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IANH Diwali Festival Attracts Over 700

Mahima Balaraj and Lasya Thilagar, IANH Youth Volunteers

The India Association of New Hampshire (www.ianh.org) organized its annual Diwali  festival on October 10, 2009, at Nashua High School North. More than 700  people celebrated this vibrant Festival of Lights with joviality and fervor. This year, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the founding of IANH, the President Mr. Prithvi Kumar presented a slide show about the first  twenty years of IANH. He described how the organization was founded, some of the highlights of the organization's history, and its growth over the past twenty years. Dr. Tej Dhakar, the Secretary of IANH, also introduced and felicitated the following founders, who are still active members of IANH: Dr. Padma Mathur, Dr.  Bijoy Kundu, Dr. Suresh Mathur, Mr Prithvi Kumar, and Manoj and Jasmine Shah.

Mr. Chetan Chaudari, Vice President of IANH, presented a slide show about the IANH’s Bhutanese Refugee Empowerment Project, which is helping New Hampshire’s many Bhutanese refugees to find jobs and become self-sufficient within the community. Mr Prithvi Kumar presented the keys and title of the car donated by Dr Yogeshwar Dayal to one of the refugees. The car will help the refugee obtain a job and support his family. Mrs. Barinder Ahluwalia talked about the Public Service activities of IANH which is the basis for all IANH fundraising. Hot meals are cooked and served at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and volunteers help serve meals at the Manchester Soup Kitchen.

Mr. Manoj Chourasia, Chairperson of Public Relations at IANH introduced the chief guest, Dr. Katrina Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. Mr. Chourasia emphasized upon the need of Indian Americans getting active in political participations. “This is the best way to stay connected to the mainstream population of New Hampshire and rest of the United States. Political participation will help Indian American youth understand the needs of the society better, will bring them closer to the issues, problems and challenges being faced by it and will provide them the necessary tools and authority to solve those problems and express their views. And this is the only way, I think the Indian American youth can contribute to the society and the country where they live in” said Mr. Chourasia. Dr. Katrina Swett congratulated IANH for all its various public services that it is providing for the betterment of the American society. She has travelled to India with her family and considers the US-Indian relationship to be one of the most important and positive relationships for the United States.

The cultural portion of the evening was exhilarating and breathtaking, and enthralled the audience every step of the way. There were twenty-seven performances by talented youth, which included Bharatanatyam, Carnatic vocal recitals, Bollywood dances, and even a magic show. The Bollywood dances were choreographed by well-known teachers such as Neha Parikh, Jasmine Shah and Sujatha Meyyappan.

Anirudh Dwarakanath, the president of the youth group, stressed the importance of volunteering for IANH and the community. He also talked about the hard work and dedication the IANH youth group volunteers have put in through the years, citing successes such as the wildly popular Nach Night and past IANH festivals. He requested donations for the Nashua Children's Home Angel Tree project as well as the Salvation Army's Adopt-a-Family program.

About 15 members of the IANH Youth Group volunteered at the Diwali Festival. Anjali Krishnaswamy, who is a senior in high school and the assistant Vice President, was one of the bouncers. She said her favorite part of these events was “the combination of all the Indian people, and they actually bring American people. I like that. … and we have more and more every year.”

After the performances, Ms. Chandana Karthik gave the vote of thanks which was followed by the Indian and American National Anthems. The event culminated with a spectacular gathering of people of all ages celebrating this traditional Indian festival. There was music, dance, and food that showcased intricate displays of Indian culture. The festival included stalls by several vendors selling Indian clothing, authentic Indian food, jewelry and art. Many people got their hands painted with Henna. The joy and excitement continued late into the night with Dandiya Raas. People of all ages participated, striking the small decorated wooden sticks in rhythm to the scintillating Bollywood numbers by DJ Tejinder Singh. This concluded the night’s festivities.

(Mahima Balaraj and Lasya Thilagar are IANH Youth Volunteers. )

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