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.
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.