Campus hosts annual Indian culture festival
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 23:09
Senior Michelle Ma saw different aspects of Indian culture as she observed the mix of attendees, vendors and performers at India Fest on Saturday at the Bob Carpenter Sports Center. Ma studied abroad in India last summer but stayed within the northern part so the festival allowed her to see other aspects of Indian culture, she says.
“I was able to see more of the culture from the south by some of the way they dressed and some of the jewelry,” Ma says. “That was kind of interesting to see.”
Booths were stationed throughout the lobby, upper level, Frank Acierno Arena and auditorium for India Fest, which was sponsored by the Indo-American Association of Delaware, a nonprofit organization that hosts events to spread awareness of the Indian culture. Families, students and community members in traditional Indian attire and regular clothing alike shopped, watched entertainment and ate at the event.
The association’s Executive Director Jitu Asthana, of Pike Creek Valley, Del., says he was one of the founders of the event in 1984. The event was previously held every two years, but in the last decade it has occurred annually. This was the second year India Fest was held at the Bob Carpenter Sports Center, he says. Previously, the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington hosted it.
Asthana says the event educates children about Indian culture. He says the festival was a way for his daughter to learn about her heritage and she now has two kids of her own who come to the event.
“Our day-to-day life is just like Americans,” Asthana says. “[India Fest] gives glimpses of the culture.”
Stations were on the first floor, while the second floor was a bustling marketplace, filled with people searching through piles, racks and stacks of $10 saris and kurtas (a type of dress), bindis, decorations, gold bangles and more at different vendors.
The concession stand, which serves popcorn and pizza at university athletic events, transformed into an Indian kitchen, serving traditional items such as chicken tikka masala, samosas and spiced tea. Dancers, vocal musicians and models in a fashion show took turns on the stage in the auditorium from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Ma says she would have liked a better schedule of the dancing, but she enjoyed the performances she saw, especially the ones by children.
Vinitha Nambiar, 35, of Bear, Del., who was born in India, says she has been coming to the event for a few years to help her two daughters learn more about their heritage.
“I just want them to learn the culture,” she says. “They go to school here so they don’t speak our language.”
Asthana says the event is also a place for children to show off their skills with the many opportunities for dance. Both of Nambiar’s daughters performed Bollywood-style dance.
He says the event showed off India’s propensity for color and distinct music. Many women and children wore bright traditional clothing in deep purple, bright yellow and emerald green, with glimmering embroidery, shining bangles and bright makeup.
The event has expanded over the past 15 years, Asthana says. He used to be satisfied when 500 to 1,000 people came, he says, but an estimated 4,000 people came on Saturday. Everyone who helps at the event is a volunteer, he says.
“We’ve spent hundreds of hours planning, when you see people enjoying it pays off,” Asthana says.
Some people travel up to 100 miles to come to the event because it is a gathering place for Indian people in the area, Asthana says.
“Any ethnic group likes to get some contact with their culture,” he says.
Sandhya Seetheramu, 34, of Newark, says she has been coming to India Fest to show her two children, a six-year-old and a four-month old baby, the culture and to see people.
“If gives a foundation for people to meet each other and have a good time,” Seetheramu says.
She says she has attended the event for the past five years and always has a good time. Seetheramu says she enjoyed the food, which she called the “main attraction.” She also watched dancing and bought jewelry and Indian dresses.
Niti Pathak, 35, of New Jersey, watched the activity from behind her table on the second level selling menswear and jewelry. She says she enjoyed her first year at the festival.
The event was a good place to show her new collection of clothes and accessories called Redha Creations, Pathak says.