Patriotism and Pageantry Mark India Independence Day Celebration
By Geeta Goindi
Centreville, Virginia, August 21, 2011 – Patriotism and pageantry marked the community celebrations for India’s Independence Day, here in the Washington area. The looming crowds and fast-moving thunderstorms did nothing to deter the enthusiasm of some 1,200 people who graced a function spearheaded by the India Cultural Coordination Committee (ICCC), in cooperation with other local organizations.
The event began with an outdoor parade and flag hoisting to the tune of patriotic songs. This was followed by an indoor cultural program featuring over 50 performances and spanning some five hours. It was quite an odyssey running the whole gamut of patriotic songs, music, Indian classical, folk and Bollywood dances.
Among the key organizers of the event were: Mr. Kumar Singh, coordinator and president of ICCC; Dr. Yogendra Gupta, co-coordinator; and Mr. Krishna Banaudha, former president of ICCC. At the helm of the cultural show was Mrs. Lovely Lall who also served as co-emcee, along with Aniket Nanda.
The keynote address was delivered by Mr. Arun Kumar Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy, and current Charge d’affaires until the former Foreign Secretary Mrs. Nirupama Rao takes over as India’s ambassador to the US.
“It is always exciting to celebrate your country’s independence day”, Mr. Singh told the gathering. “But, to be able to do it in another country, with this level of energy and excitement, is doubly interesting”, he said. Having attended a similar function in Richmond, earlier in the day, he remarked that “there also, the level of excitement in celebrating this event was noticeable”.
Describing India’s independence struggle as “remarkable”, based on truth and non-violence, the DCM noted that “since then, relations between India and the United States have become much stronger”. He recalled that President Obama was in India last year when he endorsed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Well before the visit, Obama had predicted that the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies will be the “defining partnership” of the 21st century. On his part, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has said, “relations between India and the US are better than ever before, but the best is yet to come”.
Mr. Singh underscored that “the relationship has been transformed”. He drew attention to the fact that there are over 3 million Indian-Americans in the US, and more than 100,000 Indian students who pay approximately $3 billion in tuition fees to US educational institutions. “We are now planning to expand cooperation between India and the US, in a major way, in higher education”, he said, and to this end, a summit will be held, on Oct. 13, in Washington.
Regarding commercial ties, Mr. Singh pointed out that “trade between India and the US has more than doubled in the last four years. Indian investment in the US is among the fastest growing investments in this country today. We are not a traditional buyer of defense products from the US. Yet, in the last couple of years, we have placed orders worth about $8 billion with US defense equipment suppliers, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country for years to come”.
Referring to statements by both the president and prime minister of India on the nation’s 65th independence anniversary, the DCM pointed out that while considerable progress has been made, the country is facing challenges such as corruption, terrorism, eradication of poverty, inequalities in society, and rural development.
On hand at the event, were three Virginia State Senators: Dave Marsden, District 37; George Barker, District 39; and Mark Herring, District 33.
Senator Marsden is a regular at the annual independence day function organized by our community. “Happy birthday to the world’s largest democracy, the nation of India”, he said, to loud applause. While acknowledging that “democracy can be very difficult”, he maintained, “it is the best form of government that there is, and India is a wonderful example of just what can be done when people come together and people make decisions for themselves about how they ought to be governed and how they ought to take care of each other”.
Senator Barker implored members of the audience to get involved in the political process and be part of the solution. “One of the things I hope all of you will be doing is getting involved in your community here in Northern Virginia”, he said.
Mr. Satish Korpe, President of the India Forum for Political Education – VA Chapter (IAFPE-VA) drove home this point. “If we have to succeed in this country, we have to be involved in the political process, get out and vote on the day of elections and support the candidates of your choice”, he said.
Senator Herring represents eastern Loudoun and western Fairfax counties. Describing his District as “very diverse”, he said, “I am very proud that the area includes so many Indian-Americans”.
The elected official voiced his appreciation for the event. “It is a great way not only for you all to celebrate your heritage, it’s a great way for all of us in Northern Virginia to recognize the great diversity that we have”, he told the audience.
On his part, Mr. Kumar Singh, said that the Indian diaspora in America is “actively engaged in strengthening bilateral ties. The goal is for the great democracies to work jointly in all relevant areas of mutual interest – economic, political, social and cultural”.
Dr. Lovely Lall appeared delighted that everyone was able “to enjoy the representation of India as a whole, whether it was the music, dance, people or food. I was amazed at the amount of talent here from the Washington area”, she told us, at INDIA THIS WEEK. “We should be very proud of our Indian heritage and the people who are helping to keep the teachings of rich classical or Bollywood dance and music alive, thousands of miles away from their motherland”, she said.