CHICAGO: The celebrations of India Day this time in Chicagoland commenced on a low key, speaking relatively. It was reflective of the general mood of the society buffeted by economic woes and global political turbulence.
It used to be the Chicago Mayoral office so far – that is till Mayor Richard Daley headed the City administration – that would kickoff celebrations organizing a reception at Chicago Cultural Center. The new Mayor Rahm Emanuel turned the switch off and one of the reasons is budgetary constraints.
The new Mayor rest content with passing a congratulatory message to the Chicago Indian Consulate and greeting Indian Americans at a general celebration organized by the Consulate at the Cultural Center on Wednesday August 15 in the evening.
Congratulatory messages were also sent by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Attorney General Lis Madigan. Mayor Emanuel’s message was read by Ms Jennifer Cizenr while that from Governor Quinn was read by Ms Rebecca Sanchez. Netttie Lasko conveyed greetings from Lisa Madigan, the Attorney General. The messages were full of general platitudes praising Indian Americans for their contributions, Indian economic growth, functioning democracy in India and Indo-Chicago ties thru sister city relation between New Delhi and Chicago.
In the morning, the Indian Consulate in Chicago kept up its years long tradition of holding flag hoisting ceremony at its facility on North City Front Plaza in Chicago Down town this year. The Indian CG Mukta Tomar unfurled the Indian tri-color with usual pomp, gaiety and dignity associated with the occasion. Ms Mukta Tomar read out a message from the Indian President.
The Consulate had more colorful celebration in the evening which was attended by over 200 guests and invitees, many Americans and Chicago elites. The event started with the singing of National Anthems of India and America. Lisa Mishra, a young Indian student sang these anthems in her beautiful voice and was well appreciated by all those present.
Ms Mukta Tomar, Indian CG, welcomed the guests and introduced the Keynote Speaker Marshal Bouton of Chicago Global Council. In her brief address, she touched upon the recent gunning down of Sikh worshippers at Oak Creek Gurudwara temple and felt that religious freedom is guaranteed both in India and America but the gunning down of innocents in Milwaukee showed we have miles to go to have the goal achieved in practice.
She observed that Immigrants from India faced uphill task in adjusting themselves here. They put in struggle but did not get integrated with the mainstream society. One has to view their problems and struggle, and ease their ways in getting assimilated. Incidents like gunning in Gurudwara made the task harder, she added. Paying homage to those who died, she requested all to observe a moment’s silence.
She mentioned about an Indian revolutionary Taraknath Das who had come to America in early last century to escape British persecution for his fight for Indian independence. His correspondence is now part of Indo American Heritage Museum. She urged all those present to visit the Museum and have a first hand look at the work of Taraknath Das
Taraknath was an anti-British Bengali Indian revolutionary and internationalist scholar. He was a pioneering immigrant in the west coast of North America and discussed his plans with Tolstoy, while organizing the Asian Indian immigrants in favor of the Indian freedom movement. He was a professor of political science at Columbia University and a visiting faculty in several other universities.
She then introduced Keynote speaker Marshal, Bouton, president of Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She described him as a true friend of India who had visited India more than once.
Marshal Bouton in his address touched upon the strides that India took in the past 65 years and the problems that the country faces now. India notched huge progress in recent years registering a hefty growth rate, he said, but the recent slow down and problems like the blackout in northern part of the country pose challenges and trigger global concern.
The country, he observed, has promises to keep for its teeming youth and less advantaged segment of its population. He struck an optimistic note saying that India would survive the challenge and cited factors supporting his belief or optimism.
A hefty growth in the past few decades has triggered a huge change in opportunities and expectations for India’s citizens, a quiet revolution of expectations should fuel new dynamism for India’s growth.
Secondly India had huge diversity – much more than Europe as a whole. While European unity is still a myth, India with its huge diversity is still a nation and functioning democracy. This coupled with the talent and creativity of Indian people should lead the country again to the path of progress, he felt.
Touching upon Indo-US relations, he said that ties are growing in all spheres of activities – economic, political and military. The governmental level exchange of top people has been on increase of late. Besides, joint military exercises are also a pointer to better understanding between the two countries. Cultural exchanges and education collaboration opportunities are also on the upside, he observed. Bouton paid handsome tribute to Indian Americans not only in Chicago but across the country for bringing about improved Indo-US relations.
Yet another highlight was presentation of cultural program by Majlis. A group of young and talented artists from Chicago land brought alive the memories of old and new Bollywood thru songs of yesteryears and present time. The near three hours event ended with a good dinner to all present.
India Post News Service