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Gandhi Foundation Marches For Peace At Sweet Auburn Festival

June 2004
Gandhi Foundation Marches For Peace At Sweet Auburn Festival

Gandhi Foundation Marches For Peace At Sweet Auburn Festival

Historic Fashion Show Highlight Of Cultural Program

On the sunny morning of May 8, the Gandhi Foundation of USA joined hands with members of "Victory over Violence International Campaign" and marched together in the historic ?Peace March' at the Sweet Auburn Festival to uphold the values of non-violence and to enshrine the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all other valiant men and women who perished for the cause of peace and non-violence the world over.

The Peace March began at 10.15 a.m. In the gentle breeze, the flag of USA and the flag of India, banners of the ?Gandhi Foundation of USA' and ? Victory over Violence Campaign International' were proudly carried by the members of the Gandhi Foundation, Subash Razdan, Giriraj Rao, Jacob Ampat, Anthony Thaliath, Dr. Joy Berry, Dr. and Mrs. K. Thrivikraman, and Narsi Narasimhan, Manoj Mehta and others, together with Fred (V -Man) Watson, executive producer of the festival and Constance Lord, Larry Fagin and Bishop Rashid. , As they began marching on the Auburn Avenue chanting slogans of peace and non-violence, hundreds of onlookers, booth?holders and vendors lined up on the fair grounds, cheering and clapping and expressing their solidarity and support. The unbounded enthusiasm, excitement and joy boosted the morale of the Peace March as it slowly continued towards the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site where the imposing statue of Gandhi is located.

Sweet Auburn Festival is the largest multi-cultural festival in the Southeast. The first festival was organized way back in 1984 by the civil-rights leader and businessman Rev. Hosea Williams whose vision was to bolster business at the Auburn Avenue and also to revitalize its hallowed history and heritage. The festival, with carnival type atmosphere attracts thousands of residents, tourists and visitors who participate in the festivities by indulging themselves in foods and refreshments, shopping and enjoying the culturally rich shows.

The second phase of the cultural program was called ?The Glimpses of India'. Jacob Ampat, in a crisp, well articulated speech said that the foundation was honored to be associated with ? Victory over Violence International Campaign' because both shared the common goal in promoting peace through non-violence. He then invited Fred (V-Man) Watson and Giriraj Rao on the stage to light the traditional lamp (diya), before adding, "Light brings hope, future and warmth. Let us be bearers of this light and stop the madness of violence and live together in peace and harmony."

Viji Sundaram and Archith Seshadri, both accomplished Carnatic vocalists, sang an uplifting Tamil song, ?Shanthi Nilava Vaendum', composed by the famous Tamil poet Bharathiyar, which spreads the message of peace, love and ahimsa (non-violence).

Svelte, sari-clad Vinita Thapar (a former Miss India-Georgia and runner-up in the Miss India-US beauty pageant) and youth coordinator of the Gandhi Foundation compeered the historic fashion show with �lan. Under the moonlit sky, the bevy of young multi-racial girls, Sonya Thapar, Erika, Abela, Merlene, Nicole, Christine, Farah, and Vinita set many a hearts a flutter as one by one, they stepped on the open ?air stage, wearing sizzling, bright hued saris, lehngas, bridal attire, and fusion dresses (a rich blend of the East and West), and trotted around to the accompaniment of rap music. Not to be outdone, the only male model, 11-year-old Karn, in a Devdas sherwani suit strutted like a peacock and won big applause. The fashion-wear was sponsored by Christine Philip's Chuchu couture, and from Vinita's personal collection. Vinita praised Christine's vision and innovative genius in blending the exacting symmetry of the Western haute couture with the uncompromising natural beauty of the exotic East. She added that Christine had used the finest material including hand selected chiffon crepe and Kanchipuram silk, cherished for their intricate detail, heavy gauge, rich texture and high thread count, in creating dresses that were elegant and amply functional. The fashion show proved a big treat judging by the loud appreciative catcalls, yells and clappings from the audience.

Nishi Shah, Nirvi Shah, Mallika Madhusunsan and Parth Shah, students trained by Vibha Desai, of Atlanta's well-known ?Academy of Indian Dance and Music' sang one of Gandhiji's favorite bhajan ?Vaishanav Jana to' to the accompaniment of keyboard and manjeera by Vibhaben. The next item, a dance to the patriotic song ?Vande Matram' by Nishi Shah, Nirvi Shah and Kanika Patel was riveting. Sparks flew as the slender girls presented an effortless, well synchronized dance, with lights in their open palms and nimble movements on stage, to the pulsating music of the song. It was simply hypnotic and elicited a prolonged applause from the huge audience.

Addressing the audience, Greg Pridgeon of the Mayor's office and vice chairman of the Gandhi Foundation said, "Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King have special place in history and in our hearts. This festival here reflects the blending of their philosophies. Gandhi was a great leader who showed a path to our great leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Auburn Avenue is one of the greatest streets of USA and it is fitting that this cultural show is held next to the historic SCLC building. Let's do it again next year!' he concluded. The audience that seconded him with a rapturous applause couldn't have agreed more.

- Mahadev Desai

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