Celebration galore for the Diaspora
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Celebration galore for the Diaspora

Fairs marking festivities are aplenty for desis in the Bay Area, writes Shalini Narang in California Diary.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2005 21:28 IST

Though the longing for loved ones back home is especially steep during the festive season and brings a special mutual tinge of yearnings in voices of folks back home and their far flung children, siblings and others in their adopted lands, the big and small steps by the Indian Diaspora to create a spirit of camaraderie and celebration for the myriad Indian festivities are widespread. There are attempts to bridge the distances and to revive and relive the festive memories and moorings of yore.

Fests, fetes and fairs marking the varied Indian festivities are aplenty for the 2,00,000 plus desis in the Bay Area and beginning late September/ early October, no weekend passes without a festivity or two in some city or the other.

Cultural celebrations scale from maters loaded with treats, earthen lamps, Diwali write ups and other festive paraphernalia visiting and spreading word about Indian festivities in their children's schools to various non-governmental and regional bodies with affiliations to India organising large scale programmes and events to mark the varied ongoing and upcoming festivals.

Over the years with the ascend in the number of Indian employees, the solemnisation of Indian festivities has also permeated to the corporate echelons of large software, semi conductor and other Fortune 500 companies like Oracle, Intel, Cisco and others in the Silicon Valley.

Programmes highlighting the ethnic colour, cuisine and culture of India are planned months in advance via company specific diversity groups and email chains. The intent and the idea are primarily to create and enjoy the milieu of familiar festivities and secondarily to expose and educate the mainstream and the next generation about India's pious and pompous festive heritage.

Though Diwali is yet to make a niche in the mainstream calendars in US, as the Jewish Hanukah or the Chinese New Year has, yet going by the trend, the day seems not far.

In one such sold out programme of Navratri exultation, Santa Clara Convention Centre was a tryst for around 1,300 men, women and children who came dressed in their traditional best to synchronously play dandiya, shake a leg and make merry at the second Annual Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) Dandiya on October 8. Bay Area singer Dimple Patel and her troupe provided the music and songs for the entertainment medley.

After the traditional aarti ceremony, one and all swayed and swirled to the beats as the festive spirit engulfed everyone. Formal instruction sessions for the uninitiated to learn the deft arm strokes and swift feet motions for group synchronicity were also given as the floor opened for the traditional group gyrations. In the vogue of the day, the evening extravaganza encompassed garba and bhangra beats besides the dandiya numbers.

While the youth swirled the colourful dandiya sticks and twirled their lissome bodies at a pace faster than the eye could blink, the children and their parents joined the assemblages with slower motions. Joy and jubilation were common to all. At the end of the evening regality, prizes for stellar dancers and best dressed were given away.

Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) is US based charity organisation reaching out for literacy spread and prevention of curable blindness to the Indian rural populace.

Founded in 1998, the goal of the organisation with about 250 volunteers in US is to provide Vision 20/20 by the year 2020 to all Indians. In the last 25 years of its operation, SEF has reached out to over 15 million people and held weekly eye camps. Last year alone, the foundation held over 56,000 eye surgeries.

The proceeds of the event are to be directed to the construction of 200-Bed Sankara Eye Hospital and Eye Bank in Anand. The construction of the hospital is expected to begin in January next year after the foundation has raised a total of $1.8 million.

Gujarat with over 5,00,000 visually handicapped people of which 3,37,000 reside in rural regions and more than half are women and the same number are illiterate was selected by the SEF team as the appropriate next location for a hospital to be incepted on lines of similar facilities in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

First Published: Oct 13, 2005 19:08 IST