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In the Bay Area, for the past 20 years, India’s Independence Day is celebrated at the annual Festival of India. This year, the Federation of Indian Associations of Northern California (FIA) celebrates a milestone and is especially proud and thrilled to be presenting the 20th Annual Festival of India. “The festival and parade has become the pride of the entire Indian community,” says Vijaya Aasuri. “I am looking forward to meeting the visionaries who have made this festival possible over the years and sharing the history of the past 20 years. The festival has become an integral part of our summer activities. [It] is our way of passing on the torch of our pride in our traditions to the future generations of American Indian youth.”

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The three-day event kicks off with a flag-hoisting ceremony on Thursday, August 16th (6:30 p.m.) at San Jose’s City Hall. Presiding over the event will be San Jose Council Member, Ash Kalra. The festivities will subsequently continue through the weekend of August 18 and August 19 in Fremont with a fair, dance competitions, cultural programs, Bollywood musical extravaganzas, a comprehensive Health Fair, and a parade.

Aasuri is the festival’s Cultural Chair for Participation in Singing/Dance Competition. She is “looking forward to the performances of various groups who will be exhibiting their creativeness on stage and the grand parade which brings our culture front and center in the main streets of America.” She adds, “The dance competition has been a main part of the festival for the past 20 years. In addition to the classical, folk, and Bollywood dances, there is a special focus on patriotic dances. [Also], we are placing extra efforts in getting the youth involved in the organization of the festival to help develop leadership among our kids.”

Just as enthusiastic about the significance of celebrating the Festival’s 20th year is Parade-Chair, Deepak Chhabra. What began as a local event grew up to become a national one; attracting participants from far places such as New York and Chicago, as well as across Canadian border. Chhabra says, “It was a mere noble thought of a patriotic few of think alike Indians that made the humble beginning of this Festival in 1992. Undoubtedly, it was the persistent and painstaking efforts of those patriotic few – the unsung heroes that played the crucial role of a catalyst and nurtured it to become a movement.”

Chhabra states that the Festival will “[showcase] Indian culture and heritage not only to the Indo-American community, but also to the global Northern California community.” The mela (fair) will feature over 120 booths exhibiting arts and crafts, literature, clothing and jewelry, ethnic food, and businesses. Indian culture will be showcased through dances and music. At the Health Fair, there will be over 100 physicians and other professionals providing free check-ups, testing and advice on a variety of health-related issues. The parade will feature over 50 floats representing different states of India and Indian American community businesses.

Something new this year is the addition of kids’ rides and other fun activities; events that will not go unnoticed by many of the families who will be in attendance, including the family of Abha Kothari of Fremont. When asked what India’s Independence Day means to her, Kothari answered, “Freedom from oppression! [It is] an opportunity to celebrate our beautiful culture and be thankful to the network of freedom fighters that made it possible.” She and her husband are excited to attend the festival with their young children and plans on “Showing our [kids] the dances, crafts, and cuisine! They are [going to] have fun in the ‘Indian’ sun.”

As host of the festival for the past two decades, the FIA is “a strong and effective voice for Americans of Indian origin in the cultural, social, political, academic and economic fields,” explains Chhabra. The Fremont-based non-profit group works fervently on various community-based initiatives and fosters its members to engage in every aspect of the community. It is an umbrella organization of over 50 Bay Area organizations representing over 100,000 Indians in America.

“Dr. Romesh Japra (Convener/Chairman) and a dedicated team of volunteers have been working for the past several months in planning and execution of the festival and parade; [both of which celebrate and display] our history, our culture and our traditions,” Aasuri shares. “This festival is a reminder to our American Indian youth of our heritage and our roots. We are proud that the festival has been a platform for many a youth to experience this special feeling of being an American Indian, celebrate our diversities.”

Everyone is invited to come out and be part of this great milestone in the history of Bay Area Indian community and to celebrate the Independence of India. Chhabra sums it up best; “The Festival seeks to promote unity in diversity, democracy and to build bridges between the various global communities. We hope you can help us in achieving this goal through your participation.”

Kick-Off Event at San Jose City Hall, Thursday, August 16, 6:30 p.m.

Fair and Parade, Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19. 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 39439 Paseo Padre Parkway (corner of Paseo Padre and Walnut Ave), Fremont. www.fiaonline.org.

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