India’s Republic day celebrates a landmark event in the country’s history; it marks the implementation of the longest written constitution in the world, and signifies the day the world’s largest democracy proclaimed its coming of age. Twenty years after the Indian National Congress defied the dominion status offered by the British regime with vehement demands of ‘Purna Swaraj’ (complete independence), on the 26th of January, 1950 India was truly born again, determined and optimistic. In all probability, my memories of this day mirror many an Indian’s – a national holiday to be celebrated with your family. Almost akin to a ritual, we would watch the grand parade on the Rajpath in New Delhi, swell with pride at the diversity and talent displayed on the tableaux: scenes from a lion sanctuary in Gujarat, a glimpse into the life of a coffee farmer in Karnataka, Madhubani paintings from Madhya Pradesh – truly a land of a million worlds! However, amidst all of the cultural events, the marching of the numerous contingents and battalions of the Indian armed forces, the platoon of tanks and combat aircraft speaks of a country proud of its heritage and military prowess; a country that is prepared to defend its people from adversity.
12000 kilometers away, in the Lindner School of Business auditorium, University of Cincinnati (UC), we are minutes away from hosting a celebration of this day. I must confess I was apprehensive about the attendance, and was I left pleasantly surprised! It was heartening to see members from the Cincinnati Indian community and students from UC (not only Indian!) participate with enthusiasm in celebrating with us. A beautiful rendition of the U.S national anthem was followed by a patriotic dance performance by children of the local Indian community. As they danced in harmony with a song from ‘Swades’, a patriotic story about a NASA scientist who decides to come back to his country, I realized that it is these children brought up in a foreign land who are to be admired; celebrating the Republic day of a country they may have never been to! UC’s own acapella group Junoon enthralled us next with their performance of ‘Mitwa’, a song from an Oscar nominated movie, a staple Indian favorite. It is said that Music knows no boundaries; well it certainly requires no instruments.
AID has maintained a tradition of hosting events that go beyond the traditional – whether it be discussing the Bhopal gas tragedy, a dark day in Indian history or … This year being no different, we decided to commemorate the life and work of Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, a brilliant nuclear scientist, a former Indian President and a human being extraordinaire. An inspiring short video served as a prelude to a thought-provoking discussion about his life, his message and crucially, its relevance. An enthusiastic audience made the discussion a great success; several interesting points of views were posed and I couldn’t resist but feeling a little proud at the amount my generation cares about India, and the strength we possess. All in all, a fitting tribute to a man who believed most strongly in the power of the youth, a man who never married so that he could think of the welfare of a nation’s children, not just his own. As a well-timed follow up, we had a short presentation of the projects that AID currently supports. With a majority of the projects focused on education at the grass-root level for the underprivileged and tribal sections of Indian society, I would say Kalam’s message was not lost on AID.
The well-framed India themed quiz that followed next brought out the competitiveness we Indians are famous for demonstrating; I was severely discontented at not being eligible to participate at any rate. A flurry of questions, confectionary and Starbucks gift cards later, we were finally nearing the end of a very successful event and a glowing tribute to the talent and patriotism our country demonstrates. Wrapping up the show was AID’s very own music group, Mehfil. A harmonious medley of songs old, new and patriotic was followed by the Indian national anthem – a song celebrating India’s geographical beauty, its people and its diverse heritage. That scene will linger in my memory, those melodious notes, people standing tall and proud, and I singing the national anthem in a land far from home.
The AID Cincinnati student volunteer team basking in the glory of the tricolor!
Of course, then there was the food…