Friends of India Entertaining Diwali Event Experienced a Lugubrious Ending
Last weekend Friends of India Diwali event, with over 500 in attendance, at the local high school cafeteria started on a good note with a host of local children showcasing the diverse cultural dances from across India.
Friends of India President Ram Singh welcomed the attendees and thanked his executive committee for their continued commitment and contribution to the club’s activities. Singh introduced the incoming President, Rajat Sood, who introduced the new incoming executive committee for the 2022-24 term. The new executive committee members are Saroj Chatterjee, President-Elect; Neeru Piplani, Vice President; Meena Dadlaney, Secretary; Purbasha Banerjee, Cultural Secretary; Savita Kaushal, Public Relations; and Ashneel Singh, Treasurer.
The casual once-a-year affair was an Indian evening of entertaining musical performances (except for the disastrous out-of-town entertainers), socializing, and dining on delicious Indian cuisine, catered by Surjit Hira and his team at the India Palace Indian Restaurant.
City of Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony and a candidate for the Nevada Lieutenant Governor provided a proclamation declaring October a Hindu American Appreciation Month for the contributions made by the local Indian Hindu community towards the economic vitality, growth, and wellbeing in Southern Nevada.
With election season in full swing, the host of candidates walked through the doors to meet with the Indian community voters. Indian-American Congressman from San Francisco, Ro Khanna, talked about the importance of voting and making one’s voice heard via the ballot box. Khanna was in town to campaign and energize the voters. Other candidates attending the evening event were Gubernatorial candidates Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the incumbent Steve Sisolak, candidate for Lt. Governor Stavros Anthony, Senator Catherine Cortez, Judge Susan Baccum, candidate for Congress April Becker, and others. With non-stop mingling, conversations, and children running around, it was a little disrespectful to the elected officials and candidates running for elected public office, especially during the speeches. Candidates felt uncomfortable as no community members were seen welcoming or communicating with them, except for a photo-op with Governor Sisolak.
By 6:30 pm, dinner was set up and ready to go; however, the caterer didn’t get permission to open the buffet lines. Many attendees were visibly upset as children, and some seniors were hungry and seen waiting in line for over half an hour.
A kaleidoscope of diverse performances depicted Indian pop culture emphasizing popular contemporary Bollywood numbers. Overall, 26 exciting performances were showcased with commitment and dedication by over 125 local children and adults, dressed in vibrant, colorful outfits under the exemplary leadership of FOI Cultural Secretary Purbasha Banerjee. Around 7:30 pm, attendees were requested to move to the school’s auditorium for a performance from the invited group of singers and musicians.
The concert at the auditorium was delayed. As per some committee members, the delay was due to the mishandling of the contractual obligations between the promoter and Friends of India. Three singers reached Vegas without their accompanying musicians. The last-minute scrambling by the promoter and a community member resulted in new musicians who were not ready for the prime time. Half an hour into the concert, three replacement musicians took a break when one of the visiting artists started dancing to Bollywood songs.
The so-called professional concert was a disaster, with the below-average singers wearing incongruous outfits for the occasion. The audience was shocked to see the lackluster performance with no musical coordination among the singers and musicians. “Today’s program is more of a Karaoke rather than a live concert,” said one attendee, a music lover. “Buskers from The Strip would have been a better alternative to these run-of-the-mill entertainers,” said another. As per the committee members, Cultural Secretary Banerjee was sidelined in arranging the evening program finale. Most attendees skipped the show due to delays, and some left a few minutes after the start of the hideous show.
Friends of India is the only local non-profit Indian organization committed to financial transparency by publishing annual financial statements in a Diwali souvenir book. The club took a hit in advertising revenues due to ongoing economic sluggishness. The 2022 book contained 24.5 pages of paid advertising, less than half of the advertisement pages in the 2021 Diwali book. The book highlighted congratulatory messages from a host of elected officials along with the financials for the year ended 2021, showing a net income of $7,444 with a cash balance of $59,514. Compared to the previous years, Diwali event attendance is steadily declining, as the growing community has seen growth in multiple regional clubs with competing festival season activities.
After all, was said and done, except for the dreary inexcusable outside entertainers, the $30 ticket price was the best value in Las Vegas for an evening celebrating the Indian Festival of Lights with friends and family. One attendee noted that the Indian mithai (dessert) box distribution to the attendees celebrating Diwali festivities was inconspicuously missing this year.
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