Ray Sharma, Dr. Firdos Sheikh (r), with Ash Kalra (2nd from r) and friends. (Ras H. Siddiqui)

The South Asian Leaders Support Academy (SALSA) held a well-attended event at the Flamingo Palace Banquet Hall in North Highlands just north of Sacramento, Calif., Jan. 30. The Chief Guest for the evening was Ash Kalra, the first South Asian to be elected to the California State Assembly (27th District), writes Ras H. Siddiqui. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer @AshKalra #AshKalra #SFBayArea #SanJosePolitician #SouthAsian #AsianIndian #SALSA

Ash Kalra is a rising star of politics from the San Francisco Bay Area and one who has succeeded in the seemingly impossible task of uniting the usually-divided block of South Asian voters. He is an Indian American who won his seat with the support of locals and people of all national origins in his constituency. And his popularity has a Sacramento connection now since he will be working here at the Capitol when he is not back in San Jose or Santa Clara County.

The event was sponsored by Shanti Wines, Five Rivers Insurance Services, ProEquities and Patiala Development, along with Flamingo Palace. And present here were members of various groups and organizations including the California State Fair, Cultural Advisory Council (Inderjit Kallirai),  American Muslim Voice, IVACC, APAPA, Kohinoor Club, Indian Association of Sacramento, Desi Swag, Sikh Temple, Fairfield, Sikh Temple, Elk Grove, Gujarati Samaj, the American Petroleum Convenience Store Association and members of South Asian media.

Ash Kalra talking to the audience. (Ras H. Siddiqui)

Amongst the distinguished guests present were Steve Moore – Sheriff San Joaquin County, Manjit Sappal – Police Chief – Martinez, Calif., Eric Guerra -Sacramento City Councilmember, Steve Ly – Mayor City of Elk Grove, Calif., Anne Marie Schubert – Sacramento County DA, Kevin Spease, Bobby Singh Allen – Elk Grove Unified School Board, Bhavin Parikh- Elk Grove Planning Commission, Y.K, Chalamcherla – Folsom City Parks and Recreation Commission, and Ajit Pal – Planning Commission City of Suisun, Calif.

The evening started off with South Asian food including pakoras and plenty of Shanti (2014 Vintage) as the formalities were commenced by our host Inderjit Singh Kallirai. A detailed presentation by executive staff of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control followed during which several rules and regulations were presented on how to obtain and keep a California ABC license.

Many South Asians, including some present at this event own stores that sell alcoholic beverages so this presentation was primarily focused towards them. A number of important issues pertaining to this business were discussed in the question and answer session, which followed.

After a series of speeches by many distinguished guests, California Assemblymember Ash Kalra was introduced and invited to speak. Ash appeared relaxed and pleased as he was amongst his South Asian community friends here. He thanked the hosts and greeted everyone with traditional greeting and commended the organizers for gathering together such a wide range of diversity.

Group photo with Ash Kalra. (Ras H. Siddiqui)

Kalra shared some of his family history, and said that he grew up in San Jose, Calif., and felt blessed to live a middle class life in beautiful California and shared his feelings about visits to India. He attended high school in South San Jose, then UC Santa Barbara and later Georgetown University. He said that contrary to typical expectations he did not become a doctor or engineer but a lawyer, and in that field too he got involved with defending the poorer section of the community and later journeyed into local San Jose area politics to arrive at where he stands today. Ash thanked the community and his family for supporting him during this process.

Kalra shared his admiration for South Asians, for their work ethic and efforts towards community service, especially the Sikh Gurdwaras for serving everyone. He also expressed his concern about rising intolerance and hate crimes and urged all Americans to stand united and vigilant against such behavior.

He added that the entire community that he serves comes first for him and all their concerns are his too. Kalra said that he was proud to be South Asian and very proud to be an American, and concluded his speech by sharing how humbled he was at this outpouring of affection from the Sacramento area Desi community.

To conclude, thanks are in order to the SALSA organization for putting together this event. It was good to see some (unfortunately not many) South Asian origin women here because their role in developing future community leadership is crucial. And our youth needed to be here because Assemblymember Ash Kalra is a genuine role model for them.