Chicago: A grand Lohri celebration with bhangra and giddha was organized by United Punjabis of America (UPA) at Ashyana Banquets in Downers Grove, on January 19. More than 250 adults and children enjoyed the event. A first event of its kind that attracted people of all ages, the evening had them all sing and dance to the beats old and new.
The evening began with a welcome addresses by Manohar Sharma, president, and Pratibha Jairath, vice-president and event chair, who explained the significance of Lohri. They were followed by Dharam Punwani, a board member, who said the mission of the organization was “preserving the rich Punjabi heritage, enhancing and strengthening the Punjabi community, and becoming a positive force for enhancing our neighborhoods, cities, states, country and the world.” He said that in addition to cultural celebrations like Lohri, Vaisakhi, etc., UPA would be heavily involved in creating mentorships in the areas of business, science, technology, art and literature and also seva activities, by successful Punjabis around the world.
The entertainment included fabulous bhangra dances, a lively Kathak, a dance from Veer Zaara, a giddha, a solo dance by the Jaya Punwani, and a surprise song by young sisters, a Lohri-related educational interactive presentation by Shilpa Bahl and a craft work, and “sowing wheat seeds” by a team, and face-painting. The children and adults alike enjoyed the story of Dulla Bhatti told through a skit written and directed by Madhu Uppal and performed by an energetic cast of actors. The evening’s music was anchored by the DJ and dhol master Shirish, who worked with Raju Bankapur and Pratibha Jairath to weave in live singing with the best of Punjabi music.
As the evening wound to a close, many people shared with the UPA board their wishes for future activities. “I am hoping that UPA will get a literary group off the ground soon,” said Aroon Chaddha of Elk Grove Village, whereas Anoop Walia said that he was looking forward to UPA organizing a karaoke and other music competitions.
Sharan Walia requested the audience to visit the UPA web site: www.unitedpunjabisofamerica.org to get updates on planned UPA events and to leave suggestions for future activities.