By Dr Dhanpaul Narine
The weather was glorious, befitting a gathering to observe the generosity of Mother Lakshmi. The five-hour display of songs, speeches, skits and dances did not disappoint the thousands that lined up in Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard, in Little Guyana, New York. As in previous years, the event was planned by the Divya Jyoti Association, with support from many organizations in the community. The Association is fittingly led by Lakshmee Singh, who worked hard with her team to ‘Light up Liberty Avenue.’
Sunshine bathe Liberty Avenue as the performers took to the stage. The opening prayer was beautifully done by Romanee Kalicharran and her group. This was followed by dances and bhajans from various mandirs. The sun drifted behind the horizon to mark the end of day. This gave way to a Liberty Avenue that was resplendent with lights and color of its own.
The Bhuvaneswar Mandir, led by Acharya Arun Gossai, performed a skit to show the arrival of Lord Rama from Banbaas that was well received. Maya Baksh sang a lovely medley dedicated to the Divine Mother, while Sattie and Kesh Ramnarine from the Shri Trimurti Bhavan excelled with an appropriate bhajan. The David Ali and Trimurti dancers impressed with the Hanuman Chalisa.
The entertainment flowed like a never-ending stream. Raymond Ramnarine and Ravi B from Trinidad and Tobago thrilled the audience with devotionals. The United Madrassi Association also performed beautifully as did Dev Dilchand from ‘Dreams by Dev.’ Dheeraj Gayaram showed why he is ageless and why he is the master of the dance. His presentation was simply stunning. It was time for the Mayor of New York City. He was preceded by Dr. Dhanpaul Narine of the West Indian. Dr. Narine called for Diwali to be a school holiday that was supported by the audience. He has worked, along with others, to rally for the holiday at the steps of City Hall, and other places.
Mayor Eric Adams arrived to great fanfare. He was greeted by Lakshmee Singh, and members of the Divya Jyoti Association. Prayers were conducted to the Divine Mother to be followed by a diya lighting ceremony. Mayor Adams spoke about the relevance of the Ramayana and the sacrifice of Mother Sita and urged all to follow the teachings of the Ramayana where light over darkness is reinforced. He also acknowledged the role of Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who is the only Hindu to be elected to the Assembly. There were greetings from a number of officials that included Mr. Michael Brotherson, Guyana’s Consul-General to New York, and Mr. Joe Yusuff, from the International Center for Democracy.
It was only inevitable that there should be a call for Diwali to be a holiday, and in the presence of Mayor Adams. One of the poignant moments of the evening occurred when Lakshmee asked the audience if it wanted a holiday for Diwali and the Mayor responded by giving the thumbs-up. The call for the holiday has been so overwhelming, over the years, that Mayor Adams, Jenifer Rajkumar, and School’s Chancellor Dr. David Banks held a press conference to announce their support for it. Assemblywoman Rajkumar has legislation in the State Assembly to replace Brooklyn Queens Day with Diwali, for 2023.
Lakshmee Singh and the Divya Jyoti Association wish to thank all that attended the Diwali Concert. It showed that the culture is alive and well in New York City. The grand sponsor Latchmi Persaud, from TD Bank in Liberty Avenue, expressed her delight at the success of the concert, and has promised to work with the Divya Jyoti Association on future projects. There are plans to expand the Diwali event, and Lakshmee Singh and her team, have started to think about next year. Aminta Kilawan-Narine and Rusat Ramgopal performed admirably as the MC’s on stage. Rakesh Prashad was at his selfless best. He taped the concert that enabled thousands to view it on ‘Jyoti Satsangh’, the longest running Hindu television program in New York.
Diwali 2022 cast its beam of light in many places, from Little Guyana, in New York, to the White House, in Washington. The motorcade on the East Coast of Demerara, in Guyana, was big and colorful. On Diwali Day history was made in England. Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, was sworn in as the new Prime Minister. This speaks volumes for British multi-culturalism as the Mayor of London is a Muslim and the King of England is a Christian.