The India Association of the VI was formed in 1976 with just 15 members. Its primary purpose was to improve the lives of others in the community. Today’s membership includes more than 70 families. It focuses on health care and education issues facing the island through volunteer community service efforts and significant donations to worthy causes. Our population has grown from 70 to 650 before Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and now hovering around 400 members.
Our East Indian community participates in numerous local organizations, including the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, Schneider Regional Medical Center, the Historic Preservation Commission, Humane Society of St. Thomas, Antilles School, V.I. Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy, My Brother’s Workshop, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, the Family Resource Center, the Hotel and Tourism Association, Red Cross, United Way, Masonic Lodge, Shriner’s, and Rotary Clubs.
Our active Association has undoubtedly made a far-reaching impact through our fundraising and philanthropic efforts. In 2012, the organization fulfilled its pledge to donate $100,000 to the Charlotte Kimmelman Cancer Center and have provided two scholarships annually for nursing students attending the University of the Virgin Islands. These scholarships have been awarded every year since 1976. We also contributed to the Miracle Baby Foundation, which provides crucial care for premature infants. Our efforts assist the local and world community, from distributing thesauruses and dictionaries to local schoolchildren to heading a local fund drive to help tsunami victims. We have contributed many items and services through our religious group volunteers at the Eldra Schulterbrandt Long-Term Care Facility, the Nana Baby Children’s Home, the Yellow Cedar Group Home, and more.
We keep close ties to our homeland, culture, and heritage and promote continuing goodwill between the two nations with our annual India’s Independence Day Gala we host were local dignitaries, VIP’s along with the Ambassador of India from Washington DC and the Consul General of India to New York or Atlanta. Many families of Indian descent call these islands home, some for several generations. We are a considerable force in local business, non-profits, and the islands at large. Giving back to the community is a rich cultural tradition, one we are committed to passing down to the next generation of community leaders.
Pash Daswani has been a member of the St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands community for now 40 years. Born in Pune, India, Pash came to the U.S. in 1982, traveling the country designing and tailoring custom suits and other custom clothing for high-end professional clients. He found his way to St. Thomas, where he met and married his wife, Kavita, in 1991. They have a son named Dhiraj, age 27. Pash is proud to be a self-taught professional in the retail tourism industry.
After working for a firm for ten years, Pash opened his own jewelry store on Main Street in 1992 called Lucky Jewelers. He remains an active and a successful member of the St. Thomas business and retail community. In addition to his retail business, Pash also runs a consulting business called www.ConsultPash.com
Pash has served on the India Association board since 1993 and has been president since 2018. He also presides on the board of WICO, Cancer Support VI, is a liaison board member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Masonic Lodge – Bethany, OK and The Harmonic Lodge, St. Thomas, the National Rifle Association and heavily supports the St. Thomas Humane Society, My Brothers Workshop and any cause for Special Needs children.
Navin Sakhrani moved to St. Thomas from Hong Kong when he was 10 months old. His father Kishoo (aka Jack) Sakhrani started the jewelry business in 1974 and grew it to a successful business on the island.
Navin graduated from high school on St. Thomas, and received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in 1996. He moved back to the island to join his father in the business. He married his wife Simran Sakhrani in 1998 and they have two daughters aged 17 and 20. Navin’s father tragically passed away in 2001, and Kishoo was an active member of the community. Like his father, Navin always believed in giving back to the community that you call home. He currently serves on the board of the India Association of the Virgin Islands and the St. Thomas St. John Chamber of Commerce.
Inder J. Singh, born in India, migrated to New York with his spouse Gurjeet and two children, Kabir and Nanki in 1986, where started a wholesale jewelry business. He then moved to St Thomas in 1990 and currently owns Jewel House in Havensight Mall.
Inder has been serving on the India Association board since 1995 where he was appointed committee chair for the Cultural Center project that started in 1998 and was built. In 2001, after completing of this project, Inder was nominated Vice President of Cultural Affairs and is currently serving in that capacity.
Ashok has lived in St. Thomas since 1982. He is originally from Vadodara, India where he attended MS University and received a professional diploma in Civil Engineering. He worked for the Vadodara government in the Town planning department where he focused on hydraulics and building. He then worked as ana civil engineer Guam prior to moving to St. Thomas.
Ashok G. Lalwani is currently on the Board of Directors, serving as the Treasurer, for the India Association of the Virgin Islands – a position he has held since 1995. Ashok has been the recipient of the Community Award in 2013 and again in 2019 for his selfless dedication to the India Association.
He has also been invited on multiple occasions to perform the opening and closing invocations for USCIS naturalization ceremonies. Ashok played a pivotal role in the planning and development of the cultural center in 1998, and continues to be involved in the management of religious and cultural activities for the center. He is also the President of Shamrock Jewelers.
Ram Mirpuri was born Hyderabad Sind, India. At age twenty he left India to pursue a business opportunity in the Caribbean, spending five years in the Dutch Caribbean islands before moving to St. Thomas in the early seventies.
He was one of the first families to move to St. Thomas in 1972, where he brought his new wife Vanita and had two children here and now has six grandchildren.
In 1976, as more East Indians moved to St. Thomas, a working group of fifteen, The Honorable Governor Cyril E. King and the Consulate General of India to New York, established The India Association of the Virgin Islands. As a founding member he served on the first board as secretary and since has been serving in various positions on the board.
Playing an integral role in fundraisers and seeing the Association’s Cultural Center project being built, he is also an active Rotarian and the president of the Havensight Merchant’s Association over the last fifty plus years and is extremely proud to call St. Thomas his home.
Giresh Mirpuri is born and raised in St. Thomas. He attended Antilles School, graduating as the Valedictorian in 2007. He went on to attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with is B.S. in Economics where he met his now wife Rashmi and have a son name Rishaan.
During his time at Wharton, he concentrated in Finance and Management, with a focus on Data Analytics. He is very proud of his Virgin Islands roots and upon graduating, returned home with a vision of helping the community grow and advance further. He worked for a local private financial trading firm and then joined his family retail business.
Upon joining, he has helped navigate and expand their retail presence both physically and online and introduced new systems that helped increase overall revenue and internal efficiencies.
Giresh is deeply passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in the younger generation of Virgin Islanders. He has served on the Board of Patient Assist Virgin Islands, a local non-profit that helps provide vital medications to low-income individuals. He also serves on the Board of the India Association, an active non-profit with several philanthropic efforts in the community.
Aparna Nagpal moved to St.Thomas in 1983 at the age of 9. Graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands in 1996.
Married to Kenny Nagpal and has two beautiful children Avinash & Aishwarya Nagpal. Been a director of the India Association for over 10 years. Also serve on the boards of The Rotary Club of St.Thomas, Make A Wish Foundation of the Virgin Islands and Antilles School PTA.
Ramesh “Ramoo” Totwani came to St. Thomas in 1993 from Vadodara, India. He has been part of the India Assocation, as a director for the past ten years. He is involved with our extensive religious and cultural programming, especially with the Sathya Sai Center. He lives in St.Thomas with his wife, Sunita, and two children. His daughter Mansi is senior at Princeton University and his son Ronit is junior at Antilles School. He has been in the jewelery business for the past25 years, and owns Ram’s Jewelers, which is located in Havensight Mall.
Kanta Vasandmalani, born in Jaipur, India, moved to the Virgin Islands in 1989 with her husband, Suresh where they established a jewelry business, Gold Mine. Her two sons, Vinay and Mohit, were born and raised on St. Thomas and today are also part of the family business.
Kanta has been a member of the board of directors of The India Association for over 20 years, where she has helped with many religious and cultural activities.
Since 1998, she hosts a weekly radio show, The East Indian Special. Kanta enjoys dedicating her time to the community with several projects. She is also a member of The Rotary Club of St. Thomas, where she currently serves as the club president.