Showcasing the Diversity of Indian Culture Onstage for R-Day


Photos: Raghu Thakkar


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Edited By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD: Just as it had done last year to start the program later in the afternoon, the India Culture Center tweaked the setting a little further this year by starting the first of their two signature events, India’s Republic Day, a little earlier and shifting to Sunday. The weather co-operated with warm, fair weather but the crowd was considerably smaller than it was last year when the event was held on a Saturday. Perhaps the weekend televised football games and the next-day, work-day syndrome may have kept the crowds away.

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Still, according to organizers, about 2,200 people walked through the doors during the seven-hour long event that started at 1pm on Sunday, January 24; held as usual at the Stafford Civic Centre on Cash Road. It was a packed event geared towards the younger kids and cultural pageantry that mimicked, in spirit, the cultural extravaganza that the Republic Day parade that is held in New Delhi each year.

Once again, a 15-foot long LED screen was the backdrop of the stage. It brought down the distraction of people moving around and helped to focus on the stage show performances, which were non-stop. The 32-page souvenir booklet (coordinated by Swapan Dhairyawan and Sanjay Sohoni) featured the sponsors and supporters and information on Republic Day. And over 32 booths, including food, were set up around the back end of the hall and the lobby.  A general knowledge quiz contest with over 500 trivia questions on India was carried on at the ICC booth by ICC Director Sanjay Sohoni.

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The lighting of the lamp was done by Nandita Harish, wife of Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish, who spoke of maintaining connections to Indian culture and tradition. Sheila Jackson Lee in her trademark rousing speech applauded ICC Houston for its efforts through the decades and recognized all the seniors present to come up to the stage. Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards spoke briefly about the value of diversity in the region. Stafford City councilman Ken Mathew and Sugar Land City councilmen Harish Jajoo and Himesh Gandhi, both of whom are running for election this year, were also present.

The program started with an Essay Competition (coordinated by Sangeeta Pasrija and Parul Fernandes) on “What I like most growing up as an Indian American in Greater Houston?” for the 10-15 years age group. All 20 participants were given certificates and the 5 winners received gift cards. The Mom & Me Talent contest (coordinated by Nisha Mirani and Sangita Dua) highlighted  performances in song, dance and instrument. This segment was sponsored by Dish Network and the cash prize winners were Pavana and Neha Gadde; Ambica and Navya-Navika Aggarwal and Radhika and Arunima Para.

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The 15 dances and performances that formed the bulk of the stage show were from 235 participants in total, ranging from 5 to 85 years-old of local dance schools and several partnering community organizations – JVB Preksha Center, Indian Senior Citizens Association, TYAGI Group, Ismaili Golden Jubilee Matki Band group, Freedom Dance Group, Shri Nataraj School of Dance, Sunanda Performing Arts Center, Kathak Nritya Kala Kendra, Payal School of Dance, Taal (Katy Kalaakar) Group, Shivangini Academy of Performing Arts, Anjali Center, Kala Bhawan (Durga Bari) – performing regional musical, patriotic musical and Bollywood duets coordinated by ICC Director Keka Kar while the cultural dance segment was coordinated by ICC Trustee Swapan Dhairyawan.

The theme of this year’s event was “Vibrant India” and covered most dance forms of India- Kathak, Bharat Natyam, Odissi, Manipuri and the folk dances of Gujarat (Garba), Rajasthani folk and Durga Aarti( Bengal). The highlight of the afternoon was first time solo presentation of Manipuri dance by Soma Dasgupta, which left the audience in awe.

ICC outgoing President Charlie Patel and Event Chair Ajit Patel welcomed the audience and explained the organizations role and mission. The newly installed Board of the India Culture Center was presented to the public, with the new incoming President, Rajiv Bhavsar who spoke of the ICC’s role and engagement in the community. As pictures of India and it’s past heroes and cultural heritage flashed over the screen, community leaders and the ICC Board came out to address the audience which sat on rows of seats in front. The National anthem singers were Serene and Paarth Maniar and the event emcees were Pooja Patel and Aditi Derashri.

Deep Foods gave out free coconut drinks and snacks to the backstage performers and coordinators. The sound and PA system was coordinated by Darshak and Mona Thakkar of Krishna Sounds and photography by Raghu Thakkar of Image & Motion.

Swapan Dhairyawan contributed to this article