A Magnificent India I-Day Celebration Full of Local Talent

Photos: Raghu Thakkar

Photos: Raghu Thakkar

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By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD: By 2pm, the parking lot was full and you had to go to the very far side to get a space, even as more people were pouring in. And it wasn’t just old-timers who knew what to expect, but lots of younger kids, many of whom were going to be on stage and their parents and friends who came to see the performances that would captivate the audience throughout the afternoon. An estimated 4,000 came to the event.

Once again, the India Cultural Center, the community’s premier umbrella organization, galvanized a myriad of groups in the metroplex to come together to celebrate India’s 71st Independence Day. The 7-hour long program was as much a celebration of how the huge number of Indian expatriates have evolved in their adopted home along the banks of all the bayous that fill up this region of South Texas.  And a sultry Sunday afternoon, August 20, reminded the new Americans of the baking heat in the parts of India where they are from.


As expected, the back half of the hall at the Stafford Civic Centre on Cash Road was filled with an assortment of nearly 60 booths of non-profits and businesses alike, many repeats of past years, And further back, in the adjoining hall with tables to sit down and eat and were three food booths catering Indian delicacies. The foot traffic really got busy around all the booths around 3 and kept up till nearly 6:30 when the crowd thinned down.


The stage program began with a prayer by ICC President Dr. Falguni Gandhi, followed by a string of inspirational patriotic and devotional songs by kids from the Shree Krithi School of Music, Telugu Christian Fellowship, DAV Montessori, Houston Brethren Association and Swar Madhuri. The JVB Preksha Meditation Center presented a skit with a powerful message of universal peace and non-violence.


A cultural segment followed with 14 dance performances by kids young and old doing Kathak, Garba, Odissi, Bengali folk, Bollywood and regional folk from Karnataka (one of the highlights of the day) by groups from the Kathak Kala Kendra, Bollywood Shake, Infused School of Dance, HH Creationz, Laaya Dance Group, Navikarna, Indian Senior Citizens Association, Keka’s School of Dance, JAZ Creations and Bollywood Dancing. The segment was coordinated by Nisha Mirani and Nimish Sheth who kept the audience engaged with the flow of the program.


An Elocution (public speaking) Contest was conducted by Parul Fernandes and Pramod Bengani with Fateh Ali Chatur, Sai Rachakonda and Rahat Kalle as judges. There were 3 winners each from the junior and senior age groups.

Emcees Harshil Sheth and Nira Patel began the formal segment with a lamp lighting ceremony by Rajyashree Adhana (wife of Indian Deputy Consul Surendra Adhana) and Pallavi Dhairyawan (wife of event chair Swapan Dhairyawan). The National Anthems were sung by Malika Ghei (Indian) and Madhuri Maniar (US).

Event Chair Swapan Dhairyawan welcomed the crowd saying the ICC did its “utmost effort to preserve, spread and expand the rich Indian culture to our next generation.” Deputy Consul General Surendra Adhana stepped up to share the message from Consul General Anupam Ray. Dr. Falguni Gandhi stated the goals and vision of the ICC, saying it “helps to preserve the values of our culture and heritage and promote Indo-American friendship.”

Proclamations and warm wishes came from Leonard Scarcella, Mayor of City of Stafford, which was a joint sponsor for the event; US Congressman Al Green represented Sam Merchant and Missouri City Mayor Allen Owens, brought by Hasu Patel.

This year, the ICC gave awards to three individuals for their contributions: Stafford City Councilman Ken Mathew and Shiva Mathur of Shivangini School of Dance for Outstanding Community Service and Special Recognition Award for 16 year-old high school senior Syamantak Payra for his 200 awards for academic and extracurricular achievements. A surprise special Dedicated Award was given to Past President  and Trustee Chandrakant (Charlie) Patel for his continued service to ICC.

The highlight of the event was the closing concert by the Riyaaz Qawali group of Varun Mehta and two other members of his troupe who presented a rousing performance of shabd, qawali, patriotic and devotional songs. Introducing the group Dhairyawan recalled the first time the group performed on the ICC Stage in January 2007 as students of UT Austin. Ten years later, they have come back full circle to the ICC stage more resourceful and mature and recognized all over the country for their soulful music.

The sound and PA system was arranged by Darshak and Mona Thakkar of Krishna Sounds; Photography was by Raghu Thakkar and videography by Gautam Jani. The ICC’s next planned event is the Diwali Mela at Jones Plaza on Sunday, November 12.

Swapan Dhairyawan contributed to this article