January 26th, 2002, Temperature outside at 5 PM is in the region of 55 degrees. Driving along the Burlington road you may notice not only a weekend traffic but plenty of joggers reveling in the spring like weather. While many of us were taking this sprint, many other Desis, an estimated 1,100 of them were in fact making their way to the Burlington High school dressed in their Saturday best. The occasion, to enjoy the IAGB organized Republic day cultural event.
The auditorium is packed, and men, women and children mingle freely as happens in many Desi gatherings. There is an atmosphere of informality around as guests catch up with the latest in Bollywood, the best places to eat and even the current layoff situation. Soon however, a lull sets in as the show begins.
'Patriotism and Peace' seem to be the major theme of the evening. Against a backdrop of colorful peacocks and the Indian and American flags, Desh Bhakti songs in various regional languages are sung with gusto and spirit by students of various organizations like Shishu Bharati and Bal Vihar and regional associations in and around the New England area. Ram Voruganti, President IAGB strikes a reassuring note when he acquaints all present, of the relief work taken for the earthquake victims in Gujarat. Chief Guest Jim Rappaport, Executive Vice President, New Boston Fund, Inc speaks on the contributions of Indians in the US with special reference to the entrepreneur skills of Indians in the technology industry.
The cultural extravaganza of the evening draws an appreciative applause from the audience. Catchy tunes danced by lively artists ranging from popular film to folklore have the audience at their feet clapping loudly. A glittering fashion show by Aalok, has the audience totally enraptured. There is an ethereal like atmosphere as young models glide down the stage in ethnic designer wear accompanied by melodius music of the east and the west.
A powerful and evocative piece of the dance of Lord Shiva is performed by talented Bharatnatyam dancers of 'Eastern Rythms' while another portray a colorful "Tarana" set to melodius music in the Kuchipudi style from the Triveni school of dance. The audience rock and clap with the song ˜Koi Kahe Kahta Rahe' from the film 'Dil Chhata Hai' choreographed by Sunita Malhotra and the Punjabi folk dance of 'Kanak Di Rakhi'coordinated by Payal Sharma, a talented youngster as the participants leap and dance and seem to almost defy the laws of gravity.
Outside the air hums with activity as various booths of both non profit and others advertise their cause. Jaipur Cafe and Swagat , two restaurants catering for the evening deal with long lines and hungry customers who seemed to have worked up an appetite. There are a variety of other memorable moments as many singing groups and dancers meted out popular numbers with a grand finale for the evening by the Brandeis University group who dance to the invigorating popular song 'Ghanana Ghanana' from Lagaan.
The largest contingent of dancers – Leherain
A show stealer that won thunderous applause from the audience was a dance medley by the group Leherain. Four groups of participants,in various age groups danced to a Rajasthani and Marathi folk music, a delightful Bhangra and a latest film song. This was perhaps the largest and most versatile group of participants that presented a spectacular show for the evening.
Lehren’s, Republic Day event was choreographed by Netra Rajnikant and Neela Jangi who together since the month of December have been sending emails, calling for practice, and having a open house for all to join. It is an enthusiastic crowd that rehearse for many weekends, with Netra and Neela patiently working with four sets of dance groups of different ages and dance levels to teach and train for the final event. I ask Netra that with a job at Tufts, two growing children, was this not all demanding and pat came the reply,” I love it. “I love to dance although I have no formal training and I like to choose tunes that are catchy with a nice beat. Language is never an issue and I like to choose songs from different languages.” “Most times my friends also pitch in with their ideas on the songs and that really helps”she says. Neela, who has a cute six month old baby did not participate in the final show this year and tells me that it will not be long before she is back on stage.
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Music Medley - Leherein
Ras Lila - Bal Vihar Norwood
Yar Adinar - Eastern Rhythms
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