About Us Contact Us Help




IMRC 2016: A Youthful Gathering

Mona Khaitan

The Maheshwari Mahasabha of North America’s 8th biennial convention, hosted by the New England Chapter, was held at Stamford Hilton, July 1 to 4.

The Chief Guest, Hon. Mrs. Mridula Sinha, Governor of Goa, slated to attend, was unable to be physically present. She sent a video message complimenting the work of MMNA in bringing the community together to keep Rajasthani sanskars rooted in the younger generation.

Special Guest of Honor, Consul General of India, New York, Mrs. Riva Ganguly Das, delivered a message of goodwill towards the community and expressed an interest in working with the leaders going forward.

Guests of Honor, Mr. Vinod K. Agrawal, Principal Secretary, Govt. of Telangana, Mr. Govind Chandak, prominent businessman, and Dr. Kamal Taori, retired IAS officer, all spoke at length about the issues close to their hearts.

A lifetime achievement award was conferred on Mr. Hanuman Das Lahoti hailing from Detroit, Michigan. This award is given for dedicated lifetime service and for helping in the advancement of the Maheshwari community. 

MMNA President, Parag Bajaj, was given a special excellence in leadership award for his many initiatives including matrimonial website and for his inclusive leadership style.

The most notable highlight of the convention was the record attendance by the Maheshwari youth as 120 of the 650 attendees were youth ages 21 to 35, known as RAYS (The Rajasthanis Abroad Youth Samaj).

“We were pleasantly surprised with the number of youth who not only attended the convention this year, but also actively engaged in our RAYS events! After months of hard work and planning, this weekend definitely exceeded our expectations," said Priya Malani Manchanda, President of RAYS. 

Heartened by the enthusiastic response from the younger generation, one of the founding members of MMNA, Vimal Sodhani of Sodhani Foundation, declared a major initiative to assist MMNA in providing seed money to develop young entrepreneurs. The foundation plans to donate $100,000 each year to MMNA. Said Vimal Sodhani, “I felt that there is great potential of developing a few of our youths as entrepreneurs by helping them financially.”

MMNA has an existing Educational Fund that has helped scores of needy students. Over $40,000 was raised during the convention to augment this fund.

Little known are the many Maheshwaris that still reside in Pakistan. A record contingent of 60 people of Pakistani origin attended the convention

The first evening spotlight was on Youth 13 to 35 years old who entered into a friendly competition in MMNA’s Got Talent (rang night). The audience was amazed at the variety and sophistication of the acts.

The non-competing New England host chapter’s grand opening performance of modern day composition of the Ramayana got rave reviews. The visuals in the background were superb and the modern era songs fit the historical story of Ramayana perfectly, all done with great finesse and sensitivity without trivializing the revered Ramayana.

The Saturday Chapter Bollywood Masala Night (tarang night) was a fierce yet friendly battle among all chapters’ enactment of Bollywood stories with individual twists. The New England host chapter produced a welcome musical extravaganza with its own unique song composition.

On the very glamorous Sunday Gala Night (umang night), the New England luminaries in singing and dancing including Anuradha Palakurthi, Shankar Gangaikondan, Hemant Patkar, Rajiv Gangurde, Shraddha Agrawal, and Swati Sharma graced the Grand Ballroom with an array of songs many choreographed with dances and all with appropriate visuals in the back. Shikha Bajpai, Jaikishan along with his wife Pooja, and a number of New England Chapter dancers performed a sequence of dances that ranged from authentic Marwari Kalbelia to modern dance forms. Anuradha Palakurthi unveiled a new song written in Marwari specifically composed for the convention going back to her college days in Pilani where she met her husband.

Emcees Archana Panda and Preteesh Shrivastava kept the audience engaged with situation appropriate poetical humor and could not restrain themselves from dancing with the audience towards the end of the program.

The convention catered to all age groups with their diverse interests. There was programming designed specifically for Sakhis, for adults other than RAYS group, RAYS specific group, for RAY-Jays comprising teenagers, and for younger children up to 12 years old.

The Sakhis (women’s group), a particularly strong group, held several breakout sessions to keep the Rajasthani culture and tradition alive and increase awareness among the youth. Traditional festivals some originating from Rajasthan including Teej, Gangaur, Navratri, Holi, Diwali, Janmasthami were the subject of a session where all chapters participated in making theme based collages. Games frequently forgotten like Chaupar, Changa Po, Chirmi and Gatte revived memories of the past and were played with great enthusiasm by young and old alike. There was standing room only for the session on Shringar where make up and sari draping was demonstrated.

During Sakhi Milan, backpacks with school supplies were assembled and later donated to Inspirica homeless shelter in Stamford and Cradles to Crayons located in Boston. Sakhis also donated Pencil pouches with supplies to a school in Rajasthan, stuffed toys for hospitalized sick children in Stamford, and bracelets for operation gratitude, besides writing letters to US troops stationed overseas.

Based on a pre-convention survey, a number of breakout sessions were held for all age groups through-out the 3 day convention including College Planning, Business and Entrepreneurship, Taxes/Estate Planning, Retirement, and Matrimonial.

The RAYS members (youth ages 21-35) participated in a variety of events including personal and professional networking, cultural discussions through a game of Family Feud, and a simulation that made RAYS members "step in someone else's shoes" and experience life in a different light.

While the young singles connected through speed dating, their parents pooled their resources in two matrimonial sessions.

MMNA maintains a matrimonial website with profiles in its database limited to US residents only. Since its creation, several alliances resulting in marriages have taken place. Explaining the rising rate of youth participation, the Convention Convener, Mona Khaitan surmised that “frequently families tend to hold a mini reunion during the convention. Once here, the youth identify with the inclusive and relevant programming organized by RAYS and join future events willingly without any need for further coaxing.”

In recent years, RAYS has placed significant efforts in organizing events for youth ages 13-20, a group that has affectionately been named "RAY-Jays." As the future of RAYS, these youth crave the ability to become more intertwined in the community as they navigate high school and eventually college.

A unique bazaar and mela held indoors on opening day attracted children of all ages from toddlers to adults who laughed and giggled while playing a variety of games including taking funny pictures with Rajasthani pagris sitting on a bike holding colorful umbrellas. It was an opening day icebreaker for all age groups complete with popcorn, kacha gola, and cotton candy.

Three internationally recognized kavis, Ana Dehalvi, Mahendra Ajnabi, and Sardar Manjit Singh visiting from India, joined our own well known kavitri Archana Panda from Bay area on stage for Kavi Sammelan. The laughter was loud and two hours appeared to vanish in a few minutes!

After the convention, said Co-convener, Abhilasha Rathi, “IMRC 2016 planning started with just a few people but many joined hands and came together to become one large MMNA family. Many volunteers had not attended any previous convention but their dedication made this a memorable event for all the age groups. This experience will motivate many to continue attending upcoming events and participate in MMNA activities."

Added Pushpa Heda, President of New England Chapter, “Our team leads and volunteers worked day and night, in addition to their full time jobs, to make this convention successful. The most important part of this convention was to bring our community and the younger generation together."

The force behind this convention, 80 year old Prabhulalji Rathi, founder member of both MMNA and New England Chapter, was quoted using a famous quote by Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

MMNA, a non-profit organization, has been in operation for more than 30 years. With nine chapters across North America, it caters to the needs of Maheshwari /Rajasthani individuals and families in North America. It maintains links between similar organizations in India and Europe. Its major charitable contributions are towards education and social work.

For more information on the convention, contact Vijay Pallod at 713.562.1920 or visit www.mmna.org

Bookmark and Share |

You may also access this article through our web-site http://www.lokvani.com/

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Copyrights Help