IAGB FLAG HOISTING POEM
-By Satanaku Basu
The knock-on effects of the COVID in our lives, resulting in lockdowns, shutdowns, and alterations of lives;
We saw the world adapting to a whole lot of “new norms” with masks n’ social distancing being the prime vibes.
IAGB India Day, known in the community for its grand celebration with thousands in a cheering crowd!
How do we live up to that tradition this time and make the community proud?
We gotta do away with the traditional huge gathering at one centralized place,
And instead, hold virtual programs and decentralized events with grace.
And we did! IAGB presents!!! Indian Flag Raising/Hoisting 2020!
A historic “first time ever” event in MA, across n’ beyond towns plenty.
To Commemorate India’s Independence Day – a grand thought indeed!
With zest n’ zeal, we were set to proceed.
But planning around the thought? An uphill task and a mounting process!
Executing n’ achieving the plan needed to be done with finesse.
This is when I joined hands with my “partner in crime”, Jeyanthi Ghatraju, my fellow dynamic IAGB colleague.
And thus, began our journey of convincing as many towns as we can, to join the “Indian Flag Hoisting” league!
Days, weeks and months of effort, conviction relentless.
Reaching out to over 65 towns/cities in MA and beyond, calls/emails/call again/email again…times countless.
With that ‘one’ request: “Can we raise the Indian Flag in your town to commemorate India’s Independence Day?
The journey wasn’t easy peasy, it wasn’t always our way.
Tireless follow ups; hundreds of emails n’ phone calls back and forth.
Boards of Selectmen, Mayor’s offices, Town Managers – zoom sessions attending meetings back and forth.
Filling out permission forms, applications, answering questions, addressing concerns, making alterations to the plan for each city/ town.
We had to, we ought to, we did ‘em all, we had eyes on the crown!
We were on FIRE! We knew we can do it and never ceased to rest.
We wanted nothing less, only to hoist the Indian Flag with IAGB at its best!
But wait, we still didn’t cease to rest with just the raising of the flag…
We had to add flair to the event, add a swag!
Would you please write a proclamation declaring Aug. 15th as India Day?
And let’s make the Flag Raising and reading of the Proclamation an event if we may?
Our relentless hard work started shaping up, our pure intent was bursting out in a rainbow.
We were now locking in each event in each city/town and warming up for the show!
The plan was in place, but Jeyanthi and I couldn’t be everywhere.
So, it was time to call for help from our Executive team – all for one, one for all – they were ready to share the load and care.
Our EC colleagues in pairs, caught the baton as we assigned them one or two owns to execute the event in each town.
With limited number of folks: town dignitaries, residents, state reps in many…the stage was set.
Team IAGB was ready to rock n roll…be part of history as we added this stunning achievement to IAGB’s crown!
Gleam in glory, poised in pride, you bet!
Then came the days, Aug. 14th & 15th, gathering at the town commons/city centers with pride.
Town dignitaries, community leaders, state reps, a handful town residents and IAGB taking it all in stride.
Following all social distancing guidelines, low key event yet declaratory.
Aug. 15th being proclaimed as India Day, singing the 2 national anthems, raising both flags, heart-warming words of acknowledgement from town dignitaries, community leaders and state reps – what could be more confirmatory?
Our path was not smooth, but it was steady,
We knew what we wanted and how to get it, we were ready.
Passion was energy tuned into strength, as we ran this marathon in glory.
We ran it! We won it! THAT’S IAGB’S FLAG RAISING STORY.
IAGB FLAG HOISTING 2020
“Indian Flag Hoisting 2020 – History in the Making”
An Epic IAGB endeavor with a Covid-19 “twist”!!!
-By Jeyanthi Ghatraju
As many in the community know and recognize India Day, celebrating India’s Independence on August 15, 1947, as one the signature events of IAGB and look forward to gathering outdoors year after year!
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought in a different twist to our daily lives, leading us to adapt “new norms” of social distancing and come up with innovative ways of doing things. One of the most challenging ‘new norm’ is the restriction on the number of people gathering in one place at the same time. This has created a huge question mark in our minds on ways to celebrate various special milestone socio-cultural or historic occasions, traditionally celebrated in a grand way welcoming a huge public gathering.
Considering the current restriction, IAGB had to come up with an alternative plan to the traditional way of bringing a huge gathering in one centralized venue; So, IAGB developed a unique and decentralized plan to bring this celebration to many cities and towns in New England (35 in total!).
For the first time in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a few other neighboring states (perhaps anywhere outside India), IAGB undertook a grand unique endeavor by working with various towns/cities in New England to join IAGB to create history! The plan was to hoist/raise the Indian national flag at various town commons/city hall commemorating India’s 74th Independence Day on Friday August 14th or Saturday August 15th, 2020. This will not only help decentralize the celebration but also allow people to take pride in the fact that their towns/cities recognized and celebrated this historic event, while still being in the safe radar of their homes.
The IAGB team sprung into action soon after the decision was made and worked tirelessly for about 10 weeks, by contacting the officials of the various towns and cities (over 75), engaging in conversations on policies, attending meetings with the Board of Selectmen, researching flag codes and finally coming up with a Proclamation/Certificate of Recognition declaring August 15th as India Day. It was a historic event, never done anywhere else in the Commonwealth or neighboring states.
Keeping in mind the State’s mandated Covid-19 guidelines for social distancing and safety,, in morning of August 14th & 15th, a limited number of assigned dignitaries (including one or two town/city officials, local residents and IAGB representative, partnering organizations), across 35 gathered at the Town Common, Town Hall or City Hall and commemorated the historic Flag raising/hoisting event with full enthusiasm.
As planned, history was made when the Indian tricolor was raised/hoisted, the anthems sung and both the American and Indian flags flew high magnificently smothered by the gentle breeze! Several Senators, Board of Selectmen, Mayors, town officials read the proclamations/certificates of recognition declaring 15th August as India Day. Several speeches reflected the unparalleled affirmation, highlighting the synergy of both countries, spreading the story of India’s independence across New England and asserting their home country’s pride and honor in the United States.
Most events followed a similar format, with a few variations.
– Brief welcome by the Town/City official
– Sing the American Anthem and hoist/honor the American Flag
– Sing the Indian Anthem and hoist the Indian Flag
– Proclamation or Recognition read by the town/city official and thereby declare Aug. 15th as India Day
– Brief remarks on the ceremony by the town representative/s and IAGB rep. and/or a rep from one of the partner organizations.
The gathering concluded with the Vote of thanks by the IAGB EC members. It was a day of pride, honor and solemn feeling honoring the heritage of many Indians who have made the United States their homeland!
The events were live streamed on Facebook from IAGB’s page and many thousands could watch and rejoice in the touching moments!
A sample proclamation is attached here, for posterity.
One message that was clear and felt in the air is ascertained by this quote, “A thoughtful mind it sees a Nation’s flag, sees not the flag only, but the Nation itself; and whatever may be its symbols, insignia, he reads chiefly only in the flag the Government, the truth, the principles, the history which belongs to the Nation it sets forth”. – Henry Ward Beecher
The Aunty Conundrum
-By Gauri Tandon
“…Family is my uncles, my aunts, and my chithis”, as Senator Kamala Harris said in the acceptance speech for her Vice Presidential nomination. Whatever is this “Chithi”? The word, which in Tamil means younger aunt, became viral and reminded me of my own cultural reckoning when my children were younger.
“Is it ok if I call Tom’s Mom Pam Aunty?”, my younger one asked about her best friend. Before I could reply, my older one interjected, a little irritated. “Well, you can’t. She isn’t Indian. And by the way Mom, I am not going to call Ruchi Aunty that anymore. It was weird when my teacher asked me if she was your sister or Dad’s, and I said neither.”
I call this the cross-cultural dilemma. It is one of many woes that children of Indian origin face while being raised in the US, when they are required to apply a cultural trait in a culturally-unaware setting. In the Indian culture, “Aunty” is anyone who feels like an Aunt. She doesn’t have to be family. She can be a family friend, Mom’s friend, friend’s Mom, an elderly friend, a neighbor, a caretaker. It is also considered polite to address total strangers, whom one has no better way of addressing, as “Aunty”.
I believe the genesis of this universal usage of the word, started with large, busy families. Indian households are generally buzzing with family members visiting often, neighbors dropping by without appointments or just peeking over their “boundary walls” for a quick chat, or folks you hired to help with cleaning, cooking, gardening or driving, making their trips around the house. Growing up in India, due to the presence of many people around you, one learns the rules of polite social engagement and interaction at an early age. Rule number one for kids is to not call anybody older by their name. At the very least, add a “ji” as a mark of respect, such as “Guptaji”. But in general the “ji” is more formal, and culturally not as warm and inclusive. Using the more endearing “Aunty” or “Uncle” is a form of pulling one’s neighbor, friend, or caretaker closer into one’s family zone.
Though Beware! One has to be very careful before addressing someone as “Aunty”. For adults addressing other adults, the reference assumes an age hierarchy, calling someone “Aunty” is an implicit label that they are older. “Didi” (sister) is the more flattering way to refer to someone who may take an offense to being called “Aunty”. It is safe enough for kids and teenagers to use this as a mark of respect. I know kids who stopped the “Aunty” or “Uncle” reference on becoming adults themselves, deciding that there was no longer a need to maintain the “Indian” age hierarchy.
On migrating to the US, Indians raised in warm, close-knit communities, continue to cherish the value of close relationships, forming new ones in a new country. In their home away from home, friends become family. They look to form similar warm, nurturing communities and obviously cannot forget the rule #1 they learned growing up. Not only will it be rude to not address the grown-ups as Uncle/Aunty, it would instantly bring a cold wedge of formality within the sprouts of the warm new friendship.
To solve the cross-cultural dilemma in the “Aunty Conundrum”, I noticed that these kids learned to improvise. They wear multiple cultural hats and pull them out appropriately, as the time and place demands. They instinctively know when to address “Ruchi Aunty” as such, and when to simply refer to her as Abhi’s Mom, or Mrs. Gupta. My younger one asked Tom’s Mom, “Mrs Grady feels too formal. You feel like an Aunt, may I call you Pam Aunty?”. In the perfect blending of two cultures, Pam accepted graciously! So the next time you hear someone being called “Aunty” it is likely not their Aunt by relation, possibly a friend that feels like family, or even simply a stranger who feels the warmth of being called “Hello Aunty” rather than “Hello there!”.
Our community spotlight this month – IANH
Our community spotlight this month is on IANH (India Association of New Hampshire). Yogita Miharia of IAGB spoke to Mr. Balaji Krishnan, the current President of IANH.
Yogita: Thank you Mr. Balaji for talking to IAGB. Please tell us about your journey with IANH
Balaji: I have been associated with IANH since 2000. It started when my kids were in elementary school and they participated in the educational activities conducted by IANH. When they were in 2nd and 3rd grade, they participated in the spelling bee for the first time. From there, they went to the National spelling bee for 5 consecutive years. When my kids graduated from middle school, I took the role of the education chair in IANH, and when the then president stepped down subsequently, I was elected to that position. I have been the President for last 6 years.
Yogita: Tell us more about the history and mission of IANH
Balaji: IANH started in 1989 by 10 people with three goals in mind – foster well-being of Indian community by organizing cultural, charitable, and educational activities, bring political awareness and goodwill between India and US. Prithvi Kumar, Dr. Tej Dhakar and others were the pioneers in founding IANH. We have various committees to handle activities like education, youth, cultural, public services, public relations, multimedia, and membership. Our mission is to connect the local Indian community and promote public & charitable services. IANH is apolitical but we give platform to political candidates to increase awareness. As of today, IANH has about 400 family members and 125 life members.
Yogita Tell us about IANH events. Which one is your flagship event?
Balaji: We host a variety of events. On the cultural side, we have a Spring festival in May and Diwali celebration in Oct/Nov timeframe. The Spring festival is our flagship event, and it consists of various cultural dance/music competitions.
My personal favorite is the education related events. Through educational contests only, I learned about IANH almost 20 years ago. Most of our youth group is also involved in the educational & public service initiatives. We have an education chair, whose primary responsibility is to organize all education contests, which happens in March/April timeframe. About 300 to 400 kids participate in various bees – math, science, spelling etc. The preparation for this event starts in January. We also run workshops to help parents and kids prepare for them.
In addition to these events, we also conduct various workshops for social awareness, visa camps, fundraisers etc.
IANH also has some regular public service initiatives. Once a month, we serve the soup kitchens in Manchester, Derry and Nashua.
This year our Diwali event is going to be virtual, spread over 2 days. One day for dance and the other for music.
Yogita: Any other initiatives that you would like to tell us about?
Balaji: IANH’s youth group does several events on their own. They bring a variety of speakers to talk about youth matters. I would like to encourage young parents to attend these so that they can be better prepared when their kids go to high school and college.
Yogita: Tell us about yourself and your family
Balaji: I am originally from Chennai, yes where Kamala Harris’ mother is from ☺ Nowadays everyone knows more about Chennai because of her ☺ I came to the US in 1989. I did my under graduation and graduation from the City university of NY, after which I worked there for 4 years, then moved to the Boston area. I was part of the first wave of Fidelity’s migration to Merrimack, NH. Since then, I have started my own business, with employees all over the US.
Most of my siblings live in the US. My wife and I live in Nashua. We have a son and a daughter, both live in Los Angeles. Our daughter finished her MD and is a resident doctor in UCLA, and our son is an entrepreneur.
Yogita: Would you like to share with us some fun memories or moments from your IANH journey?
Balaji: Honestly, every Exec meeting is a lot of fun and we all look forward to it. It is like one big family gathering that we do at various members’ homes. Everything has changed with COVID, but the last one was in a park so we could see each other and maintain social distance as well. Because of the platform IANH provided, my kids had a lot of success with the spelling bees. So obviously those are some of my favorite moments in IANH. I am very grateful to IANH and hope all young parents take advantage of this platform.
Yogita: What message would you like to give our readers?
Balaji: My message is mainly for parents of young kids. Please engage with IANH & other community service organizations when your children are young & impressionable. The public service, education & cultural activities will provide a strong foundation for your children. Along with that, IANH also organizes many talks, etc. for parents during the two days of various bees, where they can learn a lot about high school and college prep along with other IANH initiatives.
Visit https://www.ianh.org/ to learn more about IANH.
“Seven Steps around the Fire”
Two shows (each has a different cast):
Show 1: Saturday Sept 19th 7pm
Show 2: Sunday Sept 20th 7pm
Anil and Shweta Agrawal
Janique & Subrata Das
Anisha & Ravi Kacker
IN CONTINUATION OF IAGB FUNDRAISING EFFORTS TO HELP OUR
LOCAL FOOD BANKS and HOMELESS SHELTERS..