New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray (right), enjoy a lighter moment as Waris Ahluwalia (right), Actor, Designer, Model speaks on the occasion Photo/ Jay Mandal/On Assignment
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray (right), enjoy a lighter moment as Waris Ahluwalia (right), Actor, Designer, Model speaks on the occasion Photo/ Jay Mandal/On Assignment

NEW YORK CITY (TIP): A beautiful evening. A well-dressed gathering to celebrate Diwali at Gracie Mansion, New York City Mayor’s official residence by the waterfront. It was a perfect setting for a great celebration. And the gathering was not disappointed, except for the fact that they waited for some time for the hosts to appear on the scene.

Mayor Bill de Blasio in his 5-minute speech on the occasion said: “Now, it has been a number of years since there was a Diwali ceremony and celebration in Grace Mansion, and we thought it was time to bring Diwali back to Gracie mansion. Because this place – Grace Mansion, yes, it is the people’s house, it is the representation of all of New York City. It’s a home for all New Yorkers, and we can’t have the embodiment of this great city and not have this opportunity to celebrate this great holiday, and we want everyone to experience it together. Now, let me tell you, I want to wish everyone -so, I sometimes get to represent in terms of my statements what all 8.5 million New Yorkers feel in common, and this is something I think we can all agree on. Happy Diwali to everyone!Now, I also want to wish – I want to wish a special greeting to my Sikh brothers and sisters. Let’s see if I get this right – Bandi Chhor Divas! Mayor’s greetings received thunderous applause. But equally thunderous were shouts for a Diwali holiday.

Speaking of New York City’s special characteristics and advantages, de Blasio emphasized the oneness of the City. “We believe when any community – when any community’s attacked or when any individual is attacked because of who they are, because of their faith, because of where they come from – an attack on one is an attack on all of us. And that is something we believe deeply, and you will see whenever any community is affronted the NYPD will be present to protect that community and whenever there’s a hate crime we are very adamant. When we know something’s a hate crime we will call it a hate crime, and we will act on it as a hate crime to protect people and say it is unacceptable in the City of New York to act in any biased fashion against any of the great people that make up this city”.

Mayor de Blasio on this occasion honored Waris Ahluwalia – a Sikh fashion designer, model and actor. “As we have these wonderful gatherings we also get to honor someone, and we are honoring someone very special this evening – Waris Ahluwalia”.

“He is a fashion designer. He is a writer. He is an actor – of course he’s a model, too. And he has an unmistakably New York style, and, as a Sikh, he proudly wears his dastar wherever he goes. And so he sends a powerful message to our city, to our country – countering ignorance, celebrating inclusion, and advocating for religious understanding and tolerance in everything that he does. And we want to celebrate him.”

“It is my honor as the Mayor of New York City to proclaim Wednesday, October 19th 2016, in the City of New York as #WarisAhluwaliaDay “. Waris Ahluwalia spoke of how the Sikhs had to suffer jeers, insults, assaults in the wake of 9/11 because they were mistaken for being Al Qaeda- a hated group which had brought pain and suffering to America. As a Sikh, he said, he stood steadfast and wore all symbols of his faith.

Thanking the Mayor for the honor, he said, “”I’m a New Yorker. Having been around the world many times, to many of the great cities of the world on numerous occasions, I can confidently say this is the greatest city of them all. It’s given me so much already. I’m honored beyond words and will to continue to uphold the values of this magnificent metropolis.”

Earlier, the Mayor, his wife Chirlane McCray and Nisha Agarwal, Immigrant Rights Commissioner, New York City lighted the lamp to inaugurate the Diwali evening.

Nisha Agarwal, in her opening remarks, spoke about the great contribution of the South Asian American community, in particular, the Indian American community to the growth of the City of New York. She said it was a kind thought of the Mayor to have the community come and celebrate Diwali at Gracie Mansion.

Chirlane McCay, the co-host with her husband said she was happy to welcome the beautiful gathering to Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor.

A number of New York City politicians and public officials were present on the occasion. India’s Consul General Riwa Ganguly Das and the Deputy Consul General Manoj Mohapatra as also a few other Consuls were present.

It was a representative gathering of people from all faiths and walks of life.

No Indian celebration could be complete without the Punjabi Dhol and Bhangra. There surely was a Dholi (drummer) and people performed Bhangra (a Punjabi dance form).

Surely, an evening to remember and to wish for an encore.