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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

two girls.

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

An Indian Experience, West Windsor Library, 333

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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