WASHINGTON: The Indian community in America celebrated the country’s 67th Independence Day with fervor as the national flag was unfurled at Indian missions and other places; and colorful parades and cultural functions held over the weekend.
In Washington DC, Independence Day celebrations were held at the Indian Ambassador’s residence where more than two hundred members of the Indian community joined as Ambassador Nirupama Rao unfurled the national flag followed by India’s national anthem. She read out India’s President Pranab Mukherjee’s message to the nation. A cultural program, including patriotic songs entertained the audience.
“It is almost a custom to participate in the Independence Day celebration, said Dr. Laita Kaul, a resident of Maryland, who has a long and sweet memory of August 15th at the ambassador’s residence.
“I have met many ambassadors during my more than three decades in the United States and in DC-tri-state area and have enjoyed the warm welcome by each of them,” she added.
“It invokes a great community feeling and a touch with the country of our birth when we are living so far away from home from the last many years.” said Hari Bindal, founder and past president of the American society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI), reflecting on the years he had spent away from India and still feel a connection. “It never goes away,” he added. The National Capital Chapter (ASEI-NCC) is hosting their 28th annual national convention and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the ASEI on September 28. The convention theme is “Innovative Technologies: An Engine for Economic Growth.
More than five hundred Indian and Indian-American students, including from various local universities, held a special cultural program at the University of Maryland, under the aegis of DESI UMD. Many of the students who are born in the United States felt it provided them with a root of strength, although they were not born in India.
“It makes us feel strong and one, although we are from different parts of India,” said Balbir Singh, a telecommunication student at UMD.
“It gives us a sense of community and a sense of belongingness,” said Soojan, a student of UMD, who participated in the fashion show, exhibiting Indian traditional apparel.
Similar events were held at the Indian Consulates in New York, San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta and the local Indian community celebrated India’s Independence Day. Sixty Six years ago, India won its independence from Great Britain.
Several community groups geared up to organize parades and festivals in various cities from New York to Chicago to Stamford, Connecticut.
Many organizations kept the spirit of independence alive by holding dinners and parades throughout the week. Organizers said that the local Indian community has been more active in recent years. Mr. Ashol Batra and Mrs. Alka Batra said, “We come together, as it makes us feel reconnected to our homeland.”
India’s anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare led the largest India Day Parade in America in Manhattan on August 19th. He is also to meet with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Tuesday evening and will be visiting Philadelphia for a talk at the University of Pennsylvania, before traveling to Washington D.C. to meet U.S. lawmakers. In South Carolina, he meets with Gov. Nikki Haley, who is of Indian ancestry. Hazare will also be visiting San Francisco and Los Angeles on the West Coast, followed by a trip to Atlanta and Chicago before finishing his visit to the US on Aug. 28.
In India, Hazare and his supporters have been pressing the government to adopt the Jan Lokpal Bill, or the Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill — an anti-graft proposal drawn up by prominent civil society activists — seeking the appointment of an agency similar to the Supreme Court and the Election Commission, which will have complete autonomy in investigating corruption cases.
Film stars Vidya Balan, Sarath Kumar and Raddhila were guests of honor in the New York City parade organized by the Federation of Indian Associations. Like every year, thousands lined the streets to watch the parade in Manhattan and enjoy the food and entertainment program.
A few of other parades that have gained popularity recently stole a march over New York’s grand parade by celebrating earlier than August 15th and attracted huge crowds.
India’s culture and heritage were highlighted by colorful floats and entertainment programs. Stalls displayed their arts and craft, Indian garments along with tasty Indian cuisines were featured in the parades in Long Island, a New York suburb, and two more in New Jersey.
Vibrant cultural programs, including henna artists, exhibitions and booths for Indian fashions and jewelry, children’s games and rides and Indian cookery were part of the festivities at the parade held in Chicago.