By Sharon Simonson
As many as 30,000 people are expected to descend on San Francisco’s Union Square today to experience Spring India Day 2015, a first-ever showcase of Indian culture, arts and crafts in the Bay Area’s most famous shopping and tourist center.
Organizers hope to bring a bit of home to the city’s Indian population and a taste of India to the broader community. “I am a really proud Indian,” said Ena Sarkar, president, chief executive and executive producer of WomenNow TV, an event platform and weekly talk show for South Asians that is carried by KTSF Channel 26 television.
“I want people to understand India and Indian culture, to remember that we can create a bridge between here and India, and I want people to know how vibrant we are and how the nation has so much depth and so much to offer,” Sarkar said.
The event is being sponsored in part by Bollywood superpower Mumbai-based Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. and its ZEE TV. The Indian cable channel targets the Asian Indian diaspora worldwide, including the more than 3.5 million Asian Indian people in the United States. Globally, the channel reaches nearly a billion people, said Sameer Targe, the New York-based head of ZEE Network for the Americas.
The Asian Indian population has skyrocketed nationwide since 1980, growing in tandem with the technology sector. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the largest Asian Indian populations in the country. Though less than 2 percent of San Franciscans—about 12,000 people— identify themselves as Asian Indians, the group is the fastest growing Asian subgroup in Silicon Valley, constituting 7 percent of the Santa Clara County population, or 127,000 people; it is more than 5 percent of the Alameda County population, or 80,000 people.
Forty vendors including five food makers and 20 merchandise sellers are committed for the day, the maximum the city of San Francisco allows in Union Square, Sarkar said. In the last month she has turned additional merchants away. She expects about 60 percent of today’s attendees to be Asian Indians and the rest from outside the community, a mix that does not displease ZEE’s Targe.
ZEE has grand plans for its library of more than 3,000 Bollywood films including making English, Spanish and Portuguese translations available across the Americas, Targe said. It is also undertaking to bring the American-born children of Asian Indians into its fold. He expects Asian Indians living as far as 60 miles from San Francisco will travel for today’s event.
“If you were an American living in Mumbai, and there was something that was going to happen 50 miles away … it’s the same situation. We are the first immigrants who have come from India, and for us our roots are still intact in terms of our ethnicity. There will be a lot of Indians that will come in from outside San Francisco,” he predicts.
The event is followed by a Women Now-sponsored fashion show at the Sir Francis Drake Ballroom on Powell Street in San Francisco.