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Annual Festival of India Celebrates India’s Independence Day
BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by BIKASH MITRA
India American Cultural Association (IACA) organized its signature gala 14th annual Festival of India, to celebrate India’s 63rd Independence Day, at the Gwinnett Center on Saturday, August 14, 2010.
The theme of the festival this year was Engage, Evolve and Entertain. The Festival of India Torch was lit in Johns Creek by Mayor Bodker at Ocee Park. It then traveled to Global Mall, where the Global Mall owner and noted philanthropist, Shiv Aggarwal, had invited Mayor of Norcross, Bucky Johnson to attend the ceremonies. The last event was held at East Cobb Park and county commissioner, district 1, Helen Goreham was our guest. The flame was received amidst patriotic fervor and jubilation at the Gwinnett Center in a grand finale. At all the stops, the flame attracted record attendance this year.
The Festival was graced by the presence of Atlanta’s two leading public dignitaries in the legal field, lawyer Matt Wilson who is running for Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, and Justice David Nahmias, who was named to the Supreme Court of Georgia by Governor Sonny Perdue in August 2009, to fill a vacancy. His seat will be up for election in November 2010.
In his brief remarks, Mr. Wilson spoke about the importance of the court system and the honor of voting. “I want you all to think of the importance of the court system, because it is here where our rights are protected, where our government is limited to the constraints of our Constitution and where equal protection under the law is afforded to all citizens. Equal protection means that despite whatever element of diversity you bring you are entitled to the equal protection of the law.”
Justice Nahmias, in his address, said, “I am always surprised at how large and influential our immigrant population has become in our State and Country,” adding, “The Georgia Supreme Court is very important in the lives of Georgian families and businesses. All the seven Judges on the Supreme Court are elected. Please remember that all must respect rule of law and no one is above law. It is incredibly important to the American dream.”
He said, as federal prosecutor in Atlanta, his office has investigated and tried violent crime, fraud, drugs, and public corruption cases. “I have always believed in upholding the law and equal justice for all.”
Vir Nanda(Board of Directors) and Justice David Nahmias presented commemorative plaques to the following Awardees in recognition of their excellent and continued contribution to the community:
Mustafa Ajmeri, Keshav Kumaran, Ritesh Desai, Shiv Aggarwal, Aparna Bhattacharyya, Arun Kothary, Manju Kothary,Lakshmi Vedala, Krishnaveni Kesavarapu, Ramakanth Rallapalli, Sangeeta Mayur, Chaitanya Bhatt, Raj Bansal, Ram Sidhaye, Tushar Sanghvi, Parthiv Parekh, Mahadev Desai, Samir Doshi, Shri Ranganathan, Viren Mayani, and Padma Rallapalli.
In her Presidential address, IACA President, Padma Rallapalli said, the IACA has come a long way this year. “The Board of Directors and the Executive Committee members this year are driven and are committed to making a difference to IACA,” she said,
Rallapalli gave an overview of the events organized by the IACA this year. “It has been a very successful year so far,” she said. “Earlier in the year, we did a census workshop for the community and celebrated India’s Republic Day. Then we conducted Spelling Bee workshops. An English play ‘Out of Order’ cum dinner was held in March at the IACA; which was followed with Holi celebrations. The innovative and maiden Job Fair held in April was a resounding success. Annual IACA Scholarship banquet was followed with a very elegant IACA Annual banquet at the Bombay Grill where we recognized several community activists. One of IACA’s signature events, the Beauty Pageant, in July under the organizing team led by the pageant director Anisa Daftari was a huge success in terms of attendance and quality of the programming. The team is now working on Health Seminar in September, Classical Day (A day enriched with classical Indian music) in November and later on a Fund-raiser for the Sanatan Mandir Both the Sanatan Mandir and India Center projects are progressing well. Our former in-house magazine ‘Voice of India” has been brought to life and our website has been revamped.”
Chand Akkineni exhorted all to support IACA’s India Center comprising of an auditorium and banquet hall to accommodate 700 to 800 people. He further commented that this year, a new feature - Job Fair was added to the Festival. It is supported by companies – ITJobCafe, Radiumsoft Inc., Lunex Telecom and Prudential. On FOI, he lauded, “It is a proud feeling to see FOI celebrate its 14th anniversary with the enthusiastic support from the community, sponsors and volunteers.”
Booths in the Main Hall:
Despite economic downturn all the 60 booths were taken up by vendors selling Indian apparel, jewelry, toys health products, real estate, education, insurance, travel, and medical services. Booths were set up by not-for-profit religious and professional membership Organizations and Associations. Atlanta’s popular Sarvana Bhavan, Royal Indian Cuisine and Unique Foods International did brisk business selling mouthwatering food and beverages. As there were only three restaurants serving food, some members of the public were frustrated at the long queues for food and drinks But overall, the booth-renters were happy that the stage for the ‘Cultural Show’ was also in the same hall as it drew more public to the booths.
The Cultural Show:
The theme for FOI cultural event -2010 was “Evolution of entertainment in India from 2010 BC to 2010 AD.IACA’s Cultural team presented a riveting and very entertaining mammoth 8 hour cultural program with the participation of approximately 200 participants in colorful Indian costumes and accessories from 11am to 7pm. The program attracted lot of audience, who were glued to their seats until 7pm.. Several volunteers helped with the back stage production all day. The highlights included: Exciting Game Show “Hamare Hangama”, 4 sessions of 15 minute dance floor for audience participation ,Small skit of Putrakameshti scene from Ramayan , patriotic songs, Wonders of India, Bollywood Band , Bhangra, Dandia, and other folk dances, Bollywood songs, and Classical instrumental renditions, and Classical dances. Kudos to the Culture team which was headed by Krishnaveni Kesavarapu and included Lakshmi Vedala, Vijaya Gandapodi and Nivedita Garabadu and Atlanta’s well known and respected performing arts promoter Syam Yellamraju..
The children were kept engaged and entertained by Biha Youth Group with the help of Vibha volunteers. The kids made Indian themed bead bracelets with green, orange, white beads, while some kids made monkey necklaces, and binocular necklaces. Some had fun with henna designs.
Leena Joshi who runs ‘Theme Works’ Creative Arts Classes for Kids and Adults at Alpharetta and Global Mall locations conducted an Arts Competition for Children.
GAPI-SAI Health Fair at the FOI
The GAPI/SAI Health Fair, organized jointly by GAPI President, Dr.Sreeni Gangasani and, SAI Health Fair’s Founder, Dr.Sujatha Reddy was well attended by over 250 people who benefited from the services of 30 physicians representing 18 specialties. nine nurses and over 50 health care workers and volunteers. An ebullient Dr.Gangasani commented,” I would like GAPI to get involved with more health and education related charitable activities. GAPI is working on establishing a clinic to see uninsured on regular basis. In these tough economic times I want people to utilize these opportunities to maintain a healthy life. Both Dr.Sujatha Reddy and I thank all the physicians, nurses and volunteers from bottom of our hearts for taking part in this community outreach service. My special thanks to Dr Sujatha Reddy and IACA President Padma Rallapalli, for all their help in organizing this successful health fair.”
Tushar Sanghvi and Samir Doshi handled the booths management. The Executive Vice-President Viren Mayani was here, there and everywhere, dealing with the booth vendors, helping out with the Cultural program, meeting with the dignitary guests and with and with Vir Nanda handling the advertising and fund-raising portfolio. The Secretary Shri Rangnathan also did a commendable job with moving vote of thanks. The Registration Team of Vishal Mehta and Gouranga Banik did an outstanding job.The Festival was also marked with the prominent presence of Long –serving members of IACA,Paddy Sharma, Ani Agnihotri,Narsi Narasimhan,Upedra Bhatt, to name a few.
Readers may like to know that Amin Rupani is creating a documentary of the Indian Diaspora's solubility in the mainstream Atlanta, GA and has shot many interviews and the celebrations at the Festival to be aired on People TV.
The Festival of India, which began in 1997 has now become a much anticipated and appreciated annual event, with patriotic fervor and providing an invaluable glimpse into the rich and vibrant culture and heritage of India to Atlanta’s fast growing young Indian generation as well as to the mainstream