The sounds, sights and tastes of India

by Roger Walk

The two-day “Taste of India” festival showcased, in addition to the delicious and spicy food varieties of the Indian subcontinent, the views of colorful dancers and the capturing sounds of Bollywood music.

The Cultural Center of India (CCI), a nonprofit organization, celebrated its 11th Annual event on Saturday and Sunday at its spacious facility on Ironbridge Parkway, Chester. The hallways, food court, and main stage rooms were buzzing with participants in colorful Indian costumes and attendees who wanted to watch, taste, and hear what the Indian community presented in the well-organized show pieces.

Throughout the days, visitors were fascinated by the presentations of folk dances. The festival’s rich program provided on stage folk dances from various regions of India. The dance performances showcased traditional folk dances, as well as Bollywood-inspired modern show dances. As 10-year-old Reya Nathan explained “Bollywood dancing in beautiful Indian costumes with my friends is cool and fun.” The dancers included many children from the age of three, who obviously enjoyed being in the spotlights of the stage and facing the flashes of parents and friend taking pictures of their performances. The various Indian fashion shows brought even toddlers on stage and the Taste of India unfolded as a whole family, all generations fun event.

As explained by Geeta Shah, one of the organizers of the family event, the festival brought 330 presenters, aged three to 70 on stage and the festival was probably one of the largest of its kind in Virginia.

In the separate food court, spicy and not-so-spicy dishes from various regions of India were offered by nine food vendors from the Richmond/Chesterfield area. They included chicken and lamb curries, kabab, and varieties of bread including the well-known “nan.” Less known South-Indian “Dosa” pancakes were freshly prepared on a hot-plate before these rice crepes were filled with masala potatoes.

The offered beverages included “Lassi,” traditional Indian “Chai” tea from Assam and Darjeeling, varieties of Indian beer, and lemon and ginger spiced sugar cane juice.
Visitors could also shop for jewelry, saris, Bollywood designer clothing like Chaniya Choli’s three-piece dresses, music CDs, books, and paintings offered by vendors. The henna artist Kusum Shial painted delicate ornaments on the back of the hands of women who wanted to experience the art and the feel of this transient type of body painting.

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