India Day 2020: A unique, original and memorable celebration of India’s Independence Day amidst the pandemic
– Nagendra Rao
A couple of months after the pandemic began, the IAGB team was tasked with the challenge of celebrating India Day with so many constraints that came up. In addition to the unavailability of a grand platform like City Hall at Boston, the inevitable thought dawned on us that we would have to celebrate the event virtually. Further, the team wanted to do something really relevant for the community. A series of events were conceived by IAGB leading up to a grand event on August 15th.
IAGB Director Lata Rao organized a Learning series “India’s journey to Independence” in association with Shishu Bharati, which was conducted over a 6-week period where young audiences learnt about India’s freedom struggle. This was attended by over 100 kids. IAGB felt the need to educate and create awareness of the Indian culture amongst the general public about common misconceptions that they may have about India or Indian-Americans in general. IAGB Director Sushil Motwani and VP Vaishali Gade began an Awareness Series where the community was invited to publish articles regarding Indian leaders, religion, food, language and similar topics to be published in local journals and media. Yogita Miharia, IAGB Director, conceived and organized a fun series featuring 10 standup comedy artists from all over the country. These comedy shows added color to the schedule of events along with catering to the youth’s interests. This was just the beginning of new and unique undertakings on IAGB’s part. They were all precursors to a grand event planned for the Independence Day. The team decided that they would do something truly unique on the ground and in the virtual world.
A dedicated team of IAGB volunteers led by Directors Tanu Basu and Jeyanthi Ghatraju started planning a hitherto never attempted initiative in New England in March 2020. They started talking to 35+ towns requesting them to help in the celebration of the Indian Independence Day during August 2020. They met in planned synchronism with town officials, Mayors, Town Managers organizing online discussions, meeting town officials and talking to them about India and the Independence Day. IAGB wanted towns to proclaim 15th August as India Day and hoist the Indian tricolor in their towns in small socially distanced ceremonies.
You can appreciate how much effort went into this initiative. Flag poles had to be made available. Towns had to meet and give permission. Flags were to be purchased and made available and handled with care. Volunteers had to meet at the scheduled times and conduct the event properly and safely in this pandemic situation. It all happened smoothly and the Indian diaspora got to see on Facebook how the tricolor fluttered bravely on 8/14 and 8/15. Mayors, town officials gathered and attended the meetings and read out the proclamations. It was a proud moment for Indians in New England and IAGB.
Many people attended the event in the local towns and communities and affirmed their home country’s pride and honor in the United States. Faced by the COVID pandemic, IAGB was unable to plan major gatherings like the previous years in central Boston.
Further, in the evening on the Independence Day, a grand virtual program was held on YouTube where there were two major performances and also, felicitations by US and Indian dignitaries. The who’s who in New England came together online and felicitated the Indian community on India Day and encouraged the American-Indian communities to work together on important issues and participate in governance, and build the bonds between India and America even stronger. The highlight of the evening were two performances, a wonderful dance production called “Tad Bharatam, That! is India” was presented by the famous dance do Nirupama and Rajendra and, a One India Concert by the celebrity singer Vijay Prakash of “Jai Ho” fame. This concert was presented by the Nightingale of New England, Anuradha Palakurthi who sang with Vijay Prakash. There were 15+ songs in 10 different languages showcasing the diversity and rich culture of India.
The US officials who were present at the virtual event from Massachusetts were Governor Charlie Baker, US Senator Edward Markey, Senate President Karen E. Spilka and Congressman Joe Kennedy. There was a message from the Indian Minister of Culture and Tourism GOI – Prahlad Singh Patel. The Consul General of India in New York, Sh. Randhir Jaiswal spoke on the occasion, greeted the Indian American community and praised the efforts on IAGB in bringing the community together with useful events in such trying times.
IAGB was supported by 15+ regional Indian organizations in this effort. We would like to thank our members, local organizations who stood up to help us and all the donors who helped raise funds for the homeless shelters, charities and food banks.
IAGB also thanks all the teams who helped organize the immensely successful India Day online event.
There were many lessons that we learnt from this mammoth effort. We learnt that even in adverse situations, we can rise up and do things never attempted before. Ask, and things happen – this was demonstrated by the eagerness and enthusiasm shown by many town officials when we asked them to allow us to celebrate India day in the USA. Technical challenges can be taken up and overcome, as shown by the huge online event where live performances and speeches were presented (albeit with some minor hitches) alongside large recorded productions. Truly, teamwork can make anything happen.
IAGB is now ready to take up even larger challenges. We are sure that with the support of the Indian community we can scale new heights.
Team IAGB is very thankful to the community for their support and kind words of encouragement. Sharing few of the comments and words of appreciation by the community members for the India Day program:
“Congratulations Team IAGB for not only making history but also making India Independence Day 2020 as the most memorable. It proved once again that Crisis can lead to great opportunities if a creative & hard-working team is led by visionary leaders.”
“Thank you IAGB for an amazing event. So much gratitude to your entire team and sincere thanks to sponsors as well for bringing us a spectacular show. It was wonderful to watch amazing performances from the comfort of our own homes in tough Covid times. Hope you all get some well-deserved rest. Jai Hind ”
“Congratulations IAGB team! what a wonderful job yesterday raising Indian flags at multiple locations and ending with a beautiful and fun concert.”
“Exemplary vision, huge undertaking by IAGB and outstanding coordination with towns – which was a big success. Fortunate to have attending the first ever Indian flag hoisting in Acton.”
“Amazing team at IAGB doing incredible work of building bridges across many communities.”
“Congratulations on a great program yesterday! I totally enjoyed! Mainly, I felt really happy and PROUD to see Tricolor hoisted in American Soil (30+ towns) … It was a commendable effort especially in current situation. Celebrated our India’s Day virtually this year. Kudos to entire team”
“ Congratulations to IAGB team for an awesome One India celebration. Final dance by Nirupama and musical concert by Vijay Prakash were superb.”
“I wanted to drop this congratulatory note to the IAGB team for a fabulous Independence Day celebration. All who were involved- congratulations for achieving a huge milestone of involving 30+ towns in hoisting the Indian flag, and thank you for bringing the celebration to our homes. The performances were stunning. Vande Mataram! ”
“Great effort by the entire IAGB team! Always get goosebumps when I see the Indian flag flying. Vande Mataram!”
“This made me so emotional!! This is historic. Kudos once again IAGB team. Amazing line up IAGB – you have set the bar so high this year!!!”
“I am sooooo impressed with all IAGB initiatives. Big thanks to the innovative and hardworking team. We feel so blessed to experience all this. God bless IAGB and everyone involved.”
“IAGB went above and beyond to make this a truly memorable Independence Day for us!”
“IAGB team, Kudos and big thanks with sincere gratitude for all your hard work and memorable event. Truly, truly appreciate it. Thank you.”
“Amazing program!! We are watching!! Thanks to everyone in your team!! Happy Independence Day!!”
“IAGB has done great job arranging for series of events! Kudos… the program is amazing! Kudos IAGB team for getting our governor and senators speak on Indian Independence Day!! Not an easy job to arrange for it!!”
“It is so amazing how IAGB has made the Independence Day so special! Kudos to the entire team and I am glad I know a few very hardworking IAGB folks. Just Awesome.”