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August 20, 2013 > Children set to celebrate India's culture

Children set to celebrate India's culture

By M.J. Laird
Photos By Courtesy of IND TV USA

The sixth annual "India Independence Day Celebration" gives young people an opportunity to revel in their culture and values through food, dance, entertainment, and art. Held at the 10,000 square-foot IND TV Studio in Milpitas, the festival attracts families from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and is expected to draw about 250 children and teens to perform on stage. Parents can compete in Foods of India that feature specialty dishes from the country's 28 states and seven union territories. About 50 entries are expected in this year's food event. Festival goers will have an opportunity to sample the foods then vote on their favorites.

"We want kids and youth to connect with their culture, its rich heritage and to have a platform to show talents, all the while building their self-confidence and self-esteem," says festival founder Ajay Jain Bhutoria.

The festival has its roots in a quest Bhutoria made several years ago, as a parent searching for activities - particularly public speaking competitions - for his son, then age six. When he searched for enrichment classes that would build self-confidence and simultaneously teach skills, he found none. A consultant in business management and entrepreneurship and an author in his field, Bhutoria decided to launch his own classes and competition.

Bhutoria says his son has turned into an excellent speaker and radio talk show host. Raj, now 12, has served as talent competition emcee for the past two years. This year, he is creating his own cultural experience in India, visiting relatives during the August 15 "India Independence Day" celebration, a national holiday. The day marks India's Independence in 1947 after more than 200 years of Great Britain's colonial rule.

The public speaking competition that Bhutoria launched for his son not only led to the festival, but more recently a Young Leaders Academy that began two months ago in Fremont to teach communication, leadership, and entrepreneurship to children and teens. Young Leaders Academy operates three modules offered for students, kindergarten through ninth grade. The program already has 15 Bay Area satellites and is offered in all Safari Kid locations. Young Leaders Academy is working the "India Independence Day Celebration" and serving as co-sponsor along with IND TV USA and Radio Zindagi, the largest Indian Radio Station in the Bay Area.

As in past years, dignitaries are expected to attend or send representatives, including the Mayor of Milpitas Jose Esteves, a number of councilmembers, Congressman Mike Honda and Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, and Assemblymember Bill Quirk. "The kids just love the awards. It is such a moment of pride, and having elected officials or their representatives present them makes the awards so official," says Bhutoria.

The talent competition draws an array of entrants, from individuals to ensembles. Competitors present an oratory or sing, dance or play a musical instrument [competitors supply their own music]. During the art competition, students develop a presentation in any medium over a three-hour period (the festival supplies the paper). Two weeks before the event, 180 young people had already registered to compete. Children and teens may also register the day of the event. While the festival has been free in past years, this year Bhutoria is asking each competitor to donate $5 to offset expenses.

Bhutoria believes families look forward to the event as a time to connect around their heritage, drawing support from one another while their children gain a "prestigious platform" to showcase talent. While each year Bhutoria reports the talent entries become more "professional," the event also allows children to learn from each other. "They serve as models for one another. I've seen children watch other children on stage and then return the next year with a talent they have honed, all because they have learned from each other and realized their own potential," says Bhutoria. "The festival invites people to try new things."

Held at the studios of IND TV, the event will be filmed and then aired at a later date on the station. Festival goers can also tour the studio. For more information, contact Ajay Jain Bhutoria at (510) 378-0698.

India Independence Day Celebration
Saturday, Aug 24
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
IND TV Studio
372 Turquoise St., Milpitas
(510) 378-0698
Free to attend (Donation requested)
$5 per competition participant

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