Celebrating Unconditional Friendship – Maitri

by REMITHA

Last Saturday, the 20th of October 2012, all roads in this part of North Carolina, lead to only one place – the beautiful Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, to celebrate the Indian festival of lights, Diwali. From the impressive turnout, there is no doubt that Cary Diwali is fast turning out to be one of the most popular events in the multi-cultural Triangle area.
Even the weather which had been playing spoil sport for a while decided to don its best face in honor of Cary Diwali and the day turned out to be a crisp, clear, bright and sunny day. Just perfect weather for a day to be spent outdoors!

The event started off with the traditional lighting of the lamp by the dignitaries, the Mayor of Cary, Harold Weinbrecht Jr., the Mayor of Morrisville Jackie Holcombe and Town of Cary Councilman Ed Yerha. What could be a better way for the commencement of the day, since Diwali is the Festival of Lights and celebrates the victory of light over darkness – in effect, the victory of knowledge over ignorance.Cary Diwali 2012 underscored the theme Maitri – Celebrating Friendships, highlighting India through the lens of friendship and harmony. Maitri means ‘loving kindness’ or ‘unconditional friendship’ and this bond of friendship was the essential feature running through the events of the day.

President Meena Jeyakumar warmly welcomed the gathered guests before handing over the dais to the assembled dignitaries, who felicitated the event and expressed their happiness in joining the Indian community on this occasion.

Then followed a colorful potpourri of cultural events like only a country as diverse as India could offer, each one distinct and adding a bit to the expression of the colorful bouquet that is India. And if anyone had any doubts if the events were in keeping with the theme of the day – Maitri – you did not have to look further than the stage where the cultural events were taking place. Most dances had participation from diverse communities, which truly represented the spirit of the day and the spirit of the Triangle area. That is what building bonds of friendship is all about.

Despite the colorful lure of the events on stage, the exhibition stalls held their own with the interesting displays they had for the visitors. Live art demonstrations of folk art forms like Warli and Madhubhani and the more modern Zentangle, by Hum Sub’s Visual Art Workshop’s participants introduced the arts to novices and enthralled enthusiasts with their displays. They also held an exhibition of ‘Rustic Motifs’, displaying their fabulous work done through the year.

In India, sidewalk chalk art has another name: Rangoli!  These colorful designs while being symbols of auspiciousness are also great fun to draw out, as the kids who visited Cary Diwali found out. There was a whole sidewalk, just for the kids to come explore their creativity and create some fun rangoli designs with chalk.

That was not all that the kids had in store for them. They could make Goddess Lakshmi’s footprints in the Children’s Activity Tent, make paper luminaries or lanterns and also get all artistic with their rangoli designs on paper plates.

Local student entrepreneur Marissa Heyl celebrated the spirit of Maitri by weaving her own bond of friendship and helping block print artists and weavers back in India keep their art thriving. Her inspiring talk titled, “Weaver to Wearer” kept visitors engaged.

In another end of the exhibit tent, a collaborative canvas portraying Maitri- The Friendship Circle was being painted with several visitors eager to leave their mark as a token of friendship. This painting was later raffled off and the lucky winner Rohan Kapoor.

An all day exhibition celebrated the bonds of friendship between the US and India through time in fields as varied as Education, Science and Technology, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, Arts and Culture. It reminded people that the two nations have more in common than either realizes and that we can achieve more by building on these ties and working together in a shrinking world.

Meanwhile, over in the crescent area of the Amphitheater, stalls selling ethnic Indian clothes, jewelry, handicrafts, books and miscellaneous accessories, not to miss out, India’s hottest export – spirituality – did rip roaring sales, if one could judge by the crowds milling around the stalls. There were several stalls donating all proceeds to charities. There were also stalls by local businesses, banks, real estate agencies, tutoring centers etc.

Up here was also Triangle’s own artist Vimalkumar’s display of beautiful acrylic and digital paintings and pencil sketches. This is the gifted artist whose striking paintings formed the stunning arch welcoming you into the exhibition hall.

And then of course the food! How can any festival be complete without the enticing offer of food. And when the festival is Indian, food becomes an important ritual in itself. For a place that has so many diverse cuisines to offer, festivals are a means of celebrating the delectable cuisines of each region too. So naturally what was put up there was a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights by the local restaurants. The aroma wafting from the food stalls offered stiff competition to the cultural offerings on stage, in enticing the crowds.

As the sun began to set on the beautiful Koka Booth Amphitheater, the excitement was palpable in the air as the crowds eagerly settled down on blankets, lawn chairs and cushions all across the arena, filling up any space available. The turnout was unbelievable as there was barely any place left vacant as the people eagerly awaited the grand finale of the day.

Hum Sub had a rocking treat in store for Cary this year by bringing the acclaimed dance troupe of Shiamak Dhavar International (Canada) to the Triangle. Shiamak who put India on the world map of contemporary dance, uniquely fuses the old and the new, Indian and western, classical and folk to offer a scintillating medley that is bound to invite even the most reticent to shake a leg.

So when the troupe took to the stage with an energetic number dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the evening simply erupted in a welcoming applause. Soon they were on their way with tributes to the bygone legends and living legends of Bollywood and its reigning kings and queens. As ‘Shammi Kapoor’ boogied to ‘Zara Paas Aao To Chain Aa Jaaye’, the joy of the crowd knew no bounds. Several pulsating rounds later, which saw Shahrukh Khan, Krithik Roshan, Amithabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherji, Madhuri Dixit et al, strutting their stuff on stage in glittering costumes in the midst of eye popping props, the curtains came down (well, figuratively that is) on the cultural events of Cary Diwali. And what a performance it was! Something the Triangle will not forget in ages.

The day wasn’t done yet. What was Diwali without the fireworks? In keeping with tradition, yet another memorable Cary Diwali concluded with a dazzling display of fireworks.

Yet again, the Hum Sub team had put on a wonderful display of India’s myriad colors and in the process, raised the awareness of India’s rich and varied culture and heritage, not just among the different communities in the Triangle area, but also among the younger generations, thus playing an invaluable role in molding them into knowledgeable, appreciative, responsible citizens of tomorrow.

Hum Sub offers its sincere thanks all volunteers, vendors, visitors, performers, guests and sponsors for helping make Cary Diwali 2012 a resounding success!