Kerala Women in Traditional Dress Lighting the Lamp
at the Kerala Center's Independence Day and Onam Celebrations
Kerala Center Honors Nassau County District Court Judge John Marks.
From L. to R.: Kerala Center President E.M. Stephen,
Archana Philip ( Master of Ceremony ), NIAASC President Rajeshwar Prasad,
Attorney Alpa Sanghvi, Judge Messala, Patricia Marks, Judge John Marks,
Kerala Center Joint Secretary Raju Thomas and FOKANA President George Koshy.
The Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center in Elmont, LIsland
celebrated Indian Independence Day and Onam with speeches by dignitaries,
dance, music and an Onam feast. The program started with lighting of
the lamp followed by American and Indian National Anthems sung by Kerala Center's
The more than three hour long program began with the lighting of the
traditional lamp by women dressed in Kerala's traditional dress. Cinematic,
classical, and folk dances were performed by students of Kerala Center's
Dance School. Among those who delighted the audience with their brilliant
performances included Tanya Mattom, Christy Thottam, Ashley Mattom, and
other students of Malayalam School. Songs by Litto Joseph, Annie Esthappan,
and Sajin John brought out the best in these young and talented artists.
In his welcome address, Raju Thomas, Chairman of the Celebration Committee,
briefly gave an overview of the Center's activities. Archana Philip, the master
of ceremony, told the audience of the importance of celebrating India's 55th
Independence Day and Onam.
The best of the speeches were by two high school students, Nisha Thayil and
Elizabeth Vazhapallil, who delivered the keynote addresses. Nisha Thayil, in
her eloquent speech said, "We are Indians first and then, belong to our
ethnic subgroups based on religion, language etc." She underscored the need
for "respect to all religions and to every individual, irrespective of one's
background." Thayil spoke of the need to defeat the forces of communalism
and to build a united India and called upon every Indian to make India a
strong and vibrant democracy, contributing to the growth of all its people.
Elizabeth Vazhapallil, another young student, in her keynote address, gave
an outline of what Kerala Center does and urged everyone to support its many
programs and activities aimed at helping the Indian community to grow as a
vibrant community that is able to contribute to the society's well-being.
She also stated that the actual reason of the Independence day celebration
is to acknowledge and honor the hard work, dedication and sacrifice made by
many Indian leaders for the freedom.
Other speakers included Councilman Anthony J. Santino of the Town of Hempstead,
Abey Kuriakose, a visiting Congress Party leader from Kerala, and FOKANA President
George Koshy. Abey Kuriakose, in his address said, "I was so impressed by the NRIs
across the US and I am proud of the ways they work hard and contribute to the growth
of their adopted country." He said, he appreciated them for "carrying on and spreading
the culture of Kerala wherever they went." He appealed to them to contribute towards
research and education back home in Kerala.
Rajeshwar Prasad, President National Indian American Asscociation for Senior Citizens
(NIAAC) spoke on social security benefits available as one reaches to the retirment age.
"Social Security is more than a Retirement Program," said Rajeshwar Prasad. "It provides
you and your family with an insurance package of Disability, Retirement and Survivor
Protection." NIAAC has been functioning at the Kerala Center for the last four years.
Dr. Thomas Abraham, President of GOPIO, in his brief address, spoke about what Kerala
Center stands for. He said, the Kerala Center has expanded its activities to serve the
whole Indian community, and highlighted the services for senior citizens, counseling
services, Malayalam language classes, and tuition in Maths, Computer and SAT.
Various seminars are conducted ranging from political to investment in addition to many
Civic and Cultural activities taking place on a regular basis at the Kerala Center.
The Center has also been providing platform for various political leaders to have
political awareness and campaign meeting with the Indian community. Not leaving out
the important religious factor, the Center has become a forum for various religious
activities and celebration for the members of the center who represent Hindu, Muslim and
different denominations of Christianity.
The common celebrations organized by Kerala Center is "a way of cherishing the rich
Indian cultural heritage and calling upon the young and the old Indian Americans to
remember with gratitude their motherland, and fulfill their responsibilities towards
India," said Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the Kerala Center's Board of Directors.
As in previous years, the Kerala Center honored a local Nassau County political leader
for service to the community. This year's award went to Nassau County District Criminal
Court Judge John Marks. Judge Marks praised the Indian community for their contribution
to Nassau County and New York State. The award was presented by Kerala Center President
Under the leadership of E. M. Stephen, the Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic
Center was formed as a non-profit organization in 1990. With three years of fund raising
campaign, The Kerala Center was inaugurated in 1993 by Padmashri Yesudas and is the only
Civic and Community Center in U.S. for Indian American Malayalees. Over the years,
The Kerala Center has become a focal point to coordinate activities and services to the
Indian American community in the New York region, not only for Malayalees but for the entire
Indian community. In the words of EM Stephen, President of the Kerala Center, is "to achieve
a proper balance between our country and heritage. We must not forget our heritage and our
responsibilities toward our country," he added.
First column: Songs by Sajin John, Litto Joseph and Annie Esthappan
Second Column: Speeches by Nisha Thayil and Eizabeth Vazhapallil
Third Column: Single Dances Ashley Mattom and Tanya Mattom
Singing National Anthems by Malayalam School Children
Group Dance by Christ Thottom and Party of Kerala Center Dance School
Audience participate in singing Naitonal Anthems