Santa Fe teems with activity for India Fest

Vasudha Singh perform a dance called the "Dancing Waters of River Narmada" at the India Fest 2013 Cultural Program held at Santa Fe College, in Gainesville, Saturday March 16, 2013.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

By 9 a.m. on Saturday, the parking lot of Santa Fe College's gymnasium had made the full transformation into a fairground. White tents were erected in a circle on the asphalt, and the volume of the Indian pop music was rising. In front of the ticket stand, a line began to form, issuing eager and hungry parties into the India Cultural & Education Center's annual India Fest.

India Fest has been held by the cultural center since 1999, each year sharing the diversity and variety of Indian culture. The festival offered food, drink, jewelry, clothing and even karaoke.

The karaoke booth was responsible for the music, and Ravi Shrivastava was providing vocals. A group formed near the microphone, clapping to the beat of his rendition of "Delkha Na Haay Re Socha Na," a song from "Bombay to Goa," a famous Hindi movie famous from the '70s.

"And it's one of my favorites," Shrivastava said, after wading through a sea of congratulations.

Shrivastava is a part of the Ocala Klub of Karaoke, a group of men and women who are professionals by day, performers by night — or any free time they have available. Shrivastava is a pharmaceutical salesman, himself. They meet to sing the songs they love and support one another.

The next person begins his song to a chorus of cheers. Suchitra Chandran, a 25-year-old electronics grad student at the University of Florida, hands out drinks while bobbing her head to the music, occasionally mouthing the lyrics.

"It's an old song," she explained. "We've grown up listening to these old classics on the radio, so it's nice."

Chandran is one of many young volunteers at the cultural center who is offering his or her time to man the festival booths.

Inside the gym, vendors stood behind tables piled with jewelry, scarves and other accessories. Strung behind them on racks hung Sarees of all colors, along with other traditional Indian clothing. Almost everything being sold was imported directly from India, organizers said.

Emily Haight, 14, flicked through a revolving earring stand while her dad, Daniel, held up an earring close to his face, squinting at the details. The pair were on a mission. He and Emily caucused briefly about the best choice for his wife and her mom.

"We can talk about the price," the vendor said as they deliberated.

Having settled on a pair, Daniel and Emily made their purchase. They love the intricacy of the jewelry sold, as well as the colors.

"You can't find (this) anywhere else," Emily said.

The Haights, from Lakeland, said they enjoyed their experience at the festival.

"It's exciting to experience different cultures," Daniel said. "Many of our friends have international backgrounds, and this helps us understand their cultures a little better."

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