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Being Distinctly Indian In America

Flag Of India Raised Above State Capitol As Indian Americans Celebrate

August 15, 2005
By GARRET CONDON, Courant Staff Writer

The music was distinctly Indian, as were the dances by brilliantly clad performers. Some joked that the hazy morning heat was reminiscent of the old country.

More than 200 Indian Americans assembled on the south lawn of the state Capitol on Sunday morning to mark India's Independence Day, which is today. It was the sixth such annual ceremony conducted in Hartford by the India Association of Greater Hartford in association with a number of other local Indian-American organizations.

The two-hour ceremony featured the raising of the flag of India above the Capitol and included dance and music from a number of Indian traditions. A series of speakers, including local politicians and prominent Indian Americans, emphasized the links between India and the United States.

Sgt. Alpa Ladani grew emotional as she spoke of serving America in Iraq last year as a medic with the 118th Medical Battalion of Newington and the importance of her Indian heritage.

Ladani, of Windsor, said that she came to the United States from India when she was 7. "America is my home," she said. "I have served this country. I went to Iraq and fought for Operation Iraqi Freedom. But I do not forget where I have come from. India is my motherland. It's where I'm from. It makes me who I am today."

She said that being an Indian-born American is not a source of conflict for her. "I embrace it."

Lt. Gov. Kevin B. Sullivan was on hand with his wife, Carolyn Thornberry, a member of the West Hartford Town Council, and Hartford City Councilwoman rJo Winch, representing Mayor Eddie A. Perez. Sullivan quoted from Mahatma Gandhi, who led the Indian independence movement, and from Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, in praising the achievements of India and of Indian Americans.

India became independent on Aug. 15, 1947, after a bitter struggle against British rule.

Dr. Suresh Shah of West Hartford, president of the Connecticut Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said that he remembered the very first day of independence. "The city of Bombay, which is called Mumbai now, was all illuminated with lights, and we all jumped on the trucks and went around the city in celebration," he recalled.

Harish Pandya of Newington, president of the sponsoring India Association of Greater Hartford, said that India and the United States, as two great and powerful democracies, must "put together a front to fight terrorism or anyone who is invading our democracies."

He said that younger generations of Indian Americans well understand the importance of Indian Independence Day because they understand the essence of democracy in both India and America as "freedom of the individual and openness of society."

Madhavi Menon, 18, of Woodbridge, said that she was born in the United States. "But I still have a lot of my Indian heritage because my parents are from India, so I grew up with a lot of Indian culture in my family and my household," she said.

Her 14-year-old brother, Dileep, predicted that future generations of Indian Americans will continue to honor their traditions.

"Even my kids will still be celebrating our heritage," he said.


Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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