A Community Gets Together to Renew Ties Centered Around Indian Culture

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Consul General P Harish was given a silver plaque by ICC, as a Distinguished Recognition for his community service to the Greater Houston community at the 66th Republic Day Celebrations at Stafford Center on January 31.
Photos: Jawahar Malhotra, Raghu Thakkar, Jasleen Kaur.




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By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD: It turns out that moving the start of the event to 3 in the afternoon may have been the best thing that happened to the annual Indian Republic Day celebration in a long time. It was tried last August for Independence Day and true to its outcome then, IFair 2015 as it was billed, brought in more people who lingered for longer. Perhaps the program could have ended a little earlier instead of 10 pm, so as not to interfere with other Saturday night programs.

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And the second thing that worked was just a little tweaking – turning the overhead lights down a tad – that brought a different dimension to the performances, not to mention help see the 15 foot long LED screen that was the backdrop of the stage. It brought down the distraction of people moving around and helped to focus on the stage show performances, which were non-stop and awesome. Even the usual 36-page souvenir booklet (coordinated by Swapan Dhairyawan and Sanjay Sohoni) had a more polished look to it this year. And over 43 booths, including food, were set up around the back end of the hall and the lobby.

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It was certainly a sign of the India Culture Center’s Board putting their hearts out to pull together a show last Saturday, January 31 at the Stafford Civic Centre which mimicked, in spirit, the cultural extravaganza that the Republic Day parade that is held in New Delhi each year.  As pictures of India and India’s past heroes flashed over the screen (LED screen and slideshow coordinated by Nisha Mirani and Ajit and Yagnesh Patel), the ICC Board came out in costumes reflecting these leaders and did a short skit and dance. Swapan Dhairyawan and Manisha Gandhi emceed the program.

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Photos: Jawahar Malhotra, Raghu Thakkar, Jasleen Kaur.

The 23 dances and performances that formed the bulk of the stage show were from students ranging from 4 to 85 years old of local dance schools and several partnering community organizations., among them the Sunanda School of Performing Arts, Infused Dance, JVB Center, Abhinaya, IHA, Kannada Vrinda, BKM, Ismaili Golden Club, Bollywood Shake and Katy Kalaakar.

Midway through the program, the Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish addressed the crowd, emphasizing the ICC’s role over the years in holding its two annual community-wide events. Stafford City Mayor Leonard Scarcella and Mayor Pro-tem of Sugar Land congratulated the ICC and the community and offered proclamations. ICC President Charlie Patel and Event Chair Falguni Gandhi welcomed the audience and explained the organizations role and mission. The CG’s wife, Nandita Harish lit the ceremonial lamps and her daughter, Amaani Harish, who is learning classical dance, performed a Kuchipudi number devoted to Ganesh Kautukam.

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The emphasis of this year’s event was “Synergy – US India Relations” in light of the Modi-Obama recently meeting held in India. Accordingly, the ICC bestowed awards to two individuals  – IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia and local businessman and community activist Abeezar Tyebji – who have worked tirelessly and passionately to promote commerce and trade between the US and India, and received their plaques from CG Harish. On behalf of the ICC, Harish also presented a gift to Scarcella.

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The highlight of the program was the Elite Dance Competition, coordinated by ICC Director Jasmeeta Singh who has worked tirelessly in arranging such performances over the past several ICC events. She brought together eight college and dance groups for a high-energy and exciting competition which was emceed by Jasmeeta Singh and Kiran Kaur and assessed by a panel of seven judges (see box for a list of winners).
A karaoke program “Kal aaj aur kal” followed, coordinated by Falguni Gandhi, featuring Oldies and new pop songs performed by Sarada Akunuri, Sanjeev Kumar and Alpa Shah, which got the audience singing along.

Deep Foods gave out free fruit drinks to all the estimated 3,200 people who walked in the doors. ISS Director Rajiv Bhavsar coordinated the effort to get the Gold Sponsor Red Oak Hospital and Silver sponsors Wallis State Bank, Discount Power, Paradise Gifts, MD & Associates. The sound and PA system was coordinated by Darshak Thakkar and photography by Raghu Thakkar.

Elite Dance Competition Winners

1st prize: SMU Raas from Dallas
$1000 – Sponsored by Jasmeeta Singh of Jaz Creations

2nd Prize: Nishani Bhangra from University of Houston
$500 – Sponsored by Sahiba Chadda, an owner of Dukessa and Citadel Event Center

3rd Prize: Studio Mudra
$300- Sponsored by Jasleen Kaur Photography