48th OSA Convention – The journey continues …
The sojourn that started on June 30th ended on July 3rd with the return of the cruise ship Enchantment of the Seas to Miami, FL. There were extended goodbyes as families said adieu to the 48th OSA Convention, frequently being referred as “unconventional Convention,” and carried with them memories to last a lifetime. Odia families from around the world including US, Canada, India, and Bahamas came together for OSA’s Annual Convention on board the cruise ship and at Bahamas Islands from June 30th through July 3rd, 2017 to celebrate Odia Culture and Heritage. The Convention was attended by three generations of Odias living in Americas as well as from Odisha joined in this journey as a show of solidarity and cultural integration.
First day evening on the cruise was the meet and greet followed by OSA Got Talent. Participants for different categories Tiny Tots, Jrs, and Srs. Participants showcased their talents by singing JagannathAshtakam, Daskathia, Song, Dance and even standup comedy for some laughs. The location of the program was Spotlight Lounge, a cozy and comfortable informal setting with space for performance which gave a feeling of children performing in front of a large family gathering without the imposing anxiety to perform on a large stage. A sumptuous sit-down dinner followed the program.
Next day, “Suprabhat” morning bhajan program was filled with the heartfelt rendition of Odia Bhajans by devotees in attendance. The topic for Women’s forum was “Complementary role of spouse in NRO Women’s life” and both men and women present participated in the discussion and shared their own life experience and it included those who immigrated in the 1970s to many who are newcomers. On the 2nd day the ship sailed to CoCoCay Island, a private island owned by Royal Carribean. This was one of the few reasons, we as organizers elected to go on Royal Carribean cruise. Families ventured to the island and enjoyed the beach and some participated in other activities including parasailing snorkeling etc. RC had arranged barbecue lunch on the island and many of our families enjoyed their barbecue by the beach.
The afternoon inaugural ceremony in the magnificent Orpheum Theater on Enchantment of the Seas cruise started with the national anthem of US, India and Odisha.The official program started with lamp lighting and blessings by senior members Dr. Jogeswara Rath, Mrs. Runubala Rath, Mr. Nityananda Mishra, Mrs. Niharbala Mishra, Drs Uma and Shanti Mishra, Drs. Ramprasad and Sudha Patnaik, Mr. Mrutyunjaya Pani, Mrs. Janaki Pani, Dr. Sita Kantha Dash, Mrs. Kalpana Dash and Dr. Joy Gopal Mohanty. Dr. Sita Kantha Dash joined as Chief guest and addressed the audience regarding the importance of reaching outside of Odia community and, to promote and spread Odia culture among larger Indian community and outside of the Indian community. OSA Vice-President Mrs. Sulochana Patnaik welcomed everyone to 48th OSA Convention, OSA Secretary Mr. Saradakanta Panda provided an overview of activities planned, and OSA Treasurer Mr. Siddharth Behera gave the vote of thanks. On this occasion OSA recognized few of its pioneering members with Annual OSA Awards; Dr Sukant Mohapatra, Dr. Basant Mohapatra, Ms. Jessika Baral and Mr. Anshuman Mishra were recognized with OSA’s Distinguished Odia Award, Arun Das Memorial Kalashree Award, Subrina Biswal Award for Academic Excellence and Youth Volunteer Award, respectively. OSA’s annual magazine Urmi was released during the inauguration ceremony in the presence of its editors Dr. Bigyani Das, Mr. Prasanta Bhuyan and Dr. Joy Gopal Mohanty. Thanks to the editorial team including Dr. Sikhnda Satpathy and Dr. Kanak Hota for taking up this enormous task.
The inaugural cultural program started with Odissi dance by Mrs. Ipsita Satpathy in the magnificent Orpheum Theater followed by a few glorious group participations by Michigan and Washington DC chapter members set to the convention theme of ‘Ajeya Jatra’. Both adult and youth showcased their multifaceted cultural talent in Odissi, Folk dance, drama, Champu and Chhanda and contemporary music through different programs such as OSA Got Talent, Subrina Biswal Performing Arts Competition, CCO, Odia Speech and Vocabulary and Pramod Patnaik Drama Competition. Ohio and Washington D.C. chapter presented plays “Make Odisha Great Again” and “Ama Paribara”. It was heartening to see new generation carry forward the legacy and tradition of Odia language and culture. Mr. Anil Patnaik coordinated the cultural programs and Sanuja Das and Rishi Satpathy were the emcee for these events.
The journey would not have been complete without the Odia families from Nassau who along with their Indian friends welcomed the attendees to Nassau Island with open arms and broad smiles. Within a short span of time, there was a great bonding and camaraderie among the people. Odia hospitality shone through at a special picnic on the beach with Odia food and cultural programs rounding out the day’s activities at the excursion. The Odia Kabita Patha was held on the Nirvana beach at Nassau, Bahamas with overwhelming participation, which was superbly organized by Mr. Prasanta Bhunya. There was group dance by both men and women to the tune of Rangabati under the rain. This excellent program was organized by Mr. Dhirendra Kar, Mr. Srikant Sarangi, Mr. Pratap Rout and Mr. Jagannath Patra along with their friends. Even we had our little angels Akansha, Ishita, and Archita who came to cruise port to guide the group to the bus stop. My heartfelt thanks to them, their families and friends for the wonderful time we all enjoyed in Nassau. On our bus ride back to cruise port there was impromptu Antashyari. We enjoyed the rivalry between father and son; Anil and Adi Patnaik. For lack of time, this ended in a draw, and I am sure who the ultimate winner would have been.
During mehfil, many talents in our group enthralled the evening with the rendition from both Odia and Hindi oldies. On last evening, while we waited for the technician to fix the sound system, there was antaskhyari and we had great participation by everyone present. This was followed by Mehfil where we had some who resumed singing after a long pause.
During this time youth, as well as adults, went for rock climbing, bungee jumping, swimming, snorkeling, parasailing and snuba diving. Although rock climbing, bungee jumping, and swimming were an option on the cruise ship; some adventurous ones went for snuba and scuba diving in Nassau.
Behind this successful convention, lies the enthusiastic effort of a core group of volunteers, Mrs. Kuku Das, Mr. Anil Patnaik, Mr. Dhirendra Kar, Mr. Parag Mishra, Mr. Bibek Das and Mr. Prasanta Bhunya along with the executive committee members Mr. Sarada Panda and Mr. Siddharth Behera. I am thankful to Dr. S.K.Dash for his efforts in reaching out to others. Also, this would not have been possible without the help and guidance from our wonderful travel agent Mrs. Varalakshmi Suresh. She was nice and courteous and tried to provide the help in a timely manner.
During General Body Meeting a moment of silence was observed for Dr. Gauri Das, OSA’s founding president, Mrs. Sworno Senapati and Mr. Sujeet Mohanty who are no longer with us. It was announced that 49th OSA Convention in 2018 will be in Detroit, MI. Michigan families invited everyone to 2018 OSA Convention on behalf of its Convener Dr. Shishir Senapati. During GBM newly elected OSA Executives Mr. Lalatendu Mohanty, Mr. Susil Panda, Mr. Amar Senapati and Mr. Satchi Pati took charge as President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer respectively.
OSA Annual Convention is a time-honored annual get-together of Odias to celebrate Odia culture and heritage. We could not have asked for a better send-off than the adventure provided by this convention; there was trepidation because of challenges of unknowns but excitement because of possibilities and exploring something new. We are humbled by the whole experience; the circumstances that guided us to choose this adventure and grateful to all who could join us in exploring something new together. We planned this convention for 30-300 families with minimum financial risk for OSA. It is hard to capture all the feelings through one’s voice but here are few comments from my fellow travelers that should provide a better picture.
Long live OSA! Let the ‘Jatra’ continue with fellow travelers.