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7000 Throng IACA's Festival of India

September 2008
7000 Throng IACA's Festival of India

Indians in Atlanta came together in large numbers on Saturday, August 16, 2008, to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the independence of India, with a fantastic Festival Of India. This year's Festival Of India (FOI) is the twelfth one organized by the India American Cultural Association (IACA). The IACA’s festival has become an annual event organized in collaboration with other local organizations.

FOI Torch

Several new innovative ideas were added to the gala this year, one of which was the FOI Torch. After journeying through many places in metro Atlanta, the torch reached the Gwinnett Center at 8.30 a.m. in a grand finale, with hundreds of Indians, filled with a patriotic spirit and enthusiasm, waiting to welcome it. Cries of "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat Maata Ki Jai" rent the air!

Some days ago, the torch was ceremonially lit on the stage of IACA’s Beauty Pageant on July 19, 2008 amidst great fanfare.

The torch was taken in three laps around the Gwinnett Center parking lot. Beginning with Saffron fabric, the torch went around the first lap, when the people became part of the huge flag formation. This was followed by the torch with the White color and then Green. The 18-foot long flag was formed in front of the Gwinnett Center entrance.

The torch was then welcomed into the auditorium. The event, attended by over 500 guests, began with invocation songs. The melodious singing was followed by flag hoisting by Surinder Bahl, IACA President. A dedicated team including Padma and Ramakanth Rallapalli, Sangeeta Mayur, Samir Doshi and Subbu Kesavarapu was in charge of the torch.

Cultural Show

The cultural program began at 9 a.m. sharp and went on until 7 p.m., watched by a packed auditorium. In addition to the usual performances based on Bollywood songs, there were new features this year, like the game show called “Jodi #1”, where participating couples competed for the title of “Jodi #1,”awarded to the best-matched couple. Performances like those based on East-West fusion and Bollywood Techno Fitness sent people dancing! The audience responded warmly to classical dance performances like Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Odissi. A patriotic skit by the Georgia Tamil Sangam and the Gondhal folk dance by the Maratha Mandal were exceptional. The Isha Foundation presented a special message from their Sadhguru. The Isha Band and many others performed patriotic songs like “Aie Mere Vatan Ke logo.” Krishan Kesavarapu, Uma Narayan and Neeta Shenvi coordinated the show, aided by a score of volunteers.

Sangeetkar’s Hindustani instrumental performance was captivating.


By 9.30 a.m., the "mela" area was buzzing with booths set up by commercial and non-profit organizations. The food booths were open by 11a.m. Live broadcasting by the local radio station, “Spice Radio” was a new attraction. The central stage, with its hourly flag hoisting and patriotic events, was a huge draw. The street play and a special presentation by the Maratha Mandal stood out for their quality. The “dhol” and high-energy bhangra played constantly added a festive air to the mela, and transported visitors to an India-like environment. The mela team included Paddy Sharma, Tania Aurora and Surinder Bahl for booths and Krishna Kesavarapu and Vasantha Kandikuppa for the cultural show.

Seminars and Kid Fest

There were two tracks of seminars presented with interesting topics and eminent speakers. The moderate turnout at these seminars enabled more interactive communication. Ash Thakker, Padma Rallapalli and other volunteers organized these seminars.

Dev Kondur coordinated the “Kid Fest,” organized as a part of the mela. The kid fest included several activities like drawing competitions, kite making, working with beads and so on. Over 500 kids from a variety of age groups enjoyed these activities.

The health fair, where doctors saw patients for a very nominal fee, attracted a record 300 plus people, almost double the number that have been attending health fairs at this event in the past years. This was a point of gratification for the attending physicians. Dr. Inderpal Singh coordinated the health fair.

Fundraisers for this event were Chand Akkineni and Paddy Sharma. The web committee included Raghav Tadavarthy and Kamal Satuluru. The treasury was managed by Mukesh Parekh.

A record number of attendees, totally exceeding 7,000 people, attended the event, which will be remembered for a long time.

Delta announces direct flight from Atlanta to Mumbai

Delta1.jpg: The traditional “diya” being lit to signify the start of Delta’s non-stop service from Atlanta to Mumbai (Photo credit: Bytegraph)

Delta2.jpg: From Left to Right: Narsi Narasimhan, GIACC President; Ken Stewart, Commissioner, GA Department of Economic Development; Steve Smith, Director, Atlanta Convention and Visitors’ Bureau; Robert Cortelyou, Senior VP, Network Planning, Delta; and Harold Bevis, Jr., Managing Director, Delta Public Affairs (Photo credit: Bytegraph)

Delta Air Lines has good news for those of us who’ve always wanted a non-stop flight to Mumbai from Atlanta. At a glittering event at the World Trade Center attended by senior Delta executives and representatives from the Indian American community in metro Atlanta, Robert Cortelyou, Senior Vice President, Network Planning, Delta, announced that effective November 1, 2008, Delta would initiate a direct flight to Mumbai from Atlanta. Counting Mumbai, Delta will have a total of 78 international destinations from Atlanta. This route was of specific interest because the southeastern Delta corporate customers were doing increasingly more business with India, Cortelyou said.

Delta wanted to add the non-stop flight to Mumbai from its hub in Atlanta to add to its stream of direct flights to the world’s dominant economies including Japan, Germany, China, Brazil, UK, France, etc. Significantly, no U.S. gateway has the international reach that Atlanta does. The Atlanta-Mumbai non-stop route will be the longest route flown by any U.S. carrier. This route would not have been possible without Delta’s acquisition of a Boeing 777 200LR earlier this year.

Commissioner Ken Stewart of the Georgia Department of Economic Development stated, “In this increasingly flattened world (the non-stop flight) places Georgia on the world map.” Narsi Narasimhan, GIACC President, thanked GIACC’s platinum sponsor Delta for the partnership it has offered in the Indian American business community. Steve Smith, Director, Atlanta Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, added, “This new route promotes multiple entry points to Atlanta from the Asian markets. Access to the emerging economy presents tremendous growth potential not only for the leisure traveler but the business traveler as well, not just for Atlanta but through it for the entire USA.”

The traditional “diya”, symbolizing a good omen, was lit by all the guests. Others attending the event were Maria Schnabel, Director, Delta International Corporate Communications, and Harold Bevis, Jr., Managing Director, Delta Public Affairs. The event was hosted by Lilia Postolachi, International Service Director of the World Trade Center, Atlanta.

~ Viren Mayani

“Work An Hour” by Asha Education online fundraiser

Asha1.jpg: Students at one of many schools where Asha has made an impact

Asha2.jpg: The Work-an-Hour concept hopes to raise funds to support 15 projects across rural India.

Each year, people from around the world come together in a demonstration of great goodwill to help educate underprivileged children in India. Work an Hour (WAH) by Asha for Education, is a summer-long, global, online fundraising campaign based on a simple concept. Participants are asked to symbolically work an hour toward the cause of children's education by donating an hour's worth or more of their salary. Asha’s eleventh annual online fundraiser, Work an Hour (WAH), began on July 15 and concludes on September 15, with the Indian Independence Day on August 15 as a critical milestone.

Asha for Education is a global non-profit organization dedicated to the education of poor and marginalized children in India. Started in 1991 by three students in Berkeley, California, the Asha family has now grown to more than 1,000 volunteers in more than 60 chapters worldwide. With minimal overhead costs, mostly borne by volunteers, Asha for Education is able to send 100 percent of the donations to the projects. Volunteers visit all projects to assess their suitability and capacity before funding can commence. Projects are also monitored regularly through a steward who reports back to volunteer project directors.

The first WAH campaign started in1998 and raised more than $30,000 from close to 700 donors. The tenth WAH campaign in 2007 raised more than $140,000 with almost 1,250 donors worldwide. This year, Asha hopes to raise a record $200,000 toward fifteen projects across rural India.

Children from rural communities suffer from hunger and ill health because of their parents' poverty. They also lack social support infrastructure such as schools, books, teachers, and grievance centers. In many ways, these children lose out to their peers in urban India.

Asha for Education recognizes the gaps in India's efforts to combat these problems in rural India and seeks to fill them by supporting grassroots, community-based NGOs that are working to strengthen the educational needs of India's children. By increasing access and opportunities to education for all children in India, and those in rural communities in particular, Asha for Education volunteers believe that a better standard of living can be achieved for the rural population. Asha’s 2008 projects are based in rural parts of the country and focus on innovative ways of strengthening the school systems through better infrastructure, teaching methods, adequate supplies, and well-trained teachers.

Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), the premier independent evaluator of charities in the United States, has awarded Asha for Education its highest rating in the categories “Top Ten Charities Worth Watching” and “Top Ten Slam Dunk Charities.” This is primarily in recognition of Asha’s low overhead efficiency in fund raising, and donor privacy policy. For more information about Asha for Education, please visit www.ashanet.org

Ekal Vidyalaya’s musical evening

Ekal1.jpg: Raj and Smruti Pandya performing at Ekal Vidyalaya’s annual fundraiser

The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, southeastern region, held its annual fundraiser at Berkmar High School on August 9, 2008. EVFUSA is a non-profit organization that supports basic education for children in the rural and tribal areas of India. It currently has more than 26,000 schools running all over India.

About 150 people attended the fundraiser. The show started with a Kathak Thumri by Samta Savla from the Nritya Natya Kala Bharti Academy. This was followed by a warm welcome by the emcee, Rachna Gupta, and C.M. Aggarwal, Regional Vice President of Ekal Vidyalaya. Amitabh Sharma made a passionate presentation about Ekal and the urgency to impart education to the forgotten children of India. He urged the audience to get involved in the Ekal movement by donating to the schools and volunteering for the organization.

The talented Pandya family from Lexington, Kentucky —Raj, Smruti, Amit, and Eshna — kept everyone glued to their seats until 11.30 p.m. with their singing, which included bhajans, new Bollywood numbers, and songs from the sixties, which stirred the audience’s nostalgia. The Raj Kamal Foundation donated two $50 cash Visa cards for the raffle prize.

In addition to several programs throughout the year, Ekal has an annual fundraising program. Neelum Tariyal coordinated the overall program, and was supported by Ajay Bhatt, Manhar Valand, Sudershan and Kusum Khurana, Tilak Sikri, Sneha and Vasav Mehta, Sneh and Ravi Gupta, Shobha Aggarwal, Sant Khanna, Manju and Malla Reddy, Sachin Subhedar, Jairam Yerramilli, Dr. Krishan Gupta, Narendra Mehta and Dr. Basant Tariyal. In all, the event was successful and raised enough funds to support six schools this year.

Painting, puppet shows and Pranayam

Summer camp at the Greater Atlanta Vedic Temple

Vedic1.jpg: Children learning yogasanas and Pranayam at the summer camp organized by the Greater Atlanta Vedic Temple.

Vedic2.jpg: Children enjoyed a variety of activities based on the Vedas, Yoga, arts and memory improvement.

The Greater Atlanta Vedic Temple, which usually resonates to the chant of Om and Vedic hymns, rang out the weekend of July 25-27 with the happy voices of excited children enjoying their yearly summer camp at the temple. Some 52 children ate delicious food, watched movies, enjoyed a puppet show and played sports like volleyball, badminton, soccer, tug-of-war, jump-ropes, carrom, chess, and activities with water balloons, etc.

Instructors at the camp taught the children the fundamentals of the Vedas, basic mantras and the significance of the havan process. The children also learnt to perform yogasanas and Pranayam. On the lighter side, they also painted, made pottery and learnt popular dances.

Acharya Ashish Ji of the Tapovan Ashram, Dehradun, India, taught the children methods to improve memory and concentration through Patanjali’s Aushtang Yog. In the follow-up tests, the children surprised adults by reciting up to 25 unrelated words in the same sequence as dictated to them by the teacher three to four minutes earlier.

On Sunday, the closing day, the children exhibited the talents they had learned at the camp. Awards were given in various categories — for the most congenial participant, the best natural leader, the most helpful participant, the most inspiring child, and so on. Children were also given certificates of participation, and left with a strong desire to be back at the camp next year.

The camp was conducted by a number of dedicated volunteers including Sunita Bagga, JayShree, Scott, Vijay Arora, Dhirendra and Pramila Sharma, Pramila Chandora, Abhai Chandora, Vishrut Arya, Swasti Arya, Dr. Savitha, Sasi, Savitri Chandora, and Mini Sharma.

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