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North American Sankethi Association
Bringing Sankethis Together since 1984

2003 General Body Meeting: A Report

EXCITEMENT, ENTERTAINMENT AND ENLIGHTENMENT AT THE NORTH AMERICAN SANKETHI ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEET 2003

Reported by Ramya Keshava Ram
Ramya's report has appeared in India Times and Indian Express (overseas edition), Express India, and is expected to appear in India Abroad. Kannada versions have appeared in Kannadaratna and www.thatskannada.com.

For pictures of the event, visit the Photo Album , or click on the links to the photos that appear in the report. The photos were contributed by Dr. Jaikumar Rangappa.


NASA, an acronym for the North American Sankethi Association, was founded in 1984. More than 350 families are on its mailing list with more than 150 life members. This organization offers a plethora of cultural activities and educational lectures, and is equally notable for being a social gathering, allowing families and friends to reunite annually in spite of distance and hectic summer schedules. It also provides an ideal venue to meet new people and share talents and interests. The 19th annual NASA function was held July 3rd through July 6th in New Windsor, Maryland. On the first evening, guests arrived in time for dinner, which was followed by a game of Bingo and a Kannada movie. It was a very relaxed evening after long distance travel by many families. Friday the 4th started with an auspicious chanting of the Vedas and the Lalitha-Sahasranama to be followed by sumptuous breakfast (famous chow-chow bhath, a combo of vegetable uppit and kesari bhath). Following breakfast were athletic and sport events in which the categories were divided into children and adult tournaments. The various sports included basketball, carrom, table tennis, musical chairs, and jump rope. The next event was an out door picnic and lunch for which there was a record turnout. There was an atmosphere of a "mela" and people enjoyed the superb Masala Dosa feast under the shaded trees. People stood in line patiently and chatted and socialized and came back many times. In the mean time, a Sankethi artist from New Jersey, Sri Mayura Sharma demonstrated his painting talent under a tree. Many people observed and appreciated his skillful water-color-painting of the scenery facing him. He also exhibited many of his paintings inside the auditorium, which received critical acclaim.

The after-lunch activities started with a violin concert by Mrs. Lakshmi Nagaraj, daughter of the renowned Sankethi violinist R.R. Keshavamurthy. The performance was unique because the violin used was a seven-stringed violin as opposed to the standard four stringed-violins. The accompanying mrudangam player, Senturan Tharmarajan was a young artist of eleven! Next, the children had an opportunity to showcase their talents. The capabilities of children never cease to amaze the audience year after year. It is very important to encourage the arts in our youths and it is great that NASA supports their diverse abilities. For example, Rohini Rao exhibited some of her exquisite acrylic paintings. She explained techniques she used to achieve certain effects of shadows and sunlight. A somewhat unusual activity for NASA was a brief presentation by Renuka Rangappa on her new career with the FBI as an agent!

After dinner, the program started with a beautiful rendition of a Sankethi song that depicts the history and characteristics of the Sankethi community. The song traces the Sankethi origin to Shankottai in Tamilnadu and the exodus to Karnataka and eventual emigration to different parts of the world. The NASA president, Dr. Nataraja, wrote the lyrics for the Sankethi song and the well-known Sankethi musician, Mrs. Sitalakshmi Madhavan, composed the music. This was followed by the evening's much awaited Bharathanatyam dance demonstration by the Nataraja sisters (Madhulika and Sruti-Ranjani), and Vidya Mohan. These spectacular artists gave an informative synopsis of the dances they performed. They included the history, explanation of facial expressions, rhythm, postures and movements used in this beautiful art form. It was a wonderful learning experience and was very well presented. There was a spontaneous and emotional outburst of appreciation and admiration expressed by many in the audience. At the end of the program, newly weds, Sheela and Nanda Kumar were introduced to the audience and were presented with gifts for good luck. Finally, everyone enjoyed the July 4th fireworks. After singing the American and Indian national anthems, ice cream, cookies and snacks were served. The night ended with a game of charades.

On Saturday morning, active early risers participated in a nature walk at 6:30am. After breakfast (Idli-Vada-Sambar), members gathered in the auditorium for a lecture on Hindu Scriptures by Dr. Ramakrishna. After a group chanting demonstration of the "Purusha-Sooktha", he provided the gist of the Rig Vedic hymn in simple terms. Then came a lecture on World Religions by Professor Balaji Hebbar, who provided a chronological compilation of significant time-lines and dates in the history of various religions of the world and shared his knowledge about the history of the spread of religions from their native countries into foreign land and what factors influenced those movements. Dr. Hebbar's lecture kindled enough interest that prompted the NASA president to say that a separate one-day workshop on this topic could be organized during a regional meeting. The final segment of this enlightening session was a mass pooja by the youth with demonstration and explanation of the various steps involved in the ritual. It was indeed gratifying to see the children and young adults performing Ganapathi Pooja with great devotion.

After lunch, the first order of business was the General Body Meeting. Members discussed suggestions for improvements, plans and ideas for the upcoming NASA functions, long-term goals, and ideas that are already in progress. At the conclusion, many people commented that this General Body Meeting was very well organized and the professional manner in which deliberations were made was commendable. Mrs. Veda Shekhar made a video presentation to describe the proposed cruise trip next year. Many people showed interest and signed up for the cruise. Also, many people signed up to be volunteers on the planning committee for the 20th anniversary celebrations.

Once the meeting adjourned, entertainment and presentations resumed. Mr. Narayana Subba Rao offered a helpful lesson on how to preserve old concert tapes by copying them onto a compact disc utilizing a software program. Mrs. Bina Chandrasekhara promoted her new book Roadmap for College Admissions, which she co-authored along with her children. This book is an essential asset for high school students preparing for the college application process. Next item was college graduation awards ceremony, which was followed by a humorous Harikatha by Mr. Lakshmi Narayana. At the end of this session, as per the tradition started during the previous years, two prominent Sankethis were recognized for their contributions. The first one was Sri R.R. Keshava Murthy for his contribution to Carnatic music (presented by his grandson, Mr. Ramesh Nagaraj), and the second, Dr. Nataraja for his contribution to Kannada literature (presented by Dr. Sridhara). It was an honor to recognize the multi-talented president of NASA, Dr. M.S. Nataraja, for being a recipient of the prestigious Gorur Award and an award from the Houston Kannada Vrinda.

Dhoti-clad volunteers served a sumptuous Sankethi traditional dinner consisting of "aambode, majjige-huli and obbattu, followed by paan," (referred to as "back to the roots" dinner). Even the 'shloka-singing' tradition was maintained! Just before the cultural program, "happy birthday" was sung by all those assembled to celebrate the first birthday of Janaki Sundaresan. The main cultural event of the evening was a Veena concert by Mrs. Amrutha Vishwanatha. In addition to playing the instrument, she also shared her extensive knowledge of Carnatic music and gave a lecture demonstration. The Sankethi song written by Dr. Nataraja was sung again, this time in a folk-tune composed by Dr. Ravi Ravindranath of California. The entire audience joined in chorus clapping their hands in rhythmic joy. Other items of the night included Anthakshari and awards for the athletic and sports events held on Friday.

Sunday morning was initiated by a Vishnu-Sahasranama chanting followed by breakfast. When I bid farewells, I was sad to leave. I think I speak for everyone when I say that the attendees could hardly contain their excitement for next year's 20th anniversary program. NASA has established several objectives for itself. With outstanding leadership and pride and participation from the Sankethi community, this organization has progressed greatly since its foundation almost two decades ago, and will continue to flourish for many years to come. Three cheers to the members of the Board of Directors who worked so hard to plan and execute the program with such meticulous attention to details. Heart-felt thanks are also due to the many sponsors (Sundari and Natesh Magge, Sudha and Sanjoy Sundaresan, Amrutha and Vishvanatha, Uma and Ramakrishna, Mahalakshmi and Nataraj Honasoge, Vinaya and Jai Rangappa, Latha-Shanti Ramakrishna, Madhulika Nataraja, Sruti-Ranjani Nataraja, Srinivas Sridhara, Rajeshvari and Sridhara, and Geeta and M.S. Nataraja) for their generosity.


Registered Address: 34 Longwood Drive, Clifton Park, New York 12065. USA.
For Correspondence: President, North American SankethiAssociation, 3943 White Rose Way, Ellicott City, MD 21042.

Copyright 2006 North American Sankethi Association. All Rights Reserved.