The South Asian Times

10 December 2017 21:01 PM

Fireworks & festivities draw thousands to South St Seaport Diwali

By Special to The South Asian Times

New York: The 30th annual Deepavali festival, held at the South Street Seaport here on Sunday, attracted surging crowds that enjoyed the  concluding segment — a spectacular display of fireworks on the East River.

The day-long event was organized by the Association of Indians in America (AIA-NY). AIA, a nonprofit set up 50 years ago, is considered the first Indian community organization in America. And their flagship Diwali event also reached a 30-year milestone.

“This is a special year for us,” Gobind Munjal, president of AIA-NY chapter, told this newspaper as the 20-minute fireworks show was about to begin. “It has been a great event witnessed, as per police estimates, by about 100,000.”

Though most of the visitors were immigrants, second- and third-generation Indian-Americans were also in the mix. More emphasis would be given to attract younger generations in the years to come, Mr Munjal said, because they should get exposure to our culture and traditions.

Arish Sahani, a past president of AIA-NY, acknowledged that the number of younger people is relatively low. But, he said, they are preoccupied with their studies and jobs. “Once they grow old, they look for their roots and want to show them to their children,” Sahani said, expressing optimism that the future for our traditions in the adopted country is safe.

Munjal was cited as saying in a press release that AIA-NY had earlier this year launched “Desi Next” focusing on youngsters.

Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaimed October 1 as “AIA NY Diwali Day.”

New York City Public Advocate Leticia James said the gathering suggests that America is a land of “immigrants and refugees.”

Several other city and AIA officials spoke on the stage shortly before the fireworks event commenced.

Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty greeted the crowds and hoped more and more people would gather at such events in the future.

The South Asian Times spoke to a few attendees and found he general mood was upbeat.

“I miss India very much around Diwali. But this compensates all that,” said Ravi Mehrotra, 66, a  member of AIA-NJ.  The Uttar Pradesh native, too, suggested that younger people should take greater interest in Indian values and festivities. Dr Vaijinath Chakote, who hails from Bidar in Karnataka, described the event as “well-organized.”

Chinese-American Lijuan Nania noted, “We all like Indian food, and the spicy stuff I like it.” She was having dinner at AIA’s special enclosure at the waterfront.

The weather was perfect. People started arriving from midday and went around corporate booths, clothing shops, food stalls and watched performances. pitish-Indian singer Jay Sean drew a large younger crowd to his performance.

Among the sponsors were Cheapoair, Qatar Airways, Toyota, PepsiCo, New York Life and Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Update: 06 Oct, 2017

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