Community Reports

RTP-based Writer Sudha Om Dhingra Receives Prestigious Award

On November 1, 2014, the Utter Pradesh Hindi Sansthan announced their awards for the year 2013 for the Indian languages work being done in India and Abroad. The selection committee selected Research Triangle Park-based Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra for “Hindi Videsh Prasad Samman." The award is the highest in Hindi language and consists of Rs 100,000 cash and air fare. Dr. Dhingra also received another award in Hindi literature from a literary organization “Spandhan" based in Bhopal. The award consists of a “samman Patr" and Rs 11,000. Dr. Dhingra is a noted Hindi writer, poet and editor of Hindi Chetna, the only Hindi quarterly magazine published in North America. She has 11 books to her credit and her writing contributions are part of more than 35 books and over 200 magazines.

Aaj Ka Dhamaka

Aaj Ka Dhamaka 2014 was held in Memorial Hall on UNC Chapel Hill's campus on November 1, 2014. The show was a success with a big crowd that came close to selling out the show. Bhangra, Fusion, and Raas teams from all over the East Coast competed for the AKD 2014 title, along with $1500 in prize money for the first place winner. A total of nine teams competed for the title, with three teams from each genre. The three Bhangra teams were Buckeye Bhangra, VT Bhangra, and Steel City Bhangra. The Fusion teams were Maryland Dhoom, NCSU Nazaare, and Nova Nassa. The three Raas teams were GT Ramblin' Raas, VCU Ricochet Raas, and UVA HooRaas. Finally, there were three exhibition teams including Tar Heel Raas, a capella group UNC Samaa, and Chapel Hill Chalkaa. A guest performer also flew down from London to support the competition. British singer-songwriter Arjun performed around 9 pieces and closed the show with a huge dhamaka. The official winners were announced at the end of the competition. They were picked by the judges Lavesh Pritmani, Ritu Mukherjee, and Rashmi Patel. The viewer's choice award went to Buckeye Bhangra. Third place also went to Buckeye Bhangra with $500 in prize money. Second place went to NCSU Nazaare with $1000 in prize money. Lastly, first place went to VCU Ricochet Raas with $1500 in prize money. All of the teams had amazing performances, and all of their hard work created a successful competition.

2014 Gandhi Jayanti Celebration

By Yash Garg, HIANC President
Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (October 2, 1869-January 30, 1948). Gandhi's birth anniversary has been declared by UN as an International Day of non-violence and peace. Annually sponsored by Heritage India Association of NC, the 2014 celebration was held on October 5, 2014, at Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh. The celebration began with garlanding of Mahatma Gandhi Statue by HSNC President Dr. Neeraj Agrawal and singing of Gandhi's favorite bhajan by Dr. Bijoy Dash. A short cultural program followed along with lamp -lighting ceremony. Invited guests were Honorable Secretary of the State Elaine Marshal, State Senator Josh Stein, Morrisville Councilman Steve Rao, and others. Dr. Harish Chander introduced Secretary of the state Elaine Marshal and State Senator Josh Stein, who in their keynote speeches emphasized the significance of Mahatma Gandhi's message. Councilman Steve Rao told the audience about his grandfather's participation in Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent struggle for Indian independence, and Dr. Mansukh Wani gave reminiscences of Mahatma Gandhi as he knew him as a high school student. The cultural program, which was emceed by Prakash Devalapalli, presented two classical dances – Kathak performance choreographed by Rinku Bhattacharya Das, and “Thillana" by a group of children choreographed by Padma Rao. Madhumita Saha's solo presentation as well as devotional songs by her students, both adults and 8-13 yrs. old children, followed the dances. There was also a presentation of devotional songs by Father and son team of Chandan Dash and Bijoy Dash. This year's Essay competition's winner was Kshitija Golla, who received cash award and a copy of the Mahatma Gandhi autobiography.

Indian American participation in the International Festival of the City of Raleigh
By Yash Garg
For three days – September 19 – 21, the International Festival of the City of Raleigh captured the attention of the residents of the Triangle area. The fest showcased diverse cultures through cultural exhibits, dance and music performances, children's art activities, cafes, and bazaars. This year marked the 29th year of this celebration. Heritage India Association of North Carolina (HIANC) coordinated Indian Participation in the International Festival.
The theme of the Festival was “Natural wonders of the World." The Indian Cultural Booth showed 10 best natural wonders of India spanning from north to south and west to east. More than 150 Indian dance performers presented regional folk, Bollywood and classical dances choreographed by prominent dance teachers, dance demonstration of Bollywood dances, and dance competition. Food demonstration provided the opportunity to share traditional Indian food – Aloo sabzi and poories— were prepared and tasted by a large number of people as picnic food. The event is not only a lot of fun, it's also educational, as people walk around and stop at booths to learn more about other countries.

Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra Receives Raj Bhasha Hindi Sevi Samman Award
Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra was awarded “Raj Bhasha Hindi Sevi Samman" by Rotary International. She is the only US based Hindi writer selected for this award. The award ceremony was held in Delhi on September 25, 2013. Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra is a noted Hindi writer, poet and editor of Hindi Chetna, the only Hindi quarterly published in North America. She has nine books to her credit and her writing contributions are part of over 30 books and more than 100 magazines.

Dr. V. Sagar Sethi Proposes Standardization of Psychiatric Care with Video Series
Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, and alcohol and drug abuse are chronic and lifelong. These global challenges come with very high costs to all societies with respect to disability and economic burdens placed on patients and their families. Over the past 30 years huge progress has been made with respect to diagnosis and treatment with medical and non-medical therapies. Yet, despite these achievements, there are no uniform standards of diagnosis and treatments. For example, if a patient goes to ten different prescribing physicians such as a Primary Care Physician, Pediatrician, OB/GYN, Neurologist or even Psychiatrist, the concordance of diagnosis and successful treatments are less than forty percent. Likewise, if one goes for treatment to ten different psychotherapists or clinical psychologists, the concordance of diagnosis and treatment is very low. In order to overcome this problem, Dr. V. Sagar Sethi (from his experience of 22 years in seeing more than 7,000 patients for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment) is proposing a model for standardization of psychiatric care. He has put together a series of four videos on YouTube under Standard Psychiatric Care ( Video 1 describes general principles underlying most common psychiatric disorders; Video 2 gives an outline of psychiatric drugs and non-drug therapies; Video 3 describes psychiatric evaluation and pharmacologic treatments; Video 4 describes case histories and stories of patients. Dr. Sethi feels if this model is followed by all the prescribing physicians, then suffering, medical costs, and disability can be reduced.

Dr. Devdutta G. Sangvai to Lead NC Medical Society
Devdutta G. Sangvai, MD, MBA, the Associate Chief Medical Officer for Duke University Health System, and Medical Director for DukeWELL, was inaugurated on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 as the 160th President of the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) at the society's Annual Meeting in Raleigh. Dr. Sangvai is board-certified in Family Medicine, and is an assistant professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Duke University Medical Center. He has been at Duke since 2003, the same year he became a member of the NCMS. He has been heavily involved in a variety of leadership roles at both organizations since then. “The health care community is at a crossroads with both federal and state reforms being discussed and implemented. This is an exciting and challenging time for physicians," he said. “I'm honored to be a part of the NCMS' long history of service to North Carolina patients and doctors. I look forward to working with many groups in the year ahead to ensure the best care for North Carolinians and to help my colleagues navigate the many changes." Dr. Sangvai received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Ohio State University and went on to earn his MD at the Medical College of Ohio at the University of Toledo. He received an MBA with a concentration in Health Sector Management from the Duke University, Fuqua School of Business in 2003. The North Carolina Medical Society is the largest and oldest professional member organization in the state, representing approximately 12,500 physicians and physician assistants who practice in the state. Founded in 1849, the Society seeks to promote access to quality health care for all citizens in NC and champions initiatives that seek to improve quality of care and promote patient safety.

Little Achievers Felicitation Program
Sristhi conducted its fourth Annual Kids Talent Contest - Little Achievers Felicitation Program on August 31, 2013 at the Hindu center of Charlotte. It has been another successful year for LAFP with more than a 100 categories performed including dance, poetry, recitation, song, instruments, arts and essay. Winners were felicitated at the Durga Puja Event of Srishti on Oct 6, 2013. Also, the winners and participants of LAFP 2012 performed at the Annual Festival of India held in September in Charlotte and select artworks were displayed at the Founders Hall. The event was organized and conducted the coordinator for LAFP Manisha Singh. All the details for the current and previous year can be found at Facebook page of LAFP.

Dharma & Yoga Fest
Over 800 people took part in the first ever Dharma & Yoga Fest organized jointly by over 20 organizations on the campus of Hindu Society of North Carolina (HSNC), Morrisville, NC on September 29, 2013. The festival was coordinated by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) and co-sponsored by HSNC. The goal of the festival was to educate communities in the Triangle to live healthy, happy and peaceful life by integrating elements of Dharma and Yoga in their daily life. The festival included a welcome speech by Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe and NC State Representative Tom Murry. Lauding the universal applicability of Dharma and Yoga, keynote speaker, Stephen Knapp emphasized, “there is no concept as encompassing and liberating as Dharma and Yoga. Adoption of Dharma and Yoga concepts in our daily lives is the only way for a lasting and real peace in the world." Yoga teacher Subhash Mittal elaborated the benefits of Yoga as known since ancient times, whereas Julie Kosey, a Yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine presented evidence from modern medicine on the benefit of Yoga and meditation. The festival celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the pioneer of Dharma and Yoga in the US. Dharma means “righteousness", the right way of conducting oneself in the society. There are four pillars of Dharma - truth, compassion, freedom and peace. On the other hand, Yoga deals with the right way of taking care of the body and mind in order to enable a person to follow Dharma. Therefore, Dharma and Yoga are complementary to each other, and sometimes may appear to mean the same. Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, a non-profit organization that coordinated the Dharma & Yoga Fest strives to spread the message of health, happiness and peace through Dharma and Yoga as advocated by Swami Vivekananda. Through its planned weekly activities lasting no more than one and half hour, every participant benefits in all aspects of personality, physical, intellectual and spiritual. The Dharma & Yoga Fest was a peek into the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, which were deconstructed for an ordinary person to practice in day-to-day life. The exhibitions on Swami Vivekananda and Dharmic Traditions were appreciated by festival visitors. The game for the youth, 'Search the Jewel of the Dharma', which was based on the exhibitions, kept middle and high school children engaged by enticing them to look for answers in posters exhibited at the festival. Children enjoyed the festivity with face painting, henna, carnival games and magic shows, while learning about Dharma and Yoga. They learned the eight steps of Raja Yoga while playing kiddie striker, and learned about Yama (Don'ts) and Niyama (Do's), the first two steps of Raja Yoga while playing other games such as Troll Toss, Can Smash and Ring Toss. There were separate booths for each of the four Yoga types, Bhakti, Raja, Karma and Jnana. Volunteers at each Yoga booth distributed literature and explained the meaning of each Yoga type to curious visitors. Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT), and Morrisville Police and Fire Departments also had presence with stalls. While CERT helped the visitors with parking, Morrisville Police Department managed the traffic. Fire Department put up a fire truck, distributed safety helmets to children and let them ride the fire truck while teaching them about fire safety. The event attendees also experienced dance and music by the best artists in Raleigh-Durham area. The studios included Taurya School of Dance, Nrityajyoti Academy, Nrityanjali Academy of Dance and Natyarpana School of Dance & Music. Each of the performances was selected to bring out an aspect of Dharma and Yoga in an artistic manner. Balagokulam (a program of HSS) children presented a skit on the life and ideals of Swami Vivekananda. HSS, HSNC and other participating organizations did a wonderful job of organizing and managing the event in a seamless manner. IFor more information about the festival, email
BAPS Charities Health Fair
Heart Disease. Diabetes. Obesity. These are only a few of the prevalent health issues that Americans face every day; however, many people are not even aware that they are at risk. In order to address this, BAPS Charities focused on timely diagnosis and prevention techniques as part of its annual health fair on Saturday, September 21, 2013, in Matthews, NC. In providing screenings and examinations to over 200 participants throughout the day, the BAPS Charities health fair aimed to provide healthcare services to community members who are unable to afford such services on their own. In addition to routine testing, participants had the opportunity to consult with various specialists to discuss their health concerns, risk factors, methods of prevention, and other related information. The Health Fair brought together 40 Healthcare professionals and specialists from numerous fields including cardiology, family practice, pediatrics, physical therapy, nutrition, naturopathy, psychiatry, ophthalmology, gynecology, orthopedics, internal medicine, chiropractors and even, stress and pain management.

Gandhi Jayanti Celebration 2013
By Yash Garg
Photos by Pragyan Shrivas
Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who was born on October 2, 1869. The celebration kicks off with singing of Gandhi's favorite songs, offering tribute to the Father of a nation, and garlanding the statue. Ever since the installation of Gandhi statue at the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, celebrating Gandhi Jayanti has become a tradition as well as a happy occasion for the Triangle community. Gandhi's Birth Anniversary has been declared by the United Nations as an International Day of non-violence and peace. On September 29, 2013, the celebration began at 1:30 pm, with garlanding of Mahatma Gandhi's statue in the North side Garden of the Museum by Prateek Chandak, a Triangle lawyer, followed by singing of Gandhi's favorite bhajan. After that a short cultural program followed in Venture Hall. It began with lamp lighting ceremony followed by a short address. Arvind Shah spoke about the history of the Gandhi Statue Project. Yash Garg, HIANC President, welcomed the audience and requested for greater participation. Musicians Chandan Dash and Bijoy K. Dash delighted the audience with their singing of devotional songs on this occasion. The program, which was emceed by Prakash Devalapalli, presented a few dances, a group song by children, and a slide presentation by Dr. Harish Chander, who showed Gandhi slides of some rare pictures taken during his recent visit to Mani Bhavan and Gandhi Smriti museums in India. A Gandhi Quiz also kept the children and parents involved in coming up with right answers. This year's essay competition's winners were Yash N. Rajpal (1st place) and Akshar Shrivas (2nd place); both received cash awards. Yash Rajpal also became the winner of the Quiz and won the first prize of Gandhi's Autobiography.

B-Melody Performs for Fundraiser
By Geetha Ganesh
B-Melody, a youth instrumental fusion band comprising of a group of High School students from the Triangle area, hosted a fundraising event at the Cary Arts Center on Friday September 20, 2013. Proceeds from the eventwere donated to the ALS foundation Jim “Catfish" Hunter Chapter of NC. It was an evening of innovative fusion music. The group began the evening with an invocation to Lord Ganesha with “Vaatapi Ganapathim" (in the Ragam Hamsadhwani). The performers not only easily glided thru' the intricacies of Hamsadhwani, but also wove nuances into the song. The Kriti was given the final finishing touches with the instrumentalists displaying their creativity in the form of “Kalpana Swarams" or creative swarams. Continuing with the Carnatic atmosphere, they moved into a medley of the melodious Ragams of Naatai and Kaapi. These Carnatic Ragams were blended with songs from Tamil Movies, based off similar Ragams. Their weaving in and out from “Enna Thavam “(a Paapanasam Sivan Kriti) into the popular Movie song “Kadal Rojave" was quite amazing. They continued playing popular film songs. The songs ranged from well-known Tamil numbers “Anjalie" (film Duet), “Tamizha Tamizha" (film Roja) to the Hindi song “Dhoom Machale"(film Dhoom). They also played instrumentals from “Titanic" to “Pink Panther" as well as others. The finale transcended various genres of music, including music from Europe to the Far East, from the Middle East to Africa – all blended with ease. The lead violinists (Svetak Sundhar and Sanjay Kannan), saxophone (Rahul, Achintya) Krishna), keyboard (Sreeja Sridharan) and clarinet (also Sanjay Kannan) players were well supported by the percussionists, who kept up with the different genres of music with various kinds of percussion instruments. The “Thani Avardhanam" or the percussion solo performance was a treat of Mrudangam (Visrut Sudhakar), Tabla (Raghav Balu) and Drums (Jay Rao). A blend of Jazz tunes, composition of Beethoven, and ending with the composition from A. R. Rahman - the one hour concert was a journey thru the world of music. The young band was guided by artistic director Kalyan Sundhar.

Shivali Patel Crowned National American Miss North Carolina Teen 2013
Shivali Patel (age 16) from Raleigh N.C. (and a senior at Athens Drive High School) has earned the prestigious title of “National American Miss North Carolina Teen 2013" at the pageant held on July 7, 2013 in Winston Salem at the Benton Convention Center. She competed against 109 total contestants from all over North Carolina and won not only the main title, but also placed in multiple other optional competitions such as spokesmodel, most photogenic, casual wear modeling, most promising model, and volunteer service. She received the official crown, banner, cash prizes, trophy, and airfare to nationals that will be held in Anaheim, CA during Thanksgiving this upcoming November. NAM pageants are dedicated to celebrating America's greatness and encouraging its future leaders. These pageants help to equip the young women with valuable life skills. Patel was chosen to represent NC because of her outstanding accomplishments and community services. She is looking forward to a year of starting many more of her own volunteer service projects, traveling and new opportunities. Some of her current projects include Shivali's K's for Kids for the Methodist Home for Children, Bonds for Generation project and Books, Bears & T-Shirt Drives for the less fortunate overseas. She is very much involved in extracurricular activities as well as she is a dancer at Cary Ballet Conservatory, singer and plays the piano.

Over 8,000 Hindu Youths Attend Spiritual Convention in Atlanta, GA
July 14, 2013, Atlanta, GA – When asked about their favorite time of year, the immediate response for a majority of youth is summer. Summer not only brings a break from school and work, but also brings an abundance of pool time, theme parks, vacations, and the simple joy of spending more time with friends and family. This year, for more than 8,000 Hindu youths, summertime also included a dose of spiritual enrichment at the BAPS North American Youth Convention hosted at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Atlanta, GA. The 11-day event took place from July 4th to July 14th and consisted of three separate conventions, each catering to different age groups and their specific needs. The first convention saw 3,320 high school and college students. That was immediately followed by a gathering of 2,950 children, primarily in grade school, at the second convention. Finally, over 1,900 young professionals and families attended the third convention. The theme of the convention centered on the true meaning of becoming “Ekantik", a spiritual concept originally conceived in the Hindu scriptures and further elaborated upon by Bhagwan Swaminarayan over 200 years ago. Ekantik Dharma is comprised of four pillars – Dharma (righteousness), Gnan (spiritual knowledge), Vairagya (detachment from the world) and Bhakti (devotion to God and Guru). Achieving balance among these pillars leads to true progress and fulfillment of one's ultimate goal in life. “It gives a new perspective on how to live a life true to your roots, culture, and heritage, but at the same time be able to succeed in this environment," said participant Dhawal Tank of Toronto, Canada, speaking of his experience at the convention. Revolving around the theme of “Ekantik" were group activities, games, and cultural programs that gave the attendees engaging ways to learn more about Hindu values. Attendees were also given the opportunity to learn from discourses delivered by Swamis of BAPS from around the world. They shared their knowledge on how to maintain Hindu-centric values while maintaining a balanced life. Sadguru Pujya Mahant Swami (Pujya Keshavjivandas Swami), the keynote speaker of each convention, explained to delegates that the path to Ekantik Dharma is a lifelong journey with fruitful benefits. While the ideals of Ekantik Dharma are derived from ancient scriptures, they are still equally applicable to today's generation. Pujya Anandswarupdas Swami, mahant of Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, India, explained it in simple terms: “Ekantik Dharma is not just something to be talked about, it is something to be lived. To live it, the Satpurush (guru) should be the center point of our lives, nothing else. That is the only way to be Ekantik." In order to make the multi-day convention a reality, volunteers put forth a tremendous amount of effort. Planning and execution started nearly three years ago and included the dedication and hard work of over 700 volunteers across North America. Akhil Patel, a volunteer and one of the event planners, said, “These conventions take many years of effort and planning to be successful. We actually started thinking of the content for this convention in 2010 after our last summer convention." This is 16th such convention. The first North American convention was held in 1984 in Chicago, IL. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) and inspirer of such conventions, encourages today's youth to understand and embrace their roots, helping them preserve their identities and remain grounded in their faith and culture. Through a live video feed, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj gave blessings from India to reiterate ideas conveyed in the convention as well as encouraged participants to become stronger Ekantik devotees. For more details visit

Charlottean Hemant Vallabhapuram Awarded Eagle Scout
Hemant Vallabhapuram, a senior at Lake Norman Charter High School in Huntersville, NC has become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. Less than four percent of Boy Scouts reach this rank. Hemant is the son of Aruna and Ravi Vallabhapuram of Charlotte. He was following the dream of his parents who migrated from Nellore, India. Hemant joined Troop 148 affiliated to Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church. His brother Omtej also in the same troop is aspiring to become Eagle Scout. Ravi Vallabhapuram said Hemant has “made the whole family proud. He has fulfilled my dream of furthering my scouting journey which I started during my elementary schooling but never finished to the highest boy scouts rank in India." In the final stage of long process a Boy Scout must go through to become an Eagle – including earning at least 21 merit and skill badges in subjects ranging from camping to communications to robotics – the candidate must plan and execute an Eagle Scout Service Project beneficial to the community, school, a non-profit organization or religious institution. For his Eagle Service Project Hemant created and executed a plan to help the Ronald McDonald House at Charlotte. The house provides a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment for families that have children receive medical treatment in nearby facilities. The House needed more benches, storage for toys, and a creative way to collect pop tabs. Hemant built four wooden benches for the playground and front porch, one outdoor toy box for the playground, and one pop-tabs house that are fun for the kids to save pop-tabs collected for the non-profit organization. Hemant's other activities include serving as the Senior Class President for the school's student body, volunteering in various service organizations such as Interact club, Exploring, and Key club.

Guna Kommareddi Awarded Seva Ratna
The American Telugu Association recognized and awarded “SEVA RATNA" Purskar to Charlotte resident Guna S. Kommareddi at ATA convention at the Georgia World Congress Center from July 6 – 8, 2012 in Atlanta for her Community Service. Last 20 years Kommareddi has been involved in the Charlotte community in many ways. Currently she is serving on ghe League of Women Voters of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Budget and Taxation Committee of North Carolina and also served eight years as a Treasurer. She has served as an Economic Development Committee member to the Community Building Initiative of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Public Service Information member to the Charlotte Observer to provide opinions and inputs on current public issues. She also served on the Mayor's Friends of the International Cabinet. She is one of the founding members and treasurer for the India Association of Charlotte and the annual Festival of India.

2012 Heritage India Festival
By Yash Garg

The Heritage India Association of NC hosted its 2012 Heritage India Festival on July 21, 2012 at the HSNC Cultural Hall in Morrisville, NC from 5 to 9 p.m. Celebrating Heritage India Festival each year is always an important and a happy occasion as it brings out cultural sentiments of Indian Americans living in the Triangle area to the fore through artistic presentations. The Indian community showcased India's rich cultural program through a variety of entertainment: folk and classical dances, music, costumes, cuisine, and children's art sessions including henna and face painting. The Program began with a lamp lighting ceremony. The program featured many varied dances choreographed by the Triangle area's prominent choreographers. This year the festival recognized three community leaders. Steve Rao, Morrisville Councilman, gave Heritage Honor Awards to Dr. Dhruv Kumar for Community Ambassador; to Gowri Goli for Excellence in TV Media; and to Asha Bala for Excellence in Classical Dance.

Ravi Patel Selected as Father of the year
The Father's Day Council of the Carolinas has selected long-time Charlotte resident Ravi Patel as a 2012 Father of the Year. Patel and several other fathers will be honored on June 15, 2012 at a Father of the Year award dinner. The celebration is also a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes, with its many complications, is one of the leading causes of death by disease in this country. Ravi Patel is the President and CEO of SREE Hotels, a Charlotte-based company that owns and operates hotel properties in several states. The awards dinner will take place at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte. For further details about the event, tickets or table reservations, call Dianne Roth at 704.373.9111 ext. 3261 or email

Dr. Dhingra Receives Literary Award
Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra, a noted Hindi writer, poet and editor of Hindi Chetna, the only Hindi quarterly published in North America, was awarded the well-known National literary Ambikaprasad Divya Samriti Prathastha Puruskar for 2012 for her story book “Kaun Si Zamin Apni" published in 2011. She is the only US-based Hindi writer selected for this award. The Sahitya Sadan selection committee announced the award in Bhopal on April 20, 2012. The selection committee also awarded the Divya Rajat Alankaran literary magazine award to “Hindi Chetna." Last October, Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra was selected by the Sunday Indian News Magazine as among the top 111 women Hindi writers of the 21st Century in the world. The Sunday Indian published a special issue highlighting the works of these writers. Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra, who lives in Morrisville, NC, has received several prestigious awards for her writings, poetry and short stories over the years.

The Gurdwara Sahib Charlotte celebrates Guru Teg Bahadur
A Report on Dr. Harbans Lal's Presentation

By Roshan Attrey

The Gurdwara Sahib of Charlotte celebrated Guru Teg Bahadur's shaheedi gurpurab on Sunday, December 4, 2011. The sangat of 200-plus attended the religious service. The service included kirtan and anand sahib and ardas, followed by langar (the community meal). Prior to langar, the congregation also had the opportunity to listen to an excellent presentation by Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal on Guru Teg Bahadur. The 9th Guru holds a pivotal position in the Indian history, especially the Sikh history and religion.

After a brief introduction to the Ninth Guru's shabads (hymns), Dr. Harbans Lal focused on the Guru's religious philosophy of the human mind, stating that a considerable number of his hymns directly addressed the problem of human mind and its impact on human destiny. What follows here is a truncated and bald version of his presentation, pointing out the significance of Guru Teg Bahadur's shabads dealing with a subject that has deeply interested poets, sages, psychologists, and philosophers in all ages and cultures:

A search in the comes up with one hundred and twenty two citations of Guru Teg Bahadur that contain directly the term mann, a term he used for mind. Further, almost all of the couplets or sloks of Guru Teg Bahadur that were written to conclude the Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, are addressed to mann.

The Guru regards mann as undisciplined; hence the reason for his concern. Mann is a vital, though unreliable, instrument to influence human insights and intellectual processes. Its overwhelming allegiance is to animal genes and to human sensory inputs, which carry information of human cultures and environment that engender countless layers of intellectual smog on the nature of consciousness associated with it. Both the genetic slavery and the limitation of sensory information often predispose the human mind and human consciousness to overlook the spiritual realities. This fact alone could become a limiting factor in the progress of human evolution and make seekers feel concerned in their efforts to liberate the human mind.

Mann is a substrate of future evolution. In stark contrast to the orientation of Western thinking focused mostly on the external world, Eastern faiths, particularly Sikhism, begin with a premise that the human mind is central to understanding and maneuvering the natural world and its evolution. Mind is a primary source of both joy and misery for humans. Therefore, it is the state and the working of mind that will be instrumental in the future human evolution. Further, the objective of future evolution will not be the human body as much as the human mind. Instead, in the future, the human mind will be the major concern of the human development.

The Sikh tradition considers human mind (mann) and human consciousness (surat) as the primary targets of introspective evolution of human beings. While other Sikh gurus, such as Guru Arjan and Guru Nanak, expressed the above concerns when they elaborated all other phenomena necessarily preceding the human mind, the focus of this analysis is Guru Teg Bahadur's hymns as they relate to the subject. He wrote that one needed to grasp the mind before all other phenomena might be satisfied and comments on his struggle with the mind:

Who should I tell the condition of the mind? Engrossed in greed, running around in the ten directions, you hold to your hopes of wealth. ||1||Pause to contemplate|| For the sake of pleasure, you suffer such great pain, and you have to serve each and every person. ||1|| You lose this human life in vain, and You are not even ashamed when others laugh at you. - Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 411.

The Guru continues: Deluded by doubt, I have wasted my whole life; I have not obtained a stable intellect. I remain under the influence of corrupting sins, night and day, and I have not renounced wickedness. - Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.632.

Still-less-ness of Mann
Still- less- ness of the mind has been a subject of research among psychologists and mind researchers for years. It is also a matter of great concern to the seekers of spirituality and the faith leaders like Guru Teg Bahadure. It is because a fickle mind is a great hindrance on the path of spirituality. The goal of spirituality is gravely betrayed when the mind wanders away from the domain of the soul. Guru Teg Bahadur expresses below his concern with the agitation of the mind and our helplessness in controlling it:
O people engaged in spiritual endavours to bring your mind under control, this mind is difficult be restrain. Fickle tendencies dwell within it. As a result, it cannot remain unwavering. — Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 219.

The Guru Granth Sahib is concerned with the commotion of the mind and aftereffects of that commotion. Prominent among these are the wandering mind and the lack of its concentration in the spiritual domain.
With the cultural imprisonment continuing, the minds of most people learn to keep wandering, and never have any opportunity to learn how to calm down and be still. Our genes have programmed us to be such, and then our culture has taken over the process from the genes. The culture focuses our attention on the things of the world in such a way that we never gain the capacity either to sit quietly or to ponder on any single thought.
Guru Teg Bahadur again warned us about this helplessness as follows:
Numerous unfulfilled desires are promoted to reside in the mind of a sinner, so that the sinner's mind becomes very fickle, and the fickle consciousness constantly wavers; it cannot be brought under control. — Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1186.

It avails little to have so many approaches.
Guru Teg Bahadur shows his concerns with the animalistic tendencies of man. He described how one might ask for help from a variety of places, but he gets no help from any source.
Towards his goal of receiving help, he related the outcome of those who traveled to distant places to undertake pilgrimage. These, too, he rejects as an approach to subdue the mental instincts and tendencies.
People bathe at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, and adhere to fasts, but they acquire no control over mind. — Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 831

Disappointed from pilgrimages, he seeks help from scriptures. He finds that even the wisdom of scriptures is of no avail. He discards them as unsuitable solutions to his mental turbulence.
While describing the futility of many approaches and paths that he attempted, he wrote that most of these approaches were not just futile but, to the contrary, further led the mind into the grip of tendencies that diverted the mind away from the original goal.
I have tried so many things, but the pride of my mind has not been dispelled.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1428.

O mann, you have not accepted the Guru's Teachings. What is the use of shaving your head, and wearing saffron robes? — Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 633.
I listened to the Guru's Teachings, but spiritual wisdom did not well up within me; like a beast, I fill my belly. — Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 685.
Besides, religious approaches to please the mann, Guru Teg Bahadur enumerates many worldly pursuits, which also failed to harness the mann. The Guru considered it futile to run after wealth and possession, as they only appease the desire for further conquests:
Engrossed in greed, running around in the ten directions, you hold to your hopes of wealth.
—Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 411.

Guru Teg Bahadur finds himself helpless in his efforts to bring mann under control. He explicitly states that he made numerous efforts to overcome tendencies of mann, before reaching the conclusion that he ought to seek the grace of the “Infinite Wisdom." He prays for saving human beings from the grips of mann.

The following hymn of Guru Teg Bahadur is an illustration:
This mind does not follow my advice one tiny bit. I am so tired of giving it instructions - it will not refrain from its evil-mindedness. It has gone insane with the intoxication of Maya; it does not chant the Creator's Praise. Practicing deception, it tries to cheat the world, and so it fills its belly. Like a dog's tail, it cannot be straightened; it will not listen to what I tell it. Says Nanak, enumerate forever the Name of the One, and all your affairs shall be adjusted. — Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.536.
Guru Teg Bahadure warns that our precious opportunity in life will pass away without fullfilling our desires to reach our goals. Instead we will succumb to the god of death:
That of the the mind remains in the mind. He does not meditate on the ONE, nor does he perform service at sacred shrines, and so death seizes him by the hair at the appointed hour.
— Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.631.

The Yogis have tried everything and failed; the virtuous have grown weary of singing God's Glories. O servant Nanak, when the Sustainer becomes merciful, then every effort is successful. ||2||4||
— Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 219.

In closing, the Sikh theology describes sophisticated and elaborate doctrines on the origin and nature of mann (mind) and its interaction with the faculty of higher consciousness or surat. The mind in terms of mann, and consciousness in terms of surat have been the primary subjects of introspective exploration since the birth of the Sikh tradition. Further, Sikh doctrines formulated active role of these faculties in communicating with divine, the higher wisdom. The Ninth Guru Teg Bahadur made a major contribution in articulating the theology of mann. He examined traditional techniques for probing the mind first-hand. In doing so, he outlined many endeavors to train the attention of the mind so that it could be oriented towards spirituality to experience divinity that we describe as naam simran. Through naam simran we may obtain the quiescence of mann and achieve bliss of ultimate salvation.

Finally, Guru Teg Bahadur becomes a realized human being as the following quote indicates:
O mother, I have gathered the wealth of the Creator's Name. My mind has stopped its wanderings, and now, it has come to rest. ||1||Pause to contemplate|| Attachment to Maya has run away from my body, and immaculate spiritual wisdom has welled up within me. Greed and attachment cannot even touch me; I have grasped hold of devotional worship of the Divine. ||1|| The cynicism of countless lifetimes has been eradicated, since I obtained the jewel of the Naam, the Name of the Divine. My mind was rid of all its desires, and I was absorbed in the peace of my own inner being. ||2|| That person, unto whom the Merciful ONE shows compassion, sings the Glorious Praises of the Craetor of the Universe. Says Nanak, this wealth is gathered only by the Gurmukh. ||3||3||
— Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 219.

Dr. Harbans Lal is a prominent Sikh scholar who has devoted a part of his life to the service of Sikhee (Sikh Dharma) and a part to pharmacology (he is professor/chair emeritus at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Arlington, Texas). He writes about Sikhism and speaks about it extensively as he travels in the U.S. and abroad. Contact him at Contact Roshan Attrey at:

Children's Day 2011
The Children's Day is celebrated on the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, because of his deep commitment to children. This year in celebration of Children's Day in India, Google used a special doodle where the users could see the word Google designed in the shapes of various Indian musical instruments like Tabla, Shehnai and Veena. But what makes it more interesting is the fact that Varsha Gupta, a 3rd grade student won the “Doodle 4 Google competition." Here in the Triangle area, the Heritage India Association of NC celebrated its fifth anniversary of the children's Day on November 12, 2011 as a day to honor and celebrate all children. The group organized various activities and a cultural program to make the day special for the children. There were 130 kids who participated in the stage performances. The program began with “Deep Prakashan Ceremony" by Dr. Arvind Shah and “Jan Gan Man" song, choreographed by Vinita Kochar. This was followed by a Bharatnatyam dance “Jai Ganesha," choreographed by Chanchal Hari. Four more Bharatnatyam dances were presented by children of ages 5-8 and 9-12 years, all students of the Kalanjali School of Arts and Kalasrishti School of Performing Arts, respectively. Also, a selected group of folk and Bollywood dances were choreographed by Triangle area's prominent choreographers — Amol Pise, Shanti Pise, Jashi Abhirajan, weta Bhatnagar, Nivedita Kakaar, Anushka Sukhramani, Ayaon Yadav, and Althea Sukhramani. Two musical presentations were choreographed by Vinita Kochar and Mrs. Ranganayaki Rajan of the Laasya School of Dance and Music. Veda Rajagopal and Vybhav Jagannath served as Emcees. A group of 18 teen performers presented Bhangra, choreographed by Lavesh Pritmani, which won the first prize of $100. A Bollywood dance group of 8 teens, choreographed by Shanti Pise, won the consolation prize of $50. The day also featured face painting and greeting card painting for the kids. The event concluded with a recognition ceremony and a magic show as a grand finale. Two teen honorees were Shaunak Turaga, for winning the “Academic Excellence Heritage Award" and Amber Gautam for winning the “Community Ambassador Heritage Award."
— Submitted by Yash Garg

Indian-American Elected to UNC Board of Governors
Hari H. Nath (aka Harish Mathur) was recently elected by the NC House of Representatives to the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina System. He was sworn in to the position on August 11, 2011. Nath is the inaugural Indian-American elected to one of the most prestigious Boards in NC. The Board sets policies, programs, budgets and priorities for the 16 public universities and School of Science and Math in North Carolina. “For the next four years, I hope to contribute to the UNC Board of Governors to the best of my ability and advance our goal of promoting excellence in higher education," Nath said on his election. He was founder and CEO of an IT Management consulting firm, TPMC, for 14 years (1987-2001). Since acquisition of TPMC by a large firm in 2001, Nath has devoted his energies to community service and political activism in NC. In addition to NC-INPAC, he serves as a Chairman of the Board of Advisors, for the Caring Place Inc, a Cary based nonprofit organization. He has been actively serving Town of Cary, on several Boards and Commission since 2003 and has been a member of the Planning and Zoning Board for past 5 years. He received his B.E. in Mining Engineering from the University of Jodhpur, India and received his M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1971.

Noted NC Hindi Poet Selected Among Top Women Writers
Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra, a noted Hindi poet and writer living in Morrisville, NC, and editor of Hindi Chetna, the only Hindi quarterly magazine published in North America, was recently selected by The Sunday Indian News Magazine, published from Delhi, India, as among the top 111 women Hindi writers of the 21st Century in the world. The Sunday Indian has published a special issue highlighting the works of these writers. A total of six Hindi women writers from the US were selected for this honor. The magazine also asked Dr. Sudha Om Dhingra to write an article for this special issue of the magazine highlighting achievements of all women Hindi writers living outside India.

Jain Center of Greater Charlotte Pratishtha Mahotsav
The Jain Center of Greater Charlotte (JCGC) is a community of around 80 Charlotte area Jain families. For many years JCGC has been planning for and working towards building a Jinalay (temple). This dream finally materialized as the brand new Jain Temple opened its doors on Monday, September 12, 2011 with a Pratishtha Mahotsav held from Sept 9-12. The temple, located at 7631 Mallard Creek Rd, Charlotte, NC 28262, is an 8400 sq. ft. facility built on nearly three acres of land. Currently the Center has a large worship hall, a stage for cultural programs, and several multi-purpose rooms. Future plans include construction of a kitchen and dining hall and main temple with a shikhar (canopy). The fully built Center will have over 12000 sq. ft. of space. Local Jains and other members of Indian community have donated land, money, and resources over a span of 15 years to bring this project to fruition. Due to the generosity of these donors the Jain Center is virtually debt free at the time of opening. JCGC and its predecessor organization Jain Study Group had been congregating and worshipping at the Hindu Center before the opening of Jain Center. The Jain Center is the first temple dedicated to the Jain faith in North Carolina. It is the only temple of its kind between Atlanta and Washington DC. Outside of some dedicated Jain temples in Florida, Charlotte's Jain temple is the only place serving the Jain community in North and South Carolina, and adjoining areas of nearby states. JCGC celebrated a joyous Pratishtha Mahotsav (Idol Installation and Opening Ceremony) for four days. Noted scholars and priests were invited to perform the installation of the idol of Bhagvan Parshwanath, the 23rd Tirthankar of Jain religion. Hundreds of Jains and members of other communities participated in and enjoyed the festivities which included a procession (varghodo), and various poojas and rituals. The poojas were conducted by noted Jain vidhikar (priest) Narendra Nandu. All meals were cooked and served at site. Volunteers from the Jain community worked for several days in preparation for the opening ceremony and handled the entire responsibility of managing this successful event. JCGC has already started full use of the facility. Daily morning and evening prayers and poojas are being regularly conducted now, with more activities carried out during weekends. The JCGC has followed very active religious, social, educational, and cultural programs over the years, now with the opening of the new Center JCGC intends to intensify its existing activities as well as offer new services to Jains and the larger community. Some of the activities include monthly meetings, swadhyay (discourses), children's classes (pathshala), worship and pooja services, celebration of important Jain festivals such as Mahavir Jayanti, Paryushan, and more. The Jain Center will serve as the beacon of Jain faith for many generations to come.

American Tamil Medical Association Annual Convention
The 7th annual convention of ATMA (American Tamil Medical Association) was held in Durham, NC, from August 11- 14, 2011. About 100 physicians from various parts of the country attended the convention with their spouse and families. Dr. Mayilvahanan, Vice-Chancellor of MGR Medical University, Porur, Tamil Nadu was the chief guest and gave his key-note address. He offered the university's support to implement joint ventures to promote continuing education for the medical faculty for physicians in Tamil Nadu and health camps for the needy. He invited ATMA physicians' support and participation. At the convention, Dr. Kumar Ilangovan and Dr. Kalpana Mandhiram were given the Outstanding Resident award for their contributions in the field of child care and HIV awareness, respectively. Dr. Balasubramanian of California was honored with the “Life-time Achievement Award" for his outstanding service in the field of Emergency Medicine and for his tireless and selfless work during the Tsunami and Earthquake disasters in India. Continuing medical education lectures were delivered by eminent doctors in their respective fields. Various activities and seminars were planned and carried out by the Carolina Team of ATMA to engage the spouses and their children. Cultural activities by various artists in the evenings and South Indian food were the highlight of the evening sessions. Dr.T amilarasi Kannan, President of ATMA and Dr. Valarmathi Sundar, Governor, Carolina Chapter planned and executed the convention with the able help from their teams. ATMA's main motto is “service for the needy" and to prove this point a sum of over $ 22,000 was raised for various service projects in USA and Tamil Nadu. For further details on the organization visit

A Global Collaborative Effort: My experience at the Aarambh Reach Project
By Minali Nigam

In the summer of 2008 when I was in India, I noticed several children with torn clothing playing outside a small house next to my grandparents' neighborhood. When I asked my grandmother who these children were, she told me that they all lived together in a shelter home. Acting upon my curiosity, I decided to get involved with these children and help. As I worked with Aarambh Reach Project, I learned about its inability to provide for basic necessities because of high rental costs. So, I took the initiative to raise funds in the U.S. towards the construction of a permanent home for these children through a music charity event called Bollywood Dhamaka Night.

The event was held on June 11, 2010 in Charlotte, NC, and was attended by over 300 people. A total of 35 different artists from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia performed a variety of songs and dances. Bollywood Dhamaka Night raised $3000, but altogether as a global collaboration with UNICEF, Boltini Trust UK, and local organizations, the Aarambh Reach Project received $30,000. I, along with other international coordinators, was invited to the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the new home in Indore, India. It was incredible to see how the dream of building the permanent home was coming true. The existing shelter home that the Aarambh Reach Project had could only accommodate twenty children. The new permanent home will now be able to accommodate over sixty children. The Aarambh Reach Project will now be able to direct funds towards the children's needs for food, books, and clothes rather than for costly rent. The first phase of the construction has already begun and is scheduled for completion by summer 2011.

Now, I am involved with other projects conducted through the Aarambh Reach Project. Because the shelter home only houses and provides education for children from ages six to fourteen, after the age of fourteen, the children receive vocational training at various centers. It is important to help these children develop skills in order to become independent and to learn how to make a living for themselves. In order to help prepare the children for these required skills, I mentor and advise them via email and Skype. Additionally, I plan on going to India and visiting the shelter home to physically interact and work with the children. However, working with children has only been one step for Aarambh. The organization's other initiatives include helping abused women and helping to prevent ensuing child labor. The Aarambh Reach Project has placed many children in educational reform programs. The project has also placed abused women into safe shelters and has provided these women with job opportunities so that they can support their families.

Aarambh, which translates to “beginning," has allowed for thousands of families to start anew and lead successful lives. As a volunteer and initiator in the U.S. for the Aarambh Reach Project, I feel honored to be part of a global collaboration trying to make a change for the greater good of the world.

Celebrating Children's Day
By Yash Garg
Photos by K.P. Sandeep, Cary Photo Video

In India, Children's Day is celebrated on November 14 because this date marks the birth anniversary of legendary freedom fighter and independent India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He became popular as “Chacha Nehru" among his little admirers. Nehru strongly believed that if the children of a country are provided developmental opportunities, they can uplift the nation towards greater prosperity. To quote his own words, “Future India is in the hands of today's child." It is not just a day of fun and fanfare, it has become a celebration of childhood and symbolic of Nehru's love for children.

The day is marked with a lot of activities for children in India and while parents buy gifts and new clothes for their children, schools organize events and activities that their students enjoy.

The richness and the diversity of the cultural heritage of India has always intrigued and attracted me. A Children's Day celebration was held on November 14, from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the HSNC Cultural Hall in Morrisville, NC. The event offered children an opportunity to participate and interact with other children of their age groups. More than half of the audience was children, more than 500 people were in attendance, and included about 150 performers from 5 to 18 yrs. of age and about the same number of other children. Students from K-12 grade were admitted free. Efforts were made to engage all children in creative activities.

And while performers were busy on the stage, other little wonders and teens were busy in art competitions and demonstration.

The program was emceed and conducted by high School students Manasi Trivedi, Sunny Shere, and Vidhya Bhat. Other coordinators included AV Assistant (Shreye Saxena), Stage Manager (Vivek Pisharody), Cooking Demonstration Coordinator (Raghav Bansal) and Art Session Coordinators (Radhika and Sagar Namani). The community volunteers: Pinky Tapiawala as volunteers' coordinator, Mukesh Shah as AV Technical Director, Dr. K.P. Sandeep as photographer, Chief guest Morrisville Mayor Pro Tem Pete Martin gave his inaugural address, and to Mrs. Sharma lit the lamp for “Deep Prakashan Ceremony."

Nandita Garg supervised the art sessions. Two artist were chosen as winners of 1st award: A hardbound copy of “Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi" was awarded to Naomi Chaudhuri for the Best Poster art and a hardbound journal book to Anjali Gupta for the Greeting Card art. The recognition ceremony introduced the four honorees who were conferred the Heritage awards in traditional Indian way with a shawl on each shoulder by Mrs. Sharma and hardbound illustrated volumes were given to each honoree by Prakash And Dr. Vandana Devalapalli.

Anshuleena Vipparla, Heritage Award for Excellence in Classical Dance, Neelan Patel, Heritage Award For Excellence in Community Services, Sidhartha Jandhyala, Heritage Award for Excellence in Academics, and Yeshel Choksi, Community Ambassador Heritage Award.

This day impressed upon the participants the need to renew commitments to the wellbeing and happiness of children and pass on to them cultural values and heritage.

For the children, it is a day of much fun and fanfare. Each child is unique and special. Childhood is about innocence and playfulness — it is about joy and freedom and as a part of celebration parents get involved with the activities that their children like.

As I observed and felt that this celebration instilled feelings of camaraderie and community pride among many of the children and a sense of heritage which perhaps made them to think how privileged they are to be a part of community and a caring family, as well as to be able to celebrate this day with their new friends, parents and community members.

The children were enthusiastic and encouraged to take part in dances, musical presentations, and art competitions. They enjoyed hands on experience with other cultural arts like Mehandi with Ronuk Hada who helped them to enhance their artistic talents.
All these activities made the Children's Day special and memorable. This year the event organized an arts competitions to offer a platform to provide opportunity to those kids who were not performing on the stage for expression of their artistic creativity. Poster Art competition and Greeting Cards Painting Project kept kids busy.

It was wonderful seeing all the moms and dads out there having fun as a family. In some cases three generations came together to celebrate “Children's Day."

The program items ranged from classical to folk dances of India, from Bollywood dances to Bhajan dance, and also included melodious music from younger musicians. There were many varied performances.

The choreographers were: Lavesh Pritmani, Asha Bala, Kriti Rakesh-Bhat, Neerja Parikh & Deepal Parikh from Natya Academy; Payal Malian from Nachbaliye group; Meena Rajagopal from Kalasrishti School of Performing Arts; Padma Rao from Nritanjali Academy of Dance; Kalashri Supriya Desai from Payal Dance Academy; Shanti Amol Pise from Aryan's Dance Group; Loveleen Nanda, Roshni Verma, Aditi Bahali, Malti Jain, Rekha Krishanna, Neha Batra, Simmi Prasad, Deepal Parikh of Bollywood Modern Dance School, Deepti-Patel Misra, Pooja Mehta, Vinita Kochar (musician from Natya Academy), Madhumita Saha (musician, Sur Sangam Academy); Darshana Zaveri (musician, Sur-Sumiran School of Music), and Aditi Bahali.

Elaine Marshall Fundraiser
By Manisha Dass

Rajneeti. Whether we like it or not, we cannot escape it. And no I'm not speaking of Prakash Jha's latest film, rather the real deal.

Election Day is November 2, 2010 – and voters all across the country will be electing 37 Senate, 37 gubernatorial and all 435 House seats. For Senate in the state of North Carolina incumbent Richard Burr (R) will face Elaine Marshall (D). On August 27, 2010 I had the opportunity to meet with candidate Elaine Marshall – and not just under normal press conference but rather at a fundraiser held by Amalendu & Arundhati Chatterjee and Diju & Lynne Raha. The fundraiser was held in their home and came about as a result of their son working with Marshall years ago when he was in high school.

Ayan Chatterjee first began volunteering with Marshall when she ran against Erskine Bowles and has since been a strong supporter of Marshall. Chatterjee came from especially from Philadelphia just for the fundraiser and stated he would be proud to have Marshall representing North Carolina.

“She revived North Carolina," Chatterjee said, “and cleaned up the U.S. State Department." Chatterjee strongly believes that Marshall takes a stance on important issues and is a progressive candidate. “She has prepared North Carolina to take a lead," he said. The entire Chatterjee family commended Marshall on how she embraces diversity and supports various communities. “Elaine personally called everyone on the guest list and thanked them for their support," Chatterjee said.

Amongst the guest list for the event were State Treasurer Janet Cowell, candidate Steve Rao, candidate Ken Lewis, and American Idol winner Clay Aiken. Many other guests attended to show their support for Marshall. Pam Aggarwal, a close family friend of the Chatterjee's and local resident said, “I have supported her for a long time and believe that she will be the right candidate for the job. North Carolina needs someone like her in a leadership role."

Clay Aiken supports Marshall and once again voiced how strongly she supports people from diverse communities. “She has displayed inclusion and acceptance of all Americans – be it Americans whose roots are South Asian and or Americans whose roots are European," Aiken said. “She speaks up for those who don't, and people should consider that when they go to the polls."

State Treasurer Janet Cowell has worked with Marshall on the council of state, city council, and admires her work. “She is involved with diverse communities and constantly is reaching out to diverse populations," Cowell said. “She's very broad minded and very engaged."

Steve Rao has seen Marshall as a mentor for the last nine years. “She is one of the first people who saw potential in me," Rao stated. “I support Elaine Marshall, I have learned so much from her and I know she will make a great US Senator." Rao believes Marshall is a dynamic and humble fighter and has always maintained close ties with the South Asian community.

Marshall gave a small speech to all the attendees prior to the interview we had with her in which she addressed important issues encouraging those present to vote. “Race and religion doesn't matter," Marshall said. “All that matters is that you're a citizen and you are of age to vote."

Host Amalendu Chatterjee and his son Ayan Chatterjee introduced Elaine where Amalendu stated I may not be able to give you $100 thousand, but I will definitely get you more than 100 voters. Amalendu said he salutes the founding principles and is proud to be an American. “To the GOP and Tea Parties I say we want our country back." Amalendu requested the attendees to join him to work for a new, better America – not the “good ol' America."

Marshall referred to the current situation as 'makeable,' and stated she's in better shape than Kay Hagan two years ago. “I'm a farmer's daughter, and I am the underdog," Marshall said. “I had a good public school education, come from a good family, and had people who strongly believed in me."

Marshall also spoke of the problems this country is facing and how there needs to be a change. “Washington is still broken and we are in the worst of circumstances," Marshall said. “We need to do better by our citizens, and for those of you that believe it can't be done, get out of the way for those of us that are doing it."

Marshall spoke of her opponent saying he believes in privatization of social security and supports failed policies. “Richard Burr has forgotten who the people are that sent him there and there's no particular issue that he's championed."

In our personal interview with Marshall she personally thanked the Chatterjee family members and all the attendees. “I am working to improve American and specifically North Carolina," Marshall said. “I want more opportunities for our kids to make a better place for tomorrow. I have the determination and drive to fix Washington."

Marshall said the current representation doesn't reflect the people of North Carolina. “The middle/working class has no voice, and I will be their voice." She specifically spoke about her connection with South Asians. “I am always invited to the festivals, and I try to go whenever I am in town. This year was my 4th or 5th Independence Day festival at the HSNC," Marshall said. “I have also learned to tie my own sari and wore it to a wedding."

Marshall also talked about an anecdote with her first interaction with Indians. “I was part of a 4-H program called The International Four-H Youth Exchange, where I came across an Indian student. He was very warm and I still remember taking him to see where the Wright Brothers flew since that was something he was interested in."

Editor's Note: Several attempts were made to reach Marshall's opponent Richard Burr for comments and interview. His camp did
not respond to any request up until press deadline.

Miss Harnett County Named Fourth Runner-Up to Miss NC 2010

My summer as Miss Harnett County has been unforgettable thus far. I travelled to Laurinburg, NC on an appearance recently to jump out of a plane with the US Army's Golden Knights. I jumped the day before I would check-in to compete at the Miss North Carolina pageant. After arriving at the combat training grounds in Laurinburg, I got a crash course on tandem skydiving and was asked to sign a waiver. I was getting a little tense at that point but it went too fast to really start second guessing my decision to jump. I then met two Golden
Knights. One was my skydiving instructor who would be strapped to my back through the fall, and the other was a photographer and videographer who would jump out of the plane right behind me to capture the entire experience. I donned a yellow, Golden Knights suit and stepped into the harness that would attach me to my instructor. Joe (my instructor) was such a great guy. I'd nervously ask him a question about his experience or the likelihood of something going wrong and he'd respond sarcastically to make me feel like I'd have to be crazy to go through with the jump. After hugging my mother tightly, it was off to board the plane. Joe decided he would sit next to me and read Tandem Skydiving for Dummies on the way up. At around 7,000 feet, I was asked to give a brief interview on camera. We kept climbing and some while later, when all I could see out of my window were clouds, Joe started attaching my harness to his. He was, after all, the one wearing the parachute. At 13,500 feet, my instructor and I made our way over to the door. I had been told in the crash course that we would swing back and forth three times before exit, “Ready, Set…". “It was the most peculiar feeling. On one hand, I felt totally safe with Joe. They were Golden Knights. This was the division of the army that takes the president and big celebrities like Tiger Woods out for jumps. On the other hand, however, I was completely resigned to the fact that anything could happen, and I was okay with that… “GO!" The next thing I knew, I was getting sucked down towards the face of the earth, through the clouds at 120mph. It took a couple of seconds to get my orientation but when I looked out, I was staring into a camera. I smiled, waved, and tried to take every second of the free fall in before Joe pulled out the parachute and we went flying upwards. After that, it seemed like we were suspended,
thousands of feet above the earth. Joe turned us so I could enjoy the horizon and the five minute descent back to land. I'll never, ever forget the view or the feeling…both of which are indescribable. After landing swiftly, I was greeted by the cheers of my committee,
mother and friends. Now it was time to get my game on for the competition. We spent the night packing up all that I would need for the following week. I spent the first few days of the pageant week in day-long rehearsals and then preliminary competitions began. At the
finale on Saturday night, I made the top eleven and then the Top Five and was awarded fourth runner-up to Miss North Carolina. I will receive a $1,500 scholarship for my placement and I also won a $500 scholarship for my brother through the Miss NC Fraternal scholarship award. I was very contented with my first experience competing for Miss NC. I learned very much and look forward to putting into practice all that I have learned for next time. As for now, I am busy getting packed up again to head back to India to complete my undergraduate research project! – Bindhu Pamarthi

BalVihar Day Spartanburg
The Balvihar Day was celebrated on May 9, 2010 (Mother's Day) at the Hindu Society of Greater Spartanburg. All mothers present received a carnation for Mother's Day. The Balvihar students and volunteers presented a program that included prayer, songs (“Tumi Ho Mata" and “hum honge kamyab"). Eight students recited a sloka and its meaning, the drama (“samudra manthan"), and short essays about Bhagavad Geeta. Two former students explained how their time spent in Balvihar helped them succeed in school and eventually college. Three high school graduates were also recognized during the event. Arati and a delicious lunch followed the program attended by about 125 people.

Anudeep Kodali of Raleigh Wins Tennis Tourney
Anudeep Kodali of Raleigh, NC won the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Boy's 12s National Open Championship held in Owings Mills, MD (5/22-26, 2010), where he was also awarded the Howard Head Sportsmanship Award. Kodali is 12 years old and is an avid tennis player. He is currently ranked five in the nation, and two in the Southern division. He lives in Raleigh, NC with his parents Usha Rani & Valli Prasad and brother, Aneesh. This is his second national title win this year, previously he won the USTA Boy's 12s National Championship held at Cooper Creek Tennis center in Columbus, GA on 2/17/2010.

A Midsummer Day's Dream
Charlotte dance teacher Ritu Mukherjee's Nrityangan Cultural Academy held its annual function on June 5, 2010 at Providence High School. The cultural fiesta saw more than 550+ patrons of art and dance attending the theatre for an evening of dance, music and storytelling. This year's theme was a musical or a “dance drama" which is a story telling experience thru the medium of dance. The storyline was adapted from “Shakuntala," the famed saga written by one of the greatest Indian poets Kalidasa. The dance style was a fusion of Indian classical with Bollywood movements performed on the strains of popular Bollywood songs. With the ages of the participants ranging from 5 to 45, the performances saw the same fervor, passion and penchant for putting their best foot forward and to showcase all the skills that they had learnt under the tutelage of Mukherjee. The tightly-knit script, the whirlwind of superbly designed colorful dresses, props to lend richness to the scenes being played out and even a power point slide show that explained each upcoming scene, all converged into a mesmerizing experience of art and technology. The story was a novelty in itself as it was new to many and was heralded as a unique way to pass on the cultural heritage to the next generation. The event, as always, also served as a medium of discovery of new dancing talent like Radhika Wakankar (age 15) who played the main protagonist role of Shakuntala/Sia. The other key characters were played by Vinati Kaul (age 18) playing Dushyanth/Prince Aryan), Ria Patel (age 16) playing (Anusuya/Anu), Lopa Banerjee (age 14) playing Priyamvada/Priya), and Ayushi Mazumder (age 7) playing Bharat/Prince Ayush). They say that a teacher's biggest recognition is the success of her students and this year's performances proved that yet again. Her school brings to life a dream that every art loving culture conscious parent has for his/her child – to see them fall in love
with the culture itself and then excel in its art forms. – Contributed by Saswati Collam

“Salaam-E-Ishq “– A Bollywood Love Story Performed in Greenville

The Taal School of Dance & the Indian Arts, based in Greenville, SC presented “Salaam-E-Ishq" – A Bollywood Love Story at the prestigious Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville on June 5, 2010. The auditorium was packed to capacity and the audience, while deeply engrossed watching each scene of the story, broke into stints of applause as the dancers glided through each performance. The event commenced with an invocation dance to Lord Ganesh by Kathak students. Their portrayal, tinged with their beaming smiles and sweet innocence, wooed the audience. The original musical production “Salaam-E-Ishq" followed the invocation. After several months of visualizing, scripting, imaginative choreography, costume experimentations, accessory-matching, and painstaking rehearsals – it all come together very well. Subtle yet elegant stage décor perfectly complemented the vibrant costumes and meticulous stage management, leading to the creation of this beautiful musical production paying tribute to an Indian Bollywood love story. Taal School of Dance & the Indian Arts recently opened its new studio at 1145 East Butler Road, Greenville, SC. Taal specializes in Indian classical, folk, fusion, and Bollywood styles of dance along with music and art classes. For details contact Jyoti Garg at 864-286-8919 or email

Dhoom Machaale Rocks the House
Dhoom Machaale III, Charlotte's premier “Bollywood Club Nite, was yet again a success. Staying true to its mission, “Fun for a Cause," IAC-Disha was able to host another wonderful charity event on the night of May 7, 2010. This was their third event and it drew a varied and mixed crowd of about 500 people who rocked to the beats of DJ Lalit, whilst newbies learned the latest Bollywood dance moves. All proceeds from the event went to help the Akshaya project, a CNN-featured charity organization, whose goal is to feed and house the homeless in southern India. For more information about IAC-Disha and their work visit

Bhojwani Receives Mayor's International Community Award
The 2010 Patrick McCrory International Entrepreneur Award was given to Gobind “Garry" Bhojwani (Binaco Group) on May 10, 2010 in Charlotte. The award is selected by the Mayor and the recipient is honored at the annual Mayor's International Community Awards luncheon. The award honors a foreign-born entrepreneur who has made an outstanding contribution to the international community in Charlotte. The award also recognizes organizations and foreign-owned firms for outstanding contributions to philanthropy in the Charlotte region. Dr. Maha Gingrich is the Chair of Charlotte International Cabinet, which promotes Charlotte as an international city and serves as a resource to foster international relationships, highlighting Charlotte's eight sister cities. The Cabinet was created through the merger of the Mayor's international Cabinet and Charlotte Sister Cities. The Cabinet promotes Charlotte's international assets while also responding to requests from local governments and our community. It serves as consultant to elected officials and city staff on local activities on international scope. The 2009 Patrick McCrory International Entrepreneur Award was given to Charlotte businessman Ravi Patel.

Rupal Shah Receives Young Leader Alumni Award
Rupal Shah, daughter of Ramesh and Jayshree Shah of Clemson, SC, recently received an alumni award from her undergraduate alma mater, Southern Wesleyan University. Originally from Moshi, Tanzania the Shah family moved to Clemson, SC in 1999. Rupal Shah graduated from Southern Wesleyan University in 2004 with a BS in Biology and a BA in Chemistry and attended Clemson University to receive her MS in Microbiology in 2007. She is now at Harvard University, School of Public Health in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases where she conducts tuberculosis research as a Research Assistant. Southern Wesleyan University recognized Rupal Shah and awarded her the Young Leader Alumni Award. The Young Leader Award is awarded to individuals who are outstanding leaders in their profession as well as community and show promise of future professional growth. “This alumna is a young woman you can count on no matter what the situation, a young woman who is highly motivated to give her very best no matter what she is asked to do or chooses to participate in, and a young woman who builds strong and positive relationships. As former professors, one of our greatest joys is to see our students become our friends and colleagues. This Young Leader Award is well-deserved," said Dr. Walter Sinnamon Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biology.

Grand Opening of the Yoga and Health Retreat by Life Mission USA
Life Mission USA held a grand opening on May 15-16, 2010 for their new yoga and health retreat in Mebane, NC. The program included yoga practice led by the head of the center, Swami Satyanand. Over 150 people from across the country attended the two-day ceremony. The event began with a Vedic Yagna ceremony that was performed under the leadership of Dr. Vedalankar, a scholar in Indian culture and Vedic studies. He also gave a discourse on Vedic mantras designed to promote universal peace. Swami addressed the gathering and explained why a sanyasi would be found among worldly people rather than practicing his yoga in seclusion. He commented that he had taken sanyas solely for the purpose of liberation, but had been instructed by his Guru Swami Rajarshi Muni, to go to the West to propagate the principles and practices of Sanatan dharma and yoga according to the command of Lord Lakulish. In this way, this ashram has been chosen and developed exclusively for the inspiration and education of the all. Dharma represents the sum total of morality, truthfulness, restraint, and right conduct, while yoga is the universal science of liberation. Swami Satyanand outlined the
purpose, goals and activities that will be offered at the retreat throughout the year, including yoga classes, health retreats, workshops, seminars, certificate programs and summer youth camps. These activities are aimed at the purification of body and mind that lead to spiritual development. Swamiji outlined the path of Dharma as the guiding principle in life encompassing natural laws, moral laws, and laws of intrinsic justice in which every meritorious act brings rewards while sinful acts incur punishment. Swamiji emphasized that yoga is not a religion. It is a pure science and scientific experiments can be carried out by anyone. Yoga makes one fully aware and inwardly consciousness of one's “whole being" through experiences on the spiritual plane. In this way it is a unified system that begins with purification, and progresses toward the more subtle phases of mental and spiritual development. He also said “you have a place in this Ashram irrespective of religion, race, culture, gender or nationality."

Greenville Ugadi 2010 Gala
The Telugu Association of Greater Greenville, SC welcomed “Vikruthi Namah Samvatsaram" during their 7th Annual Ugadi Celebrations on March 20, 2010 at the Ahimsa Hall (Vedic Center). Nearly 600 people from the Greenville area were treated to music, dance, food and fanfare. It was a thrilling moment to sense the pride reflected in the faces of all cultural performers, residents of Greenville and visitors. Starting from the entranceway to the stage, the decorations were astounding. Everything was planned with an eye for perfection. The decoration team, consisting of Aruna Patchipulusu, Jyothi Garipalli, Pavani Thammana, Poornima Chaluvadi, Neeraja Sama, Srivalli Kondapalli and Vasavi Manthena deserve kudos for their creativity and hard work. The evening kicked off at 5:30pm with the prayer “Sri Ganesh Vandana" presented by Nutan Sangeet Vidyalay students. “Telugu Badi" students followed it up with a program titled “Mana Pandugalu" - which enchanted the audiences with their costumes and dialogues describing the significance of various festivals celebrated by people of Andhra Pradesh. This was followed by the popular kids' fancy dress competition, where kids showed such fun and frolic, which brought some mythological characters back to this computer age. The parents left no leaf unturned in the design of their costumes and props. The interesting part of this event was the participation of quite a few non-Telugu members of Greenville community. The stage setting of the fisherman village, cruise ship, raja kumari drawing picture and boys getting out of the helicopter for the “Billa" song showed the effort put in by the choreographers, participants and parents. The debut performance by 4-year-old tiny tots dancing to the tunes of “ringa ringa" is worth a mention. Performances included classical presentations by Mrs. Sunitha Raj, Shipra Bethi, Priyanka and Renjini Iyer to the foot tapping numbers from super hit movies by boys and girls of all ages to the adult performances. Along with the fast-paced dance numbers, slow dances to melodious songs were a big hit. The depiction of first love and college romance during the dance for “Mate Mantram," took the audience to their college days. The women's dance with a roll count of 20 participants was yet another outstanding presentation in commemoration of International Women's Day. Teenage boys who call themselves the TAGG Tigers danced to the rhythm of “Bangaru Kodipetta." Teenage girls danced for a song recorded - in their own voice to depict how the modern girls transform from being innocent to street smart was very creative. The last two performances of the evening “Enduke Ravanamma" which stressed on the current job situation with light comedy and “Tight tonic" with befitting costumes to appropriate props were truly delightful and had the audience filled with laughter. The anchors of the evening Anita Budidi, Ram Garipalli and Ranjeeta Mote carried their roles with great poise and elegance and helped navigate the evening. The guests enjoyed delicacies like mirchi bajji and chekkara pongali. An event of this magnitude could not have happened overnight and was backed by a team of very motivated and dedicated committee and the dedication and hard work of volunteers. More info about the association can be found at

2010 Heritage India Festival
Heritage India festival celebrated its 5th anniversary on April 10, 2009 at the Hindu Society Cultural Hall, Morrisville. It reflected the traditions and vibrancy of Indian heritage and brought out cultural sentiments of Indian Americans living in the Triangle Area through many artistic presentations. This annual celebration offered a chance to event-goers to learn about the regional cultural peculiarities and similarities. The Program began at 5 pm with a “Lamp Lighting “ ceremony by Dr. G. D. Sharma. This was followed by a classical dance by the “Shloka - Mooshika Vahana" and a brief introduction about the significance of the festival by Yash Garg. The evening included the classical dance “Krishna Thillana," a folk dance from Maharashtra “Nach Re Mora — Peacock dance," group Tamil dance, and many other creative performances in classical and folk dances as well as group musical presentations. Nandita Garg and Anju Verma emceed the festival. The dances ranged from vibrant pieces of classical dances choreographed by Sridevi Jagannath, Meena Rajagopal, Padma Rao, the artistic directors of the Triangle Area's prominent Classical Dance Schools and Madhumita Misra who choreographed fusion dance of classical “Odissi and Modern Folk Fusion," to the colorful folk dances coordinated and choreographed by Payal Malkani, Heritage Program chair and artistic director of “Nachbaliye Dance Group" in collaboration with her creative team choreographers, Pragati Sonker, Geetali Singh, Richa kapoor, Bina Parikh and Komal Nandwani. There was a “Sitara Dance Group" presentation choreographed by Vidhya Bhat, two Maharahstra dances' choreographed by Sonali Kolte, a Tamil dance choreographed by Sunitha Lakshminarayanan, and a patriotic group dance choreographed by Padmapriya Kandasamy. A total of 136 performers participated in the Center Stage performances. A special mention of the spectacular Kathak solo presentation at the Heritage Festival by award winning artist Rinku Bhattacharya is in order. She won the 2010 Championship from the competition organized by the NC Chapter of the International TV show “Boogie Woogie." The audience cheered the wonderful, melodious solo presentation by Guru Madhumita Saha during the program as well as Rinku Bhattachryya's musical presentations as grand finale. The prominent musician-choreographers who choreographed items for presentation by their students are: Madhumita Saha, Gautam Saha, Tabla Maestro (Sur-Sangam Music Academy), Darshna Zaveri (Sur Sumiran School of Music), Sridevi Jagannath (Laassya School of Dance & Music), Aparna Amin, and Geetha Ganesh. Duke Eye Center's specialist physicians, Dr. Pratap Challa, Dr. Prithu Mettu, Dr. Jessica Chow conducted free eye screenings. Dr. K.P. Sandeep took photos and video of the Festival. The recipients of 2010 Heritage awards are as follows: Sudha Rathie “Community Ambassador Heritage Award," Rinku Bhattacharya, “Excellence in Classical Dance Heritage Award," Muskesh Shah, “Distinguished Community Services Heritage Award," and Dr. Srinivas Nagabhushan Rao Chadaram, “Distinguished Leadership Heritage Award." Comedian Seema Kukreja entertained the audience with her witty jokes, imitations and funny stories. – Contributed by Yash Garg.

India Festival, Fayetteville, NC
The Fayetteville India Festival, presented on Saturday, April 17, 2010, has become an eagerly anticipated annual event since it began in 2005. The Festival offers a unique opportunity to celebrate and explore India's diverse culture and traditions, including authentic regional food, arts, crafts, and entertainment. Since its start, the India Festival has increased steadily both in size and in scope. This year about 5,000 people attended the festival, a testimony to the growing popularity of Indian culture in the Sandhills region. The proceeds from the festival go directly to the local charities of Cumberland County. SENCAIA has donated over $80,000 to the local charities; the recipients are Wounded Warriors of 82nd Airborne Division & YMCA Fort Bragg, Educational Institutions, Health Care Providers, Falcon Children Home & Central Children's Home of NC, Women's Centre of Fayetteville and local Police & Fire Departments. Everyone enjoyed the cultural program, consisting of classical and modern Indian live performances, fashion show, East-West fusion dance, singing and music. A varied fare of Indian cuisine was on hand to warm appetites. A dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer base ensures the success of the festival each year. There were also many stalls, which offered a multitude of activities for patrons of all ages to participate in, such as gold jewelry, fashion jewelry, cloths, crafts, henna, spices and kids name writing in Hindi. Overall, the India Festival is a taste of the food, culture, music, dance, and tradition that is India. – Contributed by Arunesh Kaushish

Boogie Woogie Dance Competition
The 2010 North Carolina Boogie Woogie Dance Competition was a gala event of artists from the entire state. Held at the Seby Jones Auditorium of St. Augustine's College, the competition featured the dance achievements of more than 20 performers across a broad age range and dance styles. The Boogie Woogie competition strives to promote Indian culture abroad by recognizing the excellence in dance for the Indians in America. The passion and dedication inherent in each of the competitors clearly showed as they provided the city of Raleigh a small taste of the rich variety of disciplines present in Indian classical dance. A select group of classical dancers demonstrated that their talent was in no way lesser than their counterparts in India. There were three categories in the competition (Junior, Senior and Adult) out of which the Junior (age 6 -13) and Senior (age 14 – 21) divisions competed for the opportunity to represent North Carolina at the National Boogie Woogie Dance Competition in Chicago, Illinois. Propelled by their teacher's training and their parents' support, the children performed with poise and enthusiasm, undaunted by the high-level of competition and the challenge of public performance being recorded by Sony Entertainment television. Although the competition was tough, Shriya Vallamkondu of Cary set herself apart from the Junior field with her clean, expressive performance on the song “Jhumka Gira Re." First runner up prize was won by Shivali Patel of Raleigh. In the Senior division, Shivani Pandya of Charlotte delivered a beautiful routine to claim her ticket to Chicago over defending champion Meera Patel of Cary. The Adult category consisted of performers over the age of 21. This division was entitled “NC Champ" to honor the state's best adult Indian dancer. Although a variety of talents and skills were on display, the audience was enthralled and excited when they saw the performance of Rinku Bhattacharya of Durham whose dancing skill clearly exhibited her expertise in the classical dance form of Kathak as performed to the Devdas song “Kaahe Chhed Mohe." Her perfection showed in every aspect of the dance, especially body movements, footwork, agility, speed, grace, and expression. Her unique choreography and interpretation of the famous song resulted in a unanimous selection of her as the champion of the show. First Runner up was Prathima Chintala from Morrisville. A tremendous amount of effort was put forth by the organizers (especially Latha Pamarthi and the St. Augustine support staff), sponsors (Royal India and Cambria Suites RDU), and judges (Dr. Maha Gingrich, Mr. Mehul Shah, and Mrs. Usha Bajpai) in order to make the event a grand success. Good luck to the Junior and Senior champions as they compete against the other state champions at the National Boogie Woogie Competition in April. — Contributed by Dr. M. K. Das

Garba for Haiti in Raleigh, NC
The island nation of Haiti was struck by a 7.0 magnitude (Richter Scale) earthquake on January 12, 2010. The quake caused tremendous disaster in Haiti, leaving 3 million people homeless and in need of emergency services. The Triangle Gujarati Association Youth Group (TGAYG), based in Raleigh, NC, organized a fundraiser “Garba for Haiti" in efforts to relieve some of the hardship being felt by the Haitian government and its people. The fundraiser was conducted like a regular garba night, but with all proceeds from the entrance fee, food and drinks being donated to Haiti through a reputed organization with negligible or no overhead. Hundreds of people attended the event at the Hindu Society of North Carolina's mandir hall on Saturday, March 13, 2010 to help this cause and to enjoy great food and music. The famed Natkhat Group provided music and Royal India prepared a full course Punjabi meal. Both supported the event at no cost to the TGAYG. The event raised over $5500 and would not have been possible without support from the parent organization (TGA), the Hindu Society of North Carolina Committee, the sponsors, volunteers and the community.

Ekal Art & Essay Competition
The Charlotte chapter of Ekal Vidyalaya held its first Art and Essay Competition on Saturday, March 13, 2010 at the Gandhi Bhavan, Hindu Center in Charlotte. Children between 5 - 18 yrs were invited to express their creativity in art and words. The enthusiastic participants were divided into groups and given several themes for both art and essay competitions. The children (participants numbered at 25), produced colorful art and creative, sometimes quite funny essays. Several volunteers assisted and monitored the activities while the kids let their creative juices flow. Volunteer judges compared and critiqued the works and awarded first, second, and third prizes in each age group. One of the art judges, Karli Bose is an accomplished art teacher in the community and the essay judge Samir Shukla, is a journalist and editor of Saathee magazine. The event was sponsored by Ekal Vidyalaya and Hindu Center, both non-profit organizations. The Ekal Vidyalaya movement, the largest, grassroots, non-government education movement in India, strives to create a network of informal one-teacher schools that aim at eradicating illiteracy by educating rural and tribal children of India. Many of these schools are run in small rooms, under tree shades, and in courtyards. As of now Ekal Vidyalayas are already functioning in over 30,000 villages all over the country and the goal is to reach 100,000 such villages. The Hindu Center of Charlotte helps keep the heritage, ethnicity, history and Hinduism alive for generations to come. The children and their parents who participated in the Art & Essay competition also learned about the Ekal organization and its work. Many parents expressed further interest in helping the organization. The winners of each category are: Art - (5-7 yrs) 1st Gargi Wadokar, 2nd Shann Haldar, 3rd Shrinidhi Muthukumar. (8-10 yrs) 1st Neeharika Verma, 2nd Maansi Bulusu, 3rd Mithi Shukla and Shreya Samant. (11-13 yrs) 1st Deepti Tulasi, 2nd Samhita Sunkara. Essay – (8 -10 yrs) 1st Sanjit Tatvarthy, 2nd Mukta Santosh, and 3rd Anusha Chandra. (11-13 yrs) 1st Deepthi Tulasi and 2nd Neeharika Verma. The Charlotte chapter plans more fundraising and awareness activities, including a tennis tournament, walkathon and a talent show featuring local and regional talent later in the summer. For details send an email to or visit

AAHOA 2009 NC Regional
The AAHOA (Asian American Hotel Owners Association) held its NC Regional meeting on Dec 2, 2009 in Charlotte at the Oasis Temple. Over 200 participants attended the gathering featuring a trade show, business meeting and entertainment. The meeting was attended by former Chairman Ravi Patel, former Directors Rajni Patel, Jay (Trini) Patel, and JD Deva. They were accompanied by the current NC Regional Director for NC, Jay (Jimmy) Patel along with Tarun Patel, Fred Schwartz, CK Patel, Hemant Patel, Sly Patel, Raj Bhagia, Kalpana Patel, RK Patel and Jay (GA) Patel from the current AAHOA board of directors. The event featured over 70 vendors. An educational seminar focused on the current bank and financing issues that are affecting the membership. Representatives from the SBA, CDC, HFS Financing, and BBT were part of a panel discussion that was focused on the financing options that are still available in the current economic climate. This session had almost 100 attendees. Karen Hoskins of the SBA presented the current SBA financing options that hoteliers have along with other supporting programs offered by the SBA. This was supplemented with discussion from Richard Vitolo of Centralina Development (CDC), Scott Corrigan of Hospitality Finance and Ranjit Rawley of BB&T. During the regional there was also an AAHOA Women's meeting. In many cases the women are significantly involved with the day to day operations of the hotels and the association. In North Carolina there are two women ambassadors who have been quite involved in the association. The focus of the regional has always been the business meeting, which this year included guest speakers the Charlotte Mayor-Elect Anthony Foxx, representing Governor Bev. Purdue's office Peter Reichard, and former Chairman of AAHOA Ravi Patel. Members were updated on the current issues that the board has been discussing over the last six months and were given the opportunity to ask the officers any questions that they may have regarding AAHOA. During the business meeting, there was also a session involving legal discussion with attorneys. The panel discussion was moderated by Samir Patel (Kumar-Pathak) who asked the questions to Kirtan Patel (Kumar-Pathak), Anshu Pathak (Kumar-Pathak) and Mahesh Patel (Patel and Associates). Attendees were given pointers and direction on what steps and procedures to follow to protect themselves during this economic downturn. This portion of the meeting was extremely significant and will likely be part of one of the educational breakout sessions at the AAHOA national meeting to be held June 16-19, 2010 in Chicago. The evening was capped with food and then entertainment provided by the group Black. This group is comprised of all blind entertainers who are exceptional singers.

On November 8, 2009 over 200 members from the Children's Religious Oriented Program (CROP) family spent their Saturday afternoon for someone else. Spread throughout the Charlotte area, these Hindu Center youth made a powerful impact through community outreach for the first CROP Seva Day. The concept of “seva" goes beyond the simple translation of “service," rather seva is service with deep heartfelt care - a sincere act performed for the upliftment and benefit of a fellow human being. Reflections on SEVA Day revealed the students and adult volunteers had a wonderful experience through their respective service activities. Many youth shared how they became more aware of the society around them and how they developed an appreciation for all they have been blessed with. Additionally, a common theme was acknowledging the ability to give something unconditionally and having the opportunity to make a direct positive impact in another person's life. Some of the activities and focus of the groups are highlighted below.
Nourishment: Children from the kindergarten to third grade classes assembled at the Hindu Center to put together food packages for children at Thomasboro Elementary School. These youngsters put together about 50 packages of peanut butter, jelly, cereal, granola bars, juice boxes, apple sauce, rice, beans and canned goods. To add a festive element, the youngest children created leaf rubbings and put them on the boxes while older students wrote a kind note. Clothes and toiletries were also collected for donation.
Compassion: The residents of Brighton Garden Nursing Home were treated as honorary grandparents for a day by a group of second and third grade CROP students. Indian culture was the focus of the afternoon. Children performed dances, shared artifacts, and displayed photos and projects. The next round was dedicated purely to fun. Everyone participated in games and the highlight was an intense session of Bingo.
Devotion: The fourth and fifth graders had the earlier morning as they gathered at 9:15am at Loaves and Fishes Food Center. Before they began their tasks, a member of the staff explained to the children the purpose of the center and how it assists families in need by proving them with food during emergency situations. The morning was spent sorting through five huge cartons of food.
Consideration: Middle school students of CROP spent their afternoon at Charlotte Emergency Housing, a homeless shelter for working families. They were present on a special day as the organization was hosting an Alumni party for residents who were able to move forward with their lives. The students brought desserts and volunteered with the children of the families.
Humanity: A group of sixth to twelfth graders did a range of activities at St. Peter's Catholic Samaritan House. The residents of this non-profit home dedicated to providing recuperative care for the homeless had an entirely Indian vegetarian lunch provided by CROP. The afternoon continued with yardwork and cleaning assistance.
Affection: The oldest CROP members, high school students, spent their afternoon at the Salvation Army Center of Hope with several activities planned for the mothers and children who lived there. A table was set up with various Indian snacks and sweets and residents had the opportunity to taste and learn about Indian food. Indian board games were hosted inside while cricket and bowling were played outdoors.
Seva Day also marked the beginning of the Hindu Center Go Green Initiative. As a culture and religion that values nature highly, a group of students and adults gathered to start off the initial planning stages to ensure that beliefs are reflected within organizational activities. Ideas of recycling, cutting wasteful products and conserving energy were all discussed.

Children's Day 2009

India's first Prime Minister, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, was born on November 14 and his birthday is celebrated as Children's Day in India. He loved children and enjoyed interacting with them. Children called him Chacha Nehru. The Heritage India Association celebrated Children's Day from 11 am - 3 pm on November 14, 2009 at the Hindu Society Cultural Hall in Morrisville. Three children – Jaisal Amin (“Youth Role Model Heritage Award"), Priyanka Reddi (“Youth Excellence in Indian Classical Dance –Bharatnatyam Heritage Award") and Roshni Verma (“Youth Excellence In Community Services Heritage Award") were recognized for their merits, accomplishments and unique talents. Prakash Devalapalli presented them with a profusely illustrated hard-bound volume on India as an appreciation while Harsha Shah and Mrs. Sharma adorned them in Indian tradition by putting an Indian shawl around their shoulders. Mrs. Sharma also addressed the audience with her remarks on the importance of children and Children's Day. The event is organized by Heritage India Association of N.C. in collaboration with Hindu Society of N. C. to teach children the value of art, traditions, heritage and culture of India. The first Children's Day was celebrated at the Marbles Kids Museum in 2007. This celebration aims to bring children from all parts of India together to perform in a fun-filled setting and experience a mosaic of Indian cultural arts and traditions. The children were completely involved in planning, organizing, and presenting the program items. While Vidya Bhat and Sonali Sethi presented the program segments creatively as Emcees — Nafisa Shaikh kept the show going smoothly as stage manager. There were three musical performances and as many as 18 dances – folk as well as classical - performed by more than 130 children ranging from 4 years to 15 years of age. Ramesh Patel, a Triangle area Mehandi artist, did face-painting and mehandi for the children at no charge and five UNC students offered Art workshop for the children. the musical and dance performances, presented by the students of prominent musicians and choreographers showcased the balance and quality of the performers. — Yash Garg

Hearing Nepal in North Carolina
By Kubacka
Sometimes fantastic things can come together at the last minute. Such was the case with Shringara Nepal's classical music concert at the Tandoor Indian Restaurant in Durham, NC on November 25, 2009. Composed of Parashuram Bhandari on the sarangi, his cousin Achyut Ram Bhandari on tabla, and Parashuram's student Babette Ackin providing the background drone of the tamboura, Shringara Nepal is in the midst of a U.S. tour that began in October 2009.
Shringara Nepal opened their performance with Raga Jog, typically performed in the night. Parashuram began by unfolding the melodic structure of the raag with an abbreviated alap, introducing the audience to the rich resonances of the sarangi's strings, accompanied only by Babette's gentle playing of the tamboura. The artists concluded the raag with a sawal jawab, where Achyut Ram repeated Parashuram's phrases back to him through the tabla.
After a short intermission, the artists performed a light classical thumri in Raag Mishra Kafi. To me, pieces of this sort are really the essence of the sarangi. With the instrument's historical association as the melodic instrument of choice to accompany courtesan singers in performance, one cannot help but to let the mind drift off, recollecting scenes from classic Hindi films such as Pakeezah or Umrao Jaan, where classy courtesan dancers sang poetic songs of love, pain, separation, and profound wonder… all while the sarangi played along in the background.
However, the real highlight of the performance was what followed - an extremely rare sight outside of Nepal. Parashuram set down the Indian sarangi to take up the Nepali folk sarangi, a smaller, less developed version of the former. But don't let “smaller" or “less developed" mislead you; his folk sarangi is a true pleasure to behold – both for the ear as well as the eye. Achyut Ram also gave his tabla a rest and brought out a small double-sided Nepali folk drum known as the madal, on which he gave a basic beat to a series of immensely enjoyable folk songs, including the most popular “Resham Firiri." After discussions with a few audience members, I learned that these songs celebrated trekking through the beautiful landscape of Nepal, and of course, the ever perennial themes of love and friendship. While Parashurmam's main intent might be as a classical musician, I must say that it was here in these folk pieces that he really seemed to shine and win the hearts of the audience. The crowd sang and clapped along, and yelled out requests for the next folk tune.
This wonderful musical evening was organized by the Nepal Center of North Carolina.

An evening with “Indian Expressions"
If there was one evening in Charlotte where some of the diehard music fans of Hindi music had a treat it was on November 8, 2009, a musical evening held at the Providence High School in South Charlotte. The event was organized by “Indian Expressions" and lasted over three hours. The performers for the evening included music director and playback singer Nihal Konduri, accompanied by the playback singer Sudha Krishna, her sister Jagathi, and Charlotte's local talent Rajiv Saddy, Seshu Akula, Shashi Hariharan and Maina. Konduri left the audience spell-bound and clamoring for more with his fantastic voice and repertoire. He sang a variety of songs ranging from the classic Mohammed Rafi songs (“Yeh Mera Prem Patra") to latest hits like “Mitwa" from KANK, to heavy dance numbers like “Soni De Nakhre" and “Dus Bahane." The show started off in style with a fashion show, leading to the introduction of the singers along with their ramp-walk. Sudha Krishna started off with a scintillating rendition of “Yeh Mera Dil" from the classic film Don, while Konduri began with the hit Sufi song “Yeh Honsla" from Dor. Jagathi received tremendous applause for the ever popular Lata number “Ishwar Satya Hai," the title track from Satyam Shivam Sundaram and her duet with Nihal “Hai Raama Yeh Kya Hua." Rajiv stole the hearts of all Mukesh fans with the classic “O Mehbooba" and “Dil Ki Nazar Se" duet with Sudha. Seshu rocked with his version of “Chand Sifarish" from Fanaa and then sang “Chura Liya" to perfection with Jagathi. Maina, the 12-year-old, sang “Yeh Ishq Haaye." The young desi girls received an enthusiastic “once more" from the audience. Sudha and her brother Kumar sand “Khuda Jaane" from Bachna Ae Haseeno. Then came Shashi along with Nihal, singing the evergreen melody from CID, “Ankhon Hi Ankhon Mein." That got the audience up on their feet dancing. Nihal praised the sound management that was engineered by Seshu. Sudha stole the hearts of many with not only her lovely voice, but also with her lively MC skills, trying to get the audience involved every minute. The program concluded with the 10-minute song by Nihal, “Vande Maataram," as composed by AR Rehman and followed it up by the national anthem “Jana Gana Mana." “Indian Expressions" group (managed by Rajiv, Seshu, Murali and Satish) launched in August 2009. Their first show, a fundraiser for the Hindu Center of Charlotte, was also a success. “Indian Expressions" is a group launched with a focus on music.

Bela Modi Rocks Triangle
by Manzoor Cheema

The drumbeat for Bela Modi's debut concert in Durham grew slowly and then reached a crescendo on the night of November 6, 2009. The modest estimate of 150 people quickly burst as 250 attendees filled the “Seasons at Tandoor" hall eager to see Bela perform live. But readers may be eager to know, “Who is Bela Modi?" Born in Canada and raised in the Eastern USA, Bela Modi is a budding Indian American artist with stunning musical talents. She has received Indian classical music training and has sung with famous South Asian artists like Ustaad Ghulam Ali, Runa Laila, Falguni Pathak, Shehzad Roy, Munni Begum and Ustaad Hamid Ali Khan. Her musical repertoire includes Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Punjabi songs, including popular Bollywood songs. Bela Modi started the concert with the famous ghazal “Aaj Janay Kee Zidd Na Karo," immortalized in the voice of Habib Wali Mohammad and Farida Khanum. As the concert progressed, Bela displayed the rich diversity by singing Punjabi songs like Mussarat Nazeer's “Mera Long Gawacha" and Hindi film Omkara's song “Beedi Jalai Lay," at which time participants simply hit the dance floor. Her songs were accompanied by tabla played by Nikhil Tikkekar, live Dhol by Jittender Jit Singh and bongo drums played by Prajesh Patel (popularly known as PJ). The concert also served as a successful inaugural event for the brand new banquet hall “Seasons at Tandoor" owned by the Tandoor Indian Restaurant in Durham, NC. The concert was a microcosm of South Asian American participants with Sindhi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali and other South Asian American ethnicities gathered under one roof, captivated by Bela Modi's performance. Disclaimer: This article was written by the organizer of the Bela Modi concert.

Hum Sub's Cary Diwali 2009
By Shaila Gupta

“Padharo Mhare Des" was this year's theme of Cary Diawli. On October 10, 2009 several thousand people attended the celebration at Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, NC. HumSub, a cultural group based in Cary organized the 9th annual festival, one of the largest open-air festivals of its kind in the south-eastern United States. This year's theme focused on the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Rajasthan. The festival featured classical as well as Bollywood dances and inspiring musical performances. Kids and adults shared the stage to display and embrace the spirit of Diwali, most in Rajasthani style. More than 600 performers presented a variety of items. The celebration opened with a proclamation. Also in attendance were U.S. Congressman David Price, Mayor of Cary Harold Weinbrecht and Town of Cary Council Members Julie Robison, Erv Portman, Jack Smith and Dan Frantz. The highlight of the festival was an evening program featuring Indian Idol 2006 Sandeep Acharya and runner-up Aditi Paul. Both filled the open air venue with pop and classical tunes. As Acharya finished his act, fireworks leapt into the night's sky, providing a wondrous ending to the day. Aside from the day-long cultural program on the main-stage, the celebration included a unique exhibition on India, a handicrafts bazaar, and a variety of Indian cuisine. About 80 photographs of Rajasthan's people, palaces, and landscape by noted Indian photo artist Prof. Shivnarayan Joshi were on display. People from both near and far and of all sorts of different ethnic background came together to enjoy the festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil.

BAPS Walk 09
We often hear the saying “Our children are the future of our country," but have we ever stopped to think what America's future will be like if more and more children become homeless or do not have the means necessary to attend school or educate them self? What would happen to these children and the future of America if they grew up in unsafe neighborhoods, suffered through health issues, and lacked formal education? BAPS Charities firmly believes that the foundation of any society lies within each and every family. BAPS Charities and BAPS, its parent organization, are wholeheartedly committed to providing programs for today's children that encourage child development into positive role models in today's society. On September 12, 2009, BAPS Charities held WALK09, benefiting A Child's Place (ACP) in Charlotte, NC. WALK09 was a 5K walk in Uptown Charlotte to create awareness throughout the local area about BAPS Charities and A Child's Place. ACP consistently fights the needs of homelessness amongst children in Mecklenburg County. A Child's Place works to provide stable and appropriate education for these students as well as basic necessities such as food, clothing, school supplies, and tutors. BAPS Charities' WALK09 goal was to raise awareness for both organizations as well as funds from within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. The festivities began at noon with food, games, and activities for kids. At 2 pm, 380 individuals of all ages, from toddlers to 95-year-olds set out on a 5K walk through Uptown Charlotte. There were volunteers at every half-mile handing out water to walkers and volunteers at every intersection stopping traffic as walkers crossed the street. As the walk concluded at about 3pm, BAPS Charities and Ravi Patel, (SREE Hotels), presented A Child's Place and Annabelle Suddreth, Executive Director with a check for $3,500. Following the check presentation was a raffle drawing of gift baskets. The lucky winners accepted their baskets with excitement as the event came to an ending with a colorful balloon release.

Shri Mahendra Meghani
Famous Indian author Shri Mahendra Meghani visited Carolinas during his “Vaanchan-yatra" (reading journey) in early September. Meghani is currently on a tour to promote his newly published book The Gandhi Story. It is an integrated abridgement of two books, which tell the story of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in his own words. Gandhiji was the greatest freedom fighter in India who taught the world the power of non-violence and non-cooperation. The Gandhi Story is condensed from Gandhiji's autobiography, My Experiments With Truth, and Satyagraha. A total of 1,000 pages of the original works have been condensed into about 250, and twenty-four pages of pictures have been added. Meghani attended Festival of India on September 6 and then went to Hindu Center. He introduced his book in two sessions, 45 minutes each in English and Gujarati. He attended similar book-reading session at Greenville, SC on September 8 at the Vedic Center. Both the events were attended by admirers of Indian literature and believers of Gandhian philosophy. He also inaugurated Indian section at the Asian Heritage Library in Charlotte on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 in the presence of Mr. Ki-Hyun Chun and Mr. John C. Chen of Carolina Asian American Chamber of Commerce. In addition to giving The Gandhi Story to the library, he also donated several books related to India and Hinduism, some published by Lok-Milap Trust, his non-profit book publishing firm.

Charlotte Invitational Shootout
The greater Charlotte Leuva Patidar Samaj held the Charlotte Invitational Shoot Out - Golf Tournament on Aug 29-30, 2009 in Rock Hill at the Waterford Golf Course. The event drew 110 golfers and raised $17,501 for the Hindu Center of Charlotte for its expansion projects. A reception was held in Charlotte at the Hilton Executive Park with door prizes and 200 people in attendance. The organizers Jay Patel, Virmal Hardev and Gary Patel said they hope to make this an annual event. Jeff Thomas of Metlife Insurance was the winner of the tournament. There was unique food on the menu with Caribbean (Trinidad) BBQ for Saturday lunch. Bombay Grille for Saturday evening at Hilton and Trinidad Curry for Sunday lunch. Over 40 Trophies was handed out with 110 golfers participating.

Hindu Center Charlotte's 27th Anniversary Celebration
By Aishwarya Ramaswamy

The 27th anniversary of the Hindu Center at Charlotte was no less than a festival for localities here. The excitement in the air, the joy gleaming in every eye and the aroma of hot and spicy Indian food signified more than just the festive mood. The Diverse cultures, variety of languages and the delicacies from different cuisines signified the togetherness and spoke for the theme of the celebration.
As I drove into the Hindu Center's drive way, I had to hunt for a parking space, which is generally not a problem. Moving towards the hall, the faint tune of the Oscar winning “Jai Ho" hinted me of some feisty activity happening in the hall. Taking that as a guide and moving closer with the volume getting louder, the aroma of spicy Indian food took over my sense of smell. Even before my excitement for the food could subside, I noticed three girls gracefully dancing to the Oscar winning rhythm.
The place was filled with excited kids and teenagers along with their parents. Kids performing on the stage for various Bollywood numbers and a few singing away some melodious numbers set nostalgia in the air. What was surprising was the long line of parents buying tickets to vote for the best performances. There were varied performances and each item was a delight to the sense of sight. The variety in the shows kept the audience engaged for the complete afternoon as they had a wide mixture ranging from Bollywood numbers to a few Bhutanese refugees also performing.
While everybody sat in their seats and enjoyed the show, the inflow of food, which was set up along the walls of the venue, gave the event an aromatic aura. With dal wada, alu tikki chaat, puri chole, panneer burger, rava idli, masala dosa and mango pastries all under one roof, you would want Hindu center to celebrate their anniversary every month.
The Hindu Center has always been known for the community service motive associated with it since its inception. Though it was mainly started with a motive of creating a platform for all the Hindus to get together under one roof and preserve the culture, the center has also exposed itself and stretched itself to contribute its bit in the general well being of the society. To represent this aspect, the center had organized a health fair and fund raising campaign through the whole event. A portion of the collections made at Anand bazaar through game tables and food stalls were donated to different service organizations.
The health fair, organized at Gandhi Bhavan, presented about 24 doctors in various specialties. Volunteers very meticulously organized the fair. The patients were first registered at a counter and then met two general physicians who, based on their questions, suggested as to which specialist would be able to guide them. Based on the wait time, each patient was guided to his or her particular specialist.
The doctors were given their own space and were spread out in two floors. The top floor had a dietician, mental fitness specialist, yoga instructor and an ayurveda specialist. The other floor had a wide range of specialists from dentists, who were obviously the most visited, to orthopedists and gynecologists to internal medicine specialists. There were around one hundred and forty patients who visited the fair in a span of three to four hours. Dr. Aruna Patki, who was answering questions regarding ayurveda, said this platform allows people to get their doubts and concerns clarified. Since most of us are made to wait for a few weeks to get an appointment of our choice of specialists, this serves as a channel and gives patients enough time to patiently convey their concerns and get it clarified without having to go through the wait time.
After a complete day of fun frolic and good health everyone left the place wishing the Hindu Center “A very Happy 27th Anniversary" and many more successful years to come.

From Bhatinda to Belk
By Aishwarya Ramaswamy

Being born and brought up in one place, the same latitude and longitude for all your life, does not serve as an alibi for limited exposure any more. You could be living in Timbaktu but you better be aware of the King Fahd International Airport in Damman, which happens to be the biggest airport in the world. Don't fret if you were not aware of that tidbit of information. The point being that globalization is the word of the day! Who better to exemplify that than a handful of Indian business graduates!
I recently met up with a group of masterminds from our very own motherland over a plate of hot lip smacking samosas! Youngsters who have travelled all the way from 'Lovely Professional University' in Punjab to be here at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Belk College of Business) to attend a four week "business boot camp"! Yes, a summer vacation of assignments, grades & projects. All in front of a projector screen with a highly intellectual person giving away his pearls of wisdom. That definitely is a world away from how the rest of us may picture spending a relaxing summer. While I was getting sympathetic with the poor souls who had left their families far behind just to socialize and globalize their way ahead in life. I realized that they seemed to be more than just jubilant to be doing what they are. Yes, unbelievable as it may seem, these bunch of twenty-something's were all excited to actually be attending classes and finishing up assignments during their summer vacation!
Digging into her, all-time favorite, aaloo tikki chat, Neeti Chowdhary calls these four weeks the most enlightening weeks of her life. In a very short period, they are being taught stuff that professionals have gathered from years of hard work and experience through guest lectures and workshops. While Parteek Gupta professed that he is delighted that an enrollment in a professional university in Punjab could be combined with an out-of country experience where he is able to learn about new cultures. While Tanuj Chopra realized how independent and efficient he can be, even when he is all by himself in a new country, thousands of miles away from his comfort zone.
As we finished munching on our early evening snack, we headed back into the dorms where Sanil Talwar and Simrat Cheema actively started coaching another Chinese classmate on the significance of “Namaste". That definitely comes as a pleasant surprise, for these students. Being in America has not only proven beneficial for them but the other classmates living with them as well.
As I cluelessly asked how they managed to get adapted to their new surroundings in a matter of days, Yamini Goyal backs me up by saying, "I boarded the flight to Charlotte with lots of dreams & apprehensions of carrying my family's trust on my back. I see these four weeks as an opportunity for me to realize my hidden abilities, to be able to go back to my family as a rejuvenated 'yamini' who's learned well beyond her birth boundaries." That definitely proves that every one amongst these 60 students is a go-getter!
I moved out of this group of haloed brains to find myself with another group of students discussing stuff that sounded like pricing promotion, firm capital structure and so on and so forth. That is when I was told that these students have been given assignments to be submitted within twenty-four hours. They were having a brain storming session. While these students come from different majors like marketing, finance, project management, etc. they have a preprogrammed curriculum with courses designed to expose these students to the global aspects of business in every arena of study. Right from international business policies to global marketing strategies, every niche area of management studies is covered through an intense four-week program filled with assignments and project submissions.
Well, if you have started to think that this exchange program is all about books and brains, stop right there. These guys are all set to explore every bit of Charlotte when given the time. Starting with the recreational activities within the university campus to the adrenalin gushing Carowinds Amusement Park. These “on-their-way-MBA's" are sure guaranteed a global experience in the truest sense.
It would be a sin to put a happy ending to this short article without the mention of the professors who have accompanied the students in this trip. Dr. Sanjay Modi is here along with the 60 students to ensure their safety and well-being. While all of us would like to break free and prefer to be unmonitored, the students seem to be just as happy with Dr. Modi around and say that he is more a friend and less of a professor!
While our Indian guests seem to be making the best of the opportunity available to them, our very own University of North Carolina - Charlotte is being the perfect host and making sure that all of them have their home away from home. In terms of education, exposure, social activities, food and comfort the coordinators are more like Godmothers. Thanks to programs like this we will have the world managed by enthusiastic highly adept and globally trained managers!

Leuva Patidar Samaj of USA celebrates 20th Anniversary
By Nalini Raja Patel

Some 3000 Leuva Patidars from all over the USA celebrated the 20th anniversary of their association at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville recently. The Leluva Patidar Samaj (LPS) efforts are based on “preserving our culture for future generations." When most major corporations are cutting back and shying away from big gatherings, this association proved this their most successful and profitable convention with highest attendance and with over one hundred and fifty vendors showcasing their goods ranging from hotel supplies to clothing and jewelry. This was the 7th national LPS convention with an agenda that included activities for young and old alike. Senior citizens were treated to visits to various temples in the Nashville area, as well as, bhajan kirtan programs at the venue itself. Youths under nine were treated to magic show, teachings on religion, and puppet show. Youths 10-15 years of age attended Urban Active Class featuring “What is Leuva." Teens 16-20 attended the Kaplan Class and had sessions with Mothers Against Drinking and Driving session (MADD). Adults 21-35 enjoyed matrimonial icebreakers. There were also self-defense workshops for women and yoga meditation session. Dahyabhai Patel, President, gave a brief address of achievements during his tenure. He traveled to 27 different cities to hold regional meetings with members and made over three hundred and fifty lifetime members and has appointed area representatives to hold local LPS events. Also, the original LPS newsletter Samaj Darpan, which was running at a loss has now changed its name to Leuva Connection and is self-sufficient. The scholarship foundation started by CM Patel in the year 2000 with a vision to educate leuva youths has awarded over $70,000 since inception to 25 outstanding students. Keynote speakers included Chris Gardner of Pursuit of Happiness fame who gave an inspiring story about his personal life and how he transformed it from rags to riches. His humility was proven when he reluctantly did an interview with Barbara Walters, after which the press hounded him wherever he went. One very strong bond he felt with this community was that this was a very close-knit, family oriented association. This was reminiscent of his homeless days when he just had his son by his side. Jayesh (Jay) Patel, Convention Chair, Gunvant (Gary) Prema and Sunil (Neal) Patel, Convention Co-Chairs, urged all to attend the trade show and thanked the vendors and sponsors for supporting this event. “It is a great feeling to hear from members that we have given so many people interest and a sense of belonging in LPS again. All this could not have happened without the help of my volunteers," said Jayesh Patel. Rajeev Ranjan, Counselor (Community Affairs), Embassy of India in Washington, spoke briefly to the audience and congratulated LPS members for their achievements and success in this country. Guest speaker for the second day was Krish Dhanam, motivational speaker, consultant, trainer, and author of The American Dream From An Indian Heart. A native of India and with a vision to succeed, Dhanam speaks on issues of faith, freedom, discipline, dignity, pride, work ethics and relationships and facilitates workshops and conducts seminars all over the world. He had words of wisdom for parents and children and also shared some of his touching moments with his family. A panel discussion featuring the topic, “Past, Present and Future," was also held with Dr. Vijay Mehta as moderator. Started by Shankarbhai Patel in l989, LPS has celebrated conventions in Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, San Jose, Ft. Worth, Houston and now Nashville again. This time all the past presidents were present to celebrate the 20th anniversary. An entertainment program concluded the event and featured playback singer Vinod Rathod with actresses Roshni Chopra and Mandira Bedi.

Shri Krishna Pranami Mission USA Celebrates Inauguration of Temple
By Nalini Raja Patel

With the blessings and leadership of H.H. Acharya Shri 108 Krishnamaniji Maharaj, Pranamis from all over USA, Canada, UK, Africa, Australia, Nepal and India took part in a weeklong celebration of the Shri Krishna Pranami Dharma Mahotsav from June 29 to July 5, 2009 in Christiana, Tennessee. This included Shri l08 Parayan of Shri Tartam Sagar and inauguration of the new temple building here. The celebration started with a Shobha Yatra and Dhwajarohan. The main focus of this event was the simultaneous recitation of l08 copies of the Tartam Sagar (Ocean of Spiritual Knowledge) which contains the teachings of this faith. This grand religious treatise was composed by Shri Mahamati Prannath, a great saint who lived and preached in India almost 400 years ago. It is an assembly of fourteen books in one volume and encompasses teachings of all the major religions of the world - Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It contains 18,758 verses of poetry and erudite teachings. Shri Mahamati Prannath taught the Pranamis that there is only one God and that he is called by different names in different faiths. The essence of all religious teachings is the same and that there is no need for religious conflict. He devoted his life to preaching of universal brotherhood, toleration and religious unity which is practiced by his followers worldwide today. Mahatma Gandhi's mother was a Pranami and according to his diary published by Pundit Pyarellal, he got his ideas of Hindu-Muslim unity and non violence from her. When asked about religion in the movie Gandhi, he mentioned that his mother was a Pranami. Shri Mahamati Prannath preached that there is need for people of all religions to gather together and end this wasteful, massive, bloodshed in the name of religion. This teaching is as valid today as it was then. The Shri Krishna Pranami Dharma Mahotsav was organized to reinforce this message to followers of the Pranami faith. Scholars, saints, historians, entrepreneurs, artists, assembled from all over the world to take part in this auspicious occasion. An array of discourses, pravachans by gurujis, prayers and bhajans, mantra jap, yoga, youth activities, raas garba, cultural programs and a week long recitation of Shri l08 Tartam Sagar were planned. Volunteers and food were abundant. Transportation and accommodations were provided at no cost to all the attendees. Pranamis call themselves Sundarsathjis and greet one another with salutation “Pranam" thus acknowledging the divinity in each human being. Shri Krishna Pranami Mandir was established and Seva-Pooja Pratishtha the Consecration ceremony was performed on July 4, 2003 with the divine grace of H.H. Acharya Shri 108 Krishnamanaji Maharaj and now, with the cooperation and contribution of all Sundarsaths, a new temple and Satsang Bhawan has been built. This 77 acre project is situated in Rutherford County, ten miles east of Murfreesboro, TN. Long term plans for this land are to build a cultural center, retirement home for the old, meditation hall and yoga center and residential area for visitors. Also, regular religious gatherings, discourses, Indian dance and music programs, health fairs, blood drives and numerous such activities are planned. A library and book store will also be assembled. It is hoped that the entire Nashville community will benefit from this center when it is completed.
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2009 North Carolina Azalea Festival
The 62nd North Carolina Azalea Festival (NCAF) was held in Wilmington NC in April 2009. The NCAF is Wilmington's premier event and is a celebration of the region's exceptional artwork, gardens, rich history and culture. The festival opened with the Azalea Queen's Coronation and the introduction of celebrity guests. The 2009 NCAF was an historic event for Indian-Americans since this year's Queen Azalea was the lovely and talented Amrapali Ambegaonkar (the first Indian-American to receive this honor). Amrapali is the Silver winner on Superstars of Dance and is recognized as one of the top Kathak dancers today. She has studied dance for over 25 years and earned her degree from UCLA in World Arts and Cultures and Dance. Amrapali is also an actor and her various roles on film and television include appearances on Heroes, Grey's Anatomy, Boston Legal, ER, Alias and, Windfall. Ambegaonkar is also a former pageant title holder of “Miss Asian America," “Miss India USA," and “Miss India North America." The highlight of the 2009 Queen's Coronation was the colorful Indian welcome by the Cape Fear Cultural Association of India (CFCAI). CFCAI is an organization for people of Indian heritage in the Wilmington and surrounding areas. Shashin Patel is the current President of CFCAI. Patel delivered the welcome address for the queen and other distinguished guests. A garlanding and Aarti ceremony followed. The garland was made of Azalea flowers and the Aarti had a Kathak dancer decoration. CFCAI's vice-President Dr. Sanjay Batish presented a traditional gift to the queen. The grand finale was the entertaining performance by the talented CFCAI kids. First was a Sanskrit “Shloka" recital by 6-year old Sesha. Then a dozen or so 2 to 8 yr olds, dressed in ethnic Indian attire, presented a lively dance that brought the cheering audience to its feet. The background score was “Vande Mataram" and “Jai Ho" and Pretty Patel, Sonali Batish, Dr. Sejal Patel, Dr. Ami Patel and the kids' parents choreographed the performance. The ceremony was broadcast on Wilmington's ABC channel and a recorded version can be viewed at the CFCAI blog ( The event brought out NC's Southern hospitality with an Indian flavor. The performance showcased the Indian-American culture that is part of almost every community in our multi-cultural nation.

Changing Places Exhibit at Levine Museum
By Aishwarya Ramaswamy

Have you ever tried looking at yourself talking about your past and your thoughts laid out descriptively in chronological order with unfiltered emotions flowing out about the details of your journey to the United States as an Indian immigrant? Many immigrants have definitely gone through that phase in their lives or probably are still going through it on an almost daily basis. Being born in a particular country with parents belonging to one particular culture and migrating to the opposite side of the world where literally everything is the opposite of what they had in their motherlands might not sound as complicated to get used to. The subtleties in the process of transformation pose a challenge to each immigrant here.

Heritage India Festival 2009
- The cultural heritage of India has always intrigued the world. The rich and diverse traditions, reflected through its people, fairs, festivals, music, dance, philosophy, architecture, and performing arts, have become popular all across the world. This year's annual Heritage India Festival was held on April 4, 2009 at the Hindu Society Cultural Hall in Morrisville, NC. This year's theme, “Making Cultural Connections," offered participants a chance to learn about the regional cultural peculiarities and similarities through various performances. The program began with a prayer, followed by a brief introduction about the significance of the festival by Yash Garg, President of the organization. The performances included a patriotic song, classical dances, and colorful folk dances. The HSNC Bhajan group led by Dr. Arvind Shah sang devotional songs and Dr. Dhruv Kumar, a physician from Wake Forest, performed the lamp lighting ceremony. The Bharathnatyam and folk dances showcased the creative talents of the performers and choreographers. The “Bhangra," a Punjabi folk dance Odissi classical dance, along with a dance by 40 children added a new dimension to the evening's program. A free eye screening was performed at the Eye Camp by the Duke Eye Center's physicians from 4-7 pm. The program emcees, Dr. Nandita Garg and Sudha Rathie, added interest to the evening with their lively interpretations and introductions. There was a teen fashion show and a recognition ceremony that inducted the 2009 community leaders in keeping with Indian traditions during the program. The recipients of the 2009 Heritage awards are as follows: Jayanthi Balachandran (Distinguished Classical Dance Educator Award), Dr. Vijaya Bapat (Distinguished Marathi Author and Community Leader Award), Dr. K. P. Sandeep (Visual artist and community Services Award), and Prasad Vanguri (Community Ambassador Heritage Award). Other events rounding out the program included mehendi designs, children's face painting, rangoli are, and a kids' art workshop. A colorful tent for “Carrom Board Exhibit and Play" was set up in the foyer game. Many exhibitors showcased their special merchandise and art. Comedian Seema Kukreja entertained the audience with her witty jokes, imitations and funny stories. Indian dinner was catered by Royal India.
~ Contributed by Yash Garg

Greenville Telugu Ugadi Gala - The Telugu Association of Greater Greenville (TAGG) hosted their Annual Ugadi Gala on April 11, 2009 in Greenville, SC to mark the beginning of the Telugu New Year “Sri Virodhi Namah Samvatsaram." Several hundred packed the Ahimsa Hall at the Vedic Center of Greenville. This is the sixth year in a row TAGG has organized an Ugadi gala. The stage decoration committee painstakingly put up a mural backdrop on the stage. This set the backdrop for all the events performed during the evening – thus setting up a colorful and artistic mood. The program this year had more kids' items than before were performed with elegance and grace. Their steps were in perfect rhythm to the beats. Almost all items had appropriate costumes and relevant make-up. The evening began at 4:30 pm with a short social hour where people got a chance to catch-up with old friends and make some new ones and tasty snacks were served. Sticking to tradition “Ugadi Pacchadi" was also available for everyone. Although the programs were all in Telugu, the non-Telugus in the audience seemed to have had a lovely evening, too. There was never a dull moment during the entire duration of the program which lasted well over four hours. The program kicked off with the classical prayer to Lord Ganesha – Sravya Durbha rendering “Maha Ganapathim." Following that was the trademark event of TAGG – “The Kid's fancy dress show." Many of the costumes were created with great detail. The audience had a challenge on their hands to pick their personal favorites. In the “Tollywood" segment of the program, there were some classical pieces; quite a few were popular film numbers and some folk dance numbers that were choreographed by a team of dedicated choreographers. As a tribute to the teachers of “Telugu Badi" – the Sunday Telugu school started by TAGG a year ago – the students presented the number “Tenala Tetala" in Telugu. This year's variety item was the “Indian sari fashion show" – presented by about 18 models draped in saris from different regions of India. The reverse concentric circle pattern routine on stage by colorful sari clad ladies produced a good visual effect. “Telugu Tejaalu" paid tributes to all “The Heroes of the Telugu Land" from yesteryear. Ladies performed a semi classical number with well-coordinated costumes and the men did their “masala" act to cheers and whistles from the crowd. Anita Budidi, Ram Garipalli and Ranjeeta Mote carried the roles of anchors with poise. They had a trio of teenagers (Samyukta Kappagantula, Shravya Budidi and Sravya Durba) as interns rendering a helping hand. Info:

Dhoom Machaale - Hearts thumping out of resonance from the Dhol beats in the background, a scream of “Kaise ho Pajji" right behind your back, a bunch of high-on-life youngsters trying to get their Bhangra steps right. Sounds like a festive night in India? That's exactly how it was the night of “Dhoom Machaale" in uptown Charlotte on April 5, 2009. “Dhoom Machaale" was organized by “DISHA," an organization aiming to take service to humanity in a whole new direction. The funds raised from this event will go towards improving the impoverished conditions of a small village in South Gujarat called Dharampur. The event started at 10 pm Saturday night with Bhangra lessons from Deepa and Meeta Chadha accompanied by live Dhol by Arpan Bhandari and went on till the wee hours with DJ Desi belting out various hit Bollywood numbers. The crowd was a good mix of students, working professionals from various firms and locals. Four hours of unlimited frolic and yet the crowd seemed to want this night to be eternal. If you had not missed this one you would agree when I describe it as “A night when fun is an understatement."
~Contributed by Aishwarya Ramaswamy

Jagjit Singh performs in Raleigh - It was a flying start for the USA Farewell Tour of Ghazal Maestro Jagjit Singh when he performed in Raleigh-Durham, NC on Friday, April 10, 2009. For all those who soaked themselves in the emotions that the enchanting voice stirred, it was time to relive those moments again. The man who left music lovers misty-eyed with his soulful renditions, performed at a Durham Performance Arts Center packed with 1400 people. The show started with an explanation of Ghazals and how Jagjit Singh has influenced the world of Ghazals. Singh began with “Hoshwalon ko Khabar Kya," followed by classic like “Sadma to hai Mujhe bhi," “Tere Baare Mein Jab Socha," “Chand Bhi Dekha," “Kal Chaudvi Ki Raat Thi," “Tera Chehra Kitna Suhana," “Baat Niklegi," “Tumne Badle Humse Gin," “Yeh Daulat Bhi Lelo," “Honton Se Choo Lo Tum," “Tumko Dekha To Ye," “Tere Khushboo Mein," and many others including three Punjabi numbers. Singh also introduced his new album Inteha during the concert. He sang songs off the album first time in a live show during his Raleigh concert. He then officially released the album for USA audiences. Singh autographed the first copy of the CD that was auctioned in the audience. It sold for $1100, which was donated by the promoters to Pratham and Ekal Vidyalaya, both are educational non-profit organizations working in India. Singh's back-up musicians included a violinist, flute player, and of course a tabla player. They all performed jugalbandhi at various points during the concert. The whole experience was a night to remember. Arvind Mahajan and his wife presented Jagjit Singh with a gift from the Raleigh community as his parting gift. Mahajan and his Live Spectrum Entertainment along with AKM Realy promoted the concert. Info:

I Am An Indian Woman Opening and Exhibit - Well braided hair adorned with fresh white jasmine flowers, a distinct red mark of vermilion on the forehead and elegant decorative pieces of jewelry were just three of the numerous attributes of a typical Indian Woman displayed in the art exhibit- “I am an Indian Woman" juried by Ms. Evie Chang Henderson. Through this exhibit, India Association of Charlotte brought into Spirit Square in downtown Charlotte the charisma and the factual grace of an Indian woman through vibrant paintings and photographs. In this effort to promote artists in North Carolina and bring out in open the enigmatic Indian culture, entries were called in a couple of months back for paintings for this particular theme. Out of the many entries, two paintings were awarded accolades for their remarkable representation. The winner of the first prize, Shefali Patel - a multitasking homemaker, decided to rekindle the artist in her through this opportunity. Patel's painting termed “Shringar" represented the beauty in all the embellishments as per Indian tradition. The acrylic painting of a woman dressed in earrings, bracelet, bindi and Mehendi with well-defined eyes clad in a Ghoonghat won first place. The well-defined boundaries, clean non-curvy strokes and clear symmetry are some of the highlights of this award-winning painting. While that was highly representational, the other award-winning entry was under the genre of abstract painting by Ashima Kodali. “Being a fulltime landscape artist and having a family to take care of hardly leaves time for hobbies and other interests," says Kodali. Yet, she decided to grace the canvas with her swirly strokes. Kodali had two entries, while one was more subtle and only highlighted the bindi on a woman's forehead the other was a bright mix of orange and red. While these two were the highlights of the exhibit, there were many other noteworthy entries embellished with decorative stones and photographs, each representing some unique aspects of Indian women. This themed collection of art, organized by Amit Shah and curated by Veda Saravanan and Varsha Pradhan, is sure a feast of colors and expressions. So, visit the Spirit Square Center of the Arts in downtown Charlotte and catch of glimpse of this enigmatic exhibit before June 30, 2009.
~Contributed by Aishwarya Ramaswamy