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Indian-Americans celebrate I-day while Sunita greets from space

world Updated: Aug 15, 2012 21:50 IST
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Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams sent greetings from space as the community celebrated India's 66th Independence Day with colourful parades, featuring Bollywood stars and cultural functions, but with a prayer in their hearts for the Wisconsin gurdwara attack victims.

Some 250 members of the community joined Wednesday's official celebration in Washington where Indian ambassador Nirupama Rao unfurled the national flag at her residence and read out President Pranab Mukherjee's message to the nation.

A cultural programme followed with a couple of patriotic sings in Hindi and Assamese. Similar events were held at Indian Consulates in New York, San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta and the Permanent Mission of India to the UN.

"I wish India a very happy Independence Day for August 15... India is a wonderful country and I am very proud to be a part of India," said Williams in her message from her home amid stars as she displayed the Indian tricolour on board the International Space Station (ISS).

"Of course, you know that I am half Indian. My father is from Gujarat. So, I am familiar with culture and customs of India. I am so proud to be a part of this (Independence Day) celebration," added Williams, 46, who arrived at the ISS July 15 for her second sojourn in space.

The Independence Day festivities in US kicked off Saturday with Bollywood actor Vinod Khanna leading the inaugural India Day Parade on Long Island in Hicksville, an upscale suburb of New York emerging as the newest 'Little India' in the US.

India's Consul General in New York, Prabhu Dayal, also joined the parade along with local officials.

Bollywood actress Prachi Desai Sunday led another India Day parade as grand marshal with music director Aadesh Shrivastava in Iselin, New Jersey, which has one of the largest concentrations of Indian-Americans in the US.

In Henderson, Nevada, Friends of India hosted their second annual parade Saturday featuring Miss Nevada 2012 Amanda Meagher and the national bird of India, a peacock.

In Boston, thousands gathered at the Hatch Memorial Shell Sunday for day-long festivities featuring a mix of classical, fusion, and Bollywood music and dance performances and a sampling of cuisine unique to various parts of India.

Organised by the India Association of Greater Boston, the event also featured sombre reflection and prayer for the victims of the Aug 5 shooting at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

The India Association of Los Angeles San Fernando Valley will have musician Bappi Lahiri and other Saregama singers at their celebration Aug 18 in Van Nuys, California.

The biggest parade in the US, hosted by the Federation of Indian Associations for the 32nd time this year, will take place in Manhattan Aug 19 and features Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan, cricketer Anil Kumble, 40 floats, and dance and song performances.