August 15th marks the day India received its independence from British rule. In celebration of India’s Independence Day, Northern California hosts its annual three day Festival of India and Parade event which has been occurring for the past 19 years. Each year the event coordinators assemble new and exciting booths and entertainment acts, creating a patriotic and festive environment. The third annual flag raising and kick-off event for this year took place on August 12th at the San Jose City Hall where various members of the San Jose Council and the Federation of Indo-Americans (FIA) came together in initiation of the celebrations.
When asked how he thinks the San Jose and Fremont Districts have progressed in celebrating India’s Independence Day, city councilmember Ash Kalra replied, “These celebrations are good in connecting Indian regions all over the country. To celebrate the friendship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies here in San Jose is something remarkable and fills me with pride.” More specifically, Kalra emphasizes the importance of his upbringing as an Indian-American and the preservation of the values and morals his parents and grandparents imposed on him. San Jose City Mayor Chuck Reed believes that the celebration is a day devoted to acknowledging that the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy have much in common, but most importantly they are free countries, and we must work together to ensure that we remain that way. Indeed, our districts have become more united and diverse in this celebration, leaving room for everyone to enjoy it. The parade festivities aimed to showcase our culture to various audiences and create a “Little India” type atmosphere. Dr. Ramesh Japra, a yearly convener of the Independence Day festivals, spoke about what the flag raising ceremony meant to him, stating that “Every year it keeps getting better and bigger—I think we realize how fortunate we are to have this freedom, unlike many others. This flag hoisting makes us proud and makes us realize who we are and what we are.” Audience member Thin Kumar expressed, “We feel greatly honored to be a part of these celebrations. No matter what, the love and affection will continue to grow towards India.” In addition to the inspirational speeches and award presentations, the event encompassed a patriotic and colorful environment which included various cultural dances by Jollywood Dance, Nupur Folk Dance Academy, and De Anza South Asians for Peace Dance Group, as well as beautiful art work displays by Ramesh Chindam.
As for our future generations, Dr. Japra believes that the adults and elderly in our Indian-American communities must ensure that these new generations are aware of their roots and what they mean, so they too can continue to expand and enhance India’s Independence Day celebrations.