FIA parade a tame affair but Banquet a feather in its cap

WEB3CHICAGO: Rains or shine, the Indians in Chicagoland do make it a point to come out to attend the India Day Parade which has been organized traditionally by the Federation of Indian Organizations (FIA) for the past many years in the heart of Mini India town, Devon Avenue.
The expectations were belied this time and that was baffling considering that the weather was quite favorable with lot of sunshine and cool breeze, and the FIA had announced the presence of a Bollywood star Aftab Shivdasani besides host of elected officials. The crowd was extremely patchy at the start but got a little thicker in the middle and at the fag end. Bhavesh Patel, a businessman on Devon Avenue jocularly estimated the crowd at 50,000 but immediately conceded it a gross exaggeration. Most observers agreed to strike down “one zero”.
There could be many theories and many reasons for a relatively small turnout but the consensus was that the disenchantment with the Indian government handling corruption and security issues, lack luster economy here and the organizational infighting splitting this umbrella organization into two, were some of the factors. It was also a sad reflection that not only top ranking elected officials like Governor Pat Quinn but also many a prominent Indian American leaders and the Indian Consul General were conspicuous by their absence.
The saving grace was, however, Aftab Shivdasani mingling with the crowd and the presence of friends of Indian community like Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown in traditional Indian dress and Congresswoman Jan Schakowski. US Rep Joe Walsh joined the celebration at a later stage. Ald Ameya Pawar, the first ever Asian Ameircan to be elected to Chicago City Council, was present. It was also a good sight to see a former FIA President Bhailal Patel donning traditional Indian Pugree.
The Parade was kicked off right in time at 12 noon with the crowds waving tri-color flags accompanied by shouts of “Bharat Mata Ji Jai.” It snaked through the 2-mile march with a large Indian flag carried by teenagers and two groups Scottish Band one in the front and the second between float 13th and 14th. The marching beat was interspersed with high-decibel sounds of drum-beats and music emanating from the floats.
Parade Grand Marshal Aftab Shivdasani, a popular Bollywood star, led the Parade greeting crowds on both sides of the street when the Parade inched near to Rockwell Street. Great convoy of twenty decorated floats laden some with colorfully dressed and spirited participants made their way amidst cheers and shouts from the crowds lined up on both sides of the street.
Real great cheers were reserved for the float that depicted Indians support for fasting Anna Hazare who has picked up his gauntlet against Indian government that shields corrupt politicians and refuses to take steps to combat endemic corruption. A float by National Indian American Coalition was well manned and churned out patriotic songs.

Money Dart extended its support with a well decorated float and so also associations of Christians and Devon Businessmen. A fly in the ointment was a well decorated FIA float sailing thru by itself with no body to mentor it.
Before the parade stepped out, the tri-color Indian flag was gently hoisted by Iftekhar Shareef along with saluting hands of the FIA executive board members, trustees, community and business leaders encircling the raised flag on the corner of Devon & Western.
Embarking on the reviewing stand, Ajai Agnihotri, FIA President, welcomed the crowds of enthusiastic participants and expressed great appreciation for the remarkable spirit of patriotism demonstrated by the people as they arrived in droves; while Sanhita Agnihotri and Keerthi Ravoori serving as compeers providing commentary as the parade gently proceeded in front of the reviewing stand.
Parade Chair Iftekhar Shareef welcomed the crowds and went on to acknowledge sponsors of the floats and other major benefactors. He introduced Parade Marshal Aftab Shivdasani as Bollywood’s hottest star who has portrayed some of the memorable chocolate-boy roles in movies earning a great fan following.
Aftab Shivdasani spoke eloquently in praise of motherland India observing that he was greatly overwhelmed with a huge outpouring of patriotism by Indian Diaspora. “Though motherland India was distant, the spirit of India is remarkably alive in Chicago,” he said. Aftab thanked the leaders of FIA and sponsors for inviting him to such a grand parade
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of the 9th Congressional District waving the tri-color flag commended India’s enduring devotion to democracy and its march towards economic progress. Alderman Ameya Pawar of 47th Ward commended the Indian American community for showcasing the rich cultural diversity of India and recalled his days attending school in the 50th ward.
Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County spoke ardently, interspersing her remarks with “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” while acknowledging the rich contributions made by Indian Americans. Air-India Manager Rishikant Singh congratulated FIA-Chicago for rolling out a great parade.
The parade had several business and non-profit organizational floats from sponsors including grand sponsor McDonalds followed by gold sponsors AAHOA, Big Cinema, Sahil, Patel Brothers, National Bankcard Corporation, the National Republic Bank Of Chicago, Jamba Juice, Lucent Technology, Money Dart and several community-based floats which included Anna Hazare, United Christian Community, Zam’s Hope, 42 Gam Kadva Patidar Samaj, Indo American Democratic Organization and Overseas Congress [Kerala]. Floats where also present from the office of David Orr, Dorothy Brown, Congressional candidate Tim Wolf, Mary Kay and many other floats.

Abdul Siddiqui and Ramesh Soparawala

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