On a nippy Saturday morning, at 8:30 a.m. the Mission Ballroom of the Santa Clara Convention Center was buzzing with activity; young men and women of Indian and Chinese origins were setting up tables, the atmosphere was festive with red and yellow McDonalds balloons filling the hallway and the room inside, there was a bee-line outside at the registration desk, hundreds of parents lined up with their little ones, checking in, some for the Wild card raffle, some for the Semi-finals of the nation’s First Ever Pan Asian Spelling Bee.
World Journal, a leading Chinese Media House and Mahima Creations, a leading powerhouse in South Asian entertainment programming, came together to present this unique event. “There is so much cultural diversity in the Bay Area, we have the Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, and Fijian communities…. Yet we are all bound together by the fact that our future is American. It only made sense to bring together the children from these communities on a common platform- this is just the first step in that direction” says Mahima of Mahima Creations.
The representative of the World Journal, Mr. Peter Ho echoed the same sentiment adding that it only made sense for them to work with a market leader in the local Indian media to make this happen and “we are thrilled by the response of the Indian community to this event, we had more than 400 children register”.
The buzzing of activity was literally that of little spelling bees—there were little five year olds, first graders all the way to eighth graders in the hall, the air was wrought with anticipation yet there was a sense of belonging, and the children seemed completely at ease with the organizers, themselves and even the judges. Aptly named “Big, Bigger and Biggest”—the children competed in three different categories based on their ages. Parents were seated in a separate area of the room, to dissipate any possible stress or tension of the competition from bogging down the fun experience for the child. “Funformation is a copyrighted term coined by Mahima Creations and we wanted to remove the “formidable” element that pervades every element of a competition like the spelling bee. Children learn so much more when they are playing, and observing and that is what we aimed at providing them at this Spelling BEE” says Kishan S of Mahima Creations when questioned about the camaraderie of the participants and parents alike.
This was an action packed day, with categories contesting back to back in the Semi finals, and 10 finalists in each category came to the finals, which was a nail-biter all the way to the finish. “In some categories, we went through 10 rounds of tie-breaker questions, and these children made ALL of us work, including the organizing committee, the word committee and even the Judges, the children in the Biggest category were so advanced in terms of their vocabulary that they even got college level words right” says Kavita S of Mahima Creations. The Awards ceremony was held the same day, the program was planned seamlessly, with the dignitaries arriving for the Awards ceremony just as the final tie-breaker ended. Hon’ble Consul General of India, Mr. N. Parthasarathi, Hon’ble San Jose City Councilman Mr. Ash Kalra and Hon’ble Trade Advisor to the Obama administration and Ohlone College Trustee Ms. Teresa Cox spoke words of encouragement for the children and distributed the awards to the winners who were adjudged by an esteemed and diverse panel of judges that included educators and literary elite from the Asian communities (Ms. Jaya Padmanabhan, Managing Editor of India Currents, Ms. Ayse Kaya, co-founder/Director of Mission Hills Middle School and Ms. Irene Fu, an educator with over 20 years of teaching experience from the Evergreen School District, aside from Ms. Pragati Grover, Saratoga Union School District, Ms. Anjali Kausar, Cupertino Union School District, Ms. Kshama Santhosh, Asst. Director of Scribbles Montessori).
There were winning smiles all around on the face of every child there, as they walked out of the room, a Stratford Schools bag in hand, the other proudly clutching a glowing Participation certificate, while they congratulated the winners who had now become their friend, after the hours of bonding sitting next to each other during the grueling final rounds. Winners and runners up in each category received cash prizes, trophies, Kindles, Nooks, Games, Gift certificates etc. from McDonalds, Unismile Dental, The Menu, Cheeni For Tots, World Journal, and Mahima Creations. The buzzing of activity slowly wound down around 6pm after the Awards Ceremony, as one exhausted, yet beaming child after another left the room, personifying the words of all the dignitaries and the organizers, that every one of them who showed up there is a winner!
|WINNER||Neel Kovelamudi||Vishal Venkatesh||Shreya Tiwari|
|1st RUNNER||Charul Sharma||Madhavan Krishnan||Simarya Ahuja|
|2nd Runner up||Ruhani Kapoor||Chinmay Gowdra||Tanish Swarnapuri|