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Celebration of the 68th Republic Day of India

On Saturday night, January 28th, we attended a Celebration of the 68th Republic Day of India that was held in the Rainforest at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo which was quite a change in venue for this annual event that has often taken place at the Holiday Inn or the Embassy Suites in Independence but it was explained to us that Ms. Sujata Lakhe Barnard, the President of the Executive Board of the Federation of India Community Associations of Northeast Ohio (FICA) which hosted the event, wanted to go for a location that would be child-friendly and reflected more of the atmosphere of India.

One of the sponsors of the gathering was "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" and it was good to spend time with several of our colleagues who were Mr. Gordon Landefeld (and his wife Ms. Elaine Price), Mr. Azaad Khaira (who brought his daughter Miss Pooja Khaira), Ms. Amanda Orr and Ms. Swati Vig.

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The theme for this year's celebration was "Ahimsa" meaning peace and nonviolence which is an important part of India's heritage and identity. At one point in the program, a young boy named Jacob skillfully guided everyone who wanted to partake in the making a paper swan which is a symbol of peace in India.

In additional to the making of the swans, there was a brief program emceed by Ms. Sravanthi Vallampati whose first FICA event this was but she was certainly qualified to be the master of ceremonies because, as we learned, Ms. Vallampati has a long history of involvement with toastmasters. The program consisted of Mr. Sanjay Garg telling us about the fine work that his organization "Shiksha Daan" does in terms of helping "under-privileged" youngsters in Cleveland; an Indian dance by two young women named Koyal and Dhanya; another dance performance by about 20 employees of "Rockwell"; Mr. Viswanathan Narayan beautifully singing a tribute to India who he referred to as his "motherland" but noted that the song that he sang could apply to any "country built on character."

The last section of the program featured Mr. Michael Shrestha playing the national anthems of India and the United States on his saxophone. Mr. Shrestha asked that one of the attendees come up and sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" as he played it and Mr. Subodh Chandra (noted attorney and good friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong) readily volunteered.

Soon it was time for dinner so we moved from the Amazon Café where we spend the first part of the evening into the Storm Room where we enjoyed an excellent dinner of Indian food catered by the Saffron Patch. For us, however, dinner was not really necessary because the appetizers served in the first part of the night were more that enough but...we couldn't resist the great vegetarian options.

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After all of the attendees had passed through the buffet line, Mr. Kris Koch, a DJ who is adept in providing international music selections, lead us all in an exercise where a spokesperson from each table was asked to state what "Ahimsa" means to them in whatever language they wanted to use.

At our table, Mr. Gordon Landefeld stood up and talked on behalf of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and her staff. In the spirit of the evening, Mr. Landefeld said that for now he was "Gordon Singh" and "Namaste" (meaning Hello in Hindi) to all! He then said that he wished "Jai Hind" (i.e. "long live India) and followed this by upholding "satyagraha" (which is Sanskrit for "non-violence and civil disobedience") when it is necessary to challenge the powers that be.

Mr. Landefeld concluded by saying that Ms. Wong and those who work with her see many troubles brewing in the world brought about by what has happened in the past week and "we are praying and working for peaceful solutions."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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