India Day 2014 Celebrated With the Usual Gusto

By David Downey         e-mail:

Note:  David Downey, a recent graduate from the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of  Pittsburgh, seeks work in academic or scholarship administration.

Late summer once again brought the India Day celebration to the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. On Sunday, August 17, the Indian diaspora and curious passersby gathered to celebrate 67 years of Indian independence. The theme of this year’s event was Punjab and its leaders who fought for their political and religious freedom and also for others’ freedom on matters of faith.

Gyanai Sucha Singh at IDay

Gyani Sucha Singh of the Gurudwara in Monroeville addressing the gathering in the function. The imposing portrait of Guru Gobind Singh in the backdrop is by Mahendra Shah.

The overcast sky withheld its rain. And the sun didn’t need to be shining as the parade around the Cathedral lit up the gloomy afternoon with joyous song and dance with Keerti Gulati and Sumedha Nagpal as emcees. At the conclusion of the parade, everyone crowded inside to absorb the ambience with performances, speeches, and the aroma of food. Past the hoisting of both the Indian and American flags and singing their national anthems, Kalpana Ramgopal and Parth Bharill emceed the program.

The speeches were heartfelt and sincere and brief for the most part. First was Patrick Gallagher, the new chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. Having been at the job for only two weeks, the India Day was one of the first events for Chancellor Gallagher to represent the University.

County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald also spoke briefly, thanking the Indian community of Pittsburgh for its ongoing contribution to the region’s vitality, officially proclaiming August 17th to be India Day in Allegheny County. He said Indian-Americans “have been absolutely instrumental in the moving forward of what Pittsburgh has become… not just economically, but culturally and in quality of life.”

Gyani Sucha Singh, the Granthi — the trained Sikh teacher who explains the Adi Granth to his audience — at the Sikh Gurudwara, elegantly and passionately told his audience the impact of the Sikhs’ 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh of the 17th century, in the history of Punjab.

Mayor Bill Peduto, a well-known face in India Day events, was not scheduled to be present because of scheduling conflicts. However, he made a brief appearance addressing the young girls and women in the audience, saying they should get inspiration from the life of Pittsburgh’s first woman Mayor Sophie Masloff, who had passed away the previous night.

Later, Ashok Trivedi, Co-Founder of iGATE, spoke at length about India’s political and economic struggles & successes. Trivedi both challenged and addressed the difficult issues in a global economy.

The term culture can denote many elements of life, but India Day celebrated culture in every way. The performing arts were the most exciting events inside the Cathedral. Dances by the students of Jaya Mani, Shambhavi Desai, and Nandini Mandal involved skill to maintain rhythm and control the movement of every limb, which are impressive all by themslves, but the groups’ synchronization made the performances astounding.

Culture was visually apparent in the color, design, and styles of dresses worn by the festivalgoers. The unlimited variations stood as a reminder to the durable creativity of those who craft Indian clothing. There was not one style or one color more common than another. Traditional dresses could be found on men and women, young and old, showing the timeless appeal and joy brought by the distinctly Indian attire.

Songs rendered in group and solo in Hindi and Tamil nicely complemented the dances.

Food is always a distinguishing feature of the Indian culture. The food stand managed by All India Authentic Cuisine with the usual items operated without a lull. The appeal of Indian food is becoming widely recognized, considering the success of the recent American film The One-Hundred Foot Journey, aboyt an Indian family opening a restaurant in France.

And there were booths around the outer edges of the festival area on many activities — The Art of Living, Overseas Volunteer for a Better India, South Asian Marrow Association of Recruiters (SAMAR), Association for India’s Development (AID), Pittsburgh Indian Community & Friends 5K Charity Walk/Run + Fun, Ekal Vidyalaya, Ramakrishna Ashrama Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Sikh Gurdwara, and Pittsburgh Tamil Sangam. There were booths on saris, lehngas, kurtas… … even mehndi designs.

The finale was a bhangra item by Monica Srinivasa and the Tri-State-Sikh Cultural Society, a high-level-competing troupe. The high-decibel bhangra was a perfect end to the evening, whose theme was Punjab.    

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