EDISON: “Kem Cho”, “Chel Chabilo Gujarati”, “Kasumbi No Raang”, “Tari aankh no afini,” famous Gujarati theplas, shrikhand and all things that are associated with Gujarat and Gujaratis came alive at the three-day Chalo Gujarat World Conference at the Raritan Expo Center Expo here in New Jersey.
However the sore point that shook everyone was that while the United States has been constantly denying visa to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, this time even his wax statue, which was to showcase the present day Gujarat, was also held up and never made it to the venue.
However people from the audience argued that while it was fine if the visa was not granted for Modi to physically visit the Gujaratis settled in the US, why was his statue along with that of Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi never allowed to enter US soil. The president of Association of Indian Americans in North America (AIANA) that hosted the show, Sunil Nayak said that it was held up “in transit”. But the fact remains that Modi is `persona non grata’ for the US either physically or even in the form of a statue.
As many as 25000 Gujarat is from all over the world participated in the event which was inaugurated by Morari Bapu and Parimal Nathwani of Reliance Industries.
Akhilesh Gadhvi, who came all the way from Maryland, told this correspondent, “though I went down memory lane during the 3-day event it lacked the color and pageant like the earlier two events which were more glamorous and more entertainment”.
People enjoyed the ‘hasayaro”, “dayro” led by Bhikudan Gadhvi and Bhartiben Vyas, and Sugam Sangeet in which a number of artists from Ahmedabad and other places participated. However it was with the Ras Garba that the Gujaratis came into their own when they danced their heart out on the concluding day of the event. Parthiv Gohil stole the show with his reverberating singing.
One of the highlights of the event was a three-dimensional film on Gujarat in Gujarati which was screened for the first time on a giant screen. Other highlights were a multimedia show, seminars on different subjects and a pageant for Gujarati girls. People appreciated the 150 feet long stage which changed befitting the event. It depicted various lifestyles of Gujarat.
The organizers had promised mouth watering Gujarati cuisine but it turned out to be a damp squib with extremely poor food quality on the first day. Amends were made to some extent on the remaining two days but people were left unhappy at the end.
“A leading Gujarati community leader Ramesh Patel along with one of the top persons who came from Ahmedabad commented about the food saying “I have never tasted such bad Gujarati food. We feel cheated as we all know how mouth-watering Gujarati food is. It was an insult to Gujaratis and Gujarati food. On the first day a couple of food items were spoiled and were inedible”.
The entertainment program including the sword dance by the Mers from United Kingdom, the dayro and the shadow dance stole the thunder. The speech by Morari Bapu, though inspirational, was too boring for the audience who demanded more of entertainment.
Parimal Nathwani of Reliance Industries said, “It is important to keep alive the vibrant image of Gujarat and for that such events are necessary which would be a bridge between the generations. Gujarati music, literature and customs were slowly being forgotten by the second generation children who have settled in the US and these events can enlighten them of their link to Gujarat”.
While the organizers had planned a video link with Chief Minister Narendra Modi directly from Gandhinagar, the 45 minute speech was like a replay of his earlier address to the Gujaratis in US. Modi had nothing new for the community except Congress bashing and self praise. The Chief Minister however sent a message as to how he has started a campaign against the gutka. He urged the community to dial the number and pledge their support for the campaign. Modi also urged the Gujaratis to join in their prayers for rain in the drought affected state.
Shaktisinh Gohil of the Congress, who also spoke on the first day, called upon the American friends of the Gujaratis to come and visit Gujarat and enjoy its hospitality.
The rickshaws and chhakdas from Ahmedabad and Rajkot were not only eye catching but people enjoyed a ride on these vehicles and recalled their days in Gujarat. Dr. Krunal Raval, a doctor from Ahmedabad, who recently migrated to the US, while riding on the chhakda said “though I have never driven a chhakda at least I got an opportunity to sit in the driving seat of the chhakda here. I felt as if I was driving on Drive-in Road in Ahmedabad.
The “pols” of Ahmedabad that were meant to showcase the life inside a “pol” were dull and drab with some old stairs, vintage doors brought from Gujarat and attached to the walls giving an impression of a “pol” and some streets named after them.
Suchitaben Mehta who had lived most part of her life in a `pol’ commented, “It is not the same but at least I went down memory lane on seeing a replica of the “pols”. For a moment I recalled the good old days with my husband when we lived in Mehta-ni-pol”.
The theme this year was “Gujarat, Gujarati, Gujaratism”. Despite all the drawbacks the average Gujarati at least had a feel of Gujarat and for a moment forgot his hard days here and went down memory lanes of his motherland.
Sunil and his team of AIANA had made a valiant effort to bring the community together in a distant land and that in itself was laudable given the fact that he had to fight the various local agencies to put up the show of this magnitude and bring so many Gujaratis under one roof. “I felt as if I repaid a small bit to Gujarat and am proud to do all that I can to upkeep the pride of Gujarat,” Sunil said at the end of the 3-day event.
Miss Gujarat USA 2012
Asian Media USA adds: Shradha Amin from New Jersey was chosen as Miss Gujarat USA 2012 during the World Gujarati Conference 2012, Chaalo Gujarat. First Runner Up was Meera Thakrar and Second Runner Up Ekta Khetia.
Miss Gujarat USA 2012 pageant was an undeniable success at this year’s Chaalo Gujarat. Featuring eight young Gujarati girls from all across America, this pageant served as a means to incorporate the next generation’s beauty, talent and intelligence into the World Gujarati Conference. While adding a touch of glamour and youthfulness to Chaalo Gujarat, this beauty pageant managed to capture the audience in several unique and unexpected ways.
Once the judges’ scores were tallied, Miss Gujarat USA 2012 Grand Sponsor Nilesh Soni of Premji Valji Jewelers gave away the prizes on behalf of the famed Jewelers. Other dignitaries presenting awards were His Majesty Yuvraj Madhantasinh Jadeja and his wife along with Bollywood Actor Sharman Joshi.
Receiving one gram gold coins were Best Hair- Shradha Amin, Beautiful Smile – Meera Thakrar, Most Photogenic – Shailee Shah, Miss Gujarati Pride – Tarini Shah and Fan Favorite – Zeel Patel. Second Runner up Ekta Khetia, won a $500 voucher from Premji Valji Jewelers. First Runner Up Meera Thakrar, won $1500 voucher and crown from Premji Valji Jewelers. Winner Shradha Amin won a voucher for $3500, along with a crown from Premji Valji. Shradha was also called onstage by Air India officials on Day Three of Chaalo Gujarat, to present a free ticket to India to an audience member, after which she herself was presented a free ticket for winning Miss Gujarat USA 2012.
The pageant was a wonderful addition to the event, made even better by a stunning visual display and an amazing audience who encouraged and supported the new generation of Gujarati woman on this grand platform.