AIA celebrates 25th Diwali festival on a grand scale
October 10 2012
New York: The Association of Indians in America’s day-long Diwali festival that shut down South Street Seaport, and several city blocks, was an inspiring sight on October 7. Tens of thousands of people flocked to the downtown outdoor event, despite the drizzle throughout the day.
AIA resident Ranju Batra, who organized the event, said: “My main objective for AIA has always been to heighten exposure of the rich Indian culture in New York so that it increases understanding, leading to more social and cultural harmony. The Diwali festival was a lot of work to put together, but after many sleepless nights, I’m very pleased that so many people, of every age and ethnicity, joined the celebrations and enjoyed this festive window into Indian culture.”
AIA’s signature Diwali fireworks over the East River, seen by millions of New Yorkers, were sponsored by State Bank of India. Star Plus, grand television media sponsor, brought their lead pair Nikhilesh and Sanyukta Mazumdar from the hit show Ek Dusre Se Karte Hain Pyaar Hum to hold auditions for the Bharat Matrimony Main Bhi Star contest and had an endless line of audition participants coming to their studio/booth for the TV network’s “Star Search.” Bank of Baroda’s carnival-esque Kids Fun-Zone was packed with young children entertained continuously by jugglers, magic shows, arts and crafts, painting Diwali T-shirts and diyas, and the crowd favorite: a big jumping castle. Visit to Incredible India’s booth was both enjoyable and informative. Toyota’s booth was one of the most aesthetically pleasing at the event. With new model cars being shown on the pier atop a red carpet, the preparation needed to create this eye-catching display was evident to festival-goers. Bank of India, Air India, New York Life, and McDonald’s all had booths that were crowded the entire day. The health fair, organized by the Flushing Hospital Medical Center was busy checking blood pressure and taking mammogram. The Diwali Mela, staying true to its roots, had a crowded Meena Bazaar, and a full city block of different restaurants serving various kinds of Indian cuisines.
There were two stages full of performances throughout the day. Many of those on stage were children and young adults, who have trained for months to perform synchronized dances to classical Indian, folk, Bollywood, fusion, and American music. Just Dance finalists of Star Plus rocked the stage. McDonald’s had an Asian-themed martial arts performance that excited the crowd, and dance on Jai Ho was performed inside a big clear balloon, mesmerizing the audience.
This year had special, never-before seen acts for Diwali arranged by Diamantaire Management, representing much more fusion of the Indian and American culture acknowledged. The VIP hour started with Bravo’s Real Housewife of New Jersey’s reality personality Teresa Giudice and Stephanie Ovadia of Plaid P.R. wishing everyone a “Happy Diwali.” This was followed by recording artists Cha$e and Raquel Castro, contestant on NBC’s The Voice, hitting the stage for a performance, quickly followed by an array of well-wishing politicians and event sponsors. Reggie Noble, a.k.a. Redman, a well-known recording artist and actor, sent a grateful video response from Germany, while on tour, for the “Creative Harmony Award” he has been given by AIA for his innovative work mixing Indian sounds and vocals with mainstream hip-hop.
V.P. Sunil Modi welcomed the gathering and introduced Ranju Batra as a “very hard working president, who has given her all to AIA and the results show – bigger and better than ever before.” Ranju Batra gave her presidential remarks, noting the historic nature of celebrating Diwali for the 25th year and that it is the largest in North America, as well as the history made the night before at The Pierre hotel.
Dr. Gansyham Pandey, AIA national president, expressed his pride in Ranju Batra’s tenure for taking AIA to new heights and his thanks to all committee members. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and her mom, Dr. Una Clarke, a council member, addressed the gathering. NYC Controller John Liu presented a Commendation, NYC Public Advocate Bill De Blasio presented a Proclamation, Councilman Halloran presented two Proclamations issued, in addition to himself, by Inez Dickens, Mark Weprin, Speaker Chris Quinn. Assemblywoman Grace Meng, Councilwoman Tish James and Ambassador Vijay Nambiar were felicitated with Diwali wishes. Harish Thakkar proposed a vote of thanks. On October 6, the pre-Diwali dinner and Awards Ceremony were hosted by AIA at the Pierre hotel, a first for the association. Three rare and special awards were presented; and three special flags flown on Capital Hill dome.