August is a benign month for us Indians here. Apart from the usual surfeit of cultural activities that engage the attention of the desi community, celebrations emanating from our core identity as Indians occupy our mindscape more consciously now, than at other times.
This year, Independence Day celebrations coinciding as they did with Krishna Janmashtimi festivities, assumed a quasi-religious significance for many immigrants. Many Hindu temples in and around the metro area, for example, hosted traditional festivities including kirtans spilling into the wee hours of the next morning.
Additionally, to 'accommodate' the busy schedule of otherwise devout locals, some religious organisations adumbrated festivities beginning the weekend preceding Janmashtimi. These celebrations culminated on the August 19- 21 weekend, in a grand finale of sorts.
Of these the Sankat Mochan Temple's presentation of the Srimad Bhagwat Saptah Yagna that commenced on August 13 at 5.30 pm was meritorious. Elucidating the eternal philosophy of the Srimadbhagwat, the organisers behind this programme spearheaded this effort to increase awareness and enlightenment within the Indian community. The program included arranging of a Bhagwat Saptah by a group of 4 Vaishnavs from Barsana Dham, India. The spiritual luminaries are known to recite the epic in its original form.
Similarly, on another curve of the religious sphere, the Sadhu Vaswani Center, Atlanta began the SEVA Programme, distributing "back-to school supplies" for needy children. Patrons were requested to donate the supplies to staff who then distributed the items judiciously among children. This endeavor, in conjunction with JP Vaswani's 86th Birthday was the pioneering thrust of the "Gift for Education" fundraiser. The effort towards educating needy students at St. Mira's Schools in Pune & Rajkot has been lauded by the Indian community unequivocally. Worthily, the organisation sponsored 117 kids' education last year alone.
Artists and pioneering Indian cultural chapters saw significant representation in this year's I-day festival too. The Festival of India, now in its 10th year is perhaps the most cohesive gala organised each year in August as a tribute to the Indian spirit.
Organised by the IACA in co-operation with other leading Indian community organisations, the Festival of India has seen burgeoning popularity and growth over the last decade. Not only has it been an integral part of the Diaspora, it has seen diverse participation by nearly 8000 people each year.
For this, the 10th annual festival, organisers have invited participation at all levels since the beginning of the month. Consequently, downloadable forms for sponsorship, stalls and booths etc have been made available on the organisation's website. Beginning with customary salutations to the nation, this year the Festival opened on Saturday, August 19th at the Gwinnett Center from 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, Mayor Franklin and Indian Ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen were all likely to attend the celebrations.
Packed with activities catering to all age groups, admission to the fete is priced at $5 for adults, $3 for children in the age group 6-12 years while entry for children under 6 is free. Activities beginning at 9.00 am include a health fair, several exhibitions and cultural programs. Competitions for children ranging from drawing competitions to quiz contests are only some of the activities planned for the day.
In addition, somewhat disjointed and quirky gigs such as a masala bhangada dance work out, antakshari programmes, a seminar by renowned mathematician Shakuntala Devi as also the routine fashion show followed by other youth programmes were all slated for the day. Conventionally, Ramayan presentation by Balavihar students, storytelling, beads and kite making etc. made it to the program menu.
Similarly, on a more somber note, discussions on racial justice, interfaith panel discussion, career counseling etc were an integral part of the Festival. FOI will conclude on Saturday, August 26, with the Georgia Tech Freedom Walk/Run Organised by American Cancer Society-India initiative program.
With so much to celebrate on Independence Day, Indians abroad have found just as many ways to pay a glowing tribute to their motherland and renew their loyalty and allegiance successively, each year irrespective of their geographic location and hurriedly misconstrued fractured identity.