BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Photos by Sri Photos
Atlanta, GA, November 8, 2019: Pouring rain and Diwali festivities at home notwithstanding, nearly 4000 people gathered together at the Infinite Energy Center on October 26 to celebrate the festival of lights at the second annual United Diwali Fest, hosted by the Consulate General of India, Atlanta in cooperation with Indian-American Associations across Atlanta. The event was open to everyone with no entry fee, and food was provided free of cost to all attendees.
“We as the Consulate, want to partner with all the Indian organizations and celebrate our culture together, just the way we do International Yoga Day and now Diwali. Our strength is unity is diversity,” said Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Consul General of India, Atlanta.
Dr. Kulkarni was instrumental in bringing all associations together to celebrate Diwali when she put forth the idea at her welcome reception. Community leaders came forward to implement the idea for the first time in 2018 and continued the tradition this year. Dr. Kulkarni cited the Howdy Modi event which brought together well over 50,000 people, an unprecedented gathering, also attended by US President, Donald Trump.
Representatives of Consular Corps of Germany, Nigeria, Israel and Barbados and prominent politicians including State Senators/Representatives joined Dr. Kulkarni and Consul Lakhtakia in lighting the lamp.
The invited guests of honor included Dr. Heike Fuller, German Consul General, Mr. Alex Gandler, First Secretary, Israel, Ms. Aishatu Aliyu Musa, Nigerail Consul General, Mr. David Cutting, Hon. Consul, Barbados, Mike Glanton, GA State Representative, Greg Dolenzal, GA State Senator, Sheik Rahman, GA State Senator, Anglika Krausch, GA State Representative, Richard Woods, GA State School Superintendent, Donavan Head, GA State Deputy School Superintendent, Curt Thompson, Ex-GA State Senator from Duluth running for Gwinnett County Chairman as Democratic candidate, and Lynne Homrich, Senior Home Depot executive running for US Congress as Republican candidate.
The five-hour event brimmed with vibrant performances representative of all states across India. Classical to contemporary, the states of north, south, east and west presented their folklore at their delightful best.
“’Unity in Diversity’, which India is proud of, was much evident at the event which was put together with the help of various organizations on Indian origin belonging to different states and the diverse cultural performances which enrich our culture,” said Consul Shailesh Lakhtakia, who lead the event. He thanked all the sponsors, donors, partners, the media and individuals who came together to put in place a “truly memorable free-for-all event,” as he described it.
“We have more than 80 Indian-American associations participating, with well over a dozen dignitaries and over 3000 people. We expect to have more and more each year,” said Dr. Vasudev Patel, organizing secretary of the Overseas Friends of BJP.
Patel Brothers was the Diamond Sponsor, and 27th the Gold Sponsor, along with several individual donations, sponsors and partners. “GCANA President Amit Shah was key in finalizing the venue, food, and insurance,” said Barot.
Various community leaders put it all together by assigning themselves to different committees, with Consul Lakhtakia assigned the lead position. Welcome/Venue Committee: Sunil Savili, Sudhir Agarwal, Anoop Kapoor, Kusum Khurana, Jay Patel, Kranti Chennupati, Dilip Mehra, Swati Sudhini, Ani Agnihotri, Sandip Sanvla, Jayantibhai Patel, Roshan Patel. Cultural Committee: Pushkar Deshpande, Jonty, Chirag Thakkar, Nisha Patel, Ramesh Krishnan, Shyam Mallavarapu, Mandar Vengulkar, Laxmi Thesam, Shweta Dhawan, Sanjay Prakash, Deepa Bajpai, Geetanjali Talukdar. Dignitaries Invitation Committee: Vasudev Patel, Paddy Sharma, Ritesh Desai, Neera Bhal, Karthik Bhatt, Swadesh Katoch, Ajay House, Srinivas Lavu, Ramesh Valluri. Fund Raising Committee: Amit Shah, Anil Bodireddy, Mahesh Pawar, Anand Rathi, Amit Arora, Rajiv Menon, Navin Patel, Rina Gupta, Chand Akkineni, Raj Patel, Mayank Shah, Kaushal Tripathi, Ravi Chander. Marketing Committee: Vishwanth Ganti, Manoj Barot, Mustafa Ajmeri, Sachin Bhagat, Shreekant Upala, Chaitanya Bhatt, Ravindra from NATA, Dhananjay Gupta, Sai Ram Pamulapati, Seema Garg, Raju Kotak, Viren Mayani. F&B Committee: Pravin Master, Badri Joshi, Rakesh Patel, Sreedhar (Gates), Prashant Podduturi, Rajan Vedak, Kishore Patel, Kirti Mehra.
The festival of lights celebrated with communities of different Indian origins illuminated the true spirit of Diwali.