Amherst celebrates India and Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day

It was an hour full of culture, arts, joy and celebration at Amherst Commons to commemorate India and Pakistan’s independence from England.


Photo by Carol Lollis for the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Abbie Gracie, Co-News Editor

AMHERST–Last Friday, Sept. 24 from 4 to 5 p.m., Town Councilor Shalini Bahk-Milne and her town sponsors/event organizers, Dr. Ambreem Bawa, Dr. Sanjay Nawalkha and Alina Durrani put together a celebration for India and Pakistan’s 75th independence day. 

When Bahl-Milne first proposed the idea of the celebration to Durrani, a Pakistani native, she was unsure of it because of the political history India and Pakistan share. 

“You grow up with this entire notion of this enemy state of sorts. I don’t like saying this, but it’s how we grow up in South Asia. You look at this other person as a sort of nemesis. When Shalini reached out I was like, okay. Maybe this is an opportunity to change the narrative in a small way,” said Durrani in a Zoom interview. 

Bahl-Milne felt that the celebration was a way to embrace her culture, even after moving to the US and feeling like she had to assimilate to fit in. She also believed it was a way for Indian and Pakistani students to feel a community within the otherwise daunting space of a large university. Dr. Nawalka emphasized how the celebration was a place of collective joy that was wonderful to be a part of and Dr. Bawa shared how she sees both sides to India and Pakistan’s history, as she is Pakistani and her husband is Indian. 

The hour was packed with plenty of fun for the community. 

There was free henna offered for the first twenty people by Lauren Grover from Peacocks Nest Studio. The Indian National Anthem was arranged by Ryan Lerner and sung by UMass Rang, including Sruthi Tanikella, Amrita Adak, Nandini Sivakumar, Nick Saponaro, Madison Palmer, Nandini Srivastav, Megha Shashidhar, Haritha Ananthakrishnan, Tanishka Indorekar, Donovann Wallace and Nitya Nambiar. The Pakistani National Anthem was played on a trumpet by Thomas Bergeron. 

There were multiple stories and presentations about Pakistani Culture by Saad Chaudhry, Sarim Chaudhry and Dr. Michael Hannahan, along with Sufi poetry by Durrani. 

There was a call and response song by Rashmi and Dr. Atul Steel and a Pakistani love song played as well by Faheem Bawa. 

There were also multiple Indian dances performed. 

Ganesha Kautuvam, which is “a fast-paced invocatory dance in which the dancer seeks the blessings of Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, for a successful event,” according to the celebration’s program, was performed by Dhyuthi Belur and Aditi Jayashankar and choreographed by Pallavi Bandalli, a local dance teacher. 

Bhoomi Mangalam was performed by Dulani Sandanayaka, Shruti Nanda, Sachliv Chana, Siri Pidatala and Varshini Armugam. Mangalam “is a Sanskrit word meaning auspiciousness or luck,” according to the program. 

Bolly-Bhangra was performed by UMass Jazba. The members included Ananya Venkatesan, Aayush Patel, Akshra Manamkunat, Ananya Sreelekha, Archana Purohit, Dekiva Nair, Divya Raghunathan, Foram Patel, Navya Sebastian, Nikhila Peravali, Rajveer Sokhi, Raniya Mahdi, Satwik Bisoi, Smith Patel and Steffi Saju. The Bhangra dance was performed by everyone. 

This was the first event of its kind and Bahl-Milne plans on making the celebration an annual one, with plans of more involvement with the town, such as with Amherst Cinema and potentially Amherst Media.

Facebook Comments