Report & Photos by Mahadev Desai
(Click on photos for larger view)
Atlanta, GA: India American Cultural Association (IACA) celebrated India’s 65th Republic Day with great joy, enthusiasm, patriotic fervor and national pride on Sunday January 26, 2014. Hon. Rajinder Singh , Consul and Head of Chancery of the Consulate General of India in Atlanta, Chief Guest Greg Pridgeon; guest speaker Anand Bhika, past and present IACA Board of Governors and Executive Committee members, IACA members and representatives of various Atlanta organizations were present at the event.
The newly elected IACA President Nivedita Garabadu extended a warm welcome to all. She and BOD member Padma Rallapalli (clad in an attractive tiranga salwar kameez) performed ‘swagatam’ (traditional welcome) ceremony of Hon.Rajinder Singh, Greg Pridgeon and former IACA President Dr. Gaurang Banik.
Garabadu assured the attendees that she and her dynamic, dedicated executive committee would strive to make 2014 a landmark year with lots of interesting and entertaining activities and community services. She exhorted the audience to lend its full support to make this possible. She invited and introduced her Executive Committee members; Executive Vice-President Salil Gulve; Vice President Mohan Nair; Treasurer Narayan Swamy and Secretary Vishwanath Ganti.She recognized and thanked Ex-Servicemen Arun Chickmenhalli and Prashant Garud who were in the audience for their services to the nation.
Some of the former IACA Presidents, and BOD members who were present, and current EC members and the distinguished guests were invited on stage, who, together with the audience joined in fervent renditions of the Indian National Anthem, ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and U.S.National Anthem by Suma Yellamraju and Sonakshi Mishra.
The cultural program was jointly emceed by Mohan Nair and Vishwanath Ganti. Speaking on the occasion Hon.Rajinder Singh wished all a very Happy Republic Day. “This is an occasion when we celebrate the strength and resilience of India’s vibrant democracy, a respect for fundamental freedoms, upholding of the rule of law and commitment to friendship with neighbors and our partners all over the world including the USA,” he said, adding, “Today is an occasion for us to renew our pledge and our determination to protect our Republic and to work for the progress of our beloved nation. We have never flinched from our challenges. We will face these with basic goodness of the human spirit that imbues our people. Democracy and its enduring values can never let us down.”
Addressing the gathering, the Chief Guest, former Chief of Staff, City of Atlanta and Rockdale County, Board of Commissioners, Greg Pridgeon said,” It is an honor and privilege to come before you on this wonderful and significant day as you celebrate India’s 65th Republic Day. You all are ambassadors of a country that is steeped in wonderful and vast culture and steeped in wonderful products that are transported round the world. Without struggle, you very seldom have a chance for success.65 years ago and even beyond that, as you led up to this great Republic Day, there was struggle, there were difficulties, people did die, people did survive and those who did came forth with a legacy that they brought to their children and to their grandchildren. I am honored to be a member of this wonderful fraternity and sorority of brothers and sisters. Finally, please allow me to acknowledge my friend and Chairman of the Gandhi Foundation of USA, Subash Razdan. Subash and I worked very close together in the City of Atlanta as employees for decades. I consider myself to be a great friend of this community. My heart is filled with the enthusiasm in this room and my heart is filled with the friendship that I feel for you.”
Sreevidhya Rajesh of Sreevidya Academy, in her mellifluous voice led her troupe of young singers into singing a moving prayer song Ek Tu Hi Bharosa from movie Pukaar and followed this with a second rousing song Hum Honge Kamyaab.
Talented and proficient musician and singer Shubhadeep Roy strummed his guitar and sang a Hindi cum Bengali song dhan dhanye se bhara’in praise of Mother India and then ever-popular patriotic song Vande Mataram and Sare jahan se achha.
Three cute little girls Sohini Gupta,Anisha Srivastava and Prioska Baruah in glittery orange costumes and colorful facial, wrist and ankle adornments performed a scintillating Assamese Jhumur dance, choreographed by Subalita Barua and coordinated by Swapnali Das of Pratibha Dance Academy.
Sreekanth Murugan and his troupe in army outfits presented a rousing and inspiring patriotic song Kadam kadam badhaye ja’
Mohan Nair gave a brief talk on the history and significance of the Indian National Flag also known as tiranga (tri-color).
All the songs and dances by children won the hearts of the audience who greeted all these performers with big rounds of applause.
Guest Speaker Anand Bhika, a former Director of NETIP Atlanta Chapter shared his insights on Rediscovering India in 21st Century-Perspectives of the Indian Youth in America. In his upbeat tone, he said that he had fond memories of his privileged formative years in India where his dad explained to him about the sacrifices of the Indian leaders to attain India’s freedom. On Republic Day, he used to attend flag-hoisting ceremony and there after engage in another Indian tradition-playing cricket! There has been a pivotal change in India’s progress in the last 15 or so years. Opportunities, innovation abounds in India and there is a remarkable spirit of entrepreneurship and unbridled optimism. He said that his association with the prestigious NETIP, which engages in social networking, professional networking and community outreach efforts, gave him a keen insight into the psyche of the Indian youth. Those who are born here are absorbing both western and Indian culture. Many are visiting India to imbibe more Indian culture. It used to be doctors, engineers and IT Consultants but now the young generation is changing the paradigms. He cited accomplishments of Aneesh Chopra and Nina Davuluri who have merged the best of both worlds. Bhika urged all to attend 23rd NETIPNA Conference in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend this year. “Let us pull our resources and talents, collaborate and inspire future leaders in our community” He thanked IACA for keeping Indian culture, traditions and heritage alive and wished all a Happy Republic Day.
Mustafa Ajmeri informed the gathering about the TIMES Now T/V Channel’s truly global NRI of the year Award 2013. Please visit www.NRIOFTHEYEAR.Com for more details.
Nivedita Garabadu, Vishwanath and Narayan Swamy presented flower bouquets to Rajinder Singh, Greg Pridgeon, Surinder Pal Singh (grandson of the Gadarite Bhagwan Singh Gyanee) and Anand Bhika who then presented all the participants with appreciation certificates.
Vishwanath read the message of congratulations and good wishes from Congressman David Scott (D-GA 13th District).
In his vote of thanks Salil Gulve thanked Gujarati Samaj;Shakti Mandir,John Patel (JDH Developers; Nayanbhai and Anandbhai of Haldiram Snacks,Harshadbhai(Dunkin Donuts),volunteers Chaitanya Bhatt, Kaushal Tripathi,Narayan Swamy,Syam Yellamraju(manning Sound system),TV Asia,Pardes magazine and other print media,Anoop Kapoor (for the Projector) and all the distinguished speakers and performers.
Delicious refreshments and beverages were served to all at the end of the program.
With this first laudable program IACA definitely holds lot of promise for the rest of the year!