The evening of Aug 14,2021 was memorable for the members of the Austin Indian American community when they came together to celebrate the 75th India Independence Day at the Austin Sports Centre, Cedar Park.
The newly formed Indian American Association of Austin (IAAA) brought together various Indic cultural, linguistic and service-oriented organizations to organize the event. Hon Judge Dimple Malhotra, Travis County Court 4 and Hon Judge Donna King, Texas 26th District court were the chief guests during the event.
The other dignitaries from the Austin area namely Arati Singh, AISD board member and Ms Mackenzie Kelly , Austin City Council-member District 6 sent their greetings through video message felicitating India and the Indian community. John Carter, US Representative from District 31 also sent in his wishes for the event directly to the organizers. The event was also supported by the Hon Consul General of India Houston, Shri Aseem Mahajan, who sent his best wishes. Due to the ongoing Covid 19 concerns, all the attendees were very mindful of the CDC recommended safety precautions and followed the protocols.
The celebrations started off with a group of children singing the US National Anthem. It was followed by a welcome address by Dushant Reddy, member of the organizing committee at the IAAA. The speech mentioned how Indian Americans are able to appreciate and stand up for the freedom and equality guaranteed in the US constitution because of their upbringing in India where these values were inculcated from childhood. He also reminisced about his childhood days in India and talked about
how Aug 15 used to be the day when people enthusiastically participated in flag hoisting ceremonies and watched parades on TV. The emcee for the event, Arthi Thiagarajan, went on to introduce the participating organizations and sponsors who made the event possible through their support.
The festivities started with the chief guests Judge Dimple Malhotra and Judge Donna King lighting the ceremonial lamp and addressing the audience. This was the perfect occasion to celebrate Rakshabandhan or Universal Oneness Day. A couple of young Indian American high school students took the stage and explained the significance of the festival of Rakshabandhan. Children honored the dignitaries by tying rakhis to them.
It was followed by the presentation of the various community service projects done by the Indian community and organizations like Sewa International and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) during the pandemic that included food drives, masks and PPE donations to first responders.
Judge Malhotra addressed the audience and talked about her journey to America as a young child and the rich experiences she had in the United States while being culturally connected to India through her family. Judge Malhotra motivated the younger generation to work hard towards achieving their dreams by sharing her own experience of public service as the most fulfilling way to lead her life. Judge Donna King expressed her delight and excitement in attending her first Indian event with a Namaste gesture.
She talked about doing research about India before coming to the event and she was happy to find that it helped her understand the beautiful artworks and the essays that the children had displayed at the event. She was impressed by the Indian community’s engagement in Greater Austin with people of all backgrounds and expressed her desire to work with the Indian community in the years to come. She encouraged all the young students in the audience to think about freedom they enjoy today, and remember all the sacrifices done by our forefathers for making this life possible.
The audience were delighted and inspired after hearing praises and motivational words from the judges. The program included traditional Bharatanatyam dances by students of Samspra Academy and Natyalaya School of Dance. Hema Raja, the founder of the Samspra Academy, gave a nice introduction at the start of the dance explaining the meaning behind the performance . It was followed by great music performances by young participants.
The yoga demonstration synchronized to music beats by members of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) would have certainly motivated many in the audience to take up regular yoga practice. There was an exhibition of artwork by elementary school kids while the middle-schoolers and the high schoolers wrote essays. The essays and artworks depicted lesser known but important monuments and people involved in the Indian Independence movement.
The program ended on a high note with a group of 30 children singing the Indian national song “Vande Mataram” and the Indian National anthem in perfect unison. The children were trained by Rohit Dhamankar, a notable Carnatic music teacher in the Austin area.
This is how the 75th Indian Independence Day celebration conducted with the help of
15 Indian organizations was thoroughly enjoyed by the 250 odd attendees. Everyone went home refreshed during what has otherwise been stressful times.