Eid and Diwali Celebrations with a Difference
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Glimpses of VUI Peace Unity International’s Eid and Diwali celebrations in the San Francisco Bay area
One can easily get nostalgic after hearing old songs from Bollywood and Lollywood. There was a time when the songs of Nur Jahan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan ruled many
hearts in India and those of Lata Ji and Kishore Kumar sent millions of romantics into a heavenly trance in Pakistan.
And the good news is that the vocal arts from each country are still appreciated in both, giving hope to individuals within the Diaspora from South Asian countries that we are still connected by the threads of a rich culture. That we can celebrate our religious and cultural events together should come as no surprise but what have we done about it?
In the San Francisco Bay area Sunita Lodha is an individual, one who believes that her organization VUI Peace Unity International ( http://vuiweyoui.org/) can make a difference in promoting common humanitarian goals. Using the words “We, You, I” (VUI) inclusive of the American mainstream, to Sunita who has lived overseas in other multicultural environments and is no stranger to a number of cultures, feels right at home in this area as people from all over the world are now living here, especially people from Southern Asia. So when VUI planned its “Hello, Namaste, Salam, Sat Sri Akal, Masti” joint Diwali and Eid event at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark recently, several individuals including Raana Faiz of Hamrahi Radio/Matrimonial joined in to help. The profits from the event were slated to go locally to Tri City Volunteers, to Islamic Relief helping flood victims in Pakistan, and to Pratham for education in India.
The evening started off with Sunita Lodha welcoming everyone and recognizing Raana Faiz whose Hamrahi Radio program celebrated 30 years on the air this year. Program emcees American Desi Salman Ahmad and Pakistan-born Ausaf Masud also gave short introductions. People were encouraged to look at goods for sale at the indoor bazaar set up at the venue and to use traditional services like the mehendi/henna patterning available. A fine buffet dinner followed soon after since with people from India-Pakistan and Bangladesh sitting together, one just cannot overlook the food connection.
Salman and Ausaf were back with a skit on ABCD’s relating to FOB’s which was quite hilarious. The entertainment segment had begun and Anisha Bakshi, a well-known voice in our northern California area, started off by singing two very difficult songs from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, both of which were very well received.
Next, the legend of Kishore Kumar was visited through Sudhir Aravindan who started off with “Aik Ajnabi Hasina Sey”, followed by “Pal Pal Dil Kay Paas”. Anisha returned to sing some duets with Sudhir during which several people in the audience decided to show their dancing moves. “Aaj Kal Teray Meray Piyar Key Charchay Har Zaban Par” received a huge response. One has to credit Ali Shahabuddin for the fine musical score to back up the songs and Gurdeep Singh on tabla for keeping the pace going.
Another skit by Salman and Ausaf on Mumbai slang as translated in Karachi had the audience laughing just before a kids group presented their colorful dance to recorded Bollywood music. A short fundraiser followed during which Sunita was joined by her father Yashroop Lodha and Syed Riffat Mahmood who both commended VUI and Sunita’s efforts in bringing the community together.
From the Bengali community, Nina Rahman entertained everyone during which her song “ Dil Ka Rishta” very aptly provides the end for this report. But before this scribe concludes here, let me add that I had the opportunity to cover VUI’s first launching event over 15 years ago in Fremont. It sure is good to note that Sunita has decided to rejuvenate the organization, one which could use everyone’s support. We need more visionary
idealists in this effort.
(Late Eid and Diwali greetings to the readers)