly seeks to integrate more closely with the mainstream, it is impossible to overstate the importance of this development.
To mark it, and to honour those at the vanguard of this change, the India Abroad Gopal Raju Award for Community Service was shared by Preeta Bansal, now General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama [Images ] administration; Hrishi Karthikeyan and Dave Kumar, co-founders of South Asians for Obama; Democratic party strategist and Communications Director for Campaign for America's Future Toby Choudhuri; founder of the Indian American Leadership Initiative Varun Nikore; newly-installed chair of the Indian American Republican Council Dino Teppara; SAFO's National Outreach Director and Director of the Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs in the Obama White House Nick Rathod.
Image: Shivani Sud, Sameer Mishra and Akshay Rajagopal with Megan Mylan, Oscar winning director of Smile Pinki
Video: The India Abroad Youth Achievers Award