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Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh


There is so much positive good that goes on in our towns and cities at many levels, in many diverse forms and forums often unnoticed and unheralded. These events and experiences lift our spirit and make us more hopeful about our future as a civilization. One such outstanding event is the Asian Festival at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. The ninth Annual Asian Festival on March 25, 2008 was again a fun, educational, colorful, and spirited affair.

The Festival had some familiar features: the cultural displays of various Asian countries-
Sri Lanka, Laos, Israel, India, Pakistan, China; commercial booths – Tibetan crafts organized by Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington and the Henna Painting Art by Pramila Shah. Clusters of colorful balloons and large inflated parrots hung from the ceiling floating overhead, and multi-colored posters decorated the walls throughout the Multi-Purpose Room.

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The room was transformed into a festive feast for the eyes and senses: an Indian brocaded silk draped canopy as a gateway, several tables with bright tablecloths reserved for faculty and honored guests; a large stage graced with a photo-mural of The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India framed with colorful paper drapes. The entire space was filled with inviting aromas of Indian chicken tikka masala, mixed vegetable, potato-peas curry, naan, Chinese eggrolls, chicken low mein, chicken satay, and other delicious dishes for the hungry and the brave. An attractive backdrop of murals, saris, and signs added a special touch to the buffet area. Beautiful North Indian music welcomed the guests to this annual party of Asian cultures and traditions.

The two-hour Festival was a composite of serenity, exuberance, laughter, and spectacle.
It began with an Invocation of Quranic verses and followed through with sacred chants by the Tibetan Buddhist Monks. The audience of several hundred students, faculty members, parents, and guests was greeted by Mrs. Winnie Ballard, the wife of the Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who later made a surprise appearance. Both highlighted the importance of our growing diversity and the need to celebrate this cultural and ethnic richness in our midst as a major community asset.

There were the ever-favorite Indianapolis Japanese Minyo Dancers, invited each year to perform traditional Japanese folkdances at the Asian Festival. We were treated to a Turkish Pop Belly Dance and Turkish Gypsy Flower Girl Dance performed by Brebeuf students under the direction of Ms. Catalon. There was a demonstration of the traditional Hora dance by the Jewish Student Union.

The highlight of the 2008 Asian Festival was the colorful and vigorous Bhangra, a Punjabi folkdance and now an international rage, under the direction of Mrs. Sonya Gill. The seven young ladies and two young men dressed in vibrant traditional Punjabi clothes- ladies in brocaded silks and boys in majestic turbans, gave a tremendous account of their dancing skills and joyful spirit to learn new things. They were joined in Bhangra by two Hoosier Punjabis, Jagdeep Walia, a senior at Franklin Central High School and Deepinder Gill, a senior at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Indianapolis.

The annual Asian Festival is sponsored and presented by The Asian Club at Brebeuf Jesuit and its faculty moderator, Mrs. Janice Singh, and assisted by the School faculty, students, and many devoted parents.

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How wonderful that through music and arts, dance, food, fellowship, fun, and festive celebrations of our common humanity, our youth are being prepared to be citizens of the world and to recognize and appreciate a little of Asia in each one of us. Barriers and stereotypes are being broken, ignorance and intolerance about the unfamiliar are being dispelled, and bridges of culture are being spanned for all of us to walk in friendship towards each other and with each other. It is amazing to see young people exude a spirit of optimism and excitement to make our world and theirs more welcome and friendly. Some of these lessons and wonderful experiences will guide them in their future pursuits and last them a lifetime.

It all begins with taking small steps toward experiences different from our own, in time making them our own and discovering that there is much more in common and unifying than we realized. The Asian Festival and other similar endeavors may be about celebration and introduction to diverse and distant cultures, but they can lead us toward recognizing each other as an integral part of our shared humanity and collective heritage as a civilization.

Knowing how things were a few decades ago, I am thrilled to witness this moving transformation in our schools, community and civic dialogue, and daily societal encounters. As new pioneers arrive at our shores, we should be patient to teach and eager to learn from each other. I am imagining the power and multi-faceted potential of this emerging attitude of thoughtful consideration among nations, faiths, and cultures. We are beginning to admire that in an increasingly interdependent world, our ability to connect with one another is vital and can be very rewarding. As such, our festive gatherings in educational settings can be bridges to something far more significant than just to have fun, raise funds for minority scholarships, or achieve some other immediate goal. These celebrations can be a window to the beautiful, diverse, and fascinating world outside and allow our spirits to grow in profound ways; may be towards global citizenship and the realization of our common purpose as members of One Family, One Race, placed here by a providential decree to make a more peaceful and prosperous world for all generations.

Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA





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