By Asian Media USA ©
The life of an immigrant involves integrating oneself into a new home, while also maintaining ties to his own culture and heritage. Indians in America are not an exception. Grand Celebration of 4th annual IndiaFest Milwaukee was held on August 20th, 2016 at Humboldt Park in Wisconsin, exemplifies this. The objective of this event, which was orchestrated and presented by Spindle India organization, was three fold: to connect to their roots, to pass on their unique traditions to new generation, and to promote intercultural competence, empathy and business growth.
The event from 10 am to 10 pm, with free entry, was well attended by over 15,000 attendances of Indian Americans; and people belonging to different nationalities. It saw multigenerational families dressed in traditional garb. Festival was inaugurated by Tom Barrett – Mayor City of Milwaukee, Clair Zautke – office of Chris Abele Milwaukee County Executive, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed – Consulate General of India – Chicago, Katherine Thorat – Air India Chicago, Steve Ponto – Mayor Brookfield, Shawn Reilly – Mayor Waukesha, Stephen Scaffidi – Mayor Oak Creek, Banga “Ginger” Kollmansberger – Regional Director Office of Senator Ron Johnson, Ossie Kendrix – Deputy State Director Office of US Senator Tammy Baldwin, John Chistholm – Milwaukee County District Attorney. Traditional lighting ceremony, Indian flag hoisting, short-but-sweet motivating speech by the guests captivated audience. Mr. Darshan Dhaliwal – president of Dhaliwal Enterprises, Cardiologist Dr. Iftekhar Bader, businessman Mr. Laxman Kailas were some of the influential figures were seen at the venue.
The event had such attractions as flagship programs introduced by Spindle India – flag hoisting, Wisconsin Indian Singing Idol, Unity in Diversity fashion show celebrating diversity and modernity, Kid’s Parade, Indian Classical/Bollywood Dances, Traditional Dhol etc. It gets competitive with Wisconsin Indian Singing Idol, Rangoli and kids Painting. The entire event was an all-day retreat, which was enjoyed thoroughly by people along with their families and friends.
A flatearth ensemble ‘Misty Trails’, a fusion of eastern, middle-eastern and western instruments, was presented by Abhishek Lahiri in Sitar, George Lawler in Drums, Ronnie Malley in Oud and Subrata Bhattacharya in Tabla. ‘Rang-E-Ghazal’ was introduced to this celebration by renowned classical singer Sandip Bhattacharjee, accompanied by Manny Bedi in Tabla. ‘Desi Beats’ – a medley of popular Bollywood numbers were presented by well-known singer Purnima Nath with her Lotus band.
No festival is complete without delicious and authentic food; and there was plenty of it at IndiaFest! People savored non-stop, from the time they got there to the time they left. Homemade Indian snacks, main dishes, and cool drinks definitely helped them enjoy the hot afternoon. Samosa, Puri, Paratha, Golgappa, Dosa, Biriyani, Tandoori Chicken, Curry, Chai, Sugar Cane juice, ice cream, slushies – snacks to full course, hot and cold, street eats to gourmet, there was something authentic to munch on for everyone. Famous local eateries to vendors from Chicago were seen in festive mood and enjoy serving people.
The rangoli-making, that gorgeous folk art we see created in courtyards during festivals, attracted the attention of people at the IndiaFest in a big way. The rangolis were drawn on tarps with colored sand and white salt. To the surprise of many spectators, quite a few men too took an active part in creating rangolis. And their rangolis too turned out beautifully!
A few Sikh men, who set up a booth, encouraged festival-goers to let them tie a turban on their head, and then wear it for an hour for an authentic experience. For the people belonging to countries other than the Indian subcontinent, it was a pleasant surprise to learn about the Sikh religious practice in which men do not cut their hair or beards in order to show respect for the perfection of God’s creation. The free blood pressure tests were offered by a local hospital run by doctors and Nurses from local hospital.
Bringing quintessence of India was the major focus of the event. Entry arches were placed depicting ancient architectural pillars usually seen in temples around India. Focal point of the event, a day-long non-stop 660 minutes of cultural program was skillfully executed in the carefully decorated stage at the bottom of the natural amphitheater that anchored the entire festival, directed by Saravanan Pichandy and Manjunath Patil. Design, background and relevant backdrops brought the essence more close to the experience of India.
Indian costume was a real treat for the eyes. Gorgeous designs, color, vibrancy was visible in every corner. Another activity people very much enjoyed was taking their family photo against the amazing backdrop of Taj Mahal, India Gate, Konark Temple, and many more iconic Indian locations. Palm reading, past and future telling of a person based on the lines ones palm is extremely popular in India. Authentic palm reading was seen at the venue, engaging people keenly. Indian clothing, bangles to jewelries to threading and henna – many activities and shopping at the market place kept guests occupied.
Consul General of India, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed extended warm greetings “I sincerely appreciate and commend the welfare and organizational work being done by Spindle India Inc., in reaching out to a large segment of society. “There is no better way to learn about Indian culture,” said Purnima Nath, Organizer, Producer and Chairwoman of IndiaFest Milwaukee, and President of Spindle India. “We are weaving happiness as we bring people together through collaboration. Our goal is to weave India’s colorful cultural threads into the rich multicultural tapestry of American culture”, says Purnima Nath. She specially appreciated sweat and hard work of the volunteers, who had dedicated unlimited time and effort for months, to make this festival happen.
“Wisconsin hasn’t seen anything like this in this grand scale, before. We are setting a new boundary. We have created history” ~says Suresh Krishnaiah, Program Director, IndiaFest Milwaukee. Spindle India a 501 3(c) organization, strives to make IndiaFest even better next year, raising the bar another notch, setting examples of accountability, transparency and quality.