Indian Envoy: Diwali is now part of Community’s Presence and Profile in America

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October 30, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – India’s top diplomat in the US is very impressed by how much Diwali, the festival of lights, has now become a part and parcel of the Indian-American community’s presence and profile in America.

October 30, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – India’s top diplomat in the US is very impressed by how much Diwali, the festival of lights, has now become a part and parcel of the Indian-American community’s presence and profile in America.

Top left – Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar welcoming guests to the Diwali celebration at the Embassy Residence in Washington.  At left is Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy

From the halls of power in Washington – the White House, State Department, Congress – to the corridors of state – Maryland Governor’s mansion – to several community-initiated functions across the country, Diwali is now an exalted festival here!

Hosting a heart-warming Diwali celebration at his official residence on Sunday, October 26, Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told a 300-strong distinguished gathering of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, “Diwali is an event which is widely celebrated in India by Indians and I am really impressed by how much today, it has become a part of the Indian-American community’s presence and profile in this country”.

Held outdoors on the sprawling lawns of the Embassy Residence, it was a scenic event, swathed in sunlight, on a picture-perfect day in the nation’s capital!  Among the eminent guests were: Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the State Department; Dr. Rajan Natarajan, Maryland’s Deputy Secretary of State for Policy and External Affairs; Kumar Barve, Majority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates; and Jasdip Singh, Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on South Asian American Affairs.

Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar addressing the gathering at the Diwali celebration on the sprawling lawns of the Embassy Residence, on a picture-perfect day in Washington.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

In his welcome address, Ambassador Jaishankar said, “To me, the two most hugely encouraging signs are when I see elected representatives from the community, administration officials from the community, which really tells you how well Indian-Americans are doing in this country, and the fact that our traditions and customs are today recognized, respected and shared in American society.  I think that is something which is a source of great satisfaction”.

New Delhi’s highest-ranking diplomat in Washington noted, “It is very common for people to talk very warm about India and the United States as true democracies, but all democracies are not the same.  I think what is very special about India and the US is that they are true societies which have given space to different communities to do their own things”, he said, to much applause from the audience.  “I think it is a very singular commonality that we have”.

With candor, the Ambassador pointed out, “Diwali is also an occasion when you clean up your stuff”.  In this regard, he mentioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat mission which was launched earlier this month, on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, with an aim to achieve a clean India by October 2, 2019.

“We are turning over a new pitch”, the envoy said.  “We are beginning to clean up India.  The Prime Minister’s recent campaign, Swachh Bharat, is something which has really got a lot of traction, a lot of support.  What I find as Ambassador here is that it is something which is resonating very well in this country.  I think that is something which has interested people” who see it as “something different, something serious and profound”.

He told the gathering that “one of the outcomes of the Prime Minister’s visit is how do we make the India-US relationship become part of that change” It “is something which we hope to do in the coming years and some of it would be very targeted and specific”, he said.  In this regard, he mentioned that the Prime Minister has appealed to all Indians, including the Diaspora, to participate in the Clean Ganga campaign.

“I think there are different ways in which Indian-Americans can contribute to the changes which are happening, will happen in India”, the envoy said.  “I see my job as ambassador is to facilitate that and encourage that”.

Dr. Rajan Natarajan (right), Maryland’s Deputy Secretary of State for Policy and External Affairs handing over a special proclamation on Diwali from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy.  Looking on is  Kumar Barve, Majority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

Dr. Rajan Natarajan presented a special proclamation from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Sandhu, highlighting the significance of Diwali and recognizing October 26, 2014 as Diwali Celebration Day in the state.

For entertainment, a number of talented artistes from the Washington area took to the scenic outdoor stage.  The effect was breathtakingly beautiful, and touching too.

The cultural segment opened on an auspicious note with an invocation to Lord Ganesha with whose blessings, it is believed, all good things begin!  Vocalist Satish Bhatia led the Ganesha Vandana, followed by a bhajan credited to the 16th century poet Tulsidas.  Both renditions touched a chord with the audience.

Jayantee Paine-Ganguly, founder and director of the Konark Dance School, together with senior dancer, Nirlipta Dixit, performed a classical dance in the Odissi style depicting the beauty of Goddess Durga.  This was followed by a colorful Kuchipudi dance drama, ‘Jagadanand Karake’ (reason for world happiness), performed by the charming students of the Samskrithi Art Academy.  It was choreographed by the Academy’s Artistic Directors, Swathi and Srinivas Kandadai, a joyous piece befitting the occasion.

Scenes from a Diwali celebration hosted by Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at his official residence in Washington.  Top left – Ambassador Jaishankar and his wife, Kyoko Jaishankar, with students of the Samskrithi Art Academy.  These young kids, from grades 3 to 8, performed a colorful Kuchipudi dance drama – top right; Lower left – Jayantee Paine-Ganguly, founder and director of the Konark Dance School, together with senior dancer, Nirlipta Dixit, performed a classical dance in the Odissi style depicting the beauty of Goddess Durga;  Lower right: Gifted singers Krushanu and Deeti Majumdar

For the finale, the gifted husband and wife team, Krushanu and Deeti Majumdar, presented a medley of devotional, semi-classical and popular Hindi film songs.  It is noteworthy that the singers were 2008 finalists on Zee TV’s popular musical reality show, ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’.

The Diwali program was a treat for the sight and senses, the most authentic celebration of this festival in the nation’s capital.  There were fireworks in the form of sparklers and a lavish vegetarian lunch by Woodlands and Jewel of India restaurants in Maryland, owned by Anand Poojary, capping off a wonderful event!


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM