Uttarayan - as good as it got in US.

By- Hiral Dholakia-Dave

The last time Chirag Vora, a senior systems analyst from Canoga Park, had a great time shouting 'kapyo chhe' was 14 years ago. After making US their home in 1994, the Vora family got the opportunity to enjoy Uttarayan in its complete splendour this year when the San Fernando Valley Gujarati Association organised a special event last Sunday at Beilenson Park-Lake Balboa, Van Nuys.
The day started on a perfect note with the winter chill not playing a spoilsport and the gleaming Sun ensuring that the kite enthusiasts got the best of the winds. Some 225 Gujaratis from all over the Los Angeles County flocked to the venue on scheduled time and made a beeline for kites and phirkis imported from India especially for the occasion and sold at a nominal price. Decked head to toe in wollens and leathers, the motley crowd came all prepared with their sunglasses and caps much the way people gear-up in Gujarat on this day. If Piyush, 9, was in his smart GAP pullovers, Savitaben, 65, resorted to a leather jacket over her saree to seek refuge from the cold breeze.
The fun began from tying the 'kinna' with elders teaching the younger lot the tricks of the trade. Richa Gandhi, 12, from Simi Valley just back after celebrating her first Uttarayan in India, in Surat says, "It wasn't the same as flying kites from the terrace amidst music blaring from all corners but we enjoyed here too. I knew most of the people around and spent most of the time with my friends. I learnt and flew five of them. It was fun cutting people's kites," she says.
Though their US born son hasn't been much interested in kite flying, Mumbairaised Harish Shah, 50 and wife Darshana, who have been here for 25 years now made sure they didn't miss out on the festivities. "It's been ages since we celebrated Sankranti in India. Even if we visit India we are back before January 14 as we are through with our Christmas and New Year holidays. Our son is not much interested since he grew up here and never got such opportunity when he was very young," says Shah, who is a controller with a firm. The event also drew wide participation from students who moved to this part of US from India for further studies.
"People drove all the way from Orange County and we had them from all age-groups. We kept the attendance open to non-members too and this helped the Indian students studying in various universities here to participate," says Vora, also a board member of the Association. Vijay Bhatt, an engineer based in Chatsworth had a good time orienting his teenagers to the kite flying technique and significance of the festival. In fact, he had his entire family including octogenarian parents Jayendrabhai and Indiraben attending the event.
"This was good way to acquaint our children with our culture and traditions. Now they want to be in India next time to experience the festivities," he says adding, "My only regret was that I couldn't scream the way we used to in Vadodara and since the event was in a park we couldn't install the music system too. Next year hopefully we will find a way out."