Maharashtrian Meet in Atlanta Exceeds Expectations
Cultural activities, networking opportunities, medical seminars, youth activities and an overall festive atmosphere were some of the elements that made the 2005 Brihan Maharashtra Mandal (BMM) convention a phenomenal success. Held at the Georgia International Convention Center during the July 4th weekend, this event brought the greater Maharashtrian community to Atlanta for a convivial get-together. The coordination for the exhibition was very impressive. Activities were organized for every group and all the ballrooms were filled with vibrant groups. Both national anthems and "Swagat geet" were performed at the opening ceremony to welcome the community. Written and composed by Shalaja Medhekar, the latter piece was titled "Atlanta Nazare Dhayojile Marathi Adhivaishana Anandhane Swagathe Karatho Swara Sumane." The audience was showered with flowers and blessings as a musical ensemble performed this song of welcome.
The first day of the convention consisted of a business conference with the director of Scientific Research of India, Ragunath Mashelka, who was the chief guest along with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilas Rao Deshmukh. The speakers were chosen from a wide range of industries to "empower entrepreneurs in a global economy." Successful Indian and American business leaders educated the audience on how to survive through the tough times. Morris Greaver talked about outsourcing deals, while Emory professor Jagdish Seth enlightened the audience on the economy. This was followed by a "continuing medical education" conference for physicians. Social worker Anil Awachat, who's also a writer and physician, was interviewed on how to inspire the community to engage in social activities to make a difference. It was an eye-opener for many.
The Atlanta Maharashtra Mandal successfully shouldered the responsibility of organizing the event, which attracted 3000 people from all over the U.S., Canada and India. Ajay Houde and Rajan Vedak were the convener and co-convener, respectively, for this event. At a formal banquet, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin noted in her speech the contributions made by Asian Indians both in the medical and IT sectors. Chief Minister Deshmukh encouraged NRIs to teach their children Marathi and promised to send books and cassettes towards that goal.
Atlantans presented an entertaining drama written and directed by Vidyadhar Chitale. Sangeeta Mayur in the main role of Madhuri Dixit was an instant hit with the audience. This drama, which renewed the teachings of Saint Dyaneshwar and made them more relevant to modern times, left a lasting impression on the audience.
Other events ranged from stand up comedy by S. Joshi's group and an "American Idol" style program titled "Triveni Spardha" to a career forum on traditional and nontraditional majors. A youth fashion show by Maya Creations depicted a wide range of Indian ranging from saris and bridal dresses to modern outfits. Also included were seminars on Yoga, nutrition, cancer screening, etc. International cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar was the chief guest for the evening. His down-to-earth attitude and likeable personality made him a favorite with the attendees. Bollywood actress Urmila Matondkar could not attend due to other commitments, but the audience was not wholly disappointed because they got to see her TV interview.���
There was also a "Snehbandhan" session, where prominent Marathi writers presented their works, a romantic comedy titled "Hum To Tere Ashik Hain," several dance and music programs, and a classical dance synopsis. A special bone marrow drive was also set up at the convention. Various artists from Atlanta choreographed a unique array of folk dances titled "Saaj Sanskruticha." The ongoing battle that every parent faces in finding a prospective bride or groom was playfully portrayed in "Kuryat Sada Tingalam." The "Western Ghats" dance program, depicting the soul of Marathi culture, was a spectacular item performed by a group of next-generation dancers from New Jersey. This item touched the hearts of NRI parents who could relate to the issues of bringing up their children. The New York skyline as a backdrop added a unique and interesting touch. There was also "Maharashtrian Family Feud," a skit based on the popular game show.
There was plenty in store for music lovers. Rajendra Kandalgaonkar illustrated the many moods of Hindustani music. "Swar Ale Juluni," a musical program by popular singer Suresh Wadkar, enthralled the audience by taking them through a journey of five decades consisting of Marathi natya-sangeet, bhavgeete and film music. Mahesh Kale, a budding and talented singer, presented a unique mix of evergreen melodies. Hindustani classical singer Usha Balakrishnan presented some soulful melodies, including khayal and semi-classical pieces.
One of the popular special interest programs, "Geet Shakuntal," a shadow play coordinated by Shalaja Medhekar, featured a unique blend of traditional music, dance and drama. The jugaldbandhi effect by the musicians and the natural performance by the actors impressed the audience who wanted a repeat of the theatrical venture. The music for Chandrakant Pradhan's "Geet Shakuntal" was composed by Madhukar Sule.
Another program called "Saaj Sanskriticha," presented by 61 artistes from Atlanta, took the spellbound audience on a journey from shlokas to more recent hip-hop dances. Ranging from 5 to 55 years and dressed in colorful costumes, the dancers ended it with a rousing Bollywood-style number. Several activities were organized for kids and young adults, including an interactive Ganesh pooja, an entrepreneurial workshop, a cooking demonstration with spicy Indian cuisines, a "Jatra" carnival with traditional games and activities, and even a dance-disco-garba mix!
The food arrangements for all three days were superb. Not only was the food tasty and different each day but, more importantly, there were no long lines or wait times involved. The hard work of all the volunteers ? ranging from the decorations to the busy Help Desk ? was noticeable throughout the convention. Many attendees remarked that it was the best convention they had seen in a long time.
- Archith Seshadri
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