Indian American Councilwoman’s legacy lives on

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In 2008, the then Indian American City Councilwoman of Saratoga, Susie Nagpal introduced her city to her heritage and started “Saratoga Dandia” in hopes of bringing a prominent Indian cultural presence to the city.

The event was established to celebrate her victory as the first Indian-American to earn a seat on the Saratoga City Council but she only lived two years to see it as in 2010, she died from lung cancer at the age of 46.

Her legacy has lived on though and this year, “Saratoga Dandia” will celebrate nine years as the annual event is set for Saturday, Sept. 16, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. in West Valley College’s large gym.

“It is awesome to see the community come together for this event in their colorful and festive outfits,” Seema Kumar, the event’s coordinator, told Mercury News.

“People of all age groups dancing with their friends and families, everyone making new friends while dancing that evening and fully enjoying the pleasure and happiness all that music and dance have to offer,” she added.

Kumar has been a part of the event since its inception and a growing attendance, from 200 at Redwood Middle School to more than 1,000, has prompted a move to a bigger venue.

“The youth feel empowered in helping put together an event of such scale, and they also discover the cultures and traditions of an ancient civilization and practice. The networking that happens is amazing,” Kumar said.

“We love running a quality event, and we keep the headcount low enough to provide lots of room for all to dance and have a great time. We keep the event very inclusive, and the whole world is invited to join and be part of a fun Saratoga evening, for a good cause,” Kumar added.

Saratoga’s event involves the traditional dance, which includes the sticks, live music from the husband and wife duo known as Sargam Sangeet Group, ethnic attire and food from Chaat Bhavan.

The Dandia are made by volunteers from the Saratoga Hindu Temple and Community Center.

A free training for Saratoga Dandia is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 10, 4:15-6 p.m. at the Saratoga Community Center.

Ticket are available for $18 and $15 for groups of 15 or more; all proceeds will benefit the free educational, health, spiritual and religious classes held weekly at the Saratoga Community Center.

For more information, visit saratogadandia.org.

Nagpal was born in London to parents Sundarajan and Nirmala Vedantham, who also live in Saratoga, the family moved to the United States when Nagpal and her sister were teenagers and settled in San Francisco.

According to a Mercury News report, Nagpal attended Lowell High School then enrolled at San Jose State University, where she majored in materials engineering and met Amit Nagpal, whom she married in 1987.

She received her master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of San Francisco and not long after, the couple worked together to help build up an environmental engineering firm in San Jose, which was eventually bought out by a large company.

After having two children, Nagpal decided to apply for a spot on the Saratoga Planning Commission, where she served from 2003 to 2008 and decided to run for City Council, beating out two other candidates, asking her father to swear her into office.

When she wasn’t attending council meetings or city functions, Nagpal worked for an environmental engineering consulting firm.

After suffering a lingering back ache, she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer but continued to attend council meetings while she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment; she died on May 12, 2010.