What I know about Indian culture consists almost exclusively of the contents of a few Jhumpa Lahiri and Kirin Desai novels that Dr. Luisa Igloria assigned to me over the course of several literature courses I took with her during my undergrad and graduate programs at Old Dominion.
Editor’s note: This post is a collaboration with Taste of India, the sponsor of this feature.
I am incredibly grateful for those assignments – Jhumpa Lahiri has become one of my favorite authors. But her understated and quietly profound writing style isn’t exactly indicative of Indian Culture in general. So how does one become more knowledgeable about a culture that has so much rich history, so many faucets and internal differences? A quick search on Kayak.com shows that a roundtrip ticket from Norfolk to Mumbai will run you at least $1,200. That doesn’t include lodging, food, sightseeing, shopping.
Fortunately for all of us in Hampton Roads, there is the Taste of India. And it’s free.
The Taste of India is one of the largest Asian Indian festivals in Virginia. Every year for the past nine years, it has attracted between 7,000 and 10,000 people. It is the most popular single-day cultural festival in Hampton Roads that is organized by a single ethnic group. This is saying a lot because as anyone who has lived in this region for any amount of time knows – we love our festivals. We will use any excuse to have a festival and some weekends it is difficult to decide which one to attend. But this weekend I encourage you to try something new, something different, (or maybe something familiar) and get out to the 10th Annual Taste of India.
This year the event will be held at the Ted Constant Center on Saturday, April 23rd from 11am to 9pm. The theme is the History of India, something the country is not lacking for with flourishing civilizations in the Indian region since 3,000 BC. This year, an interactive program called “Bravehearts of India” will take place at 2pm and will walk us novices through the country’s history by highlighting some of the brave Kings and Queens who fought for India.
But if history isn’t your thing, there’s still a lot to see. The Bhangra Dance Competition will kick off at 3pm, and I guarantee it will get you moving. The organizers of the event were kind enough to send me several videos of bhangra dancing by some of the teams that will be competing at the event, and it’s some of the most electrifying, downright fun dancing I’ve ever seen. Probably the most interesting thing about this dance style is how it combines traditional Indian music and movement with modern tunes. At one point in one of the videos, a team threw a few chords of Macklemore into their routine. That’s just fun, people. Nine collegiate bhangra teams will be competing this year–including the College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, John Hopkins, Temple, Rochester, and a team from suburbs of DC. You will not want to miss their performances.
If centuries of fascinating history and dancing don’t do it for you, then let me appeal to your palate. As the name suggests, this event is all about the food, from the scents you experience as soon as you walk in the doors to the wide variety of cuisines. Prepared food as well as vendors selling take-home spices and ingredients will inspire you to try dishes that may be new to you, but that have fed centuries of civilizations.
Additional vendor booths will be selling traditional Indian wares including beautiful saris, jewelry and more.
The Taste of India gives Hampton Roads residents a chance to experience Indian culture beyond a book, beyond pictures, and without an expensive trip across the globe.
Come join us for the 10th annual Taste of India from 11am to 9pm on Saturday, April 23rd at the Ted Constant Center and find out why this is one of the most anticipated events of the year.