Photos: Manisha Dass and Hum Sub
Story By Manisha Dass
In the simplest of terms we celebrate Diwali to commemorate Lord Ram coming home after 14 years of exile in the forest, after good triumphed evil. Who would've thought thousands of years later, though this epic tale is still believed and told to people all around the world, that in the small shaer of Cary, North Carolina, we would go through a forest to celebrate for a decade now, Hum Sub's Cary Diwali.
Walking through the forest at Regency Park, it's difficult not to dance along to the filmi songs and Mumbai beats on stage at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Entering the main gate, it's easy to lose yourself and forget that you're not in India. That was the common message for all the guests who came and many of the Hum Sub board members and volunteers echoed the view that it really felt like even just for the day, we're celebrating the Jashn in India.
This year marks the 10 year anniversary of Hum Sub and what better way to celebrate a decade than to have a Jashn. This year, aside from their main event, Hum Sub had several events leading up Cary Diwali, including Jharoka – an art exhibition, Dandiya night, and a Bollywood movie night. All the events were extremely successful and brought out a huge crowd where people thoroughly enjoyed themselves. At Cary Diwali there were over 12,000 people celebrating, dancing, shopping and of course eating. Many vendors even ran out of food and had to close shop early due to the high volume of people.
Sharnaz Sheikh, the secretary of Hum Sub for the past year, and an active volunteer for the past four years, has seen a great increase in the number of people involved. “…be it through activities, dancing programs, or volunteers – somehow or the other the community stays involved," Sheikh said. “This year there are 600 participants in the dance program and with plenty of dance schools opening in the RTP and Cary area there's so much talent – it's like we are getting the cream of the crop."
Sheikh said the easiest part of being a board member is getting local artists wanting to perform and so many people wanting to be a part of the show. “The most difficult, on the flip side of that though, is the day of jitters. Even though we go through rehearsals, we can never plan for what may go wrong," she said.
Ejaz Syed, an active volunteer for the past seven years, is so proud to be associated with an event like Cary Diwali. “It promotes Indian Diaspora, and is filled with music, fun and colors," he said. “People who are not from India get to experience it first hand."
Syed has seen a great change over the years but the year that stands out the most to him is 2006. “That was the first year where such a great number of people came out and we saw a shift in the people that were participating in the cultural program," he said. “We have experienced a tremendous change in our audience thereafter."
Syed also expressed his gratitude to the Town of Cary. “We are so lucky that they are so cooperative in promoting this event and making this event possible and so successful."
Dipak Prasad, a member of the Board of Directors, has been involved executively for seven months, but prior to that as a volunteer. “It takes a huge undertaking to make this event possible," Prasad said. “It takes a village to make it happen and cooperation from board members and of course the community. This is an event by the community for the community. We are also very fortunate to have are ex board members and founding members still involved in the entire process of making our event a grand success."
Sonali Luniya, president of the Board of Directors for nearly the past two years, commented on how much this event stands out. “This is the only free event, in an open air venue, and the only [Indian] event that starts and ends on time." Luniya has been involved with Hum Sub for the past seven years and served as the treasurer prior to being the president. “I'm so excited to be a part of the 10 year celebration," Luniya said. “All the events we had preceding Cary Diwali were all very successful and very well received."
Komal Dhanani, a Cary resident, has been attending Cary Diwali for the past six years. “I never miss it," Dhanani said. “I have seen so much change over the years, and every year it gets better and better."
Jamie Kocher, a resident of Garner, attended at the recommendation of a friend. “It's like traveling to India on a budget," Kocher said. “I can't believe I have missed out all these years – I'll make up for it in the years to come. Everything is so vibrant and beautiful."
Anshoo Mehra attended with his family and brought his parents who are visiting from India. “I have been coming to Cary Diwali for many years and it's always a different experience. It's not something you can go to one year and skip after because you know it's going to be different," Mehra said. “It's the closest to India that we can get being so far away. We are so lucky to have something like Cary Diwali."
The grand finale this year featured Shraddha and Shweta Pandit and Indian Idol 3 fame Parleen Singh Gill. Shweta Pandit just completed her tour with A.R. Rahman and for the first time is composing the music for Mallika Sherawat's next movie Hisss.
Shweta Pandit was very impressed with Hum Sub's efforts and commended the entire team on such a successful event. “I want to congratulate Hum Sub on their 10 year anniversary," Pandit said. “I haven't experience something so grand outside of India. The mood is so festive and the fireworks were amazing," she said. “Being away, this was one of the best ways to experience Diwali and I can tell that everyone has worked really hard and I commend all their efforts."
For all of you that missed this year's Jashn, fear not, they will be back next year with more great entertainment, greater masti, and of course more celebration. Keep checking Hum Sub's website www.humsub.com to see how you can be involved in the celebration of the festival of lights.