2018-07-25 / Features

Chatpati Mela Celebrates ‘Home’ Through Food, Art, South Asian Performers

Photos Mansura Khanam for Chhaya CDC3Photos Mansura Khanam for Chhaya CDC3On Saturday, July 21 an estimated 2,500 people attended Chhaya’s Annual Chatpati Mela, or Street Fair in Jackson Heights. In light of increased gentrification and displacement in the neighborhood, Chhaya CDC chose the theme of “Home” for this year’s mela. In its work, the non-profit organization has ramped up its efforts in housing preservation, and will soon launch a small business initiative to support entrepreneurs who are struggling to stay in the neighborhood. This cultural event is an opportunity to showcase South Asian goods and performances, but also serves as a space to unify and strengthen the community.

“For 18 years Chhaya has symbolized home for thousands. We have helped individuals and (L. to r.): Queens Borough President Melinda Katz; Sanwar Ahmed of Jhal Muri Dadas; Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi, executive director, India Home; Annetta Seecharran, executive director, Chhaya CDC. Photo Credit: Mansura Khanam for Chhaya CDC. Katz presented Ahmed with Chhaya’s Community Leadership Award as a Small Business Trailblazer. 



 (L. to r.): Queens Borough President Melinda Katz; Sanwar Ahmed of Jhal Muri Dadas; Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi, executive director, India Home; Annetta Seecharran, executive director, Chhaya CDC. Photo Credit: Mansura Khanam for Chhaya CDC. Katz presented Ahmed with Chhaya’s Community Leadership Award as a Small Business Trailblazer. families save their home, acquire their home, gain the skills and services to make NYC and (specifically) Queens home through ESL classes, immigration services, financial education, credit building, and more,” stated Annetta Seecharran, executive director of Chhaya CDC. “Today at our Annual Chatpati Mela, we have come together to celebrate and promote South Asian culture, which is so deeply entrenched in the neighborhood of Jackson Heights.”

Located right at Chhaya’s front door at 77th Street, between Roosevelt Avenue and 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, the festival was arranged with a main stage on one end of the street, and a workshop space on the other. A host of vendors and community partner booths were situated in between. Main stage performances ranged from classical Bharatanatyam, to Bollywood and Bhangra.

The current political climate was not lost in the Mela curation. Mela-goers could register to vote at an Adhikaar’s booth, participate in an art project to map community safety with the Hate-Free Zone Queens coalition, or take an anti-Street Harassment Workshop conducted by another local non-profit, DRUM, as part of their Eckshate gender justice campaign. 

A major draw for many fair-goers was the famed Annual Pani Puri Eating contest—the Queens version of the Coney Island hot dog eating contest, with spice. 

A major draw for many fair-goers was the famed Annual Pani Puri Eating contest—the Queens version of the Coney Island hot dog eating contest, with spice. Community leadership awards were presented by Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, to locally renowned street vendor, Jhal Muri Dadas, as a Small Business Trailblazer, and Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi of India Home, for Community Impact. Sanwar Ahmed is known for his singing and his delicious Jhal Muri cart. He received much notoriety after a feature in Anthony Bordain’s “Parts Unknown” series. At the age of 89, and after 38 years living in New York City, a Go Fund Me campaign has been initiated to pay his return home back to Bangladesh to The contest garnered 25,000 likes on Facebook.The contest garnered 25,000 likes on Facebook.return to his wife and two children. India Home was recognized for elevating the issue of aging in the South Asian community, and for being the first secular organization to provide services for seniors inclusive of the entire South Asian community. 

For the full Chatpati Mela program and for more information about Chhaya CDC’s work, visit www.chhayacdc.org or join the conversation on Chhaya’s social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

An award was also presented to the Raj Kumari Cultural Center for Arts and Activism. RCC’s mission is to preserve, teach and present the arts and culture of Indo-Caribbean communities from Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica and Suriname living in the New York Metropolitan and Tri-state area.

Two Schools of Hope bookbinding workshops took place in the Workshop Space exploring the Mela’s theme concept of “home.” Master Bharatanatyam teacher Malini Srinivasan taught a class under a tent to giggling youngsters and a few adults alike. Henna painting was provided by Nira Kamal, of MehdibyNira, who was born in Bangladesh and raised in Queens. The beautiful art form of henna is a staple activity at the Chatpati Mela. Henna is simple plant that carries healing properties and thousands of years of tradition.

Return to top

Copyright 1999-2018 The Service Advertising Group, Inc. All rights reserved.