Tuesday, April 25, 2000

New year gathers friends

Holiday helps unite community

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        UNION TOWNSHIP — While many residents of Greater Cincinnati were getting ready to observe Easter, members of an Indian cultural organization were wishing each other a happy new year.

        Members of Kaveri gathered Saturday evening to celebrate Ugadi at Lakota Freshman School in West Chester. While the evening festivities included food and entertainment, most traditional Ugadi activities take place in the morning.

        “People get up, shower and say their prayers,” said Arun Cariappa, a Kaveri member from Indian Hill. “They eat a mixture of bitter leaf and brown sugar, to remind them that life is all about balance, the bitter and the sweet. And they wear new clothes.”

        Ugadi is one of the annual celebrations promoted by Kaveri, an organization formed about 15 years ago by Cincinnati-area families originally from southern India. Other holiday-related gatherings include Pongal, a harvest festival, and Diwali, the festival of lights.

        But Kaveri, named for the river that flows through their native provinces, offers its members more than just celebrations of Indian holidays.

        “The organization is more to give our children a sense of what their parents grew up with,” said Mr. Cariappa, who moved to the United States about 22 years ago.

        “We wanted to sponsor dance and classical music of India,” said Rohini Venkatesh of Indian Hill, a founding member of Kaveri. “We decided to band together and form a nonprofit organization that would provide a stage for our own youngsters. It was also a good excuse to get together socially and eat.”

        Mrs. Venkatesh said the group started with about 11 members. “Now we have about 100 diehard families from the Cincinnati area. Others come occasionally from as far away as Louis ville and Dayton.”

        Mrs. Venkatesh works with the Kaveri youth group, which promotes fun and also service for others. This year, she said, the youth are serving food at Cincinnati's Ronald McDonald House.

        Between events, Kaveri members keep in touch by newsletter and e-mail, said Raj Raghavendran of Mason.

        “We are now developing a Web site,” he said.

        The Web site's address will be www.msnhomepages.talkcity .com/nonprofitblvd/kaveri1. In the meantime, Mr. Raghavendran can provide information about Kaveri at (513) 573-1458.


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