‘He is greater than the sum
of his accomplishments’
Kenneth X Robbins on Sambhu Banik from the vantage point of 40 years of friendship.
Dr Sambhu Banik, who has been my friend for almost 40 years, richly deserves the India Abroad Award for Lifetime Service to the
Community on the basis of his activities in
many areas, ranging from psychological
and political issues to community organization.
During a distinguished professional
career on three continents, he has been a
professor, a clinician, an administrator, a
government official, and a policy maker.
His areas of expertise have included mental health, mental retardation and intellectual disabilities, drug abuse, cross-cultural
human relations, and post-traumatic
He is a pillar of strength in the Indian-American community where he has been a
leader of many organizations. He is a
bridge-builder between India and the
United States and well as between Indian-Americans and their neighbors.
He has been a tireless fundraiser for
many social causes. The Indian, United
States, Maryland, and Montgomery County governments
have utilized his expertise by engaging him for many
important positions and commissions.
Sambhu was the only foreign psychologist invited by the
government of India to evaluate the victims of the 1984
Bhopal gas disaster at Hamidia Hospital. For these efforts,
he was awarded the DC Humanitarian Award, the
Maharishi award, and Mother Theresa International
We spoke at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and at
a meeting of the American Association of Psychoanalytic
Physicians about the post-traumatic syndromes and psychological difficulties seen following such tragedies.
I remember thinking at the time that his basic decency
and concern for the disabled and helpless was always
apparent in his clinical and policy work. For example,
Sambhu tireless advocacy and political work played a role
in the passage of the Americans with Disability Act.
He does not shy away from difficult challenges and has
produced many innovative programs for children with multiple handicaps.
He has been a commissioner of the Maryland and
Montgomery County Human Relations Commission as
well as the Montgomery County Commission for People
COURTES Y: SAMBHU BANIK
Sambhu Banik with Kenneth X Robbins.
He is a friend to the whole world! A
huge number of Indian-Americans,
Indians, and Washingtonians have benefited from their associations with him.
Sambhu is a guiding light, whose radiance makes our world brighter and illuminates the best qualities in others. He
always makes sure, at any function or
party, that the special unique qualities of
each individual are verbalized.
In his famous home parties, ambassadors and members of the House of
Representatives are welcomed, but
Sambhu always makes sure to talk in
detail to the entire group about the wonderful personality traits and accomplishments of each and every one of his many
After hearing Sambhu’s fabulous
description of me, I decided I needed my
His ability to make people feel good
about themselves has made him the
great psychologist he is. That is why he
has been so proactive and effective in
helping the disabled and the mentally
with Disabilities. The first President Bush appointed him
to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual
Disabilities. He was a Member of the National advisory
Council on Drug Abuse during the Reagan administration.
Of course, his friends have all benefited from his gourmet
cooking and the recipes in the cookbooks he wrote. I
remember the time we are both guests on a TV show. I was
to talk about Indian art and Sambhu was preparing Indian
food for the following segment. He once told me that,
according to ancient Indian Vedic thought, all actions stem
from food. Therefore, food should be honored for its ability
to help a person use all his faculties. However, the pungent
aromas were so overwhelming that I could not use my faculties well. I wanted to stop talking and start eating.
Sambhu educated me about the infinite cornucopia of flavors in Indian dishes. The papaya paste of his spiced stuffed
chicken tenderizes the meat so it melts in the mouth. His
mustard oil-based chicken curry and his creamy coriander
chicken are fabulous. No wonder he has been so successful in
state and national cooking contests.
My wife Joyce and I have been blessed to have spent so
much time with Sambhu and his muse and wife, Promila.;
Kenneth X Robbins, MD, is a psychiatrist and independent scholar on South Asia. His major areas of interest are
the maharajas and nawabs, as well as minority groups in
India like the African Muslim elite and Jews.
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