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Another Feather In Its Cap - IAGB Celebrates The 55th Anniversary Of India’s Independence

Chitra Parayath


IAGB celebrates the 55th anniversary of India’s independence.

Heat, humidity and a thunderstorm forecast did not deter about 7000 desis from gathering at the Hatch Shell memorial grounds last Sunday, the 18th of August to mark Indian Independence Day. The tricolor, visible from afar, graced the stage, as did a multitude of hardworking members of the premier New England Indian American organization IAGB (India Association Of Greater Boston). Celebrating the 55th anniversary of India’s independence, the event site looked very much the mela, full of color, frolic and fun.

“We do our best,” shrugs Ram Voruganti, President IAGB , modestly, when we ask him how an event of this magnitude was arranged and executed with such finesse. “Some of IAGB’s dedicated members worked around the clock to make this event so memorable. It takes a lot of time, money and commitment to see such a major enterprise through and I want to acknowledge the help and assistance of the whole crew. I would also like to thank Anupam Wali, Mohan Dali, Rajnikanth, Ranjani Saigal, Nila Daschaudhari, Vinod Chungi, Usha Vakil, Awadh Pandey, Krishna Gazula, Yogesh Mishra and Meena Hewitt , for all their assistance.

The program itself started promptly at five, with Ram’s impassioned speech for unity among all Indian organizations in the area. The chief guest, gubernatorial candidate and State Treasurer Shannon’O’ Brien, acknowledged the contribution made by Indians in the state, lauded the achievements of select members of the community, and seemed to connect with the largely desi audience.

Usha Vakil, Vice President, IAGB and the main force behind, SAHELI , the South Asian Women’s support group addressed the audience next, outlining the work undertaken by her able group in the past year. Mr. Vinod Chungi spoke eloquently about another IAGB initiative, Community Resource Group  (CRG) .

Ms. Nandita Bakshi, banker and Senior Vice President of Fleet Boston spoke about the important role women play in the financial well being of a family. Ms. Kapila Vatsayana, professor, Indian History spoke briefly about what it meant to be Indian in this country. The crowd, patient and attentive soaked all this in, perked up noticeably when the cultural program was announced. The two young Emcees, Shruti Voruganti and Mughda Oak, sounding like a fresh breeze from the Charles, welcomed a group of youngsters from the Baal Vihaar to sing patriotic songs.

After, in a gesture of good will and community co-operation, Ram Voruganti invited leaders and representatives of various Indian organizations in the area to grace the stage. Acknowledging and appreciating the good work done by these groups, Ram stressed the importance of unity, stating that, “If we pool our resources and work towards a common goal, much can be attained, and with greater ease.” The Indian associations represented were appreciative of this gesture by Mr. Voruganti, the first time this has been done.

The cultural program began, in earnest soon after. A musical medley of songs followed, showcasing the formidable talents of many performers led by Ms. Kumkum Dilwali and Ms. Sunita Dilwali. Hardly had the wild applause died down when students of the Angikam School of Dance tutored by Ms. Jasmine Shah performed the popular dance number “ Kahe Chede Mohe” from the blockbuster Hindi flick, Devdas. The next item was a musical dance medley by Lehrein, a local cultural activities group. Choreographed by Netra Rajnikanth, Sunita Malhotra and Neela Jangi, a large group of performers young and old, charmed the viewers with their interpretation of ‘Devdas’ tunes.

Many stalls and booths ringed the Esplanade grounds as folks circulated tasting and testing fare from food vendors and organizations. The Lokvani booth saw a lot of action as young magician Sid Muralidhar enthralled visitors with his sleight of hand. Volunteers and participants manned booths, handing out pamphlets and goodies.

Next up was a Kuchipudi recital by students of the Triveni school of dance. Choreographed my Ms. Neena Gulati, this classical dance, performed with élan was well received by the crowds.

A popular skit, “Indian Desi” followed, chronicling the struggles and victories of an India immigrant in the USA. Coordinated by Mr. Harbaldeep Singh, the piece had the crowds alternately clapping and nodding in agreement with the desi immigrant experience in this country, shared by many.

Murugan Anjali by dancers from the Eastern Rhythms dance school was a breath of fresh air as the vibrant kavadis lent an air of festivity to the proceedings. Tutored by Ms. Ranjani Saigal, the little kids showed amazing skills as dancers.

Ms. Lata Mundkur and Ms. Mallika Mundkur, with their talented team of singers next offered up some priceless tunes. People around this reporter sang gustily with the group, songs new and old.

Mr. Mohan Somasundaram’s musical troupe, comprising some truly talented performers, served up Saptaswar Lite. There were groans of disappointment when the group left after just two inspired pieces. The crowd was seriously in he mood for more of Saptaswar when they left the stage amidst much applause.

Dola Re, a popular song from the film Devdas followed as Taal Nritya Academy students under the tutelage of Ms. Sutanuka Debasri Basu provided their interpretation. A recurrent theme that evening, Devdas’s songs and dances were immensely popular with the audience who had clearly taken the recent blockbuster to heart. The dancers gave the crowds much to cheer about.

Bole Chudiyan an upbeat and joyful dance celebrating young love followed. Organized by Ms. Monica Balsara and Ms. Ami Dalal, the lively dance was choreographed skillfully drawing much appreciation.

The Odissi rendering ‘Sundara kanda’, depicting the momentous meeting of Sita and Hanuman, was organized by the Nupur Dance Academy and the Orissa Society of New England. Mr. Bijoy Misra and Ms. Jayashree Mohapatra put on a great performance.

The enthusiasm of the crowd did not flag as the evening drew to an end, as was apparent when Masti, a dance from the Hindi film ‘ Lajja’, organized by Sunita Iqbal and her group was performed on stage. The crowds by now had started dancing too!

The MIT bhangra item, for years the USP of the IAGB Independence Day Celebration had everyone on their feet chanting balle balle and some brave souls dancing on the grounds.

When Mr. Mohan Dali, active member, IAGB came on stage to express the vote of thanks, there seemed to be a sense of sadness in the air.  “ I have to wait another year to see such a cool show again!” sighed Ms. Usha Panicker as she prepared to leave the Hatch Shell. “There was something here for everyone! What a great effort!” she gushed.

We, at Lokvani, wish IAGB many many years of such celebrations.

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