Six Indian-Americans are among 94 recipients of this year’s Padma Shri awards — one of India’s highest civilian honors. A total of 112 Padma awards were presented on Jan. 26, India’s 70th Republic Day, by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Padma awards are conferred in three categories: Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. The awards are given to achievers in various disciplines such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports and civil service, among others.
Indian-American awardees include Shantanu Narayen , chairman and CEO of Adobe Inc.; computer scientist Subhash Kak; entrepreneur and educationist Ganpatbhai Patel; tabla maestro Swapan Chaudhuri, who divides his time between Kolkata and San Rafael, California; and yoga guru Tao Porchon-Lynch of French and Indian descent.
Author, journalist and documentary filmmaker Gita Mehta, the sixth Indian-American Padma Shri award recipient, turned down the award. Mehta, who is Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik's sister and wife of Sonny Mehta, head of the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house, was awarded the Padma Shri in the field of literature and education.
"I am deeply honored that the Government of India should think me worthy of a Padma Shri but with great regret I feel I must decline as there is a general election looming and the timing of the award might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the government and myself, which I would much regret," Mehta said in a statement. Mehta divides her time between New York City, London and New Delhi.
John Chambers, former executive chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems was awarded the Padma Bhushan in the Trade & Industry — Technology category. Chambers, the only American on the list, is also the founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures. He is the chairman of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and a former chair of the U.S.-India Business Council.
“It’s a tremendous honor to receive the Padma Bhushan awards,” Chambers tweeted Jan. 25. “I’ve always believed in India & it’s been incredible seeing the transition the country has made from slow follower to fast innovator. I’m lucky to be part of this incredible success story.”
The Hyderabad-born Narayen, who awarded Padma Shri in Trade & Industry Technology, started his career at Apple. Following that he served as director of desktop and collaboration products for Silicon Graphics, and later co-founded Pictra Inc. Narayen joined Adobe in 1998 as a senior vice-president of worldwide product research was later promoted to executive vice president of worldwide products, and appointed to his current post in November 2007 at the age of 45. He previously served on President Barack Obama’s Management Advisory Board.
Kak, who also received the Padma Shri in Trade & Industry Technology, is a Regents professor, former Head of Computer Science Department at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. Last year, he was appointed member of Modi’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council.
Ganpatbhai Patel received the Padma Shri in Literature and Education. founder and chairman of Cherokee International, based in Tustin, California, and patron-in-chief of Ganpat University, in Mehsana, Gujarat. Patel supports the Ganpat Voluntary Teaching Movement (GVM) which has adopted eight villages in North Gujarat, Mehsana, which provides support to over 750 disadvantaged students and is continuing to grow, his bio data says. He has also established a science school named in honor of his wife Manjulaben Ganpatbhai Patel at Mehsana, to support the higher education in rural areas.
Porchon Lynch, 100, is considered to be the oldest yoga teacher. She has over 70 years of yoga practice and more than 45 years of teaching yoga to students in India, France, Dubai, China, Russia and throughout the U.S. According to her website, Porchon Lynch continues to teach workshops at many yoga centers, including the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan and the Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia.
Considered among the top musicians and tabla experts, Chaudhuri is the department chairperson and senior faculty of the World Music Program at the California Institute of the Arts for the past 20 years. His two records, “Legacy” (1997) and “Passing on the Tradition” (1998), were nominated for Grammy awards, on which he collaborated with Asha Bhosle and Maestro Ali Akbar Khan.