On August 12, the Indian community in central Jersey decided to take part in the patriotic festivities that take place across the world at this time of year. In light of India’s 60th year of independence, a huge parade was organized to the enjoyment of thousands of Indians who rejoiced at the sight of the celebration of their wonderful country’s birthday happening with just a little closer to home.
“It’s really convenient,” says Namrata Dixit, a resident of the area for 8 years, “It (provides) easy access to all of the Indians living here (so that they) don’t have to go all the way to New York.” An opinion shared by many other Indians in the area.
A smiling sun and empty skies graced the “Little India” section of Oak Tree road on the day of the parade, which was chalk full of fun and exciting events. There was the smell of fresh samosas that hung in the air, mesmerizing the many longing bellies in the crowd while many others eagerly awaited the arrival of chief guest Urmila Matondkar who would look over the day’s events, consoling themselves with the catchy Indian music that filled the air. The entire spectrum of Indian music was present, from tear jerking and patriotic anthems like “Aye Mere Watan ke Logo” and “Vande Mataram”, to devotional bhajans and hymns, to the latest Indian hip-hop hits, all blaring from the speakers of the 20 or so floats at the parade.
But, of the 20 plus organizations that took part in the parade, very few had an actual traditional Indian display. This lack was felt by many of the onlookers whose disappointment was tangible, that is, until the marchers of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh came along.
From the very get go, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh’s (HSS) marchers took center stage with their unique combination of yogchop (lezim) artistry with a grand instrumental ensemble, not to mention engaging the bystanders with frequent bursts of “Bharat Mata Ki…Jai!” that got the crowd all wound up with enthusiasm. The HSS ghosh (marching band) put together a string of musical pieces that felt like they were straight out of India’s Independence Parade and left the crowd dazzled. Many could be seen humming the tune along with the music after some time while some others tried marching alongside them. The wonderful melody created by the flaring shankhs (bugles), combined with the soothing tune of the flutes and the steady rhythm of drums obviously left its mark on the audience. Meanwhile, the yogchop performers had the crowd wanting more as they danced to the exhilarating sound of the traditional Indian instrument. They even put up a fast-paced dance for the crowd to enjoy while the parade met a little traffic problem. Along with the music and yogchop, there was a group of performers who walked with the American and Indian flag held high, shouting fiery, patriotic naras for all to hear.
This was the first time the organization had performed in the India Day Parade and the three hours of constant marching took a toll on the groups unsuspecting members who were considerably tired at the end of it all. That isn’t to say they didn’t have fun, though.
“(I) enjoyed marching. It was a good experience, as well, marching in a disciplined fashion for so long is a commendable effort,” said Keshav Dev, who was part of the ghosh. “I liked it. I didn’t expect there to be so many people. I was kind of shocked when I saw so many (people). But all in all, I think it was a good experience,” said Kalpita Abhyankar.
In the end, HSS put together a unique and memorable performance unlike anything the Indians of America have seen in a long time. It may not completely eliminate it, but it may keep our nostalgia at bay, at least until next year when we can go back and hopefully see their yogchops chiming and their shankhs blaring once more.
Click any picture to view complete photo album of the event.