The India Day Celebrates Everything Indian

By David Downey   

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Editor’s note:  David is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Philosophy. He also works at the Nationality Rooms Program.  David hopes to see more India-related events.

The I-Day procession outside the Cathdrel of Learning

The I-Day procession outside the Cathdrel of Learning

On Sunday, August 18, hundreds of people gathered at the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Although the sky was overcast, smiles were everywhere as people prepared for the 16th India Day’s festivities, celebrating India’s culture, heritage and ancestry coinciding with the 66th anniversary of India’s independence. This year’s festivities highlighted Subhash Chandra Bose.

The festival began outside with a parade around the grounds of the Cathedral with Keerti Gaulati welcoming crowd and singing the Indian and American national anthems. A truck carried powerful speakers that put forth both Indian music and the rallying words of the parade. The music was accompanied by a variety of hand-held percussion instruments, as well as the cheers of marchers and spectators with the marchers in the front spontaneously dancing to the upbeat tunes. The half-hour parade drew several pedestrians into the Cathedral to see what was going on.

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Nordenberg and Indian Army Brigadier (Retd) Nawab Singh Heer after the flag hoisting.

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Nordenberg and Indian Army Brigadier (Retd) Nawab Singh Heer after the flag hoisting.

The program booklet was a work of art in itself, with messages from leaders in Pittsburgh’s community, a summary of the life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a timeline of India’s history, and advertisements for Indian restaurants and businesses.

Although many festival goers were dressed casually, many others wore traditional dress with many women in brightly colorful saris. The extravagant ornamentation of the dresses brightened the grey limestone halls of the old Gothic building. The Commons Room became even more lively as music and dance performances alternated with speeches.

The two-hour program started with people singing the American and Indian national anthems as the Stars and Stripes and the Indian Tricolor flags were hoisted.  People celebrated their freedom to exercise both Indian and American identities, and how cultures are able to celebrate and complement each other. Speakers included Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Councilman Bill Peduto, County Commissioner Rich Fitzgerald, Meena Muthyala, Kaushik Mitra, and Chelsea Pallatino.

Speeches addressed everything from Indian history and freedom, making a new home in Pittsburgh and the US, climate change, and maintaining a rich cultural heritage and working together as a community.

These elements are all exemplified by the Indian Nationality Class-room on the third floor of the Cathedral that

Allegheny Councty Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald at the podium during the festival.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald at the podium during the festival.

Meena Muthyala, the keynote speaker this year, spoke on the important topic of energy conservation.

Meena Muthyala, the keynote speaker this year, spoke on energy conservation.

was opened in early 2000. The classroom cost tens of thousands of dollars raised by the Indian community in the region.  The dedication required to build a classy teaching room is proof that the speakers’ words rang true. The room was open to visit, and many took time to appreciate its representation of the ancient classroom.

The classroom also continues to give, as made clear by the speech by Chelsea Pallatino, this year’s winner of the Indian Nationality Classroom Scholarship, which enabled her to travel to India. Chelsea worked with Share India to assist health issues in the Medchal Mandal area. This experience allowed her both to experience rich Indian culture, and give back to those people by improving health conditions. The dances and songs performed by various ages kept the festival atmosphere alive.

In addition to the speakers and dancers in the center of the room, various tables lined the perimeter. There were several arts and crafts tables for children, with people indulging in the Indian food available. There were multiple booths inviting philanthropy. These were hosted by Overseas Volunteers for a Better India, The Association for India’s Development, and The Bengali Association of Pittsburgh. The event was also sponsored by The U.S. India Forum. Finally, there was a table selling finely decorated saris, and another selling books. The books covered biographies, history, religious scripture and meditation practices.

The effort and planning required for an event such as this were no challenge for the motivated enthusiasts of Indian culture and heritage.  ♦

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