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 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

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Innovative Ideas Mark Annual Festival of India

The Indian community in Atlanta came together in large numbers at the Gwinnett Civic Center on Saturday August 16, 2008 to celebrate the annual Festival of India (FOI) to mark the 61st anniversary of independence of India. This year's FOI is the twelfth one and has become an annual event organized by India American Cultural Association (IACA), in collaboration with other local organizations.

Several new innovative and creative ideas were added to the gala event, one of such ideas was the FOI Torch. It was a great journey and a grand finale for the Festival of India torch in Atlanta, Georgia. It entered the Gwinnett Center at 8.30AM with hundreds of Indians filled with patriotic spirit and enthusiasm. The torch was welcomed by one and all. Several people were screaming at the top of their voice "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat Maata Ki Jai"!

In a very non Indian fashion, the cultural programs started at sharp 9 am, as advertised! The show ran non stop from 9am to 7pm to a packed auditorium of almost 1000 people at peak time. In addition to the regular bollywood masala that kept the fast pace, significant time was allocated to innovation and creativity. New programs included a game show “Jodi #1” where participating couples competed for the title of “Jodi #1”. There were several items inclusive of East-West, and Bollywood Techno Fitness that sent people dancing! Classical items like Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Odissi had a very honorable allocation of time in the schedule, were well presented and extremely well received by the audience. Patriotic skit by the Georgia Tamil Sangham and the Gondhal folk dance by Maratha Mandal were exceptional. A special message from the Isha’s Sadhguru was presented and was much appreciated by the Isha followers. Several patriotic songs were presented inclusive of ‘Aie Mere Vatan Ke logo,’ Isha band and many others.

By 9.30am, the "mela" area was buzzing with booths set up by commercial and non profit organizations. Food booths started a bit later than expected with the formalities involved with the local country authorities. However, they were all ready in time by 11am to serve very hot, delicious and inviting lunch to the thousands of hungry visitors. Live broadcasting by the local radio station, “Spice Radio” added a new successful attraction, as did the Sudoku contest at the NRI Pulse booth. The central stage with hourly flag hoisting and patriotic events was huge success with a great following. Specially, the street play and a special presentation by Maratha mandal stood out. The “dhol” and high energy bhangra played constantly added significant touch to the mela environment and transported the visitors to an India like environment. The mela team included Paddy Sharma, Tania Aurora, Surinder Bahl for booths and Krishna Kesavarapu and Vasantha Kandikuppa for the cultural items.

Ms India GA Shivani Gandhi and Ms Teen India GA Avanti Patel made a ceremonial round of the mela area, stopping at the booths to chat up with folks. Democrat Jim Martin, who will take on Senator Saxby Chambliss for US Senate later this year, was a guest at the mela and was accorded a traditional welcome.

There were two tracks of seminars presented with interesting topics and eminent speakers. Though, the turn out at these seminars was moderate, it, in a way, enabled more interactive communication. The seminars were organized by Ash Thakker, Padma Rallapalli and other volunteers.

The “Kid Fest”, organized as a part of the mela was coordinated by Dev Kondur. This team had organized several activities inclusive of drawing competitions, kite making, bead making and so on. There were 500+ kids of a variety of age groups that enjoyed these activities.

The almost free health fair attracted a record of 300+ people vs the usual 100-150 visitors. This was also a point of gratification for the attending physicians. The health fair was coordinated very well by Dr. Inderpal Singh.
Fund raising for this event was a very hard thing to do in a unhealthy economic environment. However, exceptional job was done by Chand Akkineni and Paddy Sharma.

The web committee included Raghav Tadavarthy and Kamal Satuluru. Treasury function was managed by Mukesh Parekh.

Record number of attendees, exceeding 7000 people, flooded the venue and it was surely an awesome day long event to remember for a long time.

IACA president Surinder Bahl said he was happy to see the large turnout. “There were parts of the day, when the queue was so long, it took 15 minutes to get buy tickets, in spite of six people manning the counter.”

He said he was also thrilled to see that a large number of visitors were in the under-30 age range. “We need the next generation to carry our culture forward,” he said. “Otherwise our traditions will fade away.”


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