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An Indian Experience
This article by Teena Chandy was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 6, 1999. All rights reserved.
A "total Indian experience" is promised when
the West Windsor branch of the Mercer County Library hosts "Assimilation
and Contribution," a four-part cultural extravaganza that begins
on Saturday, January 9, and runs through Saturday, January 30. Organized
by senior library assistant Hema Ramamurthy, the series will feature
Indian dance and musical performances, talks on Indian philosophy
and yoga, and activities for children. "Everything from snacks
to crafts will be Indian," says Ramamurthy.
West Windsor is a truly multi-cultural area with a significant Asian
population of nearly 20 percent, and Ramamurthy hopes to attract a
mixed community audience to this, her most ambitious library program
to date. "Each culture has something to give and we want our children
and adults to know what is out there," she says. "We also
want our children to know and be proud of their roots. We have a timeline
going back 6,000 years and we are the only continuous living civilization."
A resident of West Windsor since 1991, Ramamurthy is the mother of
The theme of the program is one that best describes India — "Unity
in Diversity." Known as a single country, India is indeed diverse,
with 18 different recognized languages and regional dialects and vernaculars
that run into the hundreds. The program opens with "Brides of
India," a fashion show of bridal costumes from different parts
of India, that demonstrates the richness and variety that is quintessentially
India. "We can be so different, yet we are one," says Ramamurthy.
The other highlight of the opening day is a discourse on Hindu philosophy,
"Conquer the Mind, Conquer the World," by Swami Shantanandaji,
senior acharya of the Tri-State Center of the Chinmaya Mission.
The depth and variety of Indian classical music is featured on Saturday,
January 16. Children and adults will sing and perform in both the
Carnatic and Hindustani styles on at least 12 different ancient musical
Lauri Cahn, who studied and taught classical yoga for 20 years, will
introduce the relaxation and stress reduction techniques of Indian
yoga on Saturday, January 23. Cahn has spent many years in India and
is certified by the Ministry of Education in India.
In the final program of the series, Saturday, January 30, Ramya Ramnarayan
will offer a glimpse into the brilliant world of Indian classical
dance forms. Director of Nrithyanjali School of Dance in Central New
Jersey and a popular dance artist on Indian television, Ramnarayan
has given numerous performances both in India and in the United States.
Other presentations include the classical snake dance and peacock
dance. For children under 13, there will be storytelling and crafts
that match the theme of each weekly program, and Indian refreshments
will be served.
"The whole idea was to put up something positive about India,"
says Ramamurthy. "What children learn from textbooks and newspapers
is often very negative. There is more to India than the caste-system,
poverty, and bride burning — which is what you read about in the
textbooks. Children are full of questions about the rich culture they
hear their parents talk about. That is why I am focusing on the schools,
and I hope children and school teachers, and adults from outside the
Indian community, will attend and learn more about India."
Ramamurthy says that children have a natural interest about their
roots and her aim is to let them know the many positive things they
can be proud of. She had the ample help of professionals from the
Indian community who were happy to volunteer their time. The featured
artists and speakers are also donating their services.
Posters depicting Indian contribution in various fields like science,
mathematics, arts, yoga, and spirituality will also be on display
in the library. In fact, the project started out as a poster display
and the festival followed. "I had to get people to come and see
my posters, so I decided to have programs to go with it," says
— Teena Chandy
North Post Road, Princeton Junction, 609-799-0462. All programs begin
at 2 p.m. and are free. Saturday, January 9, 16, 23, and 30.
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