Back in 1973, a small group of people who migrated from Karnataka to New England area decided to gather for a picnic. With much of enthusiasm they spread the word in best possible way in those non-email or non-internet days.
It was on a beautiful spring day of March 31, close to about fifty people gathered for a picnic at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island. The group was thrilled by the larger turnout beyond their expectation, and it was very encouraging to see how much everyone craved for such gatherings. Evidently, that collaborative energy then transpired into a decision to form an association of Kannadigas in New England region. That’s the sprout, that’s the inception of our Kannada Koota.
It’s interesting enough to know about the origin, it’s even more exciting to know about the early years. The people who brought this into existence were all mostly youngsters that came here for their advanced studies. They sensed the need to bring all Kannada people together in the region. Sure enough, the association began to take shape, the member subscriptions started to grow in numbers. The founding members coined the name “New England Kannada Koota”, in short NEKK. Further, in 1974, envisioning its growth and long-term sustainability, the NEKK’s constitution was also written as a guiding principle and was brought into light. The constitution then was formally approved and adopted by the general body members on September 13, 1975.
While many people joined hands in early years of NEKK, Mr. S. N. Subbarao, who was a student then at Brown University, was behind the pioneering efforts. He received an unconditional support from Dr. E. R. Suryanarayana and late Mr. S. K. Srinivasa. Since then NEKK became an organization with an administrative structure of a President, Secretary and a set of Executive Committee (EC) members.
NEKK’s first elected president was Mr. S.L.N. Rao. Each year election was held for a set of new office bearers. With some excellent leaders in EC and active members in the community, NEKK gained strength and gradually was able to venture into providing cultural and entertainment programs.
Incidentally, about the same time, an interesting event was held in New York. In 1976, the New York Kannada Koota hosted the first ever North East Kannada Sammelana. A very popular and renowned eye surgeon of India Dr. Mekri was the invited chief guest. Indeed, it was a landmark year in NEKK’s history, as the Sammelana provided an opportunity for Kannadigas of northeastern region of US to come together under one roof and inspired extending the friendship and bonding within. The Kannada fraternity became much larger and accessible to one another.
We can now proudly say today, that an entity started as a small association back then has now become an essential organization and viable part of Kannadigas’ life in the New England region. In 1998, NEKK marked a significant milestone of silver jubilee and joyfully celebrated its 25th anniversary.
In the year 2012, NEKK celebrated 40th anniversary (Ratna Mahotsava) under the leadership of Sri Praveena Naduthota, the President then, for two spectacular days of cultural activities and celebration with several well known artists visiting from India. Following year after that, NEKK members also played a major role in successfully hosting a 3 day long World Kannada Convention, NAVIKA 2013 held in Worcester, MA.
Extending the joy, and to bring a sense of festivity into an otherwise routine lifestyle for the family members within the community, NEKK has been organizing and facilitating variety of gatherings throughout the year as part of its cultural activities. The event list includes four major events, that are Ugadi celebration during spring, an outdoor picnic in summer, that followed by a grand Ganesha Chaturthi festival and finally, much awaited Children’s day, Deepavali and Kannada Rajyothsava put together in November are being celebrated prior to wrapping up the year and before winter season appears more apparent.