Republic Day Festivities Renew their Luster as ICC Revamps

ICC Board members at the Republic Day Celebration. Photos: Murali Santhana Photography

ICC Board members at the Republic Day Celebration. Photos: Murali Santhana Photography


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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: As the noon hour rolled by, even the organizers were anxious to see what the turnout would be after the dismal showing at last year’s Republic Day celebrations at the Bayou City Event Center near the Astrodome. As the parade rolled out around 12:30 and did the traditional round of the parking lot behind a pickup truck blaring patriotic desi songs from yesteryear, the main hall virtually emptied out, save the vendors at their booths,

Photo: Vijay Pallod

Photo: Vijay Pallod

They were still a little jittery after they returned to the starting point, following the dholukwala, pumping their fists into the air led by a mostly middle aged crowd of first genners shouting “Bharat mata ki jai”. But as they filed back in and the day continued, it seemed like the crowd started trickling in, rolling through the event until it ended around 6 pm, much to the relief of all the organizers who had spent many hours pulling this year’s event together.

Though light – some estimate about 1,200 people attended the event – by comparison to the mega events of Makar Sankranti, Holi, Diwali and Dussehra that others have organized, the second of the India Culture Center’s yearly flagship programs revved up to the popularity of past years in one of the community’s first major event of the new year. The fact that it came back to the more conveniently located Stafford Civic Center drew in more of the crowds from the densely desi enclaves of the Southwest suburbs.

The food and boutique vendors did a steady stream of business and the services groups, which made up the majority of the booths, spread their messages to an inquisitive crowd of people.

The program was decidedly a little less heavy of speech making and the politicos than in years past and most of the entertainment was by amateurs from the community, including several dances by young kids, old patriotic songs by the adults and then lively music and dance, ending with songs by local professionals Sharda Akunuri and Davinder Kaur, (an artist who has performed in India and is also Jasmeeta Singh’s mother). The cultural program was choreographed by two ICC Directors: Falguni Gandhi as chair, supported by Jasmeeta Singh now much recovered from her ailing back that sidelined her last year.

The event, organized by Prasad Kalva, marked the formal handing over of the baton from outgoing ICC President P. V. Patel and his Board to incoming 2014 President Charlie Patel and his newly elected Board. There is much hope built around Charlie Patel, who has been instrumental, as a volunteer, in bringing together all the booth vendors for the past few years, to re-energize the oldest desi organization in the Southwest with a younger style and newer ideas and concepts. “I fully intend to build on that spirit”, said Charlie, as he surveyed the event.

One new item that was unveiled in the event souvenir was the imminent building of a 10 foot long by 3 foot high monument sign at the corner of US 59 and Hillcroft proclaiming the area as the “Mahatma Gandhi District”, a distinction that is already declared below the street signs in the area. “It was a major achievement to get this approved by the Greater Sharpstown Management District”, said Board Director Mahesh Wadhwa, an architect who spearheaded the campaign to bring attention to the businesses in the area also fondly known as Little India.