In­di­aFest marks cul­ture, Mid-South con­tri­bu­tion

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Jon W. Sparks

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

This week­end’s In­di­aFest 2009 is pre­sented to you by Zero. And In­fin­ity.

Santosh Ku­mar, one of the fes­ti­val’s of­fi­cials, says the two math­e­mat­i­cal con­cepts were cre­ated by In­di­ans and the world has thought about things dif­fer­ently ever since.

In honor of that con­tri­bu­tion, Ku­mar came up with the theme “From Zero to In­fin­ity” to iden­tify this an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of art, cul­ture, mu­sic and cui­sine pre­sented by the In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Mem­phis.

In­di­aFest has been mak­ing its mark since 2003, grow­ing each year. About 1,000 peo­ple came that first year; this year or­ga­niz­ers are plan­ning for 10,000 to 12,000 to at­tend Satur­day’s event at Agri­cen­ter In­ter­na­tional.

Ku­mar points to the in­creas­ing num­ber of In­di­ans com­ing to the Mid-South as a rea­son for the growth of In­di­aFest. “They are com­ing pri­mar­ily be­cause of tech­nol­ogy and the med­i­cal in­dus­try pres­ence here,” he says, men­tion­ing FedEx, St. Jude and In­ter­na­tional Pa­per.

“It also means that more of our friends and col­leagues want to un­der­stand about In­dian cul­ture,” he says.

The event has also in­creased aware­ness by us­ing Face­book and Twit­ter as well as more tra­di­tional means of get­ting the word out.

A top at­trac­tion that closes out the evening is Gui­tar Prasanna in con­cert. The cel­e­brated jazz, rock and In­dian clas­si­cal in­stru­men­tal­ist and com­poser (gui­tarprasanna.com) fuses mul­ti­ple gen­res on his elec­tric gui­tar.

Other events pro­vide a rich va­ri­ety of the In­dian ex­pe­ri­ence.

An ex­hi­bi­tion cre­ated for the fes­ti­val fo­cuses on sev­eral dis­tinct cul­tural con­tri­bu­tions that In­dia has made since an­cient times, in­clud­ing Yoga, In­dia’s math­e­ma­ti­cians, Bol­ly­wood and chess, which was in­vented in In­dia.

One of the ex­hibits looks at “the fact that struc­tured ed­u­ca­tion was preva­lent in an­cient In­dia,” Ku­mar says. The world’s first uni­ver­sity is said to be Tak­shila founded about 700 BC.

An­other exhibit ex­plores the In­dus Val­ley which, Ku­mar says, was one of the ear­li­est “fully de­vel­oped ur­ban set­tle­ments with build­ings and sewage sys­tems and wa­ter sys­tems.”

A panel dis­cus­sion at noon will fea­ture Raj Subramanian, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing for FedEx, and Dr. Manoj Jain, an in­fec­tious-dis­ease physi­cian and mem­ber of the Healthy Mem­phis Com­mon Ta­ble Coun­cil, dis­cussing var­i­ous top­ics.

The fes­ti­val bazaar will of­fer jew­elry, paint­ings, Yoga classes, cook­ing shows and Me­hendi (re­mov­able tat­toos). A fash­ion show is also planned.

Food booths will of­fer ex­am­ples of cui­sine from all parts of In­dia. And a sec­tion set aside for chil­dren will have games, ac­tiv­i­ties and a pa­rade.

A team from Ker­ala per­forms a dance-drama at the 2008 In­di­aFest. Some 10,000-12,000 are ex­pected this year.

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