R-Day Festivities Focus on Women, Fun, Games and an International Flair


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By Jawahar Malhotra & Swapan Dhairyawan

STAFFORD: “Here they go again, changing up the rules of the festival one more time!” is the first thought that came to one’s head as the India Culture Center kicked off their celebration of India’s 68th Republic Day. This time, the emphasis was more on fun and involving the audience rather than just giving them a spectacle to look at. And based on the audience reaction, it certainly seemed to have paid off.

The event was held this past Saturday, January 21 at the usual Stafford Civic Centre on Cash Road, site of 12 years of R-Day and I-Day festivals. From 1:45pm till 7:30pm and an estimated 2,400 people showed up, despite a $3 per person entry fee, the first after 6 years of it being free to the public. The ticket stubs were put into a giant roller and every hour a raffle drawing was held for one of 6 Gold Coin prizes, courtesy of Chemmanur Jewelers in Little India. It was coordinated by ICC Directors Nimish Sheth and Dilip Dadhich and the Indian Seniors Citizens Association.

A segment which honored Women Who Made India Proud, portrayed onstage by volunteers and Board members of the ICC

A segment which honored Women Who Made India Proud, portrayed onstage by volunteers and Board members of the ICC

The event kicked off with a few songs by the Ismaili Golden Club Matki Band, a group of 39 performers aged 55 to 81. It was their 5th year in a row to be at the R-Day program. This was followed up by a segment entitled “Women who Make India Proud” retelling the personal life stories of Sarojini Naidu, Kiran Bedi, Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar, Sania Mirza, Kalpana Chawla, Asha Bhosale and Sushma Swaraj and narrated in first-person by women dressed to correspond to the character. The segment was coordinated by Sangeeta Pasrija and ICC Secretary Sapna Shah.

This segued into “Live Antakshari”, coordinated by Ajit Patel and Manisha Gandhi, with two teams Deewane and Parwane competing on stage while the audience acted as Mastane. They participated in four rounds with a fully engaged audience. The competition was won by the Parwane team of J. K. Paras, Manmeet Patil and Monika Prakash.



The ceremonial lighting of the lamps followed, by Kirti Sohoni and Falguni Gandhi with the National Anthem of India sung by Eesha Dhairyawan and the US one by Paarth Maniar. Nira Patel and Harshil Sheth were emcees for the remainder of the program. 

Event Chair Sanjay Sohoni welcomed the audience and described the importance of Republic Day and the of the event theme “Our India.” Outgoing ICC President Rajiv Bhavsar appreciated the year round support from his Board and community interaction at large, while incoming ICC President Falguni Gandhi stressed the need to continue the work and build on new initiatives. Deputy Indian Consul General Surendra Adhana spoke about the “Make in India” initiative and the long association of the democracies of the US and India. Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella, the longest serving Mayor in the country, spoke about the culture and vibrancy in India and the determination of the Indian community to succeed.


Community Service Awards were given to Scarcella; painter Anju Mittal; classical dancer Dr. Sunanda Nair; community organizer Harshad Patel; and Indo American News Publisher Jawahar Malhotra as their brief bios were read and Committee chair Col Raj Bhalla congratulated the individuals.

The fun began with the “Live Quiz” co-sponsored by Foundation for India Studies and International Hindi Association and coordinated by Event Chair Sanjay Sohoni in which two prequalified teams on stage competed against the audience. Trivia questions warmed everyone up, with token gifts given to audience participants. Five rounds of quiz covered many areas of Indian culture, geography and history. First place went to Nadir and Nazneen Hajiyani who received a cash prize, while runners-up were father and daughter team Shrikant and Anjali Vempati also received an award.


The cultural segment of dance and musical groups was coordinated by Swapan Dhairyawan and Nisha Mirani and had over 260 participants. It began with the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh presentation of the steps for Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). The segment the turned to folk, regional, patriotic and Bollywood dance and music by the dance groups and schools HH Creationz, Kalakriti Performing Arts, SPARSH, Sunanda Performing Arts, Kathak Kala Kendra, Aradhan Dancing School, Dance with Dolly, Tarang, Shivangini School of Dance, Katy Balikas and Rice Riyaaz.


In a break from tradition, for the first time, the event highlighted the culture and music of another country, which this year was Turkey as performed by 40 high schoolers of the Harmony School with two thrilling numbers – an authentic Turkish dance and a number set to Country Music featuring Cowboy and Cowgirls. The Raindrop and Turquoise House also had a booth of Turkish artifacts and an Ebru artist making typical art designs.

As usual, the event also featured 38 booths coordinated by Charlie Patel and Pramod Bengani and a 36-page Tarang commemorative magazine coordinated by Swapan Dhairyawan and Hemant Patel. Suketu Kapadia, who has assisted in publication of Tarang for the last 4 years was honored. The sound system was provided by Darshak Thakkar, event photography and videography by Raghu Thakkar, Paresh Shah and Gautam Jani and the large digital backscreen was run by Luna and Yagnesh Patel.