Hundreds attend I-Day celebrations in Aurora

A section of the crowd which attended the event at Philips Park in Aurora.

A section of the crowd which attended the event at Philips Park in Aurora.

AURORA: Aurora’s Indian American Community Outreach Advisory Board hosted Indian Independence Day celebration with the launch of the first-ever Bollywood Night to share the country’s rich and diverse culture. The event was held at Philips Park and attended by several hundred people.

The evening featured a showing of “Om Shanti Om,” a popular Indian film that featured movie stars Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.

Families seated below the sledding hill in the park came to see local dance troupes perform to music of DJ Dhiraj Gupta and get a taste of India’s cuisine as well as watch the movie.

The Indian cuisine featured onion pakoda, deep fried onion fritters, tandoori grilled chicken kebabs, samosa potato filled pastry and Indian chai, a brewed spice tea made with milk.

“Every state has its own rituals and customs in India,” said Roopa Anjanappa, a member of the Indian American Community Outreach Advisory Board. “The northern and southern regions are different but everyone knows about one another’s ways. It’s the acceptance that puts us all together.”

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner observed: “If you look at Aurora’s history, it has always been a city of varied cultures.”

The IAC board also collaborated with the city in hosting a Diwali festival, which drew thousands of people in only its second year last October.

This year Diwali will be held at the Waubonsee High School on October 22. “Our mission is to share Indian culture and encourage Indian Americans to integrate in the American culture – bridge the gap,” Gautam Bhatia, chairman of the board said. “An understanding of different cultures enriches one’s own experience in life,” Bhatia said. “At the end of the day we all have similar needs.”

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner and his wife, Marilyn, served as Peace Corps volunteers in the Solomon Islands during the 1980s.”The different ethnicities are what make Aurora strong today.

They have a great work ethic, value education and have become the fabric of America and Aurora,” the Mayor said. “We were the guests in the Peace Corps and learned to appreciate other cultures as part of that experience.”

Madhu Patel