Twelve years ago, an idea came to fruition that spiced up Hampton Roads, and this weekend, you can experience it.
Taste of India (toihr.com) is a wonderful, free, public adventure held at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk. The event, organized by Old Dominion University’s Dr. Vinod Agarwal, along with hundreds of community partners, and with support from Old Dominion University, lets community members surround themselves with the sounds, sights, and delicious smells of India without leaving Hampton Roads. Now with the initial decade well behind them, Taste of India has grown from its inception.
In 2005, Agarwal went on a trip to India for a week. There, he met two people who were with Festival India Richmond (www.thefestivalofindia.org). This meeting sparked the idea of bringing a cultural event to Hampton Roads, and two years later, with the assistance of local Indian business people, the first Taste of India was held. The annual experience has come a long way from that first event.
Now a well-settled affair, the beautiful occasion explodes with the culture, costumes, food, and dances of India. Local Indian restaurants serve up delicious eats, dancing groups perform (even nine different competing college teams), and you can shop Indian-inspired products inside the Ted. Agarwal stressed that this event gives everyone the opportunity to experience Indian culture. “Education is my thing,” he said. An important aspect for Taste of India is to give back to the community through student scholarships. Scholarships are given to students of any cultural background in support of their education. And that continuing theme of education is what keeps many people involved.
My friend Natasha has brought her children to perform in this event for years. Educating them on Indian culture is a main drive for that. Originally singing at the event, her girls now perform Bharatanatyam after taking extensive lessons. This is a classical dance from the southern part of India, and uses specific hand movements, each having different meanings and based on religion. As students advance in the dance, eye movements are added. Natasha commented that in Hampton Roads, her kids are not getting as much Indian culture as their parents. By taking Bharatanatyam lessons, they learn the cultural aspects of Indian religion and spirituality. Taste of India is an opportunity to celebrate that culture and share it with friends and family.
In addition to helping locals transport themselves to India for a day, there is an opportunity for guests to win prizes through a link that provides a short trivia quiz on Indian culture (Taste-of-India-Trivia). Our family has attended Taste of India for years now, and I am looking forward to seeing the performances, shopping the market, and getting my fill of delicious food. The event takes place Saturday, April 21st from 11am to 9pm and in addition to the food, dance, and shopping, will also include Zumba, yoga, Henna hand painting, kid carnival games, and a presentation of the nine expressions of life.
This article is sponsored by Taste of India Hampton Roads. The 11th Annual event will be held Saturday, April 21nd from 11 am to 9 pm at the Ted Constant Center at ODU. Admission and parking are free. For more information, click here.