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How to celebrate Holi in New York?

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Holi
Image source: wordpress.com

New York: Holi- the Indian festival of colors- is arriving (March 23). New York and New Jersey are home a large concentration of Asian Indians: the estimates suggest that there are close to 700 thousand (7 Lakh) Indians in these 2 states. And then of course there are close to 250 thousand (2.5 Lakh) Indo-Caribbeans in New York. They are from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, tracing their ancestry to East India. Thus, there is over a 1 million (10 Lakh) strong Indian diaspora in New York and New Jersey. If you include the population of Indians in neighboring Connecticut, the number swells up further.

Naturally, Indians are gearing up for the festival this year as well. The festival is a significant one to the Hindus across the world, hence, it is celebrated in high spirit among Hindu Americans also.

For thousands of years now, Hindus in India and all over the world have celebrated Holi as the victory of good over evil, and as the renewal of the agricultural seasons.

Local celebrations vary, and abundant use of color can be seen among people.

To make their Holi more colorful, here are the two events, which attract huge crowds every year, and which an Indian in New York must not miss. This is not to say that there are no other celebrations planned. Typically, Indians celebrate festivals through their temples and congregations.

28th Annual Phagwah Parade in Richmond Hill, New York

Celebrating Holi 2016 on March 26, 2016.

A joint Parade under the sponsorship of the founders- Arya Spiritual Center, the Hindu Parades and Festivals Committee, and The Federation of Hindu Mandirs.

The Phagwah Parade in Richmond Hill, Queens, is the biggest celebration in North America. If it’s a warm day, a turnout of as many as 25,000 may be witnessed.

Phagwah, or Holi, is the Indo-Caribbean Hindu celebration of the New Year.

Indicating the arrival of spring, Phagwah literally paints the streets as kids and families “color” one another with dye (abrac) and powder, chasing away the winter grays. The Carnival is celebrated with high-spirit.

For more information about the event, click here.

History of Phagwah:

In Guyana and Surinam, Phagwah became an important national holiday, and everyone had the day off from work.

Since the 1970s, many Guyanese have immigrated to the United States, especially to areas of Richmond Hill and Jamaica in Queens. As a result, they brought the Phagwah tradition to their new homes.

New York’s Holi event ‘Rang Barse’ is back with a colorful splash!

In keeping with the tradition, Rang Barse will once again be held for the ninth year in a row. The event takes place on a ship that will set sail from Pier 40 this year.

It is one of the most colorful and fun-filled Holi party set to happen on March 26 in Hornblower Pier 40, New York.

Every year, people filled with enthusiasm are seen painted in reds, yellows, greens, and pinks, and enjoying the Indian Festival of colors in style with food, drinks, and the amazing beats of DJs.

Dance performances are also conducted.

This is a unique cultural experience which is hard to miss.

For more information about the event, click here.

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Chainsmokers on How they dealt with the fame that came after the release of their hit song “Closer”?

The Chainsmokers admire Indian music and say that it was cool to work with globally popular Indian star Priyanka Chopra

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Chainsmokers duo are behind the hit single
Chainsmokers duo are behind the hit single "Closer". IANS
  • It is important to use the popularity to send out a positive message
  • India is holding onto its cultural music
  • A lot of musicians in the US want to use their music for political activism

New Delhi, September 10, 2017: They felt “strange” with the fame that came with the popularity of their single “Closer”, and feel they still have a lot to prove.

American DJs and production duo The Chainsmokers say they want to push themselves and experiment. And they want to spread “positivity with their music without any propaganda.”

In a joint email interview to IANS, The Chainsmokers duo Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall reflected upon their journey in the music world and how they are dealing with the fame. They mentioned it is important to use the popularity to send out a positive message amid all the “craziness happening in the world”.

“That song (‘Closer’) gave us a lot of acclaim in a good way. (In) a lot of cases for DJs, people know the music but don’t know what they look like. And ‘Closer’ became so big. We made a couple of TV appearances and we felt famous for the first time, it kind of felt strange,” the duo said in their joint reply.

The duo, who wrapped up their two-city India tour on Friday, also appreciated how India is holding onto its “cultural music”.

The Grammy Award-winning artists headlined the Indian leg of Road to ULTRA, an independent festival brand, brought to India by ULTRA Worldwide and Percept Live. The fest made its foray into the country with Road To ULTRA show in Mumbai and Greater Noida.

The New York based artists exploded onto the music scene with viral hit “#SELFIE” in 2014. They followed it up with hits like “Roses” and “Don’t let me down”, for which they won a Grammy. The success of “Closer”, featuring Halsey, changed the whole game for them.

“We are having the best time and just enjoying every second of the ride but there is still so much more we want to accomplish and we push ourselves to experiment so we are always thinking about what’s next,” they said.

The duo continued the successful ride as they released “Paris” and a single in collaboration with Coldplay titled “Something just like this”.

A lot of musicians in the US want to use their music for political activism.

Ask The Chainsmokers if they also want to use their beats and sounds for a bigger cause, and they said: “It is important to use the resources you have and say the things you believe in, whatever those positive things may be.”

“There is a lot of craziness happening in the world right now and if you have a lot of fans looking up to you, need to create some awareness and spread positivity without a propaganda.”

Talking about their India visit, the duo said: “This is our fourth visit, to be honest…We just weren’t that famous then. We played a fun free festival in Pune. We also went to an orphanage there and met some school kids. Being foodies, we had a lot of naans and tikkas.”

The Chainsmokers admire Indian music and say that it was cool to work with globally popular Indian star Priyanka Chopra. They worked with the Bollywood actress back in 2012 for the single “Erase”.

“It’s amazing how there are only a few countries in the world that support cultural music and India is one of them apart from Brazil and Canada. It is great because there is a strong cultural identity. We have worked with Priyanka Chopra who was pretty cool,” said the “All we know” hitmakers.

Any plans to collaborate with any other Indian actor or musician?

“We were supposed to meet Shah Rukh Khan (after the Mumbai gig) but everything got messed up. He seems (to be) pretty cool and (we) wouldn’t mind hanging out with him sometime,” they said.

But that has to wait now.

“Right now, our schedule is very pretty crazy and we still feel we are relatively new music artists and we have to prove a lot. But there will come a point when we want to put our thing aside and want to work (with) all kinds of artists,” they said. (IANS)

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Richard David for City Council Campaign: A Mission to Promote Hindu Political Rights in New York

It is a proud feeling to see the efforts of Richard David in setting up the agenda for equality through Hindu political rights

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Richard David
Democratic candidate Richard David who is running for City Council from District 28, New York. Facebook

August 07, 2017: It is estimated that over 500,000 Hindus live in New York City’s Metropolitan areas. The Hindus belong to different nationalities such as India, Bangladesh, Suriname, Trinidad, and Guyana.

All five boroughs of New York have the presence of Hindus, particularly Queens which has the largest Hindu population.

Hindu political rights, in the past few decades, have been ignored by prominent leaders and officials in New York.

With this issue in mind, Richard David- a young man- is running for the City Council elections. Richard is a Democratic candidate Richard David and is preparing to run for City Council from District 28, New York. A Hindu, although the name might not imply so, Richard David’s campaign is based on the promotion of Hindu political rights. A number of Hindu activists residing in the US have supported the campaign.

District 28 also has the largest Hindu population in the US and hence the most number of Mandirs (i.e., temples: Hindu places of worship).

It is a proud feeling to see the efforts of Richard David in setting up the agenda for equality through Hindu political rights.

Recently, Richard David released his campaign plans which are as follows:

Public Education and Hinduism:

One of the central pillars of Hinduism is its stress on Education. Vital to the progress and development of diverse communities of the city is the opportunity to learn. It is significant to be educated about the culture and Hindu faith. Richard David plans on establishing a Hindu school which would carry out the education on Hinduism and its philosophies. The campaign has worked out a feasible plan that would require the crucial support of the elected officials.

Prevention of Bullying: 

Hindu children are frequently bullied in American schools for their religious background. This has adverse impacts on the well-being (physical and mental) of the child and further worries the parents. As a result of this, many Hindu families are insecure and uncomfortable in the foreign land. The Richard David campaign has formulated a tolerance program that can be worked out after-schools. It is the right approach to tackle the issue and teach respect and plurality.

An option of Vegetarian Food in Schools:

Vegetarianism is a strict principle for many Hindu followers. But this consideration is often not met in public places and events. Vegetarians do not account for secondary priority. While few options are available such as peanut butter sandwiches and salads, Hindu cuisines that make up a proper vegetarian meal is a conscious effort of the campaign.

Hindi as Foreign Language in Schools:

American schools hardly provide Hindi as a foreign language for many students who have a strong interest in the language. These kids are not only Indians but also South Asians and Indo Caribbeans who want to learn the language. The campaign seeks to add Hindi in the curriculum of foreign languages.

Indo Caribbeans and South Asian History:

The history of the Indo Caribbeans and South Asian region are rarely included in school papers. The omission of it from world history implies the ignorance towards Hindus in New York. This needs to be added so that history enthusiasts can know the significant events that shaped today’s South Asia.

The Festival of Diwali:

Diwali has been a part of discussions for far too long, yet no progress has been made to recognize the day as a holy event in school calendars. It is not only significant for Hindus, but also for Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. The campaign seeks to introduce holiday for the Holy festival.

A Seat at the Table:

The Hindus of New York are not represented successfully at the time of cultural events and festivals. Thus it becomes important to have a Hindu at the Seat of representation. A Hindu leader must be present at the platform for further discussions and dialogue.

Chaplains:

Prayers offered at a Christian Chaplain serves as hope, particularly in prisons and hospitals. The campaign is also putting efforts to open the chaplains for Hindus seeking comfort.

Water Site for Offerings: 

Offerings in the water is a vital aspect of Hindu lifestyle. As of now, these is no place alotted for the establishment of a water site for Hindus. Thus, there is an urgent need for such a site.

Honoring Hindu Contributions to the City of New York: 

Hindus are contributing and doing much for New York City every day, but those individuals are not often acknowledged or publicly thanked and appreciated for their contributions. The recognition of these Hindu leaders in public life is important.


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The Invisible Coolie Shines in ‘The Cutlass’ (Comment: Special to Newsgram)

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The Cutlass
Dr. Kumar Mahabir

Aug 21, 2017: “Coolie” is the name of the character played by Narad Mahabir in the play directed by Errol Hill titled Man Better Man.

The local play was performed at NAPA in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in June and an excerpt was staged in August during the premiere of the CARIFESTA festival. Mahabir was given a minor role as the lone Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) villager in the musical which was laced with humorous dialogue, Kalinda dances and calypso songs.

Except for recent plays written and directed by Indians like Victor Edwards, Seeta Persad and Walid Baksh, Indian actors and actresses have been given minor roles or none at all (“invisible”) in “national” theatre and cinema. In this context, The Cutlass is a movie with a difference. And indeed, the tagline of the movie on the cinema poster is “A breakthrough in Caribbean Cinema.”

Surprisingly, Arnold Goindhan is given the lead role (by the non-Indian TeneilleNewallo) as of the kidnapper named “Al” in The Cutlass. Paradoxically, he is given only a fleeting presence in the film’s trailerHe is the only Indian actor and the only character who is Indian, in a movie that is based on crime, race and class.

As a villain, Al is portrayed as an evil Indian Hindu. A calendar painting of the anthropomorphic Hindu god, Lord Hanuman (The Remover of Obstacles) is captured fleetingly on the wall of Al’s forest camp. In the film world of poetic justice The Cutlass, light must overcome darkness, whiteness must overwhelm blackness, and Christianity must conquer Hinduism. The pendant of Virgin Mary in the hands of the white kidnapped victim must overpower Hanuman.

Goindhan is a full-time Indian actor from Malick in Barataria who also sings and plays music. The “Island Movie Blog” on August 11 noted that when Goindhan “keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines.” The July/August edition of the Caribbean Beat magazine stated that The Cutlass has delivered “compelling performances” to audiences.

The kidnap movie premiered to a sold-out audience at the T&T Film Festival in 2016 received rave reviews. It copped the T&T Film Festival’s Best Trinidad and Tobago Feature Film and People’s Choice awards. The Cutlass was also screened at international film festivals such as the Cannes Film Mart at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The last time an Indian was chosen for a major role in a local feature film was 43 years ago in 1974. That film was titled Bim which featured Ralph (Anglicised from Rabindranath) Maraj playing the role of Bim/Bheem Sing. Bim was based on the composite life of a notorious assassin, Boysie Singh, and aggressive trade unionist and Hindu leader, Bhadase Sagan Maraj.

As an actor, Ralph Maraj was preceded by Basdeo Panday who became the first Indian in the Caribbean to appear on a big screen in Nine Hours to Rama (1963). The movie was about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Panday also acted in two other British cinematic movies: Man in the Middle (1964) and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).

But the Indo-Caribbean actor who has earned the honour of starring in the most movies – Hollywood included – is Errol Sitahal. He acted in Tommy Boy (1995), A Little Princess (1995) and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004).

Valmike Rampersadand Dinesh (“Dino”) Maharaj is rising stars to watch. Originally from Cedros, Dinesh is the lead actor in Moko Jumbie, a new feature film by Indo-Trinidadian-American Vashti Anderson. Moko Jumbie was selected for screening at the 2017 LA Film Festival.

Dinesh acted in the local television series, Westwood Park (1997–2004). His cinematic film credits include portrayals in Klash (1996), The Mystic Masseur (2001) and Jeffrey’s Calypso (2005).

Nadia Nisha Kandhai is the lead actress in the upcoming screen adaptation of the novel, Green Days by the River.

There is a real danger in marginalising Indians in theatre and film when they are in fact the largest ethnic group in T&T according to the 2011 CSO census data. Cultivation theory states that images in the media strongly influence perceptions of the real-world. This theory was developed by communication researchers George Gerbner and Larry Gross of the University of Pennsylvania in 1976.

The Cutlass can transmit the following wrong perceptions of reality: (1) Hinduism is evil, (2) Indians are one percent of the population, (3) there are few Indian actors, (4) Indians constitute the majority of kidnappers, and (5) the majority of kidnapped victims are white.

I presented a research paper in 2005 based on 40 cases of kidnapping in T&T. My findings revealed that 78% of the victims were Indians, and according to the survivors, the overwhelming majority of the kidnappers were Afro ex-police and army strongmen.

Watch Trailer: The Cutlass

 

The Writer is an anthropologist who has published 11 books


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.