Originally created 08/30/98

India's culture celebrated at auditorium



Some Augustans enjoyed a more adventurous dinner than usual Saturday.

Instead of scarfing backyard barbecue or grilled steaks, they sampled dishes such as Gulab Jamboon and Jalebi. Rather than plopping into living-room sofas to watch televised college football, they sat in Bell Auditorium's chairs to watch live performances of folk dances from places such as Punjab and Bengal.

In short, they eschewed the typical American Saturday for India Day.

The annual event celebrates India's independence from Great Britain, which was won in August 1947, said Vipul Shah, president of the Indo-American Cultural Association. The association sponsored Saturday's event, which featured food, dances, dress and art from throughout India's regions.

Saturday's event was the fifth India Day celebration, Dr. Shah said. The event blends traditional Indian folk dances with Western ones, such as clogging and ballet, he said.

"We are trying to integrate the two cultures together," Dr. Shah said. "I think the best racial diversity will come from opportunities to bring the two cultures together."

Besides exposing Americans to Indian culture, the event also serves a purpose for Indian-Americans, Dr. Shah said.

"It's a delight even for Indians," he said. "We try to pass our rich culture and heritage to the next generation. Since we are in this Western world, it is very difficult to find any time."

Many Augustans who found the time to attend Saturday's event said they appreciated the experience.

"I go to these things every year," said Phil Young of Martinez, as he waited in line to sample foods such as potato vada. "It's an enjoyable experience. The cultural program is always enjoyable, and the food is always good."

Aiken resident Benny Pope attended after being invited by an Indian co-worker, he said.

"I thought it would be a good thing for me to open my mind some and learn about his heritage," Mr. Pope said. "As the Augusta community grows and diversifies, in order for us to coexist and work together, it's very important that we learn about each other."

The event had another mission besides celebrating Indian culture, Dr. Shah said. Proceeds from the event will benefit three local charities: Augusta State University Literacy Center, the Shelter and Advocacy Center for Abused Children, and SAFE Homes of Augusta Inc., which helps abused women, Dr. Shah said.