Community Throngs to Star Heritage India Festival


October 22, 2011

By Geeta Goindi

Children at the Star Heritage India Festival

October 22, 2011

By Geeta Goindi

Children at the Star Heritage India Festival

Fairfax, VA – Leading up to perhaps the most awaited time of the year for Indians, thousands thronged to the Star Heritage India Festival, this weekend, to partake in celebrations on the auspicious occasion of Diwali.  For two days, the indoor field house of the Robinson Secondary School bore a festive look as some 6,000 members of our community took in the sights and sounds of a traditional ‘Mela’, the likes of which one would find in India.

Shishir Misra, proprietor of Rushhi Entertainment, Inc., and organizer of the festival, was delighted with the outcome.  Talking to INDIA THIS WEEK, he said, “It was a great success”. “This is for the community.  What we try to provide is wholesome entertainment for the family.  There is shopping for women, great food for men and entertainment for children”, he said.

The festival, almost a decade old, was earlier held outdoors on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.  Not always a good idea because as Rena Surana-Nirula, cultural coordinator, pointed out, “the weather can be dicey, so we moved it indoors”.  For the last couple of years, the event has been held at the Dulles Expo Center, in Chantilly, a venue which was unavailable this time around!

Still, the organizers were thrilled with the response.  “We have had a huge turnout, beyond expectations” Misra gushed.  “We moved to a new location.  We thought that would affect the turnout.  But, it has been tremendous.  It’s so good that the community supports such events.  That’s what keeps us going every year”, he said.

A scene from the Diwali Festival: resplendent, traditional Indian outfits

Shopping was a huge draw at the festival and exceedingly popular among womenfolk who couldn’t seem to get enough of the traditional Indian wares.  Not only was there a lot of variety, but the quality and exquisiteness of the items caught the eye and imagination!

Seema Tina Tara of Lorton, was one delighted shopper.  With her daughter Alycia, all of nine years old by her side, she told us, “We had such a great time at the Star Heritage India Festival.  The vendors had an amazing selection of suits and sarees.  The jewelry was fabulous and very reasonably priced”.  Not surprising, she was armed with bags galore!

Seema Tina Tara and her daughter Alycia, happy shoppers at the Star Heritage India Festival

Misra informed us that there were a total of 91 booths.  “We had to reduce the number of booths that we can fit”, he said.  “But, from a square feet standpoint, it is almost the same as what we use at the Dulles Expo Center.  It’s a good thing for the vendors because less competition means they probably made more money”.

We asked him how the festival is different from previous years?  “There is a new dimension to stage performances, there is a new dimension to vendors and food”, he replied.  “Every year, we get about 30 percent new vendors who up the standard, up the ante, make things even better!  There is just a great quality of products that are available”.

Among the vendors were: Cox Communications; Star India Plus; Capital Area Realtors; Express Care, a humanitarian organization whose motto is ‘healing through compassion’; New York Life; MoneyGram international money transfer; Style Dezigns; and Art by Unique Touch.  Regarding the cultural show, Misra told us that last year, a group from New Jersey performed the Ramlila, while this year a live band, Desi Rain, will belt out Bollywood hit numbers.

A unique feature at the festival was the fresh squeezed sugarcane juice on-site in lime, orange and ginger flavors by Mughal’s Oasis.  “The food is all fresh and being cooked outside”, Misra said.  The food vendors included Diya restaurant in Tysons Corner, Woodlands south Indian vegetarian cuisine, Mughal Garden in Baltimore, IndAroma, Ambrosia on Wheels, and Ariana.

A scene from the Diwali Festival: Indian cuisine by Diya restaurant located in Tysons Corner

Manish Sood and Deepa Shahani of Intense Entertainment, Inc., were on hand to promote their upcoming Takeover Tour, on November 4, in Washington, featuring Imran Khan, H-Dhami and Culture Shock.  Deepa believed, “the Star Heritage Festival is a great event for all age groups.  It’s a perfect platform for young children to show their talent, for business people to display their products and perfect for networking.  Being miles away from India, it is a perfect event to experience the festivities of Diwali”, she said.

Rena was thrilled by the tremendous interest in performing for the cultural show.  “I had to turn away people because we had so much interest in performing.  We had back-to-back performances spanning some eight hours”, she said on speaking with INDIA THIS WEEK.

On Saturday, there were some 15 different groups, among them being Dhoonya Dance, the Arya Dance Academy, Jadu, Leena Mishra’s team, India International School, India School of Performing Arts and Bombay Beats.  For the finale, Desi Rain, a team of talented professionals performing Bollywood numbers, regaled the audience with a musical concert.  On Sunday, the highlight was the festival’s signature ‘Dance Masti’ competition featuring 140 gifted artistes competing in different categories based on age.

We caught up with Aniket Nanda, emcee of Dance Masti, who remarked, “People attended the festival in large numbers and were well entertained by the cultural show on both days.  The event was well organized and turned out to be the ideal Diwali get-away for families in the Mid-Atlantic region”.

For Seema, the biggest charm about going to the festival was to watch daughter Alycia, one of the Star members of Washington’s Jadu group spearheaded by Reema Kapani, who danced with gusto to the songs, ‘Pardah’ and ‘Char Baj Gaye’.  Seema told us, “The main reason I go to the festivals is to watch her perform and see how she gets better and better each year.  We are blessed to have this platform for our children.  Thanks to all the efforts of the Heritage India team”.

Alycia, a fifth grader at Laurel Hill Elementary School in Lorton, added, “I am truly blessed to be a part of this community function.  I love to dance and sing to Bollywood music and this is one of the best places for me to do this.  I definitely recommend children to join the Jadu group and be a part of our winning team”.

Rena gushed, “I love it how families come and have such a great time.  I love it that they bring their young kids and expose them to everything.  I think this is a venue which we have that we lack nowadays for kids to come out and experience our culture from every aspect”.

Mr. Walton Dawson, coordinator of the cultural show, concurred.  “We have a lot of gifted children here”, he noted.  “We need to support them, discover and nurture their talent.  Children have their passions and dreams in dancing from classical to Bollywood.  It is so inspiring to see the little ones from age 3 upwards.  I can’t understand how they remember the steps”.  Mr. Dawson particularly mentioned Saanika Mahashetty, a young protégé, who enthralled the audience with her mellifluous voice.

We also met Manoj Tiwari, President of the eminent theatre group Natya Bharati and a resident of Gaithersburg, who was relishing sugarcane juice while his wife shopped.  “The thing I like about this place is that it’s cozy, not spread out as FedEx Field”, he told us.  Still, he would have preferred a more central location, “not so tucked-in and more easily accessible from Maryland”.  He lamented the fact that ‘there is nothing for men to do.  Why is there so much discrimination?  The organizers should think about that”, he said.

On bringing up the issue.  Misra answered, “Look at it this way, you go to a mall, there is not a lot for men to do.  I think as long as we can please the women and kids, the men will follow”.  But, he admitted, “there is not much that we can add for men in an event like this”.

We would like to inform our readers that the India Festival is held twice a year in the Spring and at Diwali.

Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM