On Sunday, August 17th, we attended the 67th Annual India Independence Day celebration presented by FICA (Federation of India Community Associations of NE Ohio) that took place in both the India Cultural Garden and at the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse in Cleveland.
We started off at 11am at the Gandhi Statue where there was a flag ceremony and the singing both the United States and India national anthems. Then the participants paraded by foot over a mile to the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse for the main part of the program which began at 12:30pm and was presided over by our good friend Dr. Asim Datta, President, FICA, Executive Board. Dr. Datta reminded us that India is the largest democracy in the world as well as one of the oldest cultures. Among the highlights were Bharata Natyam dances, folk music from Kerala and popular songs from India. Cuyahoga County Councilman/Cuyahoga County Executive Candidate Jack Schron attended this event also and wished everyone his best.
We particularly liked it when Lt. Col. Om Julka, of the Indian Army who will be be celebrating his 96th birthday on August 30th. Lt. Col. Julka recalled living in New Delhi on August 15th, 1947 when India finally achieved its Independence. He read part of the inspiring speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru including the section where Nehru said, “the achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?”
Another good friend of ours, Mr. Ken Kovach read a lovely poem titled “Where the Mind is Without Fear” by Rabindra Nath Tagore, Indian Nobel Laureate, Literature, 1913. This poem concluded with the words, “Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action; into that heaven of freedom, my Father; let my country awake.”
FICA was especially honored to receive a proclamation from Ohio Governor John Kasich and Lt. Governor Mary Taylor that read “On behalf of the State of Ohio, we welcome all those gathered at the India Cultural Garden and Rockefeller Park Greenhouse as you celebrate the Independence Day of India. Independence Day is celebrated with much enthusiasm throughout India and we commend FICA of Northeast Ohio for continuing this tradition. Your efforts to increase the awareness of the unique culture of the Asian Indian community and your significant contributions to our great state. We appreciate your dedication and commitment to serving your local community and trust your service is making a difference in the lives of many. Best wishes for another successful India Independence Day celebration!”
But the real star of the day was Dr. Asim Datta who pulled the program together despite several groups that were scheduled to perform cancelling at the last minute. Dr. Datta was experiencing back pains on this day also but he worked like a trouper and everyone there appreciated his efforts. Dr. Datta even sang a song in Bengali in praise of India and its beauty and, even though we couldn’t understand the actual words, his spirit and emotion made it memorable.