India Day Celebration recognizes academic achievements, Indian culture

Students, staff and community members celebrated the academic and scholarly achievements of those with ties to India along with various aspects of Indian culture.
The Cultural Association of India, University of Missouri, hosted India Day on Jan. 26, 2019. Courtesy of Facebook via @CAIMizzou

The MU Cultural Association of India held its fourth annual India Day and Republic Day Celebrations Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. in Jesse Wrench Auditorium. The event celebrated Republic Day, which falls on Jan. 26 and recognizes the Constitution of India’s creation in 1950.

The event was split up into two parts, the first containing a series of presentations from the “distinguished speakers” and the “chief guests,” and the second containing the installation of the 2019 CAI office bearers as well as different cultural performances such as dances, a skit and a poetry recitation.

The two parts of the celebration were separated by a break where coffee and samosas were offered.

The event’s chief guests were George Smith, Nobel laureate and a curator’s distinguished professor emeritus of biological sciences and his wife Marjorie Sable, professor emerita and director emerita in the School of Social Work.

After receiving the invitation to the event, Smith and Sable were happy to attend, Smith said.

“Both of us are fully supportive of the whole idea of diversity of campus and have been activists in one way or another for this,” Smith said. “This is a celebration of diversity, a big theme on campus for the last decade or so, so it was a natural thing for us to come to this event.”

During the celebration, Smith and Sable received the angavastram, a traditional shawl-like piece of cloth that can be given to pay respect. The two were also given time to speak before the crowd.

Smith’s presence at the event differentiates this year’s celebrations from previous years, Roland Nazareth, CAI president and industrial engineering graduate student, said.

“Being from Mizzou, it’s an honor to have someone like a Nobel laureate with us,” Nazareth said. “We were very lucky that we got a chance to host him as our chief guest.”

The event’s distinguished speakers included Sanjeev Khanna, professor and director of the Midwest Industrial Assessment Center; Rajiv Mohan, endowed chair professor in ophthalmology and the director of the One Health/One Medicine Vision Research Center; and Anand Chockalingam, associate professor of clinical medicine.

These speakers were selected in order to showcase the scholarly and academic activities of those with ties to India, Shivendra Shukla, a Margaret Proctor Mulligan endowed professor of medical pharmacology and physiology and CAI faculty advisor, said.

“Very distinguished speakers from the campus who have recognized research programs, they come together and provide the highlights of their findings and research,” Shukla said. “Most of them have some connections to India or collaborate with India.”

Khanna spoke of his developments in engineering materials, such as the creation of explosion resistant glass and stronger metal foam, and shared information about his work in sustainable and efficient energy with the Midwest Industrial Assessment Center.

Mohan gave a presentation called “Curing Blindness through Gene Therapy,” where he spoke about his research into corneal wound healing.

Chockalingham presented about how a negative childhood mindset can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, and how his Heartful Living program seeks to reduce risks of heart disease by making mindsets more positive.

In the cultural portion of the event, the six dances included a classical dance, two patriotic dances, two Bharatanatyam dances and a Mohiniyattam dance. There was also a Shloka recitation, which is a type of poetry, and a Surya Ramayan skit depicting a scene from a Hindu epic called Ramayana.

“The second half consists of cultural performances by kids as well as adults,” Nazareth said. “Through our cultural performances, we have tried to display the diversity in our culture. With India being such a diverse country, it happens that we tend to focus on just one region of the country. So this year, we’ve tried to highlight the culture from all different parts of the country.”

For Smith, events like India Day are important to remind us how the U.S. is supported by other cultures.

“Our country absolutely depends on the flow of immigrants and the cultures and skills that they bring,” Smith said. “I just think that it’s essential that the United States understands and keeps reminding itself about how important this is for our culture.”

The event was also significant in connecting its attendees with Indian culture and history, Nazareth said.

“There are very many people who are away from their country for many years, or who have never been to India,” Nazareth said. “I want them to know about the diverse culture of India. We get an opportunity to tell them about the Republic of India, the Constitution of India, why it was drafted and how it came into existence. Basically, they get an idea of Indian history.”

Edited by Emily Wolf | ewolf@themaneater.com

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