Crowds Come for Pageantry of Culture, History and a Remarkable Performer

From left, ICC Trustee Swapan Dhairyawan who himself recieved a Lifetime Community Award and Event Chair Rajiv Bhavsar, with Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish (in suit, center) with the students who received achievement awards at the IFest held last Saturday.

From left, ICC Trustee Swapan Dhairyawan who himself recieved a Lifetime Community Award and Event Chair Rajiv Bhavsar, with Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish (in suit, center) with the students who received achievement awards at the IFest held last Saturday.

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: That the event started in mid afternoon instead of the morning as it has done in previous years was the first welcome change for participants and the public as well, giving everyone ample time to get their Saturday morning chores done and get things in order. “We have realized over the past four years,” said Charlie Patel, “that the crowds have always been light in the morning hours.”

Photos: Raghu Thakkar

Photos: Raghu Thakkar

The other changes to the India Culture Center’s 68th Indian Independence Day festival tagged “Colors of Freedom” became apparent with the onstage performances that really brought in the colors of Indian history and culture. In the eight hour long program which started at 2 pm and went on through 10 pm, the organizers took full advantage of the stage with the catwalk and the brilliant 72 inch LED monitor in the back that flashed ads, graphics, videos and pictures to mark a new direction that the ICC wants their two premiere events of the year to go towards, the other being the annual Indian Republic Day program held usually at the same venue, the Stafford Civic Center on Cash Road.



This year’s program, held on Saturday, August 16 on the day that also marks Janamashtami, was a turnaround moment as ICC’s two events have been seeing dwindling public attendance in the past four years, especially the one that was held in the Bayou City Event Center last year (see IAN dated January 26, 2013). “So we decided on making a few changes from the traditional approach,” said Patel who is the current ICC President and his whole Board jumped on the concepts. This year, in contrast, an estimated 7 to 8 thousand people visited the festival throughout the day. Apart from the extensive stage performances, almost 52 booths highlighted the community businesses and organizations, including 3 food booths.



There was an abbreviated parade, walked through the air-conditioned lobby area with many of the community leaders and organization members and Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella at the front, headed by a flag honor guard. The Indian National Anthem was sung by 19 kids and their parents from the Indian community in Kingwood. The US National Anthem was presented by Chloe Chaudhury, a 6th grader talented FBISD student.


There were short speeches by Scarcella, other elected officials like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who presented a Congressional proclamation; a message from Congressman Al Green read by his community liaison Sam Merchant; and remarks by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. Other local officials included Sugar Land Councilmen Harish Jajoo and Himesh Gandhi, HCC Trustee Neeta Sane; Stafford City Councilman Ken Mathew, Fort Bend ISD Trustee K P George and Ft Bend County District Attorney John Healey. The keynote message was delivered by the Indian Consul General Partvathaneni Harish and his wife Nandita lit the traditional lamp to start the program.


The program gathered steam with emcees Abha Shah and Pooja Patel and a welcome address by Event Chair and former ICC President Rajiv Bhavsar, followed by remarks by Charlie Patel. An awards ceremony for Outstanding Students from were given to five high school graduates: Perry Alagappan, Akhil Ganti, Alay Shah, Saiesh Kalva and Lekha Yesantharao and to three college graduates: Manasi Joshi, Archana Bhat and Nishitha Sharma.

Jasmeeta Singh coordinated and directed the cultural segment which included performances by the TYAGI group, Nritya Hari, Swarasudha, Kathak Nritya Kala Kendra, Sunanda Performing Arts Center, Infused Performing Arts, Katy Kungfu Center, Bollywood Shake, Shingari School of Rhythm, Telugu Christian community and the Punjabi Houston group.

The patriotic item presented by the International Hindi Association (IHA) group was conceptualized by Dr. Upadhyaya and choreographed by Jasmeeta, in which India’s leaders and freedom fighters were portrayed in their period clothes on stage by ICC Board members. The audience watched in awe as Maharana Pratap, Rani Padmini, Rani Laxmibai, Shivaji Raja, Sardar Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Gandhiji, Dadabhai Naoroji, Sir Allen Hume, Lal Bahadur Shastri sang around a cutout of Bharat Mata and new PM Narendra Modi came in at the finale.


Jasmeeta coordinated the fashion show around the same patriotic theme in which eight couples wore glamorous outfits from Sari Sapne, with jewelry from Highness Collection and groomed by Apsara Beauty Salon. The finale brought all the fashion show dance group participants together for a bow to dance music.

Winners of the Little Champs singing contest were presented with the 5 to 9 group of Lasya Dhulipala, Sraavani Poluri, Aakruthi Srikanth, Alakananda Nuthalapati and Arunima Para and in the 10 to 13 group Shruthi Srivathson and Akaash Srikanth. The winners in instrumentals were Ramya and Kavin Elangovan and the ICC Performer Award went to Karthik Kommineni for his stage presence and Bollywood style.

A special Outstanding Community Service Award was presented to ICC Chief Trustee Swapan Dhairyawan “for relentless service to ICC and Indo American community in Greater Houston” by Col. Raj Bhalla who remarked that “I do not know how and from where this individual gets so much energy to do so much for ICC and the community. He is an incredible person and ICC is proud in honoring Swapan for his accomplishments”

The program concluded with patriotic songs of yesteryear by Mumbai Masti, a group from India with the team of KK, Sankit, Alka and Sunny starting at 7:15pm and continuing non-stop till almost 10 pm with the audience staying glued to their seats. Dance India Dance fame star Kamlesh, in Houston from India, brought the house down with a thrilling performance with his legs tucked behind his head, dancing on his hands and with a thali gripped between his teeth. His motivational speech how a person without the use of limbs can become a winner of the top Indian dance contest brought tears to all and left a lingering impression as the left the show.