By Ravi R Ponangi
Atlanta, GA: 70th Independence Day celebrations were started a week prior in Atlanta. Independence Day celebrations were held in two parts. Indian American Cultural Association (IACA) and Indian Friends of Atlanta (IFA) organized mega events marking the 70th Independence Day in two different locations on Saturday, August 6. The second part of 70th Independence Day celebration was held on Monday, August 15 in Consulate General of India in Atlanta. I Day celebration at consulate included unfurling of tricolor, singing of national Anthem and reading out the president of India’s message by the Consul General of India in Atlanta, Nagesh Singh in the presence of well attended gathering of community leaders with their families. A documentary “India @ 70” was shown. As India celebrates its 70th year of Independence, Atlanta community soaked in patriotic fervor with Festival of India put up by IACA and Freedom Mela put up by IFA.
World leaders greeted India on the occasion of its 70th year of independence. United States of America reaffirmed its pledge on Monday, August 15 to working towards ensuring freedom and justice for all within two democracies. A variety of Indian Independence Day festivals in different cities across America is really making impact in diverse communities of America.
Festival of India by IACA: Several thousands of people thronged the Infinite Energy Center (Gwinnett Civic Center), Duluth for the 20th Festival of India on August 6. The annual event was organized by the Indian American Cultural Association (IACA). People could be seen shopping or browsing through the various booths. Big rush is seen for the food court to taste mouthwatering Indian dishes. The daylong event also included health fair, several seminars, 50 plus spectacular cultural events, chess competition, Art competition, Debate competition, Rangoli competitions, yoga and 100 plus vendor booths and tables.
2016 Festival of India turned into a huge event and unparalleled to all previous years attracting thousands of visitors because of the presence of Priety Zinta, Bollywood Actress looking pretty as she nailed her desi avatar in a bright yellow Anarkali teamed with red dupatta, jhumkis and a bindi. Looking beautiful as ever. Large number of visitors at FOI participated 300 feet flag walk around Gwinnett Civic Center with enthusiasm. Rangoli by world renowned Wikipedia fame Vijay Mohan from Singapore made a biggest Rangoli. Pet Zoo attracted kids in big number. Community seen the IACA president Rina Gupta along with past president Kaushal Tripathi working tirelessly for the all-round success of FOI.
Congressman Rob Woodall (7th district of Georgia), Senator David Shaffer (Georgia state), Bert Guy, Judge Camden County, Tim Echols, Commissioner of Georgia Public Service Commission and Nagesh Singh, Consul General of India in Atlanta, Nagesh Singh were guests of honor at FOI.
Senator David Shaffer (Georgia state) spoke how two cultures, India and America shook the bonds of British colonialism. Both America and India achieved their independence from British empire. He said America achieved independence waging a war against British where India accomplished independence through peaceful protest, nonviolence. Few years ago Indians showed the world how political change could be accomplished. Observing the violent turmoil world over, he said we have not fully absorbed the lessons that India taught the world seven decades ago. Extensively quoting Rudyard Kipling poem “OH, East is East, and West is West, and never that twain shall meet, Shaffer said when you read opening and closing stanzas of that poem different meaning emerges. Here in Georgia east and west, we stand here face to face. He said you embraced your heritage as much as you embraced the culture of America. Indian community is a vibrant one. You have contributed in a diverse variety of professions as a community and you made Georgia proud.
Congressman Rob Woodall (7th district of Georgia) commended Indian community for their contributions to the development of America. He told the gathering how Indians rocked where we are today. He said political change is hard. Social change is harder. Praising Indians, he said this room is full of folks who do not complain about the problems and who commit themselves to solutions. Talking about Satyagraha, he said that Satyagraha means insistence to truth, Congressman exhorted audience to lead American community not only Indian American community to get a change. Woodall said there is a need to recommit again to Satyagraha today. I do not know what the future holds for me, but I know the future of community. Austerity, celebration of culture, celebration of kindness is a kind of community I want my children and your children grow up in this country.
CGI in Atlanta Nagesh Singh commended IACA for the services they are rendering all these years since 1984. He said festival of India is not only an occasion of social gathering. It is a kind of messaging to a larger society in America. Festival of India show case what we stand for, how rich is our culture and heritage, how diverse and beautiful we are as people. He said FOI is looking like that I am somewhere in the corner of Delhi.
IACA and other Indian Community Organizations in Atlanta had started Festival of India in 1997 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of India’s Independence. Since then every year Festival of India is being held in August to celebrate India’s independence. Festival of India draws more and more visitors’ year after year and brings a colorful panorama and festivity of India to the Atlantans.
Freedom Mela by Indian Friends of Atlanta: The Indian Friends of Atlanta (IFA) organized a spectacular Freedom Mela 2016, at Gwinnett Braves Stadium on August 6 to celebrate the 70th Independence Day with gaiety and patriotic fervor. Thousands of Indian community members and Americans gathered at the venue to enjoy the celebrations. The venue was decorated in such a way to showcase the burgeoning India-US partnership, by lining the sidewalks leading to the entrance of the venue, with both India and the U.S. flags. The stadium amphitheater was adorned with large portraits of brave Indian freedom fighters, leaders and historic landmark events of the freedom struggle. More than 70 vendors offered ethnic clothes wear; jewelry; mehndi designs, education and business services and delectable Indian cuisines. 40 non-stop dazzling cultural performances were featured by over 700 participants for five hours with participants from diverse associations and professional dance academies and entertainment groups. Special treats were provided by AATMA Preforming Arts from New York, Mickey Singh, and an illusion show by Mystique. Cherry on the cake was the magical fireworks with evergreen Indian patriotic songs including Vande Mataram.
Guests of honor Charlotte Nash, chairwoman of Gwinnett County board of commissioners and Consul General of India in Atlanta Nagesh Singh hoisted the U.S. and India flags respectively and conveyed their greetings. This was followed by colorful and passionate parade by various States of India to the accompaniment of live music from musicians. More than 600 people who hail from the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Odisha and various non-profit groups participated in the parade. It exemplified the rich and diverse culture, the uniqueness, the spirit and the unity of Indian States. This year added extra flavor to the celebrations by giving floats to various associations to decorate for the parade. The decorated floats showcased the unique cultural heritage of different States. Kids enjoyed Camel rides, pony rides, exciting bungee jumps, cotton candy, snow cones, popcorn, stilt walking, face painting and more. This year there was a special attraction: helicopter rides!
IFA was formed in early 2014, IFA’s Mission and goal is to demonstrate true strength of Indian Community living in US by closely working with several Indian-origin Community Organizations.
Entire world should celebrate India’s Independence: Consul General of India in Atlanta, Nagesh Singh told India Tribune, let us celebrate India’s unity in diversity and the progress that we managed to achieve in this seventy years since independence. There is still a lot of work to be done. We all know that all challenges that we have back home in India. All of us together with the support of community whether in United States or in India, I am confident that we can overcome all our hurdles. I think Indian democracy, Indian nation which is multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society, democratic society, it is something that entire world should celebrate. Because we showed an example to the rest of the world how we are lived together in diversity peacefully.
Talking about the multiple I day celebrations being held in Atlanta, Nagesh Singh said everyone is free. I as Government of India representative here I have no authority over any individual except representing my country and passing my message. If fifty people wanted to celebrate it in 50 ways in their houses or outside, the country is theirs, the affection is theirs. I have no control over these aspects, I think the more the merrier. Let people celebrate, whatever get them happier, I joined them in their happiness.