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
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.”