India Flag Raising 'Rocks the House' at Town Hall

Mary Ellen Morrow of Mary Ellen Morrow Photography; Alex Koshy, Commissioner, Martin Luther King Jr. Commission;West Orange Council Member Joe Krakoviak; Prakash Khaitan, Chair, West Orange PR Commission; West Orange Mayor Robert D. Parisi; Rimli Roy, founder and artistic director, Surati for Performing Arts; West Orange Council President Susan McCartney; NJ Assembly Deputy Speaker Upendra J. Chivukula; Amey Mehta, performer in classical and folk dance from India; West Orange Council Member Jerry Guarino; Hari Eppanapally, Trustee and Global Youth Coordinator, Lead India 2020. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Gita Anand, Shreya Anand, Divya Anand, Panya Gupta and Nikita Kalathur: from the Purna Vidya School in West Orange. Credits: Cynthiia Cumming
Mayor Parisi helps to raise the Indian flag. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Rimli Roy and Amey Mehta. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Sarab Tapar introduces Assemblyman Chivukula. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula speaks to the crowd.. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Prakash Khaitan, Council President Sue McCartney, Counciman Jerry Guarino. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Clare and Councilman Joe Krakoviak and Prakash Khaitan. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Prakash Waghmare, West Orange resident and Sr. Advisor to Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, the largest literacy movement for underprivileged youths in tribal and rural areas of India which has started 51,000 schools; Hari Eppanapally, a Livingston resident, Trustee and Global Youth Coordinator, Lead India 2020, a social transformation group founded by the former Indian president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to educate, inspire and transorm India's 540 million youth and to help modernize rural India; Dr. Abraham Thomas, a West Orange physician who serves at St. Barnabus; Alex Koshy, Commissioner, Martin Luther King Jr. Commission Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Thursday, Aug. 22, Town Hall was filled with the sights, sounds, and scents of India as standing-room only crowd celebrated 66 years of Indian independence.  First- and second-generation Indians joined together, along with community members, officials, friends, and family to raise the Indian flag for the third time at West Orange Town Hall.  

Prakash Khaitan, chairman of the West Orange Public Relations Commission, along with his wife Shalu, spearheaded the event along with Gita Bajaj and other members of the local Indian community.  Shalu decorated town council chambers with authentic Indian artifacts, including the candlestand used in the candle lighting ceremony.  Along with a celebration of classic songs, the group also celebrated their second home, America, with the Star Spangled Banner.  

The title of the Indian National Anthem is "Jana Gana Mana", composed by India's Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.  The group also sang "Vande Mataram"  which means "I bow to my mother". The song was written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1896. Vande Mataram was sung by the freedom fighters  during India's freedom struggle for independence and was India' original national anthem.
In what was a first for town council chambers, native Indian dances were perfromed by Rimli Roy, choreographer, artist, and Artistic Director of Surati for Performing Arts, and Amey Mehta, a guest artist from India. Roy has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, and at the Indian Consulate in Las Vegas. She will be performing soon at the Lincoln Center, with her next performance slated at Lincoln Center.

Roy and Ahmet performed three dances: Yeh Tiranga – Salute to the Indian flag; Jai Guru (an ode to the guru or your teacher); and My India is Great , patriotic folk dance.

Sarab Tapar, whose family (also including Sonny, Mini, and Karam) are members and organizers in the Indian and Sikh Communities in Northern New Jersey) introduced Assemblyman Upendra Joge Chivukula, the evening's guest speaker.  He  has served as an Assemblyman for the 17th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly since 2002. He is the first Indian American to be elected to the New Jersey General Assembly and the fourth to be elected to state office.

Since 2007, Chivukula has also served as the Assembly's Deputy Speaker; is Chair of the Assembly on the Telecommunications and Utilities Committee; and is Vice-Chair of Homeland Security.

After the ceremony, the crowd enjoyed a buffet of classic Indian fare donated by local residents and area restaurants.  Chiranjit and Bindu Khanna, two West Orange residents; contributed 100 samosas; Akbar, an extremely popular Indian restaurant in Edison, donated Palak Paneer, Kulcha Naan, Paratha and Hot masala Chai. Ricky's Bazaar in East Hanover also contributed to the celebration.

Mayor Robert Parisi, who participated in the ceremony, said:

"West Orange is a global community and we take pride in showcasing our many diverse cultures and traditions.These flag raising celebrations have become enormously popular and serve as a forum for the community to come together and learn about each other.”

Indian-Americans are part of the state's fastest-growing Asian American group, which comprises an estimated 9 percent of New Jersey's nearly nine million population.


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