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Saturday, August 16, 2014

World’s oldest, largest democracies join in Nashua to celebrate India’s 67th birthday

NASHUA – Under tents, before a stage shared by speakers and musicians, and amid the bold aroma of Indian culinary staples, the world’s oldest democracy and the largest came together Friday evening to celebrate something that both value dearly: independence.

Roughly five weeks after many members of the Nashua area’s Indian population helped the United States celebrate its 238th birthday, scores of local Americans returned the favor Friday night by joining a large representation of the city’s Indian residents at the Rotary Common park to hail India’s 67th independence day. ...

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NASHUA – Under tents, before a stage shared by speakers and musicians, and amid the bold aroma of Indian culinary staples, the world’s oldest democracy and the largest came together Friday evening to celebrate something that both value dearly: independence.

Roughly five weeks after many members of the Nashua area’s Indian population helped the United States celebrate its 238th birthday, scores of local Americans returned the favor Friday night by joining a large representation of the city’s Indian residents at the Rotary Common park to hail India’s 67th independence day.

The two-hour event, which organizers proclaimed to be the first of what will become an annual celebration each Aug. 15, came together through the efforts of several people, including longtime Nashua resident Latha Mangipudi, a former Board of Education member who became the state’s first Indian legislator two years ago.

“With all the unrest in the world, I thought, ‘Why not celebrate something peaceful,’ ” Mangipudi told the more than 100 people gathered at Rotary Common.

She referred to India’s recent election, in which more than 300 million voters came out in what she called “a very tasteful transition of government.”

Mangipudi said the idea really got rolling when she approached the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber CEO Chris Williams, in turn, called the celebration “a first step. …
This not a once and only event.”

Aug. 15 “falls on a Saturday next year,” Mangipudi said. “We can make it bigger and better.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau spoke briefly, Hassan reading a proclamation and praising organizers for bringing together in celebration the world’s oldest and largest democracies.

“And New Hampshire is the best democracy of all,” Hassan added, also pointing out that Nashua has the state’s largest Indian population.

Lozeau credited the Indian community for contributing greatly to the fact that Nashua is an increasingly diverse city.

“When I think about our city, I think about its wonderful diversity,” she told the group. “We’re blessed to have so many diverse peoples living here.”

Lozeau added that with such diversity comes a culture of shared knowledge, both in business and social circles:

“We can learn so much from you,” she said.

Indians are currently Nashua’s second-largest ethnic group, Lozeau said, coming in “a close second” to the French-Canadian community.

(For several decades in the mid-20th century,
Franco-Americans made up half of Nashua’s population).

At only 67 years old, Lozeau added with a laugh, “You’re just kids … but you’ll catch up.”

Indeed, it was Aug. 15, 1947, that India earned its independence from Britain, thanks to a measure called The Indian Independence Act of 1947 that created the independent dominions of India and Pakistan.

The celebration included an address to the nation by Jawaharlal Nehru, who, in his first act as the nation’s first prime minister, set forth a new declaration of independence.

India native Kedar Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Arc Energy in Nashua, wasn’t around for that momentous occasion, but, he said Friday, he has been robustly waving his nation’s flag on Aug. 15 for as long as he can remember.

“Now, how wonderful it is that I am able to wave both flags,” Gupta said of the American and Indian banners, a tradition he has kept since he came to America.

“When we do business together, it’s like breaking bread together – that’s what friends do,” Gupta said, drawing a round of applause.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).