By our correspondent
A few Telugu organizations are set to hold a major gathering in Philadelphia this weekend, and all arrangements are nearly complete.
According to organizers, the gathering – billed as the megaconvention – will be attended by 7,000 to 10,000.
If the high end of the estimate turns into a reality, the convention will probably the biggest gathering of its kind.
“We have some unique programs scheduled at the convention,” Rajeshwar Reddy Gangasani, president of the North American Telugu Association (NATA), the main group that is holding the convention, told this writer in an interview. “Matters that affect both Telangana and Andhra will be highlighted.”
Some national and regional Telugu groups have joined forces with NATA for holding the major gathering.
The special-category status and farmers’ indebtedness are among major issues affecting Andhra and Telangana states respectively about which panel discussions are held and solutions suggested.
Gangasani, a key donor himself for the event, praised other donors and volunteers working for the success of the “megaconvention.” Around 750 volunteers, with 52 ad hoc committees, have completed nearly all the formalities for the inauguration of the convention in the evening of July 6.
The three-day event, which will attract delegates from across the US (particularly the surrounding states) and India (especially from both Telugu states), will end with a grand finale of music and other entertainment segments on July 8.
According to the NATA website, the top 10 donors are Prem Reddy, Malla Reddy Pailla, Raghuram Reddy Etukuru, Adisesha Reddy, Stanley Reddy, Lakshmi/Srinivas Emani, Shyam Putchakayala, Hanimireddy Lakireddy, Mahender Reddy and Phalgun Reddy.
Srinivas Ganagoni, the media in charge of the convention, also spoke to this writer.
Gangasani, who works in New York but based in neighboring New Jersey, spoke about the convention theme in the half-hour interview.
“Samaja Seve NATA Maata; Samskrutika Vikaasame NATA Baata (social service is NATA word; cultural development is NATA way),” he said, citing several programs conducted by the organization in the US as well as Telangana and Andhra.
Samuel D. Thompson, a New Jersey senator; and Upendra J. Chivukula, commissioner on the Board of Public Utilities, also from that state, will be the dignitaries from the US side gracing the occasion.
On the India side, Congress party President in Telangana Nalamada Uttam Kumar Reddy, Power Minister Guntakandla Jagadish Reddy, Swami Chidatmananda, Telugu film comedian Ali (who will be the brand ambassador at the convention) will attend the event.
Youth programs, focusing on American talent, will be among the highlights.
Film star Sridevi, lyricist Cinare and comedian Nerella Venumadhav —who passed away in recent months — will be remembered.
The birth centenary of former chief minister Marri Chenna Reddy (who was born on January 13, 1919) will be celebrated at the event. Lifetime achievement award will be given to Vemireddy Prabhakar Reddy (former member of the Rajya Sabha from Andhra).
Krishna Sagar Rao and Somagutta Vishnu Vardhan Reddy (both BJP) and representatives from Telugu Desam and YSR congress parties will be among those who are scheduled to attend the convention. Several other politicians from both states are expected to attend.
In the last two months, a couple of organizations held conventions in Texas. During the Memorial Day weekend, a Telugu association held a
conventions in Texas. During the Memorial Day weekend, a Telugu association held a gathering in Dallas. Another was held last weekend in Houston. The latter was described as the World Telangana Convention in which representatives from about 20 countries participated.
An estimated population of 5 million Indians lives in the US, though official statistics speak of a much lower figure. Similarly there are up to a million Telugus in the US. Official figures, however, show a somewhat smaller number.
Though Telugus started arriving in the middle of last century, the first major wave came in the early 1960s, when President John F Kennedy liberalized the US visa regime for potential professional immigrants. Telugus and other Indians began arriving since that time. Another significant wave of Telugus immigrated in the late 1990s, when many computer professionals were needed to fix the expected year-2000 bug.
TANA is said to be the first national Telugu body founded decades ago. In recent years, several national organizations have been formed; since 2014, when the combined Andhra Pradesh state was divided, a few Telangana nationwide associations came into being. Aside from these, there are scores of local and regional Telugu organizations servicing the community, which speaks the second-most popular language in India.