ONTARIO, Calif. — The Gujarati Association of Southern California hosted its first-ever Gujarati Unity Festival here at the Ontario Convention Center. The two-day mega festival held Nov. 2 and 3 attracted thousands of people who came to enjoy and participate in the gathering of fun and knowledge. Timed perfectly, coming in the wake of the festive mood of Diwali and Navaratri, attendees revelled in the programming that was aimed at all ages.
Pramod Mistry, vice president of GSCC, told India-West, “We started preparations in June. The response has been very good and we have people coming in from San Diego, Las Vegas, Bakersfield and Inland Empire.”
A wonderful aspect was that 60 Gujarati organizations, mandirs and samajs came together under the umbrellas of GSSC and together worked and presented a successful event that showcased the rich art, culture, dance and music of the state. GSSC president Bhikhubhai Patel in his message recalled that it was in 2017 “when a group of friends decided to bring Gujaratis of Southern California under one roof, to promote its treasures.” The unity festival was yet another marker toward this goal.
The event effectively touched upon several aspects of Gujarati culture – from food to panel discussions. As people walked in to the venue, they were spotted taking pictures of the décor featuring colorful drapes and backdrops that were placed along the walls of the hallway, setting the mood for what was to come.
The inaugural ceremony began with the traditional inaugural lamp being lit by Bhikhubhai Patel, Pramod Mistry, Dr. Anil Shah, Popat Savla, Bhupesh Parikh and Dr. Jagdish Patel, including a video message from Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
The festival began with a free and educative health fair where basic tests, led by Dr. Nitin Shah, were conducted. Eyeglasses were donated to those I need by Dr. John Larcabal.
Sparsh Shah, the 15-year-old wheelchair child prodigy currently afflicted with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, moved the audience with his inspirational songs and talks. It was impossible for those listening to not be inspired by the songwriter.
An interesting panel on calligraphy conducted by Mina Choksi was an interactive one and engaged people of all ages. A forum for and about single parents, divorcees, widows was held where those looking for a second chance to find a partner in life or just community support drew emotional responses. The latter was a closed door one, to allow participants to speak and share their thoughts freely.
A popular program item was “Gujaratis Got Talent,” which encompassed performances by local talent from various performing art schools in the community.
On Nov. 3, the morning began with a session entitled, “Full Chakra Activation.” It offered guided meditation and the speaker, Rance Dunbar, with charts, explained how each energy channel can be activated and charged, using breath and imagination.
The famed motivational speaker and author Rahul Kapoor Jain, who has a following around the globe, showed just why he is popular. He charged the crowd with his dynamism giving tips and instilling in everyone the spirit to do only the best. He expounded on the highly revered custom of ‘charan sparsh,’ where the feet of elders are touched and expanded on the importance of oxytocin for the brain. We get what we give, he said, so one should give the best to receive the best, be it work, studies or love.
A group of standup comedy artists spoke about the desi habits of Indian American parents and drew laughter. Many people were able to connect with the “Type Caste Comedy” artists when they hit on sentiments like: Indian parents would like to enjoy comedy shows but would be unhappy if their own child pursued it instead of medicine or engineering.
A youth event, also in English, featured Jain again along with other speakers. The singles meet and greet and professional networking saw a lot of participation on both the days. It also included discussions on personal finance and traveling. Mistry said, “We were really interested in getting like-minded youth together.”
Four Gujarati movies were screened during the two days. “Shu Thayu,” “Cheeljhadap,” “Dhunki” and “Oxygen” was enjoyed by those keen on films.
Osman Mir, known for his Gujarati folk songs and playback singing in Bollywood, was met with a full auditorium. His musical melodies made many in the audience nostalgic for home.
There were delicious meals and snacks provided on both days with Jay Bharat Restaurant, Rasraj and Tea India catering to the discerning palate. They along with sponsors Jijaben Patel Foundation, Bhupesh and Kumud Parikh, Big Saver Foods, Smart Villages Initiatives and Popatlal and Dr. Kalpana Savla were thanked by the organizers.
The ultimate celebration was the raas garba. There was not a single person who was not caught up in the pulsating energy of the thumping music and whirling dancers. It was a fitting conclusion to a grand event that encompassed the several colorful aspects of a vibrant culture.