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Diwali Fest 2018, a grand, joint community event

By Geeta Mehrotra
January 2019
Diwali Fest 2018, a grand, joint community event

The Consulate General of India–Atlanta, along with Indian-American associations, organized a spectacular Diwali Fest on a sunny Saturday, November 17, 2018 from 3pm-8pm at Sumant Center in Lake City, GA. This was envisioned as the beginning of working towards unity among various Indian organizations to strengthen the community. Over 2,200 people attended in an ambiance of Diwali.

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What would be more appropriate than to light the auspicious ceremonial diya for a Diwali event? CG Kulkarni with other dignitaries and hosts. (Photo: Krish Photography)

Dignitaries and consuls from different countries participated: Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni and Vijay Kulkarni, Mr. Prasad Vanpal, Mr. Shailesh Lakhtakia, and Mr. Bikash Kumar from the Indian Consulate; British Consul General Andrew Staunton and his wife Becky; Belgian Consul, Michael Cerulus; Irish Consul General, Shane Stephens; State Senators Zahra Karinshak and Sheikh Rahman; State Representatives Mike Glanton and Sam Park; Chairman of Clayton County Board of Commissioners, Jeffrey Turner; Clayton County Judge Pam Ferguson; Columbus Court Clerk Vivian Bishop; Ahmadur Rahman, Democratic Party of Georgia; Police Sergeant Nick Roberts; and Fulton County Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk were present. The traditional diya lighting was done by all dignitaries, who were presented with mementos.

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Dignitaries and hosts stand for the U.S. National Anthem, which was followed by the Indian “Jana Gana Mana.” (Photo: Krish Photography)

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“An individual is respected in society for achieving success academically and financially, but now is the time to do this collectively.” Consul General Swati V. Kulkarni’s call for a united community resonated throughout the event. (Photo: Krish Photography)

Dr. Swati Kulkarni applauded Indian communities for maintaining Indian culture. Like Christmas, she said, Diwali is one of the grandest and most joyous festivals in India. All these festivities foster universal values, reminding us to follow paths of virtue and honesty, peace and prosperity—victory of good over evil. For farmers, it is the beginning of harvest season and for traders, it starts the New Year. And festivities nurture social bonding and communal harmony. In every country she has travelled to, she said, top political leaders have applauded the contributions of Indians towards development of that country and praised their civic commitment, hard work, industry, creativity, and integrity. People of Indian origin have contributed to their adopted land and their homeland, and their contributions are significant.

In 1947, after Independence, the world watched closely to see if the new India would survive, Dr. Kulkarni continued—we defied all fears and overcame them through extraordinary resilience, shown by democratic institutions and our strong system of parliamentary government. Responsive administrative set up, supreme constitution, free press—above all, our people have embraced democratic institutions. Now the fearful query is replaced with whether India will become an economic powerhouse and if so when.

The country has bridged its diversity of languages, religions, ethnicities, different costumes and food habits by politely agreeing to disagree; the diversity is nurtured well, and we have converted it into unity of cooperation and collaboration. Democracy is not only a political system, but a way of life and philosophy of life, she emphasized.

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Religion is a powerful source of bonding, but so are culture, social development, and history. An individual is respected in society for achieving success academically and financially, but now is the time to do this collectively. If Indian students can manage successfully one Indian Student Association (ISA) or Indian Cultural Exchange (ICE) in universities, no matter where they come from, then why can’t we adults, she asked. Now is the time for collective and united efforts. We have to live together, lead together, think together, walk together, work together. Today we have sown the seed of unity, and we will nurture it with a spirit of harmony and brotherhood. She expressed her happiness that the community accepted her challenge to unite, starting by organizing Diwali Fest.

Dr. Kulkarni shared that the Consulate has achieved many things to make services more people-friendly. The website is uploaded. An advisory for Indian students is a useful resource. An advisory for the Indian community is a helpful resource when Indians face natural calamities. An improved internal consular system is more people-friendly.

The first ministerial delegation to visit Atlanta was Hon. Minister of State for External Affairs, General V. K. Singh’s. The objectives of his visit were, first, to launch the Passport Seva Project, an online end-to-end service that will be easy and convenient. Second, to inaugurate the Southeast Regional Chapter of the National Indian American Chamber of Commerce, that will provide a platform for development of Indian American commerce to benefit both countries. Then a bank and direct flights from Atlanta are works in progress. She concluded with Happy Diwali, Happy New Year, Happy Inclusion—the mantra of the evening, thanking all who produced this event.

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Some of the Awardees with the hosts and guests. (Photo: Krish Photography)

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British Consul General Andrew Staunton. State Senator Sheikh Rahman.

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State Representative Sam Park. Fulton County Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk.

Newly-elected Georgia State Senator Sheikh Rahman assured all that our community will be well represented and requested prayers to be able to do his duty well.

The weather on the mild mid-November evening cooperated for a spectacular display of fireworks. Sponsors included Diamond Sponsor, 27th Investments; Gold Sponsor Ambaji USA–Shree Shakti Mandir; AV Creations, audiovisual productions; and Narayan Seva Sansthan. Organization and business tables for jewelry, clothing, etc. were rented to raise funds.

Volunteers from various organizations came together forming different committees: Venue, Welcome, Guest, Cultural, Finance, Marketing, Food, etc., and planned this event in five weeks. Emcees Radhika Suda and Aishwarya kept the audience engaged and enjoying colorful multicultural dances presented from various states, creating a beautiful lively evening.

Dr. Kulkarni announced November 2, 2019 as the date for next year’s Diwali celebrations—a bigger event with even better participation from organizations.

Website Bonus Feature

Video:
“Consulate General Of India Organised Diwali Fest At Atlanta | NRI Edition | TV5 News “
TV5 News
Published on Nov 22, 2018
https://youtu.be/dk_QaC746uY

Link with Video:
“A Muslim from Bangladesh will join the Georgia Senate in January
Sheikh Rahman won a seat in a diverse Gwinnett district”
Author: Doug Richards
Published: 6:06 PM EST December 21, 2018
Updated: 9:25 PM EST December 21, 2018
https://www.11alive.com/article/news/a-muslim-from-bangladesh-will-join-the-georgia-senate-in-january/85-378e1311-8d6d-43c9-b5c6-155eba2562ad?fbclid=IwAR3agU7LLbHTwyRwkMprOxcFUhGrtnqMcWd5DYKAGi2oHeYEugcm0OuMWNw

[The article above contains additional material not in the print and digital issues.]


 

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