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Aohbaan- Communities Taste Slice Of Bengali Heritage
BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
‘Aohbaan - a cross community festival’, organized by Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta (BAGA) extended a warm welcome to all communities on May 5th 2012 at the Norcross High School. With a mission to communicate, collaborate, share and gain traction within and outside the South Asian community and bring various groups together through food, fun, fashion and various festivities, ‘Aohbaan’ had invited organizations, charities, guests, members, patrons and community organizers from all parts of Atlanta to join hands, spend a day filled with entertainment and enlightenment and celebrate our South-Asian culture with a slice of Bengali heritage. The well attended event had over 1000 guests, 30 organizations and groups, 5 charities, 4 dance schools, 3 music schools, 1 Taekwondo school and 150 volunteers.
“Aohbaan (Ahwan in Hindi, translated as a ‘welcome broadcast’ in English) was BAGA's humble attempt at bringing people from various communities together to celebrate our culture just like Rabindranath did many years ago.” Abir Guha Thakurta, President of BAGA explains. ‘Aohbaan’ offered five different ‘F’ verticals for everyone to enjoy – ‘Food, Fest, Fashion, Fun, and Finale’. Different varieties of food including Bengali vegetarian and non-vegetarian snacks, Biryani, Mughlai, Kabobs, Rolls, Chaat and Mithai (sweets) corners were a part of the grand fare. A festive ambience of songs, dances, exercises, skits, acts, art forms, street plays added color and vigor to the occasion.
A distinctive feature of the event was the energy levels with so many electrifying performances in a street theatre format among the festival guests. A highlight of the afternoon was a zumba team engaged as a flash mob that brought the crowd to its feet. Local businesses displayed fashion items including sarees, salwars, dresses, jewelry, accessories and various other services. A distinctive feature for those with a flair for art, an Art Gallery featuring artwork from amateur, seasoned and professional artists was a part of the festivities as well. The Fun section involving kids’ corner, art corner, face painting, mehndi, sketching, put-put golf, sketches, and other activities were held to keep the kids occupied. The Finale, a tribute to Tagore called "Where the mind is without fear", was presented by BAGA to all communities gathered at the event. The program explored Tagore's multi-faceted genius, his awe-striking personality and his inner sanctum.
Organizers say that the idea of Aohbaan was conceived in the fall of 2011 when a couple of community members at BAGA came together to strategize community outreach initiatives. They often noted that regional organizations find themselves spending all their time serving their own community and these members felt that at least once a year BAGA should reach out and extend an invitation to other communities and organizations to come together and celebrate the common spirit of being South Asian.
The time and occasion to conduct Aohbaan was aptly chosen on Guru Rabindranath Tagore’s 151st birthday celebration. Popularly celebrated on 25th day of Baisakh (Pachishe Baishakh), Rabindranath talked and gradually developed his all-inclusive concept of India through the word "Aohbaan", leading to the song that is now the national anthem of India. He made an "Aohbaan" to everyone to come to Vishwa Bharati (his international university in Shanti Niketan) to join hands, share thoughts, ideas and common causes and celebrate our nation.
Many organizations and individuals congratulated BAGA for organizing such a grand event with a high level of professionalism. It was a showcase of camaraderie, benevolence, charity, volunteer participation, creativity and euphoria. As one eminent community representative put it, “a model to emulate”.
Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta (BAGA) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) that strives to promote and sustain cultural, charitable, educational, and literary activities on behalf of the Bengali and Indian American community of greater Atlanta throughout the south eastern part of the United States. BAGA is a volunteer run nonpolitical organization with deep roots in the local Atlanta community. They represent the Indian American diaspora and conduct various charitable, social, religious and philanthropic activities throughout the year. BAGA has been in existence for more than 30 years and continues to strive hard to promote our diversity, our rich cultural heritage and our experience as immigrant Bengalis and Indians in the society. For more information about BAGA events, please visit www.baga.net or you may ‘like’ BAGA on Facebook.