United Punjabis of America Celebrates a Joyous Baisakhi

Chicago IL: Colorful Bhangras and Giddas, vintage Punjabi folk songs and the beat of the Dhol highlighted the Baisakhi celebration hosted by United Punjabis of America (UPA) on Saturday, April 27th at Cascade Banquets in Bensenville, Illinois. The evening was remarkable for its cross-generational appeal, the little kids enjoying learning about Punjabi heritage and culture through arts and crafts and the adults having a chance to network and sing and dance. The activities for the kids were well planned and executed by the team of Gauri Mittal and Deepali Punwani. They also created the beautiful centerpieces for the tables using colorful daals. Rupa Puranik, a henna artist, was kept busy by a steady stream of women interested in having mehndi applied to their hands.

The very versatile Pratibha Jairath (UPA vice president) and the energetic Shammi Mittal (UPA Events Coordinator), both Baisakhi Committee members, served as the MCs, kept the audience entertained with their shayari and enthusiastic introductions. Madhu Uppal, a UPA Board Member and a member of the Baisakhi Committee, introduced the guest of honor, Dr. Pramod Vohra, the Dean, Northern Illinois School of Engineering and Engineering Technology, and his wife, Anju. . Dr. Vohra shared his belief in the value of education to make this world a better place. Then, much to the surprise and delight of the audience, he shared his passion for Punjabi music by singing two popular old Punajbi songs: ‘Ik Meri Ankh Kashni’ and ‘Chan Kitha Guzari Aye Raat Way’. Madhu Kohli entertained the audience with “Lathe Di Chadar’. Shalabh Kumar, a successful entrepreneur and community activist, spoke about the importance of civic involvement and urged those present to take advantage of the many upcoming opportunities to meet with political leaders.

In his welcome address, Manohar Sharma, the president of UPA, pointed out the unique nature of the organization and the enthusiasm of its officers in celebrating the rich history and culture of Punjabis. Dharam Punwani, a member of the Board of Trustees of UPA, while talking about the vision and mission reminded the audience that it is through collective enterprise we can help young people achieve success through mentorship, perform ‘sewa’ in the service of others and help Punjabis become a positive force in the communities, cities and states in which they live and take pride in our cultural heritage. He also introduced the UPA Board of Trustees and the members of the Executive Committee. Neeraj Malik, a member of the Baisakhi Committee and the UPA co-treasurer, explained that while Baisakhi is celebrated all over the world mainly by Punjabis as a harvest festival, it also identified the religious significance of Baisakhi for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Arya Samajis.

Then the magnificent dancers of the Nach Le Mayuri dance company took the stage and performed stirring Bhangras and Giddas that had the audience tapping its feet in enthusiastic appreciation. Heena Talwar danced to a medley of songs and the smile on her face lit up the room.

Pratibha Jairath started singing, the dance floor quickly filled up with the young and old dancing side by side. They sang several popular songs, individually and as duets, in their melodious voice. The party lasted well into the night and left everyone looking ahead to the next UPA event. “After a successful Lohri and now the Baisakhi party, we are convinced that UPA is meeting a very important need in the community,” said Kumkum Kumar, UPA Treasurer and another member of the Baisakhi Committee. Information about the organization and its past and future activities is available at www.unitedpunjabisofamerica.org.