Pakistan Independence Day
By Ras H. Siddiqui
(Pictures above): Glimpses of
the Independence Day celebrations in Sacramento. Consul
General N.M. Jadmani is also seen with fellow Pakistanis
Sacramento, CA: The Pakistani-American
Association of Greater Sacramento revived the celebration
of the Independence Day of Pakistan with a colorful gathering
of over a thousand people at the Elks Lodge in California’s
Capital City on Saturday, August 27, 2005. After a long hiatus
of close to nine years, the Pakistani community in Sacramento
decided to step up and take on the cancellation of the Lodi
community’s similar annual gathering and actually improve
on it so that the identity of the “home country”
can be passed on to our future generation.
For those that may not be aware of the fact, the Pakistanis
in California’s Central Valley (especially Lodi, Sacramento,
Stockton, Yuba City and Live Oak) have been living here for
almost a century, long before India’s Partition and
the birth of Pakistan 58 years ago.
The oldest continually functioning Muslim mosque in this part
of the world is located on “V” Street right here
in Sacramento. The people that are here are predominantly
of Punjabi- and Pashtu-speaking stock (and the combination
Hindko speakers). Former Lyallalpur (present-day Faisalabad)
and the area around Attock in Pakistan are where the majority
here originates from, along with a sprinkling of Urdu speakers,
Kashmiris and Sindhis (this writer has met just one ethnic
Baluch in this area to this day). But as was witnessed here
in Sacramento, they have not forgotten where they came from
even though some of the people here are the sixth generation
removed from South Asia.
The program started off with
a recitation from the Holy Qur’an by Munir Choudhry.
Following that, speakers including Dr. Khawaja Ashraf, Pak
Association President Salim Khan, Ali, Mr. Asghar Choudhry
and Pakistan’s Consul General in Los Angeles Noor Muhammad
Jadmani made their remarks but not before four generations
of Pakistani Americans came to the stage to sing Pakistan’s
National Anthem and impressed everyone present.
The speeches focused on the past, the present and the all
important future of Pakistan and of Pakistanis in this area.
It was a pleasure to see Ali Asghar Choudhry after a long
time back here in Sacramento where his oratory once again
stole the day. Our thanks to Jadmani Sahib for gracing the
occasion as Pakistan’s official representative at this
program and we hope to see him here again in future.
Food, fun and entertainment brings out the best in our community.
Dressed in their finest, our kids and women are bright and
colorful ambassadors of Pakistan in the United States. And
once you add music and the Bhangra beat our young men capture
the front of the stage and sometimes even get carried away
with their dancing enthusiasm. So once again the entertainment
segment captured everyone’s attention.
To start things on a high energy and bright note Mechi Yang,
an Asian American who has adopted South Asian (Pakistani and
Indian) dance as a serious pursuit, captured our attention.
Following Mechi the up and coming Woodland, California based
“Dream Sound” Band played a couple of numbers.
Their “In My Dreams” Punjabi Rock Album is about
to be released soon. They were followed by the Rap Segment
in which Zaki Syed and Rizwan Shah presented some interesting
thoughts that fascinated the kids, illuminated the youth present
and confused the older generation. Akbar on keyboards played
a couple of tunes too but the wait was for the main star of
the entertainment segment and she made quite a musical entrance.
group of youngsters
of respect for the Pakistan flag
section of the gathering
A great deal has been written about Janice Miller in this
publication already. This writer has been reporting on her
performance ever since she first performed for us in the San
Francisco Bay area over ten years ago. Back from a trip to
Pakistan she appeared very upbeat about her singing experience
there in front of General Musharraf. Janice has made a career
out of singing the songs of Madame Noor Jehan and Lata and
more recently Shazia Manzoor. She started off with two Punjabi
numbers out of which “Aa Ja Sohnya” was very well
done. But not forgetting the purpose of the occasion the “Sohni
Dharti” that she presented next was superb (wish its
original singer Shahnaz Begum could have heard it). “Pakistan
is the place to be,” said Janice. “If you are
not there, you are missing out,” she said before singing
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya.”
By that time the front of the stage was taken over by dancing
children as Janice presented “Neher Walay Pul Tey Bula
Kay,” Noor Jahan’s most popular Punjabi song ever.
And by the time “Mera Long Gawacha” was sung,
the front of the stage was quite a site to see for dance enthusiasts.
This writer had to leave the program at that point. The fact
the Janice Miller had everyone under her musical spell at
that time was a great note to exit on.
In closing it was great to witness the revival of Pakistan’s
Independence Day spirit in Sacramento after such a long time.
With age it appears that egos have subsided and outsiders
are now resigned to the fact that what some were trying to
accomplish almost a decade ago was something that is valuable
today. It’s just too bad that it took so long to get
here from there. But with that and “better late than
never” it is time close here and to congratulate the
Pakistani-American Association of Greater Sacramento for making
all of us in this area proud of our heritage. Pakistan Zindabad!