Hell bent to change the stereotypes of Indian abroad, successful Sikh automobile entrepreneur Nav Bhatia has used an interesting method of getting his fellow Indian some exposure: his favourite NBA team, the Toronto Raptors.
"I am the only Super Fan anointed by the NBA. Each season, I spend $300,000 to buy 3,000 seats out of the total 20,000 for games held in Toronto and distribute them free to Indian kids to watch these games from front rows. The images of our kids in turbans and Indian dress beamed into millions of homes make white people aware of our identity," he says.
This was an awesome article! Bhatia is one of the biggest Hyundai car dealers in Canada. The Indian-origin businessman is also a huge Raptors fan and can be seen at many Toronto Raptors basketball games. Apart from having famous friends in the NBA and in the business world, Bhatia even has a fan club on Facebook. The SiliconIndia article quoted above goes on to mention a lot more about the man, who was once mistaken to be a cab driver because of his Indian identity, and has used that humiliating experience as a motivation to change the identity of his fellow Indians.
The 58-year-old Sikh is also the most famous Indian face on the North America NBA circuit with his official anointing as the 'Super Fan' of the city-based NBA team called Toronto Raptors for creating a record of watching over 500 games.
"Most NBA players and referees know me personally because of my turban. That's how I used the NBA to promote awareness about our identity.
The top auto man is also credited with bringing Bollywood to Canada, with the screening the film "Hum Saath Saath Hain" here in 1999.
"It became the first Bollywood film to run at six mainstream theatres in the Toronto area. Till then no Cineplex would touch an Indian film, but I changed that," says Bhatia who has brought dozens of Indian films here since then.
Over the years, he has also staged live shows of the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, A.R. Rahman and other stars at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
"Through Bollywood films and live shows, I have succeeded in telling Canadians that we Indians have a robust culture of entrainment and solid identity. My Indian identity is very important to me."
Awesome. NBA Basketball, Bollywood, Successful Sikhs... Talk about a great start to my day...
The Raptors happen to have another Indian super-fan: she may not be as high-profile as Bhatia, but Payal Doshi, the face behind the Inside the Purple Room videos, has been celebrating and suffering (mostly suffering) with her home team for many years, too. Read about her visit to Ludhiana Mahindra NBA Challenge here.