India’s Diversity, Economic Growth Praised at FIA I-Day


The lamp lighting ceremony of the FIA Independence Day celebration in Artesia, Calif., with (front, l-r) FIA president Ramesh Mahajan, Manu Patel, Ajay Khetani, Mayor Sally Flowers, assembly member Cristina Garcia, other FIA members and city council member Miguel Canales (far right). (Shyamal Leonard photo)

By Indiawest

ARTESIA, CA, United States: Support from an all-star lineup of state dignitaries, cultural events and fervent speeches showcasing India’s diversity and economic growth marked the day as thousands gathered to celebrate the Federation of Indo-American’s 67th India Independence Day commemoration here in Artesia Park Aug. 3. The event was co-sponsored by the city of Artesia.

Chairperson Rashmi Shah of the Shah Foundation kicked off the event with zeal and a feel good moment by reviewing the advancement of Indian Americans in the United States along with his own passionate pledge to continue to work for his country of origin.

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Event goers were brought to order as the American anthem followed by the Indian national anthem were broadcast throughout the grounds with Artesia’s Mayor Sally Flowers, Mayor Pro-Tem Tony Lima, Assembly member Cristina Garcia of the 58th district, Artesia council members Victor Manalo, Miguel Canales and John Lyons; Long Beach council member Suja Lowenthal, U.S. Congressman of the 39th district Ed Royce and wife Marie; Senator Ron Calderon’s spokesperson Mario Beltran of the 30th district, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and wife Carol Chiang; and Mayor of Cypress Prakash Narain in attendance.

Dressed in a royal blue Punjabi kurta, Flowers, accompanied by Garcia, who was dressed in a pink brocaded sari, joined FIA president Ramesh Mahajan, convenors Ishwar Deedwania and Ravji Patel, and FIA members Ajay Khetani, Manu Patel and Shah for the lamp lighting ceremony.

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Garcia, introduced by Manu Patel as the courageous lady who “helped clean up the state,” a reference to her activism in ridding corruption in the city of Bell three years ago, requested the crowd to “remind themselves not to be complacent about the freedom we have, as democracy requires constant effort and vigilance on our part and it is up to us to protect our freedom and the rights of others.”

Baca, who was introduced by Mahajan, a former commissioner of Aging and Parks and Recreation in California, extolled India for “doing remarkably well with its economy.”

The recent Sheriff of the Year award recipient inspired the audience by reminding them about American values and that “we are the model of human tolerance and opportunity, never underestimate faith which is the cornerstone of our energy which allows our minds to do and build like never before.” India as a nation is taking on the same perspective, Baca added.

The sentiment of national and civic pride continued as Mahajan introduced Royce as a “Republican who keeps good relations with Democrats.” Royce greeted the audience with “Jai Hind,” provided personal anecdotes on his visits to India and roused listeners on the importance of “bi-partisanship” not only at home, but in dealing with “our allies.”

Royce called India America’s “most important ally” and urged the need for more liberalized trade and better counter terrorism cooperation with the country. Royce built the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans into one of the largest, most active House caucuses in early 2000.

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Royce, along with his wife Marie, presented a Certificate of Congressional Recognition to the FIA committee.

Flowers informed the Indian American community members that one of this month’s city council meeting agenda items will include a discussion of Artesia’s Little India and “improvement of Pioneer Blvd.” We will be putting “quite a bit of money into the project,” said Flowers.

The latter part of the evening delivered an engaging cultural program as guests continued to pour in and busy themselves with stalls carrying baubles, Indian fashions and popular Indian cuisines from local eateries.

Crowds indulged in juice from fresh coconut, tasty kulfi and mouth-watering tandoori favorites as various singers crooned Bollywood tunes and patriotic-themed songs.

The evening progressed with numerous dance acts from tiny tots to the popular troupe Karmagraphy which fused Bollywood and Western style jazz and modern dance to fast-paced steps mingled with gentle acrobatics.

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Los Angeles-based teen artist Sahyba sang her original, electronic pop single, “Marco Polo” (Where You At). The single has already earned rave reviews and airplay on TMZ and VH1’s “Basketball Wives.” Bindu Arora moved the audience with her a capella version of “Aye Mere Pyare Watan” from the 1961 movie “Kabuliwala.”

Academy award winning fashion designer Shekhar Rahate wooed the audience with a peek of roughly ten designs from his 2014 summer line. Models walked the stage in flowing evening wear crafted from exotic brocade and sari fabric.

The grand finale by the popular group Out of Control Punjabis, or OCP, and their lead singer Mun-E-Fame encouraged the seated crowd into cheers, hoots and a dance frenzy. The all-boy Punjabi band rocked and thumped to a medley of lively bhangra and Hindi songs as audience members roused by adrenaline danced till the end.