It was a breezy November evening, to harken Diwali and the ritz and glitz was on full swing – you had a feel of “much fun going to happen” soon as you entered the well known Plainsboro venue, Crown of India gateway and came into the elegance of a banquet hall in white and maroon settings……and thence to the hall where the main events were held.
There were women in ritzy reds, glamorous golds, flaming fuschias, sizzling shocking pinks, grabbing greens, bullet blues, and blinking blacks, their jolly jingles ahoy, all set out to capture the runway ramps…..men too looked grand in their buttoned up’s and black jack’s and krazy kurtas and sensible suits too…..Mukesh of course sits at the front entrance welcoming everyone with his grin, giggles, guffawing Hello’s in his iconic hat and that’s that!!
The usual format begins with a pooja to set the boat afloat – Geeta and Arvind brought in the delicious Prasad in little ‘kulia’s’ — a really cute presentation, individualized for everyone!
Snacks then followed with meet-and-greets and it’s a treat to be had by all – the mingling manages to bring out some wonderful antecedents, the long lost connections from Chandni Chowk to Chattanooga and often a community bonding amid Indians from many regions which we have long lost touch with…..marriages have united our land so far away from home and many barriers are overcome with this familial get together. Amongst the vast list of attendees, we had some of our respected doyens, such as Mr/Mrs Tej Narain, Mrs Uma Lal, Naveen/Manju, Rajesh/Kavita, Mukesh/Anita, Bob/Preeti, KK/Deepa, Rash [Pandu], Shashikant/Rajni Sheri, Parshottam/Kamini, Anil/Neelam, Dinesh/Pushpa, Ravi/Anju, Arun/Mithlesh, and additionally, a whole jumble of new and fresh blood, ready to have fun and participate happily in the goings on.
There was a huge variety of snacks to fill the laughing Buddha belly – everyone was well gourmet’ed with the delicacies! The splendiferous, delectable menu, selected by Dinesh, as well as the variegated bar set up by him, was enjoyed by all.
And then everyone settled down to a grand evening of entertainment.
Bob Mathur opened the ceremonies with his personal welcome and the introductions of the new family/attendees – we had many new faces who very much enjoyed being there and also participating later on!
Sunil and Rashmi, the able and talented couple were our M/C’s for the show and carried it out really well with their warming welcome, their gig interspersed with shayari and poetry, and kept the crowd glued to the show.
The children performing in the event (with parents’ names) were:
Nina; who sang an intricate Ram Stuti [Tushar/Parul Tripathi], followed by groups/ duo’s or single dance items by Anika & Samay [Vikram/Ruchi Batra], Niharika [Vineet/Erica Mathur], Aryan [Nitin/Kaajal Srivastava], Aniha [Ashish/Shaloo Mathur], Anya & Reya [Rahul/Ruchi Srivastava], Divya [Rahul/Parul Raizada], and Anisha; & Ayush who sang a Diwali text lyricised English melody [Shailesh/Nandini Lal].
Here, a mention must be made of all the young ladies who get together to form, choreograph, and train the children for rehearsals for their final presentations. These very capable girls are Shaloo, Ruchi Batra, Parul Raizada, and Kaajal. The program we showcase seems all too easy when we see it but an enormous amount of legwork and background runarounds by the parents go in the makings of it – all involved parents need a pat on their backs to encourage and enthuse their children into this valiant presentation every year. We hope that they will continue to do this each time and keep the kids acquainted with their Diwali traditions.
Rashmi presented a beautifully performed Kathak tradition, solo dance to a classical Hindi film melody – the most enticing part of her very refined and sensuously self-choreographed dance is her ‘Bhaav’ which actually completes the full emotional make up of the art, under the Abhinaya aspect of it. A mention of the fact that she is totally self taught must be made for the audience to appreciate the command she has over this ornate skill.
A radio play style skit was another item: this skit is almost a tradition now, which has variated through times beginning with an all-star cast fully fledged drama trickling down to a husband and wife banter which is usually played by Bob and Preeti. And now it has taken a new life in the form of a bigger cast – this time it was a group effort with Rashmi, Parul, Bob and Preeti – the title was “Kisi ka Paisa, Kisi ka Pullao” – and it was a telephone dialogue between 3 different women each telling the other about the first one’s massive mansion which was turning into an exaggerated talk of the town……and how the 3rd woman, a self centred, cynical, exploitative type, sets about to use the mansion owner to her own advantage!
The play (Preeti writes her own every year) usually has enormously pungent or penetratingly hilarious dialogues targeted to send messages to society at large – but the idea behind it is pure entertainment as it always turns out to be! It was well received and the audience quite relished the “fast forward” bit, of the wife relating the day’s proceedings to her husband.
A Raffle arranged by Shashikant Sheri brought in some 5 prizewinners, all happy to take home some loot – a $50 donation by Shri Sharad Aggrawal of the Vishwa Hindi Nyaas deserves special mention.
Parul Raizada then introduced her SUR SANGRAM GALA with 16 participants picked randomly from the crowd, divvied up in 4 teams to play Antakshari – with a pre-set surprise theme – each team had to sing a song with the word on the cheat sheet and if they couldn’t deliver in a given time frame, the next team would take over – Ruchita kept score – and it was a great hit – a real riot – the singers had a bigger propensity for decibels rather than actual notes – with the closest to harmonious notes from Jayati, Utkarsh, Sunil, Tito, Arvind and Ruchi Batra, with a few benefit-of-doubt points!! There was some merry mayhem involved but it was thoroughly enjoyed by both the audience and the participants!
Ruchi Batra did a little dance with 2 little male helpers, Samay and Aryan and it was a delightful little number to say the least. Ruchi has been performing since she was a little kid herself – all of perhaps 9 years when she first arrived here in the US and since then has taken over choreography, dance and music to heart and loves to be of service to our entire function.
Jayati Ghosh a new member, sang some beautiful old time melodies in the interim breaks.
Mrs. Shakun Raizada [Rahul’s mother] gave away the prizes to the performing children. She and her husband Mr BD Raizada are currently visiting from India; both loved being part of the event.
The banquet style buffet dinner was rather widely spread and appeased every mood and palate – there were then more happy conversations to be had by the hail fellow well met’s as well as the never met’s before and glad to know you’s…..new families interconnected with the olders, and it was a merry medley of Mathurs, and others who had a riotously fun time – from the looks of it!! The youngsters were soon on the ‘floor frenzy’ of disco-ing and that completed the full aura of the evening’s festivities.
The advent of Diwali is never complete without this community ‘hungama’ and the ‘masti’ it brings along with it…….yes, there are tons of preps and props required to get the show on the road, but that’s why we have the Best Set of Volunteers to help and encourage and promote the ongoing theme. We hope it’s here to stay and keep us alight with the radiance of a grand festival of ours we brought along with us so far away to America!!
HAPPY DIWALI TO ALL OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY – MAY LOVE AND PEACE PREVAIL IN YOUR HEARTS WITH THE TURN OF THE YEAR!!