NEW YORK, NY: Come September 22nd and “Celebrity appearances, musical performances, Asian Indian Cuisine, ethnic Indian dances, fashion show and a “Light Up Times Square” concert will be the highlights of the first ever Diwali at Times Square, New York”, said Ms Neeta Bhasin, President of ASB Communications who have conceptualized and are managing the mega event. She was speaking at a press conference organized by Event Guru and ASB Communications at the up end The Atelier- Sky Lounge August 29th.

The Consul General of India in New York, Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay and the principal sponsors of the Times Square Diwali, Air India Regional Manager for Americas, Mr. Riwo Norbhu, MoneyGram Senior Marketing Manager Ms Zainab Ali, and Mr. Dinesh Kamble, Senior Manager at Maharashtra Tourism joined Neeta Bhasin at the press conference which was attended by a large number of media persons from both the print and electronic media, and a select gathering of the Indian American community’s best faces. Welcoming them all and introducing the sponsors, Neeta said that she was greatly impressed by the Maharashtra Tourism department which took just seven days to agree to become the title partners.We have, therefore, christened the Times Square Diwali as “Maharashtra Tourism (Mumbai) Diwali at Times Square”. “Air India”, she said, “are our valuable presenting partners”.

She introduced Zainab Ali of MoneyGram as “our constant partners in all ventures” and thanked all sponsors present and those who were not around, including Bank of Baroda, Wells Fargo and “many others”. The CE of Bank of Baroda, Mr. Dhimant P. Trivedi could not make it to the press conference but was mentioned by Neeta as one who has always been supportive of every community event. Speaking on why she chose to have Diwali at the Times Square, Neeta said that she was keen to showcase India’s rich heritage and culture to the mainstream in America. “And what other place better that the Center of the World-the Times Square!” she said. Times Square, she said, attracts on an average 350,000 pedestrians each day. Neeta said she felt the need and urge to organize an event that would make the mainstream take notice of the Indian American community which has given to America the second largest group of professionals. “Unfortunately, despite our strengths and contribution, we, the Indian Americans, have not received the kind of recognition from the mainstream as Indians in U.K. or Australia.

Diwali at Times Square is an attempt at the legitimate recognition of the Indian American community.” Outlining details of the Diwali celebrations on September 22nd when “every Indian American will own Times Square for the day”, Neeta said the event will take place from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M., followed by the “Light Up Times Square” Concert which will showcase live performances from some of the biggest names in Bollywood. “The concert will also feature a breath-taking laser light show”, she disclosed. Inviting the Indian Americans to the history-making event, being the first ever Diwali at the Times Square, Neeta exhorted them to “come in traditional outfit and be the proud owners of Times Square for the day.” A message from Maharashtra Minister for Tourism, Mr. Bhujbal was screened at the press conference. The Minister welcomed all and said, “I thank everyone for being present here for the curtain raiser of Maharashtra Tourism (Mumbai) Diwali at Times Square.” He found many similarities between New York and Mumbai. He said if New York was America’s financial capital, Mumbai was India’s financial capital. Both cities are cradles of diverse cultures, he said. Speaking about the state of Maharashtra, Mr.

Bhujbal described it as a large state with varied topography and enormous scenic beauty. He added that the state was rich in heritage and was a repository of age old culture. In fact, there were four world heritage sites in Maharashtra that included Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta. One of the most favored tourist destinations, the state, he said is “one of the most developed states of India”. He extended invitation to the gathering to come and holiday in Maharashtra. He said he was happy to have a global platform in the shape of Times Square in New York to showcase the state of Maharashtra, its variety and richness of heritage and culture. Ambassador Mulay, a scholar, writer and poet, besides being an ace career diplomat, spoke of the 5000 years old civilization of India and how over the centuries India absorbed different cultures and grew richer and more diverse. He also spoke of the geographical diversity of India; The Himalayas in the North, the plains, and the seas to the East, the West and the South. Speaking about Diwali, Mr. Mulay said, “Diwali is the king of all festivals. Despite religious connotations, Diwali is a secular festival, the most representative festival of India”. He gave a great description of the event when he said it would be appropriate to say “the Timeless festival comes to Times Square”. Mr. Mulay had a word of appreciation, bordering admiration, for America and New York. ” The beauty of the US is that it is always able to institutionalize.

New York is a place of meeting, meeting and greeting- a rendezvous. Diwali, too, is a festival of meeting and greeting”, Mr. Mulay said. Appreciating the organizers’ vision, Mr. Mulay said, “It is not only a good idea but a great idea” and added that the event will be “a great celebration of growth of India and growth of Indian American diaspora”. “1.2 billion hearts will throb to see Diwali being celebrated at the Times Square”, he said and called upon all Indian Americans to “participate in full vigor”. On the occasion, he also recalled how Ranju Batra, who was also present, has been making strenuous and constant effort to have a Diwali commemorative stamp issued by the US Postal department and hoped “we will see the Diwali stamp this Diwali”. Air India Regional Manager for Americas Mr. Riwo Norbhu who seemed to believe in the dictum “Brevity is the soul of wit” said, “At Air India we all are very proud to celebrate Diwali at Times Square”. MoneyGram Senior Marketing Manager Zainab Ali who was in a hurry to catch a flight to LA, made a brief remark. She said, “MoneyGram has been part of many community celebrations.When my friend Neeta broached the subject I felt it was a great idea. I have never seen a person who worked as hard as Neeta to see that the idea takes a shape. Her effort will see 1.2 billion Indians in India celebrating Diwali at Times Square. MoneyGram will be happy to support her now and always”. All eyes are now turned to September 22nd.

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