USA: The North American Konkani Association organized a Three day "Konkani Sammelan 2012", at New Jersey, recently.
The Konkani Sammelan is a unique medium for Konkani’s to connect with each other through a formalized system which integrates the need of a community to socialize with the hope of its denizens to showcase and protect its cultural diversity. Far from being a mere cultural extravaganza, the Konkani Sammelan supports and fosters communal harmony and is the binding force that retains and encourages a sense of kinship and pride.
It represents our ability to adapt as a race, grow as a community and mature as individuals. When a group of people, no matter its scale, starts sharing common ways of thinking, feeling and socializing, culture emerges. With collective synergies, we strive to enhance the ideologies, systems and common code of ethics that bind us into this inclusive fabric of society. Language is the key that unifies and gives structure to these value systems and camaraderie is the thread that weaves all these elements into social fabric.
The first Konkani Sammelan was held in 1996 in the state of New Jersey. It was an earnest endeavor by the original Konkani migrants, to facilitate the inter-mingling of Konkanis in the North American Region. Under the able leadership and foresight of its founding members, a not-for-profit organization, NAKA (North American Konkani Association) was formed soon after the first Sammelan. Since then, the Sammelans have been held once in two years, across various locations in North America such as Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and New Jersey. The number of attendees has increased progressively along with the steadily growing numbers of the Konkani diaspora in North Americas. The first Konkani Sammelan in 1996 was host to 400 attendees vis-a-vis 1800 delegates attended the 2012 Sammelan.
The 8 Konkani Sammelan was held in Edison, New Jersey from 29 June to 1st July 2012. Led by its President Dr Gopal Bhandarkar, this three day cultural extravaganza saw more than 1800 attendees from India, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and the USA. Host to the biggest Sammelan till date, the state of New Jersey pulled out all stops and put together an eclectic set of programs catering to its culturally rich and diversified audience. The Chief Guest of this cultural potpourri was T.V Mohandas Pai (ex-CFO of Infosys and chair of Manipal Universal Learning), who flew in from India to be part of the Sammelan festivities. His passionate and articulate speech exhorted all attendees to respect their heritage, nurture their culture and pass on its legacy to the next generation. Other featured speakers and delegates included Padma Vibhushan and member of Rajya Sabha, Shyam Benegal (famous director and winner of numerous awards), Basti Vaman Shenoy (President, World Konkani Center), Shri Ram Mohan (famous director), Mahalaxmi Shenoy (famous classical singer), Amrita Rao (famous Bollywood actress) and Arun Ubhayakar (Konkani Vidhwaan).
An offshoot of every Sammelan is the inherent sense of pride for the mother tongue and efforts made to ensure its survival far away from the homeland. While a systematic and organizational focus is essential for chronicling the growth and succession of the language in parts, its real flavor and essence can only be retained if every successive generation makes an attempt to speak the tongue. The entire community is united in its efforts and hope that the language continues to be the unifying force that binds the community, its cultural legacies and its denizens together.
Konkanis have a made a mark in almost every field and the community as a whole, has every reason to be proud of its trend setting entrepreneurs, leaders, educationists, entertainers, sportspersons etc. To recognize and encourage exceptional Konkanis, awards were distributed to 15 achievers in various fields. These Awards institutionalized during earlier Sammelans have become synonymous with excellence and a source of pride for the entire community. The 2012 awardees were selected after much deliberation and care. Nominations were called from the fraternity and after a systematic due diligence process, selections were made based on majority votes received from the Awards Committee. Award winners include, Dr José Pereira, Dr B Jayant Baliga, Vasanth Bhat, Executive Committee Members of the 2008 Konkani Sammelan, Dr. Mohandas Kini and Late Dr T. M. A. Pai.
Excellence Awards were also given to Kavita Baliga (Music), Dr Vijya Balse (Performing Arts), Dr Narayan H Nayak (Visual Arts), Dr. Krishna Shenoy (Research), Dr Prasad Kadle (Technology), Dr Annapoorna Kini (Professional Achievement), Dr Shyam J Kamath (Education), Priyanka Kamath (Sports) and Aishwarya Raja (Outstanding Youth).
The wide array of entertainment programs showcased talented Konkanis that enthralled and entertained the audience in equal measure. A dramatic, vivid and stimulating opening ceremony awed the audience and captured the essence of the entire Sammelan in dance form. “Ammi Kon”, the opening song signifies Konkani pride, its history and the spirit of the community as a whole. The convention also brought together a judicious mix of workshops and cultural programs that beguiled and captivated the imagination and interest of this multi-faceted, demographically diverse audience . Appeasing 1800 palates is no mean feat and the organizers were well ahead of this learning curve. Authentic Konkani cuisine was arranged during all meals and the rich aromas wafting throughout the Sammelan venue gave stiff competition to the impressive lineup of dignitaries and celebrities vying for attention. The aesthetic quotient of the convention hall was deftly transformed into an extraordinarily beautiful and dramatic venue under the inspired vision of event planners "Elegant Affairs".
A dedicated team of 60 volunteers has been instrumental in steering this convention to its success. Taking on this onerous task a year and a half ago, Dr Gopal Bhandarkar, reached out to local Konkanis to step forward and assist him in making the Konkani Sammelan 2012, a grand success. The Executive Committee comprising of Ravi Shenoy (Sammelan Vice- President), Dr Vasudev Nayak, Damodar Baliga and Nina Padukone have led a focused and determined team of volunteers who have devoted countless hours selflessly over the past year. Tech savvy, professional and energetic, these volunteer teams have worked seamlessly and in tandem to accomplish their goal and give credence to their Sammelan motto, “Connecting Konkanis Heart to Heart, Home Away from Home.”