The 43rd OSA 2012 annual convention in Seattle, Washington was held July 5 -7, 2012. It was a gala gathering of about five hundred Odias, both diasporic as well as from Odisha. It was held at the Newport Performing Arts Center, Bellevue and was hosted by the Pacific Northwest chapter of the Odisha Society of the Americas. The theme of the convention was Eka Mana, Eka PrAna. Eka PrAnta, Eka Chinha: Bringing Odias together. The Convener was Amulya Das and the co-conveners were Pradeep Sahoo and Rakesh Patnaik. The highlights of this year’s convention were the pre-convention symposia- the Symposium on Higher Education in Odisha: Challenges & Opportunities coordinated by Prof. Abani Patra and the symposium on the Buddhist Heritage and knowledge institutions of Odisha coordinated by Prof. Chitta Baral.
The main foci of the Higher Education symposium were - higher education opportunities in USA for students from Odisha, prospective student/faculty/research exchange programs between North America and Odisha, MOUs, joint-degree programs, academic visits, digital infrastructure to support cross-border collaborations and visits of North American students/faculty/ academic administrators to universities in Odisha. Among the speakers were representatives from the University of California Santa Cruz (Michael Mc Cawley, Director, Under-Graduate Admissions, Jim Moore, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies), California State University Long Beach (Dr. Jeet Joshi, Associate Vice President, International Engagement) and Portland State University, Oregon (Dr. Tugrul Daim, Associate Professor, Dept. of Engineering & Technology Management and Computer Science and PhD Program Director). A discussion panel moderated by Professor Triloki Pandey (UCSC, CA) was also conducted during the session. Other delegates representing Odisha who also spoke on the occasion were, Mr. Malay Mishra, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad & Tobago; Prof. Baishnab Tripathy, Vice Chancellor, Ravenshaw University; Mr. Baijayant "Jay" Panda, Member of Parliament and Dr. Devdas Chhotray, former VC of Ravenshaw University.
The main foci of the Buddhist Heritage symposium was to increase the awareness about Ratnagiri-Lalitagiri-Udayagiri Mahaviharas and make it known that scholars and researchers have compared Ratnagiri with Nalanda. Prof. Thomas Donaldson of Cleveland State University, an author of more than 12 books on the art history of Odisha, was the keynote speaker. He spoke in detail about Odisha’s Buddhist heritage and presented several examples from the literature about faculty and student exchanges between Ratnagiri and Nalanda. The participants of the seminar urged several future strategic actions such as pushing NCERT to make corrections to its text on Buddhist sites by including ones in Odisha, and the establishment of an Indian Institute of Archaeology and Art History in Odisha.
Vidushi Dr. Sunanda Patnaik was the Chief Guest at the Convention. Mr. Malay Mishra, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad & Tobago and Mr. Baijayant Panda, Member of the Parliament were the chief speakers at the convention. The convention was attended by over 500 members from different parts of North America. There were also quite a few entrepreneurs, leaders of business and education and media personalities in attendance. The two-day events covered activities both for young and old and fun filled performances like, drama, dance, music, songs, and poetry recital. Seminars and symposia were devoted to youth entrepreneurship, health care, Odisha development, Women’s issues and Odia diaspora, among others.
Dr. Annapurna Pandey, the President of OSA, Mrs. Kuku Das, the Vice President, Mrs. Leena Mishra, the secretary and Sushant Satpathy, the treasurer supervised the inauguration and distribution of various awards. This year’s convention recognized the contributions of the eminent classical singer, Sunanda Patnaik and Prafulla Kar, the famous singer, music composer and director by honoring them with the Life Time Achievement awards. The eminent singers and dancers from Odisha regaled the audience with their mesmerizing music, songs and dances.
The annual GBM was held on July 7th and it was attended by over 100+ members. President Dr. Annapurna Pandey provided a summery of the activities undertaken by OSA since July 2011. After vice-president Kuku Das’s award announcements, 2011 GBM minutes were presented by Leena Mishra, the secretary and was approved by General Body. Also the 2011 Convention Account Statement and OSA Account Statement was presented by Sushant Satpathy, the treasurer and approved by General Body. General Body approved the request by Chicago chapter to host 2013 convention.
The highlight of the cultural events of the convention was the Hindustani classical by Chief Guest Vidushi Sunanda Patnaik. The cultural events included several Odissi dance performances such as the Urvasi ensemble led by Dr. Ratna Roy, rendition of Dasha Avatar by Ellora and Devraj Patnaik of Toronto, and Mokshayada by Jyoti Kalamandir. There were many distinguished artists such as Dr. Sangeeta Gosain, Dr. Adyasha Das, and Susmita Das visiting from Odisha and each treated the audience with many melodious songs. Several music albums of Susmita were released at the convention. Other cultural highlights included singing of Gita Govinda by Suraj Patnaik, Das Kathia by Mano Mishra and Manoj Ratha, opening song performance by Manornajan Acharya and Mitali Monalisa, stand-up comedy by Sunny Tripathy, the Pramod Patnaik drama competition, the Subrina Biswal competition in performing arts and the Odissi, Champu and Chhanda competition.
The convention also had a series of seminars organized by Pranabesh Dash, devoted to issues such as Women’s empowerment in Odisha and Odia Diaspora, Education in Odisha and its economic and social development, health and literature, and Odia poetry among other subjects. Notable seminar speakers included Dr. Shisir Das (Director, Indian Institute of Education and Care), Dr. Monica Das (Managing Trustee Fakir Mohan Foundation), Bhisma Prasad Rath (Chairman, Bhoomika Eye Hospital). There were also several events focused at the youth and second generation Odias ably led by many second generation Odias such as Barnali Dasverma, Swaroop Mishra, Akash Pandey, Atreya Dash, Ankita Mohanty and Sibani Das.
The convention was a wonderful occasion to celebrate the Odia heritage, identity and culture and get connected with old friends from Odisha as well as the diaspora. It provided stimulating interactions among people of various generations and regions and got them rejuvenated and recharged. It was such an uplifting experience to be part of the OSA 2012 convention – as one of t he participants pithily put it “coming to OSA convention is like coming to the bapa ghara (parent’s home), going back to my city is like going to sasura ghara (the in-law’s home)”. On behalf of OSA, we would like to thank the convener, Amulya Das, co-convener, Pradeep Sahoo, Rakesh Patnaik and the numerous volunteers for their tireless efforts in putting together such a marvelous event.