Americans experience ‘Sensational India’, courtesy DESAI FAMILY
Nrityagram Dance Ensemble performs at the festival.
First annual festival at the Peabody Essex Museum showcases
the sights, sounds and tastes of Indian culture through cooking,
film, music, dance and art events. Desai Family Foundation
will make it possible for next seven years.
In April, the Peabody Essex
Museum in Salem, Massachusetts
was transformed into mini India.
Aroma of Indian cuisine, the color
and vitality of Indian classical and
folk dance and the musical sounds
of veena and tabla enlivened the atmosphere
at the first “Sensational India!” festival.
All thanks to the Desai Family
Foundation (DFF) that has partnered with
the museum to host this exciting and
unique festival for the next seven years.
The festival, which drew 2500 people
from all walks of life, showcased the
sights, sounds and tastes of Indian culture
to Americans living in New England area
of the US./p>
The attendees got to hear traditional
Indian tales, learn their fortune from a parrot,
make rangolis, learn Warli painting,
amidst a flurry of activities going around.
Another highlight of the festival was a talk
by award-winning actress and best-selling
cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey who
spoke about her latest book, Climbing the
Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in
“We want to take the Americans interested
in knowing India to a higher level of
understanding through dynamic presentations.
We are good at technology, engineering,
entrepreneurship, so we need to prove
the same at cultural level too,” says Samir
Desai, the president of DFF.
PEM will also host a new art exhibit,
Revisions, for the coming year. The exhibition
will explore how some of India’s leading
artists draw inspiration from themes
found in traditional Indian art. This unique
exhibition pairs some of the finest works
from PEM’s world-renowned contemporary
Indian art collection along side rare
traditional Indian art from the Harvard Art
/p>This is not the first time that the DFF
has strived to build a bridge between
Americans and India. Last year they sponsored
‘Gateway Bombay’ exhibition at the
same venue with a similar concept apart
from undertaking private initiatives for
public welfare, focusing on improving the
quality of life of the needy in India and the
US since its inception a decade back.
Community service is a part of family
tradition for the Desais. Technology entrepreneur
and a leading Indian American
community and industry leader, Samir
Desai hails from Surat, India though he did
his engineering from the M S University of
Baroda. He lost his father at 19 and was
brought up in a village called Untdi in
Valsad by his grandparents. “My grandparents
were always into public service
though at a local level. After my father’s
death I needed a lot of help and many came
forward. When we receive help from unexpected
sources we are obliged to return the
favour,” said Desai.
Hence from helping out the elderly in
his hometown in Gujarat to being actively
involved with various socio-cultural organizations
in the US after he moved here in
1968, Desai has been at the helm all along.
So when he asked his daughters – Moha
and Megha on a family trip to Machhu
Picchu, Peru what did they plan for their
future, it didn’t surprise him that they too
wanted to head for community development.
“We started DFF in a small way but
their interest has been growing. They are
participating happily and it has sort of
become a part of them now,” he says.
While the elder daughter, Moha Patel,
an MBA from Yale School of Management
provides management consulting services
to healthcare entities, younger Megha
Desai is a BA Economics graduate from
the Columbia University and an Integrated
Marketing Consultant based in New York
The family supports scholarship funds
in colleges, donates to various art and culture
organizations, for instance the Boston
Conservatory, the DeCordova Museum,
Performance by New England School of Carnatic Music
Women’s Studies Research Center
(WSRC) – Brandeis University (Indian Art
& Culture), Community Impact at
Columbia University, ASHOKA –
Innovators for the Public, Akshayapatra,
Sri Yoganand Saraswati Education &
Medical Relief Trust, Talangpur, India,
among others. It also takes part in community
outreach program of various organizations
such as GURJAR, American India
Foundation, Indian Medical Association of
New England, India Association of Greater
Boston (IAGB), Patidar Samaj of New
England, Twin Tower Fund etc.
Samir Desai and Nilima Desai
India and the US – both are on their
radar of outreach. “If India is our motherland,
the US is our karmabhoomi.
Everywhere there is some level of need,”
says Desai, adding, “We have about 2.8
million Indians here and if everybody
thinks about contributing a fraction of their
assets - money,
|Art making activities
||Attendees busy in an art workshop
time, skill, other resources – for one day – 8 million days of money and help can flow in. We can really become a very rich force not just in entrepreneurship but other areas as well,” he says.
BY DARSHAN DAVE