Sold Out Diwali Mela Rocks Houston


Photos: Ama Photography, Jason Joy, Meedu Photography and Image N Motion Studio.

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By Malay Vyas

HOUSTON: Sunil and Sandhya Thakkar raised the bar to new heights at the  Diwali Mela on Saturday November 9 at the Skeeters Stadium.  Diwali in Houston will never be the same again.   The entrance to the Constellation field was amazingly lit up with Diwali designs and laced with nostalgic Indian cars.  Beautiful maidens welcomed guests with the traditional “tikas.”  Gorgeour pink, orange, salmon, and yellow saris and chiffons draped stalls and sparkling lights lit up the Tara Energy Diwali Bazaar. Kids ran around playing tag through the Memorial Hermann Kid Zones, women stopped at the jewelry shack looking at bangles and outfits, and men lined up for food.  Families got together with an air of joy, celebration and anticipation in this packed stadium of about thousands.  Looked like more than 15,000 people had crammed every part of the stadium. There was no room to move anywhere. It was totally packed and everyone was having fun. Tickets were completely sold out a week before the show and $10 tickets were being sold on Craigslist for $50.


Precisely at 6 pm, Sunil T opened the rocking stage show.  UT Acapella group’s Rupal Mehta sang the US national anthem followed by the Indian national anthem by ten-year old Chloe Choudhury. The Honorable Consul General of India, P Harish and his charming wife Nandita Harish gracefully lit up traditional diyas.


With the analogy of life, the Mela entertainment was a Journey aboard the Masala Express through different destinations from Kashmir to Kunyakumari. Sunil T had the audience in laughter with his comedy routines on Punjabis, Gujuratis, Mumbaikers and South Indians. The up close comedy routines were a new flavor to the Diwali Mela this year and the audience loved it.

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Ek Do Teen Dance academy presented the first stop – Kashmir with “Bhumro”. The cool evening breeze reminded us of the temperatures in Kashmir and guests warmed themselves with the great buzz at Haribhai Chaiwala’s tea stall. The next stop was the fields of Punjab with the power-filled Rice Chowl Bhangra. It was about time for Chhole Bhature at Chowpatty Chaat or some Paneer Makhani at Bawarchi.  Chugging along, guests reached the city of Nawabs – Lucknow – with kathak pieces by Shivangini Academy of Performing Arts.

At this point Sunil T introduced the Silver Sponsors of the Diwali Mela: Brij & Sunita Agarwal, Tilak & Manju Agarwal, Govind & Renu Agarwal, Jiten & Shalu Agarwal, Sanjay & Anjali Khanna, Harish & Shashi Jajoo, Sienna Plantation, Cross Creek Ranch, Amin Realty, Fiesta Marketplace, SKAI Foundation, Texas Jasmine, Alings Hakka, and One Step Diagnostic.  Masala Express got a fuel boost when Maharaja Jewelers brought to the stage the star of the evening, the legend of Bollywood, BAPPI LAHIRI. With signature Dark Glasses & Gold Ornaments around his neck – Bappi Da lit up the Constellation Field like a thousand Diwali Diyas. A wave of nostalgia went around the stadium as he sang his superhits from the 1980’s. Bappi Da teased all ages with his recent “ Ooh La La. ”

Masala Express’s next stop was Gujarat and Bollywood Shake’s traditionally dressed Dholi Tharo Dhol blended with Nagada Sang Dhol Baje.  It was time for some authentic Gujarati street cuisine at Neeta’s Indian Cuisine.  Sunanda Nair’s Performing Arts Center performed a visually appealing Kerala folk dance of the Gods.  The Winners of the $1001 Keemat Rangoli Competition were ($501) Shraddha Bhutala,  ($301) Rachana Butada, and ($201) Shreya and Terence. The Rangoli masterpieces were displayed around the venue while the winning entry “Laxmi Pooja” adorned the entrance in front of the amazing Laxmi living statue.

The Hindus of Greater Houston presented “Maha Aarti” blessed by the Parade of Gods – courtesy of the Gujarat Samaj of Houston.  Sunil thanked Platinum Sponsors Maharaja Jewelers’ two beautiful families for their years of sponsorship of Hindu events.  Following were the illustrious Gold Sponsors : Jugal Malani, Gopal Savjani, Keemat Grocers, Memorial Hermann, House of Spice, New York Life and Mercedes Benz.  Nearly 3000 lights were distributed amongst the attendees to make this a true “maha” aarti.  Following this holy fire, Mercedes Benz of Sugarland presented the Bollywood Fire Dancers dancing to fiery instrumentals with incredible acrobatic moves.

Back on the Masala Express that crossed over into Maharashtra and arrived at Sunil T’s birthplace – Mumbai. While there were long lines at for spicy Mumbai street food like Wakana Café’s Pao Baji, Chowpatty Chaat’s bhel puri and Sagar’s Indo-Chinese, Naach Houston spiced up the stage with a cross section of dances ranging from Contemporary to Hip-hop and of course a scintillating Mumbai style “Dhating” Naach. From Mumbai, the journey continued to South India as families lined up for Madras Pavilion’s Idli and Dosa stalls and Infused Performing Arts performed the famous “Lungi Dance.”  Infused’s drop of Magic presented the finale WOW factor.

The heavens opened as the New York Life Fireworks lit up the night sky to symbolize Diwali in its true sense. Blu Lounge provided the only respite from Indian food, a culturally close cuisine of delectable Thai dishes. And the weather had warmed up just enough to enjoy Kulfis and Ice Creams by Baloch Faloodas and Natura Treats.  While the 60 foot stage rocked with 120 feet of intelligent lights, the concourse held its share of surprise entertainment.  DJs, Dholis and Dancers erupted spontaneously in the crowds.  A 9 foot tall blue Ram with a 5 foot bow stalked through a thousand photos!

And what a rocking finale concert by Bappi Lahiri! The stage was chock a block with people running in from their seats. Everyone wanted to be with Bappi Da, everyone wanted to be a part of this Diwali Dhamaka. Bappi Da rocked the stadium for the next forty-five minutes arriving to the climax of the show – Ooh La La accompanied by bhoombhat Naach Houston dancers led by Mahesh Mahbubani.  A trance developed over a dancing crowd all across the stadium.  No one left till the very end and even little kids stayed up late  – wide awake and fully energetic – in all of their happiness lay the success of the Diwali Mela. Surely, for them, Diwali will never be the same again.

Masala Radio’s Sunil and Sandhya Thakkar would like to thank Goddess Laxmi for the impeccable weather, over 500 volunteers, sponsors, and vendors, and its Event Management Group: Munira, Rinku, Ruchir, Shah, Ninad, Shreya, Krupa, Gaurav, Nimi, Charlie and Sara and the Stage Management Team: Vikas, Bhavika, Sandeep, Sunny T, Maulik, Priti, Rupal, and Devangi.  Masala Radio Jockeys also managed and participated in the stage entertainment:  Preanka, Dilip, Rajoo, Priya Naina, Pankti, and Ina. Sunil was accompanied on the Dugouts for upclose comedy and dancing by Sushil and Malav.  Councourse entertainment included DJs Zee and Ramping, Dholis Sunny and Keval, and Dancers Meenu and Sonali. Bappi Lahiri gracious hosts Abhishek and Deep.  Look forward to seeing you all at HOLI March 23, 2014.