Guru ensures Indian celebrations are a night to remember

The ‘Friends of India’ award was presented to Dansk Indisk Børnehælp. Pictured here (left-right) are IID president Kannathasan Pandian, Holck-Larsen Foundation chairman Steen Lassen, and Dorthe and Dawn from Dansk Indisk Børnehjælp

The 65th anniversary is apparently a blue sapphire celebration, which is pretty appropriate given that it was India’s turn to mark this independence milestone last month, and that the most famous ever example of this stone was the 182-carat Star of Bombay.

Originating from Sri Lanka, the gem was acquired by silent film legend Douglas Fairbanks, who gave it to his wife, Mary Pickford, who in turn bequeathed it to the Smithsonian – and on Saturday August 18, the stars of the Indian community were out to celebrate Indian Independence Day with Indians in Denmark (IID), one of Denmark’s largest Indian organisations, at a venue on Kertemindegade in Østerbro.

The ‘Iconic Indian of the YearÂ’ award was presented to Saba Ahluwalia, the founder of the Guru and Indian Taj restaurants, whose wife picked it up on his behalf. Pictured here (left-right) are Holck-Larsen Foundation chairman Steen Lassen, Mrs Saba Ahluwalia, SASNET deputy chief executive Lars Eklund, IID president Kannathasan Pandian, and IID secretary Radhika LarsenHundreds of Indians attended the event, contributing to the celebratory mood and high energy that lingered throughout the evening. The occasion coincided with the launch of India Today/Copenhagen Tomorrow (ITCT), a new project initiated by Denmark’s Holck-Larsen Foundation, which promotes the exchange of culture, science and trade between the two countries. The first of these activities is ‘INDIA : ART NOW’, an exhibition that opened on August 18 at Arken.  

The guest of honour was accordingly Holck-Larsen Foundation chairman Steen Lassen, who was accompanied by Lars Eklund, the deputy CEO of SASNET, and Sarbajit Deb, the Nordic area vice-president from L&T Infotech.

The evening started with a release of tricolour balloons into a rather surprisingly sunny sky over the city. The Indian National Anthem was sung by a big chorus led by the youngest singers from the diaspora. Sravanthi Allanku has been working very hard to train the children to sing their national anthem for many weeks now.

The children sing the Indian National Anthem under the guidance of Sravanthi AllankuThe cultural programmes for the evening were co-ordinated by Kirti Bhogle. The rest of the evening was filled with short performances by many talented individuals, including a Bharatnatyam rendering of Vande Mataram by Dipti Deshpande, numerous dance performances, and a medley of songs choreographed by mother and child duos. A special fashion show was styled and staged by Namrita Thomas Kapur, truly encapsulating the changing face of New India, portraying our new definitions for style, culture and social acceptability.

All this was just a primer, however, given that everyone was eagerly awaiting the most exciting part of the evening: the food, which this year was supplied by Guru, one of the city’s best Indian restaurants. And very appropriately, as all the diners present would agree, the first of the IDD’s two new annual awards, ‘Iconic Indian of the Year’, was given to its founder, Saba Ahluwalia. The award recognises an exemplary contribution by an Indian to Danish society.

Ahluwalia not only founded Guru, but also India Taj, another of the premier Indian restaurants in the city.

The second award, ‘Friends of India’, went to Dansk Indisk Børnehælp in recognition of the organisation’s voluntary work that improves the lives of hundreds of socially and economically deprived women and children in India. “It is their selfless work in India that is borne out of their compassion and love for India that made them the right choice for this award,” noted IDD.

While the evening ended on a glitzy note, a lot of hard work, planning and preparations had gone into making this show such a success. The fundraising was managed by Anu Suthakaran and Pranav Shah, the set-up at the venue was co-ordinated by Smita Singh, and dozens of volunteers ensured that the evening was a grand success.

“This is just the beginning for a new, renewed format for Indians in Denmark over the coming months,” promised IDD’s founders Kannathasan Pandian and Radhika Larsen.

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