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Over 500 Attend IANH Diwali Festival

Sneha Jacob

IANH Diwali Festival 2015

The India Association of New Hampshire held its Annual Diwali Festival on November 14th 2015 in Nashua High School North where more than 500 people attended to celebrate Diwali through the extravaganza of music, dance, cultural presentations, fashion, and food from India.  The event was well publicized on the IANH Website, as well as via Facebook, radio channels, news channels, and to top it all a published article within the Nashua Telegraph.

The program kicked off with the President of the association, Mr. Balaji Radakrishnan, welcoming the guests and speaking to the spirit of the Diwali season. Before introducing the emcees for the evening, Mr. Radakrishnan thanked the committee members and volunteers who worked hard to pull together yet another Diwali production, and stressed the importance of camaraderie that nurtures growth, positivity, and success in achieving the goals of IANH and what it stands for.   

Mrs. Deepa Mangalat who is Youth Affairs Chair, and Mrs. Chandana Karthik, the Cultural Chair, made charismatic and jovial emcees and kept the audience in the Diwali spirit. The combined capabilities of all the Executive Board and Youth Group members were apparent in the smooth running of the entire show. The Association is one of very few that has long promoted the involvement of Youth in the management of many aspects of programs and events that occur throughout the year. The youth committee has grown and while many have left for college there are also many new and excited youth joining every year, who are willing to work hard and bring in a fresh perspective. The emcees took a few minutes to explain  the public service activities of IANH Volunteers, not only through donations of money and goods, but also in the giving of their time to help cook and serve at soup Kitchens in Nashua & Manchester. Mrs. Deepa Mangalat stressed the importance and need for more volunteers as the organization continues to provide these types of services to those less fortunate within our communities.

The cultural events opened up with a series of song items, starting with a Bollywood song titled “Yeh Mera Dil”, sung by Vasant Utsav winner Divya Lalwani, student of Preeti Nagar, whose lilting voice put everyone in a relaxed frame of mind and set the pace for the rest of the night. Up next was a song titled “Thillana Desh” by another Vasant Utsav winner Shivani Shah, student of Sandhya Sridhar, who’s rendition of this popular song was on point and beautifully sung. This was followed by a group Carnatic classical recital “Kuzhlosai” sung by two young promising performers, Aravind Sathappan and Sreekrupa Satyaveageeswaran, students of Usha Dwarak, their young and gentle voices filling the auditorium. The vocal performances were followed by a number of dance items and thus commenced an evening filled with vibrant colors, fun costumes, rhythmic and lyrical music all characteristic of Indian culture.

While there were many excellent performances during the evening, a few to note are the Kathak solo dance performed by Himanshi Patel, director of Himanshi Dance Academy, titled “Dekhi Chabi Savari”. Himanshi’s graceful tapping and twirling is always a visual treat, and she did not disappoint with yet another authentic and delightful performance. A further presentation of Himanshi Dance Academy titled “Kathak Nritta” was performed by two of her students Aashi Kulkarni, and Karishma Manchanda dancing to live music and song performed by Himanshi’s sons Tej and Yash Patel. The combination of kathak dance set to live music presented the dance form in an unique and refreshing light.

There were a number of entertaining entries by IANH Youth members Ananya Venkatesan, Sithara Nambiar, and Kuhu Wadhwa, who adorn new hats as choreographers and are showing tremendous talent and promise as young, up-and-coming teachers in the area.  Their young apprentices, dolled up in coordinated outfits and showing off their dance moves to the beats of popular movie songs, were simply delightful.

Another dance titled “Shiv Parvati”, by another group of children, presented before us a young male Shiva who performed his part with assuredness and charm, while young Parvati danced in his praise, Nandi and others following suit. "Desi Dhamaka Duo" presented by Shrvani Balaji and Kuhu Wadhwa was fantastic as both ladies are known for their dancing abilities, and did not disappoint in this self-choreographed Bollywood medley. As we know no dancing is complete without Bharatanatyam presentations and there were quite a few peppered throughout the evening. One such was “Ganapathi Stuthi” performed by the young students of Guru Smt. Suja Meyyappan of Kolam Academy of Dance, which was a beautiful and colourful presentation in praise of Lord Ganesha.

Incidently the featured guest artist for the evening was Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan, Artistic Director of the Kolam Academy of Dance, who performed three captivating dances at about halfway through the cultural program. First Smt. Sujatha performed ”Sadaksharam", which was a lovely composition in praise of Lord Muruga based on the six syllables SA, RA, VA, NA, BA, VA is the mantram portrayed through fast jathis and intricate footwork. The second dance "Muruganin Maruperyar Azagu" is a dance that expresses the beauty of Lord Murugan, and contains plenty of expressions to depict the charm, smile, and beauty of the Lord. Suja’s graceful and energetic performances enthralled the audience and allowed them to experience nritta, rasa, bhava and abhinaya all in a short span of a few dances. Smt. Sujatha used her beautiful movements and expressions to display her mastery over the art form. Her passion for perfection in dance, and complete immersion was evident in each of her performances where she drew in the mesmerized viewer into her world. Her finale piece "Mazhai" was a vibrant item that expressed the wonders of rain in all its temperaments. It took a combination of talent and physical prowess as she twirled around the stage floor on her knees to the utter amazement of the audience, drawing loud applause and elevating the evening’s performances to a whole new level.

Another wonderful Bharatanatyam performances featured was a pushpanjali from Thiruppavai Pasuram by the 8th century poetess Andal titled “Maale Mannivana” performed beautifully by Krithi Tupil, who is a student of Guru Smt. Sunanda Narayan of the Thillai Fine Arts Academy. The finale solo piece "Adinaye Kanna" presented by Shilpa Narayanan, a student of Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan, was rich in expressions and hand movements and brought to life the mischievousness of Lord Krishna while he danced with the gopis on the banks of the Yamuna.

For a slight deviation from all the dance and song routines, the audience was treated to the music of Bollywood songs played on guitars by Ansh Khanna, Siddharth Shah, students of Anuj Pant, and accompanied by Anuj Pant himself. In all likelihood we will be seeing more of the boys on their guitars at future events. There were performances by students of Smt. Nikita Rao of Bollywood Academy, and Smt. Shital Botadra.

During the cultural program, time was taken out to hold a small award ceremony to present medals to all winners of the 2015 Vasant Ustav and Chess competitions. This was made extra special due to the attendance of Nashua’s Mayor-Elect Jim Donchess, who took time out to celebrate Diwali with the IANH community members and graciously spent a half hour placing medals on each of the winners gathered excitedly on stage. This was certainly a special treat for everyone who won at this year’s competitions! Mayor Donchess took to the podium and addressed the audience, stressing the importance of cultural promotion. He showed his appreciation for everything that IANH represents, especially the many causes that the organization supports. Prof. Tej Dhakar, Secretary of IANH, as well as Mr. Vijay Nagaraju, IANH Sports Group Coordinator, each summarized the success of the competitions and thanked the volunteers that helped make it all possible.

At closing, the Cultural chair, Mrs. Chandana Karthik, addressed the audience with a vote of thanks for those who contributed to the success of the evening’s events. She thanked all the people who helped, especially the committee and youth volunteers as well as the emcees for the evening.  The youth group presented a cheque for the amount of $1600 USD to the We Care Charity that benefits the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Nashua Children’s Home. The cheque was accepted by Shefali Kalyani on behalf of the We Care Foundation.

Following the cultural program patrons were treated to a delicious spread of a wide variety of Indian food for sale. Hot dosas with chutney, chaats, samosas, pakoras, warm sabzis and rice, were a few of the food options representing various regions of India. Attendees were further enticed by vendors selling lovely Indian sarees, salwar kameez, jewelery, and henna artists were on site for those interested in trying out a temporary tattoo or two. In keeping with the Diwali theme and in true IANH Diwali tradition, the final installment of the night’s program was dandia, with music arranged by DJ Silk. Many stayed back and participated in the dancing and were treated to entertaining music that started out slow and ramped up to a full-out fast-paced dance dhamaka that truly put everyone in the Diwali spirit, thus bringing about a spectacular end to a fun-filled evening.

A team of over fifty adult and youth volunteers worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put on the show and to make it the success that it was. Although every effort is made to ensure things run smoothly there is always room for improvement, which is something that IANH has always strived for, and continues to work on in order to produce better programs each year. Of course a show can’t be a show without participants, and without an audience to perform for, and it was encouraging to see the turn out on and off the stage.

The India Association of New Hampshire Diwali festival once again served to bring together the community and unite its members in celebration of India’s many traditions, customs, and culture. This is no small feat and one that IANH has come to be very accomplished at.

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