FIA Chicago Hosts Largest Republic Day Celebrations In USA

The Federation of Indian Associations, Chicago (FIA), elevated the celebration of India’s Republic Day to new heights on January 28th, at the prestigious Matrix Club in Chicago. This momentous occasion, dedicated to honoring the adoption of the Constitution of India, transcended expectations through a symphony of grand celebrations, patriotic fervor, and a vibrant tapestry showcasing the rich cultural diversity of the nation. The 2024 Republic Day festivities orchestrated by FIA were a testament to the organization’s unwavering commitment to excellence, featuring a diverse array of events, impactful community service initiatives, and a spectacular grand show that unequivocally underscored India’s profound unity in diversity.

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Picture: Asian Media USA

A noteworthy highlight of the evening was a breathtaking performance by acclaimed artists from India, led by the talented Shahid Rafi, the son of the legendary Padmashree Mohammad Rafi, revered as the Greatest Voice in Indian Cinema. The evening not only celebrated the heritage of the Indian Republic but also served as a beacon of cultural brilliance and artistic prowess.

The inaugural moments of the event unfolded in the timeless Indian tradition, symbolizing the illumination of knowledge and wisdom through the ceremonial lighting of the lamp. Standing as custodians of this symbolic act were luminaries of FIA: Founder and Chairman Sunil Shah, President Vinita Gulabani, President Pratibha Jairath, and esteemed past presidents, each contributing to the collective radiance. In keeping with FIA’s commitment to inclusivity, the stage beckoned all Advisory Board members, Directors, and Members, to partake in this auspicious initiation.

The grandeur of the main event was ushered in by the dynamic presence of FIA’s General Secretary, Nilabh Dubey, seizing the stage to a resounding applause that echoed through the venue. Nilabh Dubey, set the tone by introducing the evening’s main MCs by his eloquent articulation that offered a glimpse into the diverse talents that define FIA, specifically that highlighted the professional achievements of the evening’s MCs. The spotlight of the evening shifted seamlessly to the captivating presence of the main MCs, Anu Malhotra and Suchitra Kukreja, who effortlessly took command of the stage, igniting the atmosphere with great excitement.

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Picture: Asian Media USA

Inviting Founder Chairman Sunil Shah to share his insights, Sunil Shah, in his smooth style, painted a vivid picture of FIA’s pivotal role in uniting the diaspora in and around Chicago land over the past several years, including expanding into neighboring states. Sunil Shah eloquently articulated the organization’s vision and mission, setting the stage for a night of celebration and reflection.

Past President Vinita Gulabani, gracing the stage, highlighted the remarkable achievements of 2023, emphasizing the phenomenal growth from 58 to over 160 members—a testament to a staggering 300 percent increase in funding, event sizes, and the number of events hosted. Current President Pratibha Jairath, invited to the stage by Anu Malhotra, expressed gratitude to the Executive members and outlined her ambitious plan for 2024. In a groundbreaking move, she introduced an additional event focusing on Animal Medical Welfare and Care, reiterating FIA’s commitment to diverse and impactful community engagement.

The stage then welcomed the esteemed Chief Guest for the evening, Consulate General Somnath Ghosh, who spoke passionately about the relevance of India’s Republic Day to the Indian Diaspora, conveying key messages from the President of India to the captivated audience.

In a poignant moment, FIA’s Advisory Board members, instrumental in the organization’s decade-long growth, took center stage. Syed Hussaini, Manish Gandhi, Asha Oroskar, Pinky Thakkar, Lakhvir Sahota, Dr. Anuja Gupta, Dr. Bhupinder Beri, Dr. Suresh Reddy, Nimish Jani, Shrujal Patel, Sushma Bhanot, Shital Daftari, and Jasbir Suga shared their perspectives on FIA’s contributions to the community, underscoring the collective impact made month after month.

The culmination of this segment gave way to an exhilarating and patriotic performance, as children from the Atharv Dance Academy, unleashing a foot-stomping patriotic dance that echoed the spirit of the evening.

The festivities included bestowal of awards and honors upon exceptional individuals who have left an indelible mark on the community across diverse fields. Founder Chairman Sunil Shah, President Vinita Gulabani, President Pratibha Jairath, and Consulate General Somanth Ghosh, graced the occasion to present these accolades. The luminaries acknowledged for their unwavering generosity in both time and funding, breathing vitality into numerous remarkable FIA and community initiatives, were Sudhir and Archana Agarwal, Pinky & Dinesh Thakkar, Chintan & Digna Patel, Chirag Patel, Sunny Patel, Arjun Patel, Manish & Shailja Gandhi, Suketu Amin, Kunal Sarangi (ex-MLA), Naresh Shah, Dr. Bhupinder Beri, and Jayanti Oza. The dynamic duo MCs, Anu Malhotra and Suchitra Kukreja, brought their collective expertise to the forefront, turning the award ceremony into a flawless celebration of community service and contribution.

Jaspreet Kharbanda, the CFO of Dabur USA, took us on a heartfelt journey to India, not just through geography but through the senses, creating an immersive experience. In a gesture that transcended the ordinary, he generously treated all attendees to the rich flavors of Badshah masala chai/tea and the delightful burst of aromatic richness of Pani Puri. Truly Jaspreet’s thoughtful gesture reinforced the simple act of breaking bread together.

In a commitment to fostering community development, the FIA proudly extends its support through a commendable scholarship program presented annually on India’s Republic Day. This initiative, grounded in both financial need and academic excellence, attracted an impressive pool of more than 35 applications this year. Rigorous evaluation led to the shortlisting of 17 exceptional candidates, and we are thrilled to announce that, on this occasion, 6 remarkable individuals were honored with scholarships.

The entire process was led by Vinita Gulabani and Kamlesh Kapoor from FIA. Consulate General Somnath Ghosh, Swapnil Shah, Sahaj Shah, Asha Oroskar, Lakhvir Sahota, Kamlesh Kapoor, graciously presided over the awards ceremony. Vice President of FIA and pro-MC Richa Chand, with an eloquent and inspirational delivery, announced the recipients of the scholarships, highlighting their remarkable achievements. Richa Chand infused the moment with a sense of pride and uplifting experience for the exceptional accomplishments of the scholarship winners. These scholarships, a testament to the collaborative spirit of various businesses and the visionary leadership within the FIA, symbolize our unwavering dedication to nurturing talent and empowering the aspirations of the deserving students in Chicago land.

Chandini Duvvuri, Vice President of FIA, eloquently conveyed the Vote of Thanks, embodying gratitude and appreciation on behalf of the entire organization. In her heartfelt expression of thanks, Chandini extended sincere appreciation to Founder Chairman Sunil Shah, acknowledging the enduring legacy he has crafted and commending current and past presidents for consistently elevating the standards of FIA events to unprecedented heights. She expressed deep gratitude to Consulate General Somnath Ghosh, Linda Davenport, Court Judge, and other esteemed dignitaries whose presence added prestige to the occasion. Chandini offered a profound thank you to the altruistic individuals whose generous contributions made the event and scholarships possible. Recognizing the dedication and unwavering commitment of FIA Advisory Board members and Directors, she emphasized their pivotal role in shaping the organization’s collaborative spirit and serving as a continual source of inspiration.

President Vinita Gulabani set the stage ablaze, ushering in the main cultural show with a magnetic presence that commanded attention. Her introduction of renowned artists from India and across the globe heightened anticipation, reaching a crescendo when the iconic Shaid Rafi was warmly welcomed on stage, earning a resounding standing ovation. Shahid Rafi, with grace and nostalgia, guided the audience through the corridors of memory, offering poignant insights into Mohammad Rafi’s personal life and his role as a father.

The cultural extravaganza unfolded with a cascade of melodies that transported the audience through a time capsule of Bollywood’s golden era. Classics such as “Aajkal Tere Mera Pyar Kay Charche,” “Chaahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe,” “Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra,” “Gulabi Aankhen,” and “Parda Hai Parda” echoed through the venue, setting the stage on fire.

During the electrifying rendition of ‘An Evening in Paris,’ Sunil Shah’s signature dance moves ignited the crowd, prompting an impromptu dance floor and stage invasion by the audience. The infectious energy made it a delightful challenge for our ace photographers—Suresh Bodiwala, Vivek Joshi, Nilabh Dubey, Ramesh Punetar, Jayanti Oza and Matt Chennoor—to capture the essence of the unbridled celebration.

The crowd, carried away by the euphoria, chanted “Once more, once more” after each super-hit performance by Neelajan Ray, Priyanka Mittra, Sammy M., Gautami Roy, Prakhar Ghosh, and Mohammad Salamat. Even the Q&A session between Rizwan and Shahid Rafi added a touch of humor, leaving the audience clamoring for more in a night that seamlessly blended patriotism, nostalgia, entertainment, and sheer joy.

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Picture: Asian Media USA

As the resonant notes of Mohammad Rafi’s songs, sung by Shahid Rafi, patriotic melodies filled the air, a poignant scene unfolded among some of the senior citizens who had witnessed the trials and triumphs of India’s freedom struggle. The evocative strains of timeless classics like “Mera Rang De Basanti Chola,” “Karo Zindagi Ko Watan Ke Hawaale,” and “Nafrat Ki Laathi Todo” stirred deep emotions, bringing tears to the eyes of those who had personally lived through the historic era. In those heartfelt moments, the power of Rafi’s voice became a bridge, connecting the present to the indomitable spirit of the past.

Songs such as “Naujawaanon Bharat Ki Taqdeer,” “Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna,” and “Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawaanon Ka” acted as an emotional time machine, transporting these seniors back to a time of sacrifice, unity, and an unyielding love for their motherland. The tears that welled up in their eyes were not just a response to music; they were a poignant tribute to the enduring legacy of India’s struggle for independence. The yearning for more was felt through the audience, an audible echo of their profound connection to the mesmerizing performance, many requests were made to Founder Chairman Sunil Shah to continue the program for some more time. Yet, as the clock struck twelve midnight, signaling the culmination of a spectacular show, a collective sigh of both satisfaction and reluctance filled the air. The lingering applause and non-stop dancing, though a token of appreciation, was also a wistful plea for the FIA’s Republic Day magic to continue.

As the Consulate General of India, Sonath Ghosh, truly remarked “This FIA, Chicago event was not merely a reflection, but a vivid manifestation of our love for India and profound pride in being part of the world’s largest democracy, India.  The celebration left an indelible impression, cultivating a heightened sense of patriotism and national pride among the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) connected to their roots and heritage”. FIA Chicago’s Republic Day festivities were not just a commemoration; they were a powerful testament to the enduring spirit of India and its diaspora.

Grand Celebrations and Global Enthusiasm Surrounding Ayodhya’s Ram Temple Inauguration

As anticipation grows in India for the opening of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya later this month, Indians residing in the United States have displayed their enthusiasm through a grand car rally organized in Edison, New Jersey. More than 350 cars, adorned with flags depicting images of Lord Ram, participated in the event, as captured in visuals accessed by ANI.

Simultaneously, preparations for the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony at the Ram Temple on January 22 have taken on a global scale. Giant billboards featuring Lord Ram and the majestic shrine have been erected in over 10 states in the United States, thousands of miles away from Ayodhya. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), US chapter, in collaboration with Hindus from across the country, has installed over 40 billboards, conveying the significance of the grand ceremony at the birthplace of Shri Ram Lalla.

These billboards are prominently displayed in states such as Texas, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia. Additionally, Arizona and the State of Missouri are scheduled to join this visual celebration from January 15 onwards, according to the VHP, American chapter.

Amitabh VW Mittal, the general secretary of the Hindu Parishad of America, emphasized the joy and excitement of Hindu Americans, stating, “The resounding message conveyed by these billboards is that Hindu Americans are elated and joyously participating in this once-in-a-lifetime event. Their emotions overflow as they eagerly await the auspicious day of the consecration ceremony.”

Teja A Shah, joint general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, America chapter, echoed this sentiment, expressing the palpable enthusiasm within the Hindu community in New Jersey. He mentioned the various events leading up to the ceremony, including a car rally, exhibition, curtain raiser, and billboards across New York and New Jersey, culminating in a grand celebration on the 21st night.

To mark the inauguration of the Ram Temple, the Hindu American community in the US has organized several car rallies, with more events planned in the lead-up to the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ in Ayodhya.

Meanwhile, President Bhojraj Ghoorbin of the Mauritius Sanatan Dharm Temples Federation shared the preparations in Mauritius. Temples across the country will organize Ramayan Chanting and celebrations on January 22, commemorating the Pran Pratishtha of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. Ghoorbin highlighted the festive atmosphere, revealing that all Hindu brothers and sisters in Mauritius are actively participating in the celebrations, with special events planned, resembling the fervor of Diwali.

“In Mauritius, we are celebrating two Diwalis. The first Diwali is on January 22, and the second Diwali is on October 31. We will do it the same as we all know: after 14 years of Vanwas (exile), Prabhu Shri Ram is coming to Ayodhya. So this time, not after 14 years, Prabhu Ram is coming after 500 years,” added President Ghoorbin. He also announced a cultural program a day before the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, with Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth attending as the chief guest.

On the Indian front, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend the ceremonial installation of the idol of Shri Ram Lalla inside the sanctum sanctorum of the grand temple on January 22. Leaders and dignitaries from various fields have been invited to the grand temple opening, which will span seven days starting January 16. The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has set the date for the enthronement of Ram Lalla at noon on January 22, with Vedic rituals for the Pran-Pratishtha ceremony beginning on January 16, a week prior to the main event.

Reflecting on the cultural significance of the Ramayan, the Indian envoy to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, highlighted its universal appeal and timeless lessons. Speaking at an event titled ‘Ramayana across Asia and Beyond’ at the US Capitol Hill, Sandhu stated, “The epic gives insights into the complexities of human relationships, governance and spirituality, dharma or duty, justice, sacrifice, loyalty, and the eternal struggle between good and evil.

He emphasized the global reach of the Ramayan, serving as a bridge across geographies and influencing diverse cultures in the Indo-Pacific region. Ambassador Sandhu shared his personal observations of the epic’s impact across boundaries, showcasing its adaptability in various artistic, literary, and religious traditions.

The fervor surrounding the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is not confined to the borders of India. The global Hindu community, especially in the United States and Mauritius, is actively participating in and celebrating this historic event, showcasing the universal appeal and cultural significance of the Ramayan.