BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by Hakim’s Studios
Atlanta,GA: Indian American Cultural Association (IACA) organized its 18th annual Festival of India to celebrate India’s 68th Independence Day at the Gwinnett Center on Saturday, August 22. The well attended festival was graced by the presence of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal, Olympian and MP Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore, BJP’s Vijay Jolly and Vice Consul at the Indian Consulate in Atlanta Ashok Kumar.
In his address, Governor Deal called the Indian community in Georgia a vibrant one. “You have contributed in a diverse variety of professions and created opportunities for very young people.”
He said he was elected Governor in 2010 during a period of great depression, when the state had lost hundreds of jobs. “But working with people in your community and people across the state, we turned the state around. My goal was to makeGeorgiathe No 1 state. People thought it was a nice dream. In October last year, Site Selection magazine recognized Georgia as the best state to do business in.”
Almost 300,000 jobs have been created in the last four years in different areas,” he added.
Gov Deal spoke about his visit to South-East Georgia where an Indian company has set up a $70 million, highly automated textile plant which will create 250 jobs. “Georgia is experiencing a revival of textile industry. We welcome more textile manufacturers,” he said.
The Governor also lauded the recently held India/Pakistan Health Fair in Norcross,Georgia. “It was quite a sight to see the first such health fair in the US orchestrated by Indians alongside their Pakistani physician friends,” he said.
Earlier, a spectacular classical fusion dance choreographed by Siddarth Kelam was performed by students of Padmaja Kelam’s Kalaivani Dance and Music Academy.
IACA President Nivedita Garabadu, in her address, said the association’s mission is to share India’s rich heritage and culture by hosting cultural events in and around Atlanta. In keeping with that mission, the IACA had celebrated Repubic Day, Valentines Day and hosted the annual Atlanta Indian Idol contest earlier this year. “One of our projects is to build a new temple (in the IACA property atSmyrna),” she added.
“At IACA we seek to facilitate a broader cross-cultural dialogue between Indian Americans and the community around us. We seek to inform the general public about the needs and aspirations of our community. We seek to serve as a home away from home for the community,” she said.
IACA past president Kaushal Tripathi, in his remarks, said despite so many languages and practitioners of four of the world’s major religions, all Indian citizens are living harmoniously and happily. “This festival is a celebration of 120,000 Indians living, flourishing and doing very well in Georgia. Some of the community leaders who are also entrepreneurs- C.B.Yadav, Narender Reddy, Dr. B.K. Mohan, Sachin Shailendra, Paul Shailendra etc. have been appointed on various Boards by Gov. Deal. More Indian-Americans have been appointed on boards by Gov. Deal than by any other Georgia Governor,” he said.
Earlier in the morning, Col. Rathore, in his brief address, said under PM Narendra Modi, Indians everywhere must strive and unite to build a newIndia. Modi is not onlyIndia’s Prime Minister but also one of the outstanding world leaders, he said. He requested the Indian community to extend a big welcome to him when he arrives inNew Yorkin September 2014 and also to share ideas for good governance through the mygov.in website.
In his remarks, Vijay Jolly, who is the Global Convener of BJP Overseas Affairs lauded the contribution of Indians in theUS. “Both Modi and Amit Shah have appealed to you all to continue further strengthening Indo-US relations in all spheres. Modi firmly believes in his visionary poll slogan ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ (together withal,development for all). BJP’s 41 chapters across the globe will help Modi fulfill his visionary goal,” he said.
The IACA community service awards were presented by Gov Deal to NRI Pulse, Khabar, IndiaTribune, TV Asia and WowNow.com. IACA officers, past and present, and volunteers were also given plaques.
Also, a copy of the revised and updated book ‘India Unveiled’ was presented to Gov. Deal by the author Robert Arnett.
Sheth Foundation and Prof Jagdish Sheth facilitated the screening of the critically acclaimed movie ‘The Wisdom Tree’ The viewers (from an eight year old to folks in late seventies) were glued to the screen for more than two hours as this mesmerizing and intriguing mystery starring award winning actress Sheetal Sheth unfolded. The film was received extremely well by the audience and the post film Q & A with the writer & director Sunil Shah was very informative and engaging.
The Wisdom Tree is a tale of human fears and desires, constructed around a classic drama with both sci-fi and mystic elements.
A panel discussion titled “Demystifying the College Admission Process, Tips from the Experts” covered topics like standardized testing, choosing the right college, how to write a good college essay, building the right resume, college scholarships, and financial advise for college savings.
In the main hall,Atlanta’s popular Udipi Café and Nirvana Indian Bistro restaurants did brisk business selling mouthwatering food and beverages. The crowds also thronged the area where vendors had their wares.
The festival was a day of activities that included yoga sessions by Palak Rao. “It was more of a quality experience rather than the quantity of people,” said Palak. The participants ranged from advanced practitioners to fresh aspirants to yoga and meditation. There were yogis from their early 20s to late 70s. “I led the sessions along with my cousin Eshani brahmbhatt. It was heartwarming to see the awareness in people about this ancient Indian treasure,” she added.
The fashion show was a big draw with ten participants including choreographers/showstoppers Nivedita Garabadu and Nida Shariff. Models strutted with poise, elegance and grace while showcasing the latest in designer outfits and accessories from international brand Bawree Fashions. Bawree owners Jasmine Shah and Neerali Patel also walked the ramp.
An entertaining program comprising of a variety of songs and dances was presented by talented participants in colorful Indian dresses. The cultural segment was headed by Syam Yellamraju, Nida Shariff and Nivedita. The Sound system was managed by Abir Thakurta and Dr Raktim Sen. Former CNN anchor Patti Tripathi was delightful as the emcee.
Zumba was performed on stage by Sheila Devlia and her group as part of the cultural show. Antakshari, hosted by Rajasree Arcot, was the last item of the day. The winners were presented $75 each.
Kids activities included puppet shows, a kids bunny, cricket net, hula hoops, mehndi etc.
The FOI which began in 1997 has now become a much anticipated and appreciated annual event, as it provides 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 communities.