Patriotic St Louis Mela celebrates India Day

IAS Board members with the chief guests.
IAS Board members with the chief guests.

ST LOUIS: India Association of St. Louis celebrated Indian Independence Day with its annual mela last month at Mahatma Gandhi Center (MGC). The full day festivities were attended by close to 500 people.

Patriotic fervor gripped the Indian community present with the unfurling of the tricolor and the cultural festivities organized to mark the occasion. The American flag was unfurled by Congresswoman Ann Wagner and Indian flag by President IAS, Shailee Saran Varanasi. The chief guests for the event included Congresswoman Ann Wagner, Missouri State Senator Jill Schupp, Missouri Supreme Court judge George W. Draper III and Associate circuit court of St. Louis county judge Judy P. Draper.

A Tiranga car rally was organized by Chaya and Jairajn Kalahasti from Vardhaman Jewelers to MGC. The crowd enthusiastically sang the American and Indian national anthems.

In her welcome address Mrs. Varanasi mentioned how Independence Day is not only a day to pay tribute and express gratitude for our freedom but to reflect and look forward to bright opportunities still to be explored and attained. The celebration is the amalgamation of both the countries, India our janambhoomi (place of birth) and America our karambhoomi (place of work). This year also marks the celebration of 50 years of India Association of St. Louis. Following the welcome address, Sreenu Dandamudi, Commissioner at Administrative Hearing Commission, introduced the chief guests.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner in her keynote address mentioned it was good to learn about the Indian heritage and history firsthand. She acknowledged the Indian community for its amazing contribution to various fields in the State and country. She encouraged an environment of robust debate and requested everyone to not foster or tolerate hatred, bigotry or intolerance.

Senator Jill Schupp in her talk stated that the hoisting of the Indian flag is a reminder that freedom is not easily won and needs to be celebrated. She appreciated the Indian community for adding so much to the community itself. She reflected on things that had brought everyone together by sharing cultures and learning about each other through our common humanity.

Judge Judy Draper congratulated the Indian community and mentioned that India’s Independence Day coincided with the Korean Independence Day. She talked about the similarities in the declaration of independence of various countries. America being the land of immigrants has seen ups and down and how we are all part of the American dream.

Judge, George Draper delved into the history of India and its independence using non-violence. He mentioned how sometimes the law especially in this country that keeps order does not always protect the minorities and it takes the voice of people to speak out through the non-violence source of change to wake up the ones who are simply enforcing the rules.

As part of IAS tradition of recognizing and encouraging youngsters in the community, Armaan Chandak, winner of the 2017 national chess competition held in Nashville in K-5 category was presented with a commemorative plaque by Congresswoman Wagner and Mrs. Varanasi. Following this a beautiful rendition of Vande Matram by Singer Sandhya Pandurangi and her group stole everyone’s heart.

The chief guests then inaugurated a colorful mela (fair) exhibiting local vendor stalls where prominent businesses, local families and volunteers displayed a variety of Indian food delicacies, jewelry, sarees, dresses and arts and crafts from different parts of India.

Flower decoration and art competitions in the afternoon were enthusiastically attended both by kids and adults. Winners of the competitions were awarded certificates of merit and gift-cards.

In the evening a cultural program by more than 100 participants focusing on patriotic theme was coordinated by cultural secretary Meera Jain and Vijayalakshmi Buddhiraju. The event culminated with the vote of thanks by IAS secretary Sendil Rathinasabapathy and a rendition of Jana Gana Mana and certificate distribution to the participants.

IAS Board 2017 : Shailee Saran Varanasi (president), Krishna Rao (president-elect), Sendil Rathinasabapathy (secretary), Vijayalakshmi Buddhiraju (treasurer), Meera Jain, Vijay Kumar Buddhiraju, Sharath Rao, Venkat Pulumati and Sanjeev Rao Chintakunta.

Ashwin Patel

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