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The Presence of India in Michigan's Oakland County

Young Indian performers showing the ancient Bharatanatyam Dance.
Young Indian performers showing the ancient Bharatanatyam Dance.
Detroit Immigration Examiner

The 2014 India Day Event attracted a large crowd of visitors to Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, last weekend.

Over 100 exhibits including food, garments, meditation classes, MTV India, News 18 India, and Aapka Colors television networks were available for the benefit of thousands of people from India and the US visiting the exhibition.

Stalls shared information on numerous Indian companies and organizations ranging from real estate to temples, health camps, and after school training programs for children. The exhibitors showed magnificent Sarees for women, elegant Kurtas for men, lavish Indian jewelry, arts and crafts, and even magnificent handcrafted figurines part of the "The Spirit of India" collection created by Spanish company Lladró, one of the most respected and highly skilled producers of fine porcelain in the world.

The Ford Asian Indian Association (FAIA) with, 1700 members) was this year´s biggest sponsor of India Day. During an interview, FAIA´s Vice-President Sri Ganapathy explained: "We have approximately 37,000 members around the world in places such as the US, India, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Japan, and South East Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia). He also talked about FAIA´s Annual Event Banquet, the biggest Asian corporate event in Michigan with over 600 attendees. The banquet is open to the public to provide an opportunity to everyone to network and to engage in intercultural exchange between different cultures.

In 2013, The India League of America (ILA) presented Ford with the "Sponsor of the Decade" Award.

ILA is a secular, non-profit organization formed in 1978 aimed to champion de interests of the Indian-American community in Michigan, and to celebrate and preserve Indian culture and traditions to foster a better understanding between the two nations.

But the best part of the exhibition was the variety of ethnic dances from different parts of India, performed by adult dancers and children as young as 4 years old. From the smooth Kerala dances, and Punjabi folk drummers, to the elegant classical Indian dance Bharatanatyam, the color, music, and exotic qualities of the movements of these dancers was something worth seeing.

India Day has been celebrated in Michigan for 10 years, and the event travels around the US. The influence of Indian culture in Michigan has increased dramatically in the last decade, in particular in Oakland Couny, where there are numerous Indian organization, such as the Asian Indian Women´s association (AIWA). AIWA recently organized a preentation at Lawrence Technological University with Mr. Iggy Ignatius, President of Shantiniketan, Inc. (Shantiniketan meaning "the abode of peace" in Sanskrit) on the topic: "An Exploratory Meeting for Senior Independent Living Facility in Michigan".

Shanitiniketan is the name of a small town in West Bengal, India, and it is a tourist attraction as the home of distinguished Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

In Michigan, the website www.miindia.com contains a wealth of information for lovers of Indian culture, food, and products. From Sarees to music concerts, this website has it all to connect the thousands of Indian residents in Oakland County, and to help them preserve their millenary culture while living abroad.

Scores of Indian restaurants (some specialized in vegetarian cuisine) today offer their Michigan clientele an amazing array of ethnic dishes from different parts of India, Bengali, Goan, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Parsi Punjabi, Rajasthani, or South Indian food, including Tandoori chicken, Goat Curry or Vindaloo, Kuthy Parantha, Chat-Pata fish, banana chips, kebabs and Briyanis, etc.

Vegetarianism is a centuries long practice in India, and today it is more prevalent there than anywhere else in the world (over 500 million people in India are vegetarians). Religions in India favor vegetarianism as a spiritual ideal, and the principle of "ahimsa" indicates that animals are not to be harmed. Also, cows are sacred in India according to the Hindu religion -- so, even KFC and McDonald´s offer vegetarian dishes at their Indian locations.

At this year's India Day in Michigan, the Brahma Kumaris World University, an organization that offers meditation classes at 8,500 locations in over 110 countries around the world, including the United States, shared pamphlets with messages of peace and spiritual growth for everyone:

"The greatest joy....giving love and peace"

"The greatest loss... loss of self-respect"

"The most beautiful attire... a smile".

2015 India Day is already planned for Saturday, August 15th.