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ICC Republic Day Program Falls Short on Attendance

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Photos: Raghu Thakkar

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: The lingering effects of the ice storm, cold and rainy weather and people down with the raging flu virus were some of the reasons that affected the low turnout for the 69th Indian Republic Day celebrations that the India Culture Center held last Saturday afternoon, January 20 at the usual venue, the Stafford Civic Centre on Cash Road. All told, throughout the six hour event, about 1,800 people are estimated to have visited the setup of booths and a stage show.

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The thin crowds were disheartening to both the organizers who had worked hard to organize the event, and the vendors who set up their wares and services. Many have been pleased with the attendance at ICC’s other signature event on the previous Independence Day and expected more of the same. But this one echoed back to the same event held in 2014 at the Bayou City Event Center near the Astrodome that also brought in dismal crowds, though the arrangements were well done. Then the reason was the event’s move to an unfamiliar and distant location.

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Since then, the event was revved up with a huge digital screen backdrop onstage and contests for the children along with some better known performers to close out the evening, but this has normally been for the Independence Day program in August. The Republic Day program has always been less attended. Whatever the reasons, the Directors of the ICC were murmuring about what they could do to revive this celebration which, in New Delhi, is a massive parade of floats depicting all parts of the country, marchers, weaponry, fly overs and acts like motorcycle balancing riders.

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Perhaps a parade and a fair atmosphere is what are needed. All the same, the organizers, led by new ICC President Nisha Mirani (who was the Event Chair along with Rafi Ansar) did an excellent job of bringing in kids and their parents for their parts of the stage shows.

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The theme for the event was “Hum sub ek hai” (we all are one). Togetherness was the focus as the program began with the popular Ismaili matki band rousing the hall and was followed by speeches by Deputy Indian Consul General Surendra Adhana who talked about modern India and how NRIs have been instrumental in the process. He later said he felt he was immersed in the community after having been here just a year. Nira Patel emceed the show, alternating with former ICC Trustee Swapan Dhairyawan and Mirani. Young Esha Dhairyawan sang the Indian National Anthem and Shreya sang the American one.

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Candidates running for political office, like former Harris County Sherriff Adrian Garcia, FBISD Trustee K.P. George, Toni Wallace and Juli Mathew had a chance to speak and meet with the community.

The Ismaili band also performed a patriotic performance onstage, with members dressed like Indian Independence heroes like Mahatma Gandhi. There were a total of 22 different dance groups performing but unfortunately, kids from two schools could not attend due to the flu virus which is three times more rampant this year than last. The musical portion (organized by Hemang Thakkar) featured two young singers, Akila and Sareen, who sang patriotic songs.

Towards the evening time, the crowd had grown a bit and the Antakshari (organized by Ajit Patel and Rafi Ansar) drew in a spirited participation. There were three teams onstage and the audience was the fourth. For an hour, it was a fun exchange between all the teams singing songs from different eras of Indian music. Each participant got a small gift bag from ICC Trustee Praful Gandhi.

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