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The Tri-Color on their minds – and in their sweets

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The Tri-Color on their minds – and in their sweets


Indian-Americans surely have a part of their hearts embedded in India and have sung, danced, written and tweeted about the big 75th birthday of the homeland.

The Tri-Color on their minds – and in their sweets
They may be far, far away from India but their hearts are in India – especially on August 15, the historic day that India became a free nation, and the tri-colour flag flew over the country.  It is India’s milestone 75th birthday and Indian-Americans are celebrating with music, dance, gatherings and video tributes. The scale of the celebrations is low-key and muted due to the pandemic but the enthusiasm is there.
President Biden greeted India and in his remarks noted, “Over the decades, the ties between our people, including a vibrant community of more than four million Indian-Americans, have sustained and strengthened our partnership.”
In America, especially, the day holds great importance for the Indian community in spite of the distractions and tragedy of the pandemic. So many Indian immigrants grew up celebrating the big day in India and have passed on the passion to their American-born children.  For years before the pandemic, the India Day parade in Manhattan brought out huge flag-waving and cheering crowds and celebrities and this was repeated in many cities across America.
While large in-person events aren’t possible there are plenty of virtual events and some smaller live events too to mark the day. The Indian Embassy in DC invited everyone to  India’s virtual celebration and also shared greetings from noted American public officials and prominent Indian-Americans like Nisha Biswal, Indra Nooyi, and Ajay Banga.
The Consulate General of India, New York, celebrated India's Independence Day with a flag hoisting ceremony in Times Square . Many Indian-Americans did trek out for this celebration in the midst of a New York which is recovering from the pandemic.
Since one can’t have big celebrations, the trend seemed to be to light up large public spaces in the colours of the tri-colour to express unity with India, illuminating landmark buildings from the State Capitol building in Providence, Rhode Island to the Empire State Building in New York, while the Indian flag was unfurled at many official spaces, including Philadelphia’s City Hall for the first time.
A New Jersey-based organization, the South Asian Engagement Foundation lit up well-known landmarks including One World Trade Center at sunset. Rahul Walia, a founder of SAEF, said that that noted building, as well as One Bryant Park and One Five One in midtown, were lit up till 2 am in the morning, and the tricolour was visible on the podium of the World Trade Center, providing photo opportunities for the community.
In many cities across America with large Indian-American populations, the local governments made a point of acknowledging India’s 75th Independence Day.  Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson officially proclaimed August 15, 2021, as Indian Independence Day in Dallas during a public ceremony at City Hall.  The Texas Governor Greg Abbott and First Lady Cecilia Abbott hosted a special signing ceremony and proclamation at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, and the Reunion Tower was lit in saffron, white and green.
Although the Indian-American population is just 2 percent of the population in Texas, (2016 U.S. Census data), its achievements are many.  As Arun Agarwal, President of IACEO Council in Dallas pointed out, “Whether our doctors and nurses are on the front lines battling this pandemic or in the boardrooms keeping our large and small businesses afloat during these tumultuous times, Indian Americans are a vital part of the dynamic fabric of this country.”
Indeed, Indian-Americans are a big part of so many American communities and one saw the respect India gets in so many official circles. Social media was full of images of community members engaging with public officials in celebrations in many cities, and also always trying to get support for COVID-19 relief efforts in India.
Travel to India is not a possibility for most Indian-Americans but they celebrated India on this big anniversary with arts and music through various community Indian organizations and cultural institutions, though mostly virtually. The Indo-American Arts Council presented a year-long series of events celebrating 75 years of Indian Independence. The most recent was The Freedom Concert with Ghazal singer Dr Radhika Chopra and a musical concert by the two sons of Sarod Maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan - Amaan Ali Bangash & Ayaan Ali Bangash. Both events were live-streamed.
The Battery Dance Company, as always, celebrated India’s Independence Day with the art forms of Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi along with live music by Eventually Epic. Rajika Puri was the Sutradhar and narrator of the Festival’s India Independence Day Program. The performances included the premieres of Water by Kasi Aysola and Saisantosh Radhakrishnan,  Kundali Rising and Kavacham by Maya  Kulkarni and Dancers which included Mesma Belsare, Aishwarya Madhav and Aishwarya Sriram, and Yugal by Parul Shah Dance Company.  As in the old days, it was possible to catch these performances live on the beautiful New York waterfront facing the Robert F. Wagner Park but in these COVID-19 times, the performances were also live-streamed.
Indian-Americans surely have a part of their hearts embedded in India and have sung, danced, written and tweeted about the big 75th birthday of the homeland. Children have participated in national anthem audios and art contests organized by The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)
The tri-colour was everywhere – even in the creation of mithai!  Madhuram Sweets, one of the entrepreneurial ventures started by young Indian-Americans, showcased the tricolour with barfi in saffron, green and white. As Anita Ajmera, the owner of that small business, wrote on Instagram, “The Indian Tricolor stands for the message of peace, humanity, and prosperity. It represents a nation diverse in beliefs and rich in culture, with a thumping heart that is full of life and colour! May it always fly high and Jai Hind!”
Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who blogs at Lassi with Lavina.
Read her columns here.
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