India's Independence Day is a very important day for Indians all over the world.
With the enormous growth of the community in the U.S. and New York in particular,
the Indian American Kerala Center, which serves to promote the civic and other
socio-cultural activities among the Indian American community in the tri-state area,
celebrated India's 56th Independence Day and Onam celebrations on Saturday,
August 23rd, 2003. The annual celebrations were attended by over 400 people from
the New York Tri-state area. Artists and participants welcomed King Mahabali, the
legendary king of Kerala during his annual visit to see his subjects, with inspiring
speeches, colorful dances, melodious music, and the traditional Onam sadhya.
The program chairman Jose Chummar started the program with American and Indian
national anthem. Chummar said, "India's independece day has a great meaning for
all of us who are living in America. By celebrating Independence Day and Onam
festival, we provide opportunities for our new generations to be connected with
our heritage and culture."
EM Stephen, president of the Kerala Center, in his welcome address, underscored
the need for "respect to all religions and to every individual, irrespective of
one's background." He spoke of the need to defeat the forces of communalism and to
build a united India and appealed to every Indian to make India a strong and
vibrant democracy, contributing to the growth of all its people. He called upon
every Non Resident Indians, particularly those from the state of Kerala, to begin
a more proactive involvement in the affairs of the United States. He said,
"The need of the hour is to empower the Indian American community and all must
participate actively in the public life of the adopted nation."
Pramathesh Rath, Consul General of India in New York, in his brief keynote address,
said, "I am so impressed by the Non Resident Malayalee community 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 praised the Keralites, saying they are
highly educated, illustrious, and hardworking. "Keralites are a pioneering community,
who have gone to every corner of the earth, and have spread their culture and
traditions everywhere." Highlighting the progress India during the last 56 years
since gaining Independence from Britain, Rath said, "We have achieved an all round
development in every possible area, and India is today one of the leading democracies
around the world."
Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Kerala Center urged
everyone to support its many programs and activities aimed at helping the NRIs
to grow as a vibrant community that is able to contribute to the society's
well-being. He introduced Kenneth Diamond, Family Court Judge of Nassau County to
the audience, and said, "We honor Judge Kenneth Diamond for his outstanding
service to the to the community at large." The award was presented to Judge Diamond
by Kerala Center Founder Patron Rajan Menon along with E.M. Stephen, Dr. Thomas Abraham
and Jose Chummar.
In his response, Judge Diamond thanked Kerala Center for choosing him to receive
the award, and appreciated the great contribution of the Indian Amrican community
to the United States. He said, "I look forward to the Onam celebrations at the
Kerala Center each year. Kerala Center, he said, has become a focal point for
"fostering better understanding between the Indian and American communities."
John Pesala, Family Court Judge, Nassau County, in his brief address, praised the
efforts of the Kerala Center in creating a sense of civic awareness among the Indian
Americans. Onam message was delivered by Prof. Koshy Palackal. 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," Prof. Koshy said.
Children performed classical, folk, and cinematic dances, in Hindi, Malayalam, and
Tamil languages, winning loud applause from the packed audience. The highlight of
the evening was the popular "Villadichanpattu" by adult members of the Kerala Center.
Seated in semi-circle behind a bow, they narrated a story in folk song form.
Students of Kerala Center Malayalam language school sang songs which glorified the
richness of Kerala and its people. Students of Kalashree under the leadership of
Beena Menon entertained the audience throughout the evening with their brilliant
Under the leadership of E. M. Stephen, the Indian American Kerala Cultural and
Civic Center was formed as a nonprofit organization in 1990. With 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.
There are Indian languages, Music and Dance classes for children, SAT coaching for
youngsters. 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 meetings 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. 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.