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updated: 8/13/2011 5:56 PM

First suburban celebration of India independence held in suburbs

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  • The Punjabi Cultural Society float in Chicago-based Federation of Indian Associations 65th India's Independence Day parade Saturday in Schaumburg.

       The Punjabi Cultural Society float in Chicago-based Federation of Indian Associations 65th India's Independence Day parade Saturday in Schaumburg.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Sambha Malgewkav walks in the Chicago-based Federation of Indian Associations 65th India's Independence Day parade Saturday in Schaumburg.

       Sambha Malgewkav walks in the Chicago-based Federation of Indian Associations 65th India's Independence Day parade Saturday in Schaumburg.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

The first suburban effort to mark India's independence from British rule was compact in length and the number of participants, but long on promise.

About 200 gathered Saturday along a two-block stretch of Route 58 frontage road in Schaumburg for a parade featuring plenty of booming music, four floats and speakers to commemorate India's 65th Independence Day.

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"This is good. This is where we start our journey," Federation of Indian Associations spokesman Neil Khot said just before a brief downpour began scattering the crowd.

The event was part of a two-day celebration that began Friday with a banquet at the Meadows Club featuring Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, a key figure in the push for independence, as well as Indian celebrities Dev and Radhika.

Sponsored by the Chicago-based Federation of Indian Associations, the gathering was intended to showcase the growing South Asian presence in the suburbs.

Avani Patel of Streamwood, brought her 10-year old daughter, Diya.

"I've never been to an Indian parade before in America. I wanted my daughter to see all this so she'll know more about Indian independence," she said.

The Asian population, which includes those of Indian descent as well as Chinese, Japanese, Pakistanis and others, has jumped nearly 39 percent in the last 10 years. With a population of about 40,000, the Northwest suburbs has the highest concentration of Indians in the state, according to Khot.

Many live in Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates, where about a fifth of the populations are from southern Asia.

"They're a very big part of our community," said Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod. "They're getting more integrated into the greater community, which is good."

"Certainly, they are entrepreneurs, doctors, attorneys -- it's nice to have that component as part of your population," added Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson.

Shivam Thakkar, 18, was one of the deejays using advanced electronics to entertain the crowd with selections of music representing the past and present of India. The lifelong Schaumburg resident is teaming with Ankit Shah of Elk Grove Village to bring the music to an increasing number of events throughout the area.

"It grew significantly. I'm not sure why," he said of the Asian population.

"I see it more as a family. Everybody comes together."

Khot said the threatening weather dampened the turnout. But officials are confident about the result.

"Hopefully, next year, we'll do it on a much grander scale and bring crowds from all the suburban neighborhoods," said Sunil Shah, FIA president.

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