AIA-NY brings grand 25th Diwali Mela to South Street Seaport
The State Bank of India will be sponsoring the fireworks at the 25th Annual Diwal Mela
The Association of Indians in America (AIA) was founded in 1967 and is the oldest association of Asian Indians. Its flagship event the annual 'Diwali Mela' at South Street Seaport in Manhattan is once again back with a bang, this time in its 25th year. And it only promises to be bigger and broader.
"This year again we are celebrating on October 7th where we take Pier 16 & 17 and 4 city blocks. We have two stages where we show classical, Bollywood, folk, and fusion dances. Sweta Keswani, who has acted in many TV shows such as Ba Bahu aur Baby, will be the emcee on the main stage. Among local talent you will also see performance by Just Dance finalists," says Ranju Batra, President, AIA-NY, the organizers of this much anticipated event.
Ranju Batra, President, AIA-NY
AIA was formed to preserve Indian culture and its rich traditions, as Indian-Americans access and embrace the American Dream as loyal Americans. "Originally it was to give a sense of collective strength, promoting cultural awareness and strengthening family values here in the US. And many milestones were accomplished, including, the US Census Bureau creating the "Asian Indian" category. Now, AIA is focused on preserving and protecting the cultural identity of Indian- Americans. The values cherished are simple: family, education, compassion and service of country. Its flagship event, Diwali Mela, is where Indian culture is showcased and brings the community together," says Batra. Hence keeping in with its motto, the 'Diwali Mela' will have events and activities for all age groups of people.
Children especially can look forward to the 'Kids Zone,' which has been sponsored for the first time. The Bank of Baroda has come forward with this sponsorship. "We have many, many activities for them from coloring, painting t-shirt, painting diyas, magic show, juggler show, cartoon characters, cotton candies, popcorn, spray painting, games, jumping castle….," says Batra. While children remain engrossed in the activities moms have the option of either shopping or getting 'Mehandi' done at nocharge right next to the 'Kids Zone.'
Another highlight of the day will be the Main Bhi Star contest by Star Plus where anyone over 18 can go for auditioning and winners would be flown to India to star in a soap opera. The stars of 'Ek dusre se karte hain pyar hum' will be the judges. "Let's not forget the Indian cuisines and shopping extravaganza in Meena Bazaar. This year Toyota Cars too will be participating for the first time and you'll see Toyota cars on display for anyone check out," adds Batra.
The day will end with the spectacular fireworks - sponsored by the State Bank of India for the first time - lighting up the sky on the East River.
The event is free admission and open to public.
Despite the trying economic times, Batra insists that sponsors came out in a big way to support the event. "Our many many thanks to the India Tourism for believing in us, to McDonald's, Bank of Baroda, New York Life, Wells Fargo, Met Life, Air India, King Fisher, and all our media partners," says Batra. "Several sponsors will be giving away freebies. We will be also having a health fair wherein doctors will be doing checkups. So we have events of interest lined up for all age-groups," she adds. "The second stage will be set closer to the vendors on the street hence no matter where you are, you'll have entertainment every which place."
The event will be a culmination of effort of the entire AIA committee helmed by Batra and number of volunteers.
Batra has had a long standing foundation in different social and charitable causes. As a life member of AIA she has been its cultural chair for several years, playing a vital role in the highly celebrated annual Diwali Mela. As a paralegal and the office administrator for the law firm of Ravi Batra, P.C, known for its landmark victories she has successfully balanced her professional life with progressive community efforts.
Since her arrival in NY in 1975 after getting married to Ravi Batra, Ranju has been involved in various other organizations including being on the board of trustees for Hindu Center, as well as being active in both Arya Samaj of West Chester and Children's Hope.
A loving wife and devoted mother she has also distinguished herself with boundless energy to make the difference in the US with her civic, cultural and political activities. She has helped in the election of many members of the Supreme Court. Her support has also been sought by national state and local politicians as well as various cultural and religious organizations dedicated to the Indian American community.
[ BY RITU PANDEY ]