California’s Maya Bazaar brings together Indian artisans like never before

Ritu Jha-

To promote Indian government’s One District One Product (ODOP) initiative, the Indian Consulate in San Francisco hosted ‘Craft Bazaar- Indian Handicrafts Expo’ in collaboration with the Association of Indo-Americans (AIA). It is called Maya Bazaar, an annual event that brings in small and medium size businesses to sell and promote their products to thousands of attendees.

This year Maya Bazaar was held May 13 in San Ramon, California, and was attended by the consul general in San Francisco PV Nagendra Prasad, elected officials from local as well as the adjoining cities, and community leaders.

“Maya Bazaar is an annual event of the Association of Indo-Americans. But we decided to promote Indian handicrafts to the large number of people who converge on the venue. We made an enclosure where we just focused on Indian handicrafts as part of the government’s ODOP – One District One Product Program – to help the artisans. So, AIA imported some Indian handicrafts to be displayed for promotional activities on this platform,” Prasad told indica on the sidelines of the event.

He said this is the first time that the Indian consulate has collaborated with AIA on the ODOP to promote Indian artisans. “Since Maya Bazaar is already quite popular, we are using the platform for this cause. The Indian American community is sizeable here and even if 100,000 people buy one handicraft product each, it will be a huge help for the Indian artisans. Products from Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh among other states were promoted at the event,” Prasad said.

ODOP initiative aims to select, brand, and promote at least one product from each district of the country for enabling holistic socioeconomic growth across all regions. The ODOP Initiative has identified a total of 1102 products from 761 districts across the country. “Twenty-one Indian states were represented at the Craft Bazaar, and thanks to the handicraft expo, people who could get a glimpse of a variety of Indian handicrafts under one roof. Here, we usually do not get the opportunity to see what other cultures look like. Now under one roof, we got to see other states’ fabrics, crafts, and arts. The respective state organizations came forward and set up the whole thing. Each state was represented by its respective organization or group,” said Vijaya Asuri, lead host at the Association of Indo-Americans (AIA).

Maya Bazaar was first held in 2015 and it’s the first outdoor summer festival of the year. “In 2015, we all thought that a festival should be held where kids and adults can spend time, learn and enjoy. We focus on the food festival which is called Mirch Masala. At the same time for adults and others, it’s one place where you go to enjoy and learn about your roots,” Asuri said.

Maya Bazaar is not the only event AIA hosts; the organization holds several other events around the year like the Swades to celebrate India’s independence, Dushhera, Diwali Dhamaka which is also very popular among the Indian-American community and others.

Speaking about the plans for Craft Bazaar, she said: “I would love to continue this event, and this is a good start. More than 5,000 people attended the event which had 70 plus booths set up by local people as well as residents of different parts of California. Women, owners of small boutique shops, also set up booths to promote their products. They all come with the hope to do some business at the event. We also have sessions where the artisans show how their products are made. We have hands-on workshops for the kids too.”

Puja Kumari Jha, a Madhubani native in Bihar was standing at the Bihar booth that had several Madhubani art forms told indica, she has a passion to paint and has no formal training in Madhubani Art. But growing up she has seen these art forms on her grandma’s walls and in her village. However, she has learned painting – oil on canvas and watercolors; and presently teaches young children at her home in Pleasanton, California.

Rajiv Sinha, Chairman, Bihar Foundation of USA, was all pleased to see the response, even though the temperature on May 13 was over 88 degrees Fahrenheit, giving a real summer feel.

Welcoming the initiative by the Indian consulate, Sinha told indica, exhibiting Madhubani Art & Craft in an event like AIA’s “Maya Bazaar” is a good initiative as it brings the diverse community from across California.

Another exhibitor, Rakesh Konanganparambath, representing Nair Service Society, a non-profit from Kerala told indica,”It’s a good initiative to promote local artisans and a good start and in the future, we hope to have a much bigger and better exhibition. This time we tried to put something we had at our home. But next time, we’ll plan ahead and make handicrafts more visible.

Kevin Wilk, councilmember of the City of Walnut Creek on what drew him to the Indian community events like Maya Bazaar said, “I’ve come here because I love the community. It’s wonderful to see everybody, it’s such a welcoming community.”

Wilk said that he wants more people from the Indian American community to run for office. “I would love to see more people from the community running for office, getting involved in governance, appointments, and
committees and commissions. Because without knowing what’s of interest to the community from Indian representatives, everybody’s just guessing. So, I would love to see more of that kind of participation. If you don’t let your voice be known, nobody knows what kind of things
are important. For example, I was the first Jewish council member in Walnut Creek’s history. And there are things that we’re doing and recognizing that are important to Jews that nobody knew before. The Indian community members also should run, get involved with appointed positions, speak at city council meetings, and get the information across.”

City of San Ramon Police Chief Denton Carlson with Consul General Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad.

City of San Ramon Police Chief Denton Carlson guest at the event along with several elected officials calling the event fantastic told indica, “One of the things that I enjoy most about this community is the diversity. And at the events like these and I have the opportunity and I’m honored to be invited to participate in this. And to come here and experience the diversity experience. The culture is just a fantastic opportunity.

Asked if is he satisfied with the community participation in the mainstream policies said, “I do, it seems like there’s quite a bit more participation. And one of the things that is so valuable in a government organization when you’re talking about the management of a community and the oversight and what the city council does for a community is having that diversity because it offers so many different
opinions on how things was can be done and the different ways to approach certain problems. And that why having all those different cultures involved, it just makes us a better community.”

He added, “Year after year, we host a Community Academy for the police department. And it’s for anyone who works in San Ramon or lives in San Ramon to come in and learn about us as a police department. Learn about what is going on in San Ramon, how we approach policing, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone to learn more about us and for us to teach people about who we are how we approach policing, and the way we approach policing, and it’s just an excellent opportunity for the community.”

He said the crime rates in San Ramon are some of the lowest that we’ve seen in the last 15 years. And but it takes a community to make that happen. It’s not just us in the police department in the community involvement has everyone participating to make the community as safe as possible.

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