The Discover India! Lincoln Cultural Festival 2013 was hosted at a variety of venues in Lincoln, Mass. on October 18, 19 and 20. As a trustee of the Desai Foundation, Moha Desai Patel’s inspiration for organizing the Discover India! Festival was to foster a sense of community while enriching the local community with India’s unique and colorful culture through art, history and performances. The Festival featured local talent such as artists, dancers, writers, chefs and more. The Desai Foundation was thrilled with the turnout at the Festival, as they competed with a gorgeous fall weekend and were still able to attract hundreds of people who participated in the assortment of activities and classes offered throughout the weekend.

Friday, October 18 kicked off the weekend with the matinee and evening showing of Saptapadii, a film about a wealthy Indian couple whose relationship gets turned upside down. The film’s viewers were also able to enjoy Cobra Corn’s Mumbai Masala flavored popcorn.

Saturday, October 19 was packed with excitement from morning until evening. The event lineup included arts and crafts activities, food, dance performances and workshops, and educational presentations and discussions. In the morning, children and families of all ages were invited to the Brooks School Gym where they joined artists, education professionals, other vendors and volunteers for Kids Discover India! and the Food Festival.

Jhuma Biswas, who grew up in India, said the event was an excellent way to spend time with her daughter and teach her about her roots.

“When I first heard about it, I was so excited that such an event was being organized in the area.  And, it didn’t disappoint,” Biswas said. “It put me back in touch with India, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the weekend with my daughter at the festival and telling her all about the country that her mom grew up in.”

“I am very happy that this event was organized, and we need more such events to introduce the uninitiated to the Indian culture and to keep it alive among us who yearn for some familiarity of bygone days, here in the US,” she added.

Kids Discover India! featured an assortment of arts and crafts activities such as Diwali Divas, Indian Puppets, Rangoli Art, Warli Mobiles, and Gandhi Word Art. The event also hosted two professional artists who shared their expertise in Madhubani Painting (Sunanda Sahay) and color mixing and color blending techniques (Java Joshi). The gymnasium was bursting with creativity and joy as children of all ages interacted with others and let their imaginations take over while designing their own Indian inspired masterpieces based on traditional artwork created in India.

While Kids Discover India! clearly dominated one side of the gymnasium, it was difficult to ignore the amazing aroma of Indian food, as the Food Festival enticed families to sample fine Indian cuisine. Chutney’s of Cambridge, Mass. and Kabab and Tandoor of Moody Street in Waltham, Mass reported they sold out and were thrilled that a different cross section of people had the opportunity to indulge in their delicious food and embrace Indian culture.

Exhilarating performances of both Indian Folk and Classical dances performed by students of Jasmine Shah’s Aangikam Dance Academy and group of girls taught by Moha mesmerized parents, friends, family and intrigued minds as the stage came alive with the sights and sounds of traditional Indian dance in Bemis Hall. Although many of the dance students are of a young age, they were able to deliver remarkable performances to a Hall more than filled to capacity, attributable not only to their teachers and individual talent but to their overwhelming admiration of the Indian culture. Through the dance performances, it was evident how much culture and tradition is retained generation after generation in the form of Indian folk and classical dances.

The day of enrichment and delight continued with a late afternoon discussion at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum by Susan S. Bean, curator of the recent exhibition Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence. Susan looked at how some leading contemporary Indian artists deploy painting and installation to probe Indian experience. Contemporaneous with Susan’s discussion was an Interactive Odissi Classical Dance workshop for children. This workshop introduced children to one of the oldest forms of Indian Classical Dancing, based on story telling through hands, body movements and expression. The workshop, sponsored by the Friends of the Lincoln Public Library, Inc., was led by Sakshi Das who effortlessly captured the children’s attention for the duration of the program.

The last event of the day was a town hall type of discussion on India, Nature, Culture, & Conservation led by Mass Audubon staff scientist Dr. Robert Buchsbaum, who has traveled to India and presented a terrific program on how nature and culture fuse in the Indian ethos. On Sunday, the festival ended as St. Anne’s-in-the-fields Episcopal Church hosted a sold out Indian cooking class followed by a luncheon. Master Chef Shruti Mehta revealed her secrets in the kitchen and received rave reviews from the participants.

Sally Kindleberger, a retired teacher, said the Festival was flawlessly executed and packed with entertainment options for all ages.

“The recent Discover India Festival in Lincoln was wonderful.  As a retired teacher, I loved that the activities reached all ages from 2 year olds and on up,” she said. “I was unable to attend all of the activities of the weekend, but on Sunday I was delighted to go to the cooking class which was given by the master Indian chef Shruti Mehta and to enjoy a wonderful meal afterwards.  This entire Festival was flawless in its organization and was beautifully executed.  I only hope that it can become a prototype for future Cultural Council Programs and Festivities.”

Reflecting on the weekend, organizer Moha Desai Patel felt the goals of the weekend were achieved, including inspiring and educating local communities and reinforcing cultural education. The Desai Foundation is very thankful and appreciative of the many committee members, volunteers, talent and sponsors who made this entire weekend possible. Sponsors included: Goodwin Procter, Lincoln School Foundation, Bemis Fund Trustees, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Cambridge Trust Company, Lincoln’s Council on Aging, Lincoln Family Association, Lincoln Parent Teacher Organization, Lincoln Public Library, Mass Audubon, and St. Anne’s in-the-Fields Episcopal Church.

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