V.I. Indian Association celebrates India's 67th Independence Day
Published: August 30, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - While they live about 8,800 miles from India, East Indians living in the Virgin Islands still feel strong ties to their homeland.
Local Indians will renew those ties tonight at the Indian Association of the Virgin Islands' celebration of the 67th Independence Day of India at the Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Beach Resort.
Though the country's actual independence day is Aug. 15, the association wanted to make sure that some of the regional Indian leaders would not be tied up elsewhere.
It will serve as a celebration of India, as well as a fundraiser for several organizations within the Virgin Islands community.
"We want to give back to the community," said Ashok Chugani, a member of the association and the chairperson for the event.
The event will feature classical Indian dancing by Anita Maharaj, of Trinidad. It also will include traditional Indian cuisine and refreshments to invited guests.
Guests will include Ajit Kumar, consul general of India to Atlanta, Gov. John deJongh Jr. and U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe.
At the event, the association expects to award about $20,000 to local organizations, including the Lutheran Social Services, Miracle Babies and the Big Read initiative, an early childhood development initiative.
Just as it has done since 1987, the Indian Association of the Virgin Islands also will pay for the first year of college for two University of the Virgin Islands students.
In years past, the association has donated $100,000 to Charlotte Amalie High School to start the PLATO program at the school. PLATO is an online learning program that is adjusted to students' learning levels.
The association also has donated $100,00 to the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute on St. Thomas.
The association was founded in 1976 and grew from only a dozen members to 70 now.
Indians first started coming to the territory in the 1960s, according to Pash Daswani, vice president of the Indian Association of the Virgin Islands, who arrived in 1982. Many of them left India to pursue greater financial success, as the large majority of the Indian community is made of business people.
"We have two doctors, a few lawyers, but mostly we are business people," Daswani said.
Between 500 and 600 Indians are in the territory, according to the association, and most of them live on St. Thomas, which is considered the retail hub of the territory.
Among themselves, the local Indian community tries to continue their religious practices, most of which are traditional Hindu practices, and also promote their native language, according to Daswani. More than anything, these lessons are emphasized for the children, he said.
The association uses its cultural center, which is located in Estate Bellevue, as a hub for its activities.
For more information about the Indian Association of the Virgin Islands, call 774-3090 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.