New Venue Transforms Houston Diwali Mela into true Street Festival

Photos: Meedu Photogrpahy, Asit Patel, CreativeTecnik Photo Drone Video: Nand Patel.

Photos: Meedu Photogrpahy, Asit Patel, CreativeTecnik Photo
Drone Video: Nand Patel.

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PEARLAND: Record turnout as streets had to be blocked for the overflowing crowd gathered at the Pearland Town Center to celebrate the 8th Annual HOUSTON DIWALI MELA on Saturday, October 27,  presented by Masala Radio, Karya Properties and Texans Energy. Surrounded by H&M, Forever 21, Macys & Dillards, the vibe was like being in a DIWALI STREET FESTIVAL in Mumbai or Delhi.  “The new venue fulfilled the vision we had since 2007 for an up and close Diwali Celebration where anyone can venture near the massive stage to catch the performances, comedy skits, and concerts,” said Event Director Sandhya Thakkar.

Photos: Meedu Photogrpahy, Asit Patel, CreativeTecnik Photo Drone Video: Nand Patel.

“Weather was beautiful, and we saw people from all over Houston.  Yes the 3000-car parking spots got full early… we didn’t expect such a huge turnout!  Swapnil Agarwal, CEO Karya Properties, Javed Meghani, CEO Texans Energy and Houston billionaire Shaukat Dhanani of Gulshan Enterprises, Omar Saeed of Northwestern Mutual, Umang Mehta representing Deep, Britannia and Taj Mahal Chai, and Arshad Ramji of Ramji Law Group helped make this year’s Houston Diwali Mela completely free for the entire community as a continuing celebration of Masala Radio’s 25th Year Anniversary.” 

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“This was the best Diwali Melas y’all have organized.  I love this new venue, the beautiful lights and decoration all around the bazaar made it so fun to walk around, shop and watch the stage from any angle” said Aarti Mehta, who has attended all previous Diwali Melas. “The Pearland Town Center was beautifully transformed for the Festival of Lights.  It was exciting to see the burst of activity throughout the center, one of the largest crowds to date,” said Nicole Bowen, PTC Marketing Director.

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Under a gigantic high ceiling covered pavilion, lit up in uplights and chiffons in yellow, pink and green, Britannia once again present a glittering bazaar of jewelry, kurtis, sarees, lenghas, and Diwali décor.  Kids flocked to the Karya Kid Rides including giant pirates ship inflatable and a riveting Mechanical Bull Ride. In another corner guests took selfies with elegant Ganesha against a 50-foot Rani Pink Rajasthani Hawa Mahal backdrop (courtesy Blink Decorators), flanked by a parade of 4 Rickshaws.  “It was so fun to see the decorated Indian Bajaj rickshaws and scooters roam the streets honking as they careened past the thick crowds.  Adults felt like kids for a few minutes,” said Dharmesh Mehta.

Shah Rukh Khan film singer Hamsika Iyer rocked the finale with her hit songs from SRK movies, including Chamak Challo and 1234 Get on the Dance Floor, flanked by Infused Performing Arts dancers.   She came for this event especially from Mumbai courtesy of airline partner Turkish Airlines & travel partner Hamid Lakhani of TravelGuzs. 

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Sandhya Thakkar added “Brook Bond Taj Mahal Chai sponsored the grand fireworks specially designed to be large high in the sky 300 feet over the town center.  This was the best fireworks show we have ever had.”    Omar Saeed and Shanti Panicker of Northwestern Mutual were the exclusive financial sponsors of this year’s Diwali Mela.  “Since Diwali is the festival to honor Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, we thought it was a perfect event for us since we are the leading Wealth Management company.   This was the most unique street festival & mela for our community with flawless execution.  The lights, sound, stage felt like a large Bollywood concert.”

The stage was filled with enchanting presentations of Indian semi-classical, folk, and Bollywood dances by some of the best dance teams in Houston – Khusboo Dance, Kathak Nritya Kala Kendra, USDG Rockstars, US Desi Gals, Dazzling Divas, Yuva Bollywood, Arya Dance Academy Louisiana & Houston, and Infused Performing Arts.

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The crowd erupted in laughter during KBC Comedy featuring Amitabh “Chappan” and Rahul “Kandi”.   Since the date of this year’s festival fell on Karya Chauth, Masala Radio invited several couples from the audience to a dance contest on the “Chand Chupa” scene from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.  All participants received a beautiful Karva Chauth pooja set courtesy of Keemat Grocers.  The winning couples were actually fasting all day, and still managed to break out their best Bollywood performance!   Audiences welcome sponsors on stage as they were throwing out LED light balls, which were exchanged for Gift Baskets filled with Brittania cookies, Deep Sacks, Taj Mahal Chai, and Diwali trinkets. 

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 3 hours of nonstop stage entertainment included emcee Henna Shah singing a few main-stream hits by Drake and Ariana Grande with Dholis Toki & Tamim getting the party people dancing all around the town center.  

Vijay Pallod of HGH said “I want to thank Masala Radio for organizing such a beautiful festival and for doing the auspicious Maha Arti on stage with the entire crowd.  This year’s event was way beyond my expectations.”  Hindus of Greater Houston led a soul-stirring Maha Arti of 5000 LED lights, along with an equal number of cell phone lights which included local political candidates Sri Preston Kulkarni, KP George and Benjamin Hernandez.

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Record giveaways included thousands of free Ramji Happy Diwali Tshirts, free face painting and balloon animals by Northwestern Mutual, free Henna by Nisha’s Beauty Salon and Meenakshi Temple, free Britannia cookies, free Taj Mahal chai, “Dress up like a God on a Sholay SideCar Scooter” photo booth at Karya Properties.

There were long lines at all food booths.  For several years now, Chef Nirman has presented freshly prepared Mumbai Street Foods – like his famous Frankies and Paneer Kati Rolls from Nirmanz Food Boutique.  Gayatri Bhavan captivated the crowds with their range of fresh made dosas including the widely popular Mysore Masala and Chocolate Dosas.  Mirch Masala presented mouth-watering Kasta Kachoris and a full range of Mumbai chaat street foods along with Natura Café’s touch of Marathi snack foods.

During the Ramji Law Group Rangoli Competition, judges were challenged to pick just one winner from all the entries featuring Ramayan scenes, from Hanuman, son of the Wind God, to peacocks, to colored rice and mixed dals kaleidoscopes; ultimately judges split the $501 Ramji Law Group prize money between 1st Place Winner Disha Vora ($401), and 2nd place Mrudangi Shah ($101).

Indeed, it took a village of Masala Event Managers, Sponsors, Volunteers and Vendors to put together one of the Indo American community’s signature events. Masala Radio would like to thank its dream management team:  Rinku, Bhavisha, Ruchir, Ninad, Carlos, Sonali, Mayur, Vinay, Lauhael, Neha, Kajal, Sahil, Simran, Priyanshi, Dilip, Rajoo, Ina, Amit, Anees, Krupa and over 100 volunteers. 

Organizers request feedback at and look forward to new concepts for Diwali 2019.  Halo Re Halo!

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