Raveen Arora using Indian Culture to transform Arizona
When we remember the time of Partition, the dreaded stories of survivors haunt us. The Partition of India was the division of British India in 1947 which accompanied the creation of two independent dominions, India and Pakistan. But this partition was not as simple as it seems. A gruesome massacre was carried around where almost 200,000 to 2,000,000 people were killed from both the communities- Hindu and Muslim. It was the result of the British’s divide and rule policy.
In August 1947, when, after 300 years of rule in India, the British finally left, yet they managed to split the countries into two halves- the Hindu dominated “India” and Muslim dominated “Pakistan”. The two-nation theory was a founding principle of the Pakistan Movement that is the ideology of Pakistan as a Muslim nation-state in South Asia, and the partition of India in 1947. The population of undivided India was approximately 390 million. After partition, there were 330 million people in India, 30 million in West Pakistan, and 30 million people in East Pakistan now Bangladesh. Partition triggered riots, mass casualties, and a colossal wave of migration.
Raveen Arora was born in a refugee camp post-partition, thus the aftermath of the event is much closer to him. Despite being born and raised in poverty, Arora worked hard and is the owner of India Plaza in Arizona, US. Today, he is a Noble Peace Prize nominee. This is his story.
The man behind India Plaza in Tempe, Arizona
Raveen Arora was born in a refugee camp post-partition in Kolkata. He used to live near slums and was raised in extreme poverty. His father worked menial jobs to meet end needs. Yet despite such challenges, his upbringing was quite modest.
Once he recalls Mother Teresa visiting his area to speak to the children and asked them to help the underprivileged. Though being penniless, in embarrassment Arora put his hands in the pockets only to find nothing. Mother Teresa noticed the young boy’s effort and said that what she needed was the will to help not money itself. Since then, Mother Teresa served as a mentor for Raveen Arora.
At the age of 11, he also met Martin Luther King Jr during his visit to India in 1959. He discussed poverty and inequality with him. These few encounters were the turning point in his life where he was inspired by Humanitarian works.
Arora graduated from St Xavier’s in Kolkata and earned a degree in accounting, finance, and business management. At the age of 24, he wrote his first book and in 1981 went to the US to pursue a Ph.D. In 2002, when his daughter went to Arizona for further studies, Arora and his wife Clara followed her. Moving to Arizona, Arora realized the dreadful situation of the city. Hundreds of homeless, abandoned storefronts, and empty motels.
Life in Arizona
It was then the idea of India Plaza stuck with him. He opened the plaza in 2003, which incorporated a restaurant run by him, a salon, gift shops, and a shelter home. He first provided the homeless with cold water bottles from morning to evening and also installed fans so that the poor can help cool off in the drenching heat of Arizona.
Now he had developed an Oasis inside the plaza where the homeless can rest, eat, develop ID’s and even have a free haircut. Through India Plaza, Raveen Arora promotes Indian food, music, culture, and heritage. And this little community created by him has changed Arizona a great deal. These stores are either run by immigrants or minorities, simultaneously helping in employment.
In one incident, he found a homeless person eating from the dumpster. The next day he put up a sigh ‘Come to the front for fresh warm food’ Slowly the word got around and Arora was recognized for his efforts.
He founded an organization named ‘Think Human’ with the mission of humanizing communications in the workplace and social settings worldwide. His future plans entail involvement with the North Texas Food Bank. In 2017, Arora was awarded The American Dream Award from the National Restaurant Association and in 2018 with The Mother Teresa International Service Award. This year, he has been awarded Global Citizen Award from Alliance Clubs International. Arora has been also a Noble Peace Prize nominee.
His nomination was a result of his collaboration with organizations across the world from where he was able to garner about 70 endorsements. The effort was led by Satish Lakhotia, founder of India’s Alliance International. Raveen Arora today is a proud parent of two children and five grandchildren.
Arora believes that humanity and kindness will always find a way back to you. He puts culture before strategy. Despite the hardships of his life, Raveen Arora always feels blessed and is thankful for everything he had. His family is of utmost importance for him and he would leave back anything just to be with them.