The day’s humidity adds to the authenticity
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
Fairfield, CT – With an aroma of curry and spices hanging in the air, colorful handmade cotton tops displayed everywhere, Bollywood tunes jangling from a speaker and stifling humidity, you would think you’d been transported to India. In reality, India had been transported to Fairfield, for an afternoon anyhow.
On Sunday, the Hindu Cultural Center of CT, which has found a new home in Stratford, hosted the 5th Annual Heritage India Festival on Town Hall Green. Hundreds of people padded through during the event to browse clothing and jewelry, sample food from four local Indian restaurants and watch traditional dance performances. Among attendees were Fairfield’s former First Selectman Ken Flatto and current First Selectman Michael Tetreau, who greeted citizens as they moved across the festival grounds.
Event Committee Member Renu Vij said the Fest is HCC’s major fundraiser and “a way to showcase India.” At the same time, it was a celebration of the non-profit having acquired the Unitarian Church at 96 Chapel Street, Stratford, as the site for its new permanent center. The Hindu Cultural Center is the first community center with a Hindu temple for the Indian population throughout Connecticut, according to HCC’s management team. The new home is the fulfillment of a dream, added Vij, and its establishment will be further marked with three days of opening ceremonies – Sept. 28, Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 – in the form of traditional, religious prayer.
HCC was founded in January 2003 with a mission to meet the cultural and religious needs of Indians living in Southern Connecticut regardless of their beliefs and mode of worship. Further, HCC believes in bringing together Hindus settled in the state with origins from a diverse array of world nations.
The Fest certainly attracted a wide range of Indian peoples, but also many non-Indians who were fans of the food, live performances and traditions.
Zanah Kagan, for example, came to buy a new top, and found herself in the expert hands of Parmita Kurada, a vendor from Greenwich of tops, wool and silk scarves, and energized healing beads. Rajeeta Krishnan, from Trumbull, was also in the market for a top, and was visiting with another vendor of same. Krishnan’s children, Sparsh, 6, and Rhea, 9, tugged at her, wanting to go see some dancing. Nearby, Pushpa Esarla, from Stamford, looked at earrings. Esarla’s daughter scurried over to Dharmi Patel, who was expertly applying elaborate henna tattoos to the backs of hands.
The dancers were all very clever and dressed in great finery. Vishaka Ravichandran, 11, and her sister Deepika, 13, teamed up to mock dance around baby Krishna. Seven-year-old Meghai Chaudhary was quite expressive in her performance of a classical “bharatnatyam” number. Five-year-old Shreya Guptal, from New York, danced Bollywood style. Teenager Chitra Nidadavolu, from Trumbull, also did a Bollywood dance illustration, passionately swirling and prancing about an open space in front of Town Hall, her long black hair flying wildly in all directions with her movements.
Other young people, like Aneesh Roy, 6, and his sister Ayesha, 3, were just content climbing trees.
Almost universally, though, the food offerings brought people together. Participating eateries included Bangalore and Methi of Fairifeld, Thali of Westport, and Paradise Biryani of Norwalk. Arranged in a long row of booths and tables, vendors put their best forkful forward, with treats like crispy samosas, flaky kachori chaat pastries and marinated chicken tikka. For attendees with a sweet tooth, kulfi frozen treats in mango and malai flavors, were served.
Sisters Neha and Anish Uppal, from Trumbull, didn’t need to wait for an invitation, as they stepped up to Methi’s table. Foizia Shakh, 16, from Monroe, wearing a rich red cotton top handmade in Bangladesh, wasn’t bashful either and strategically made her choices.
Then there were those, like Shemona Singh of Milford, sporting a vibrant pumpkin-colored cotton top and decorative sandals, that were happiest just being happy and lovely and letting their good vibes spread through the fest.