Aishwarya Rao

Today, America elected Barack Obama as its 44th President. The very first African-American President in its political history and I consider myself lucky to have been a part of an experience of a lifetime...For it is not everyday that you see history unfold in front of you. And this is a story I will tell my grandchildren...This extraordinary moment. Here is a nation full of people, who chose to see issues over color, who chose a path that is not just radical, but is sincere and hopeful!

Before you jump on me with all your cynical heart,;I am not an American. I have temporarily made this country my home and I have less than two months left in this land. Yet, I feel so connected, so much a part of this election that I want to experience the "high" of this historic victory and savor it.

While it does not surprise me, what leaves me in awe is the spirit of this nation, well reflected in both Obama's and McCain's speech tonight! In his gracious closure speech, McCain pledged his support to Obama to help him lead us, although conceding that differences will remain. And Obama was equally impressive. For a long time I will remember the smile on his face when he said "Hello Chicago"!

I am excited about this because here are millions and millions of people that voted and voted for change and made the country stand upto its reputation of being a place where everything is possible. And you know what is truly beautiful? The fact that Obama stood there as a lovely leader, underplayed his African-American victory and said "it is only a chance for us to make that change". I particularly loved his mention of the 106 years old lady and her heartaches and hopes. She might not have voted because she was a woman. May be because of the color of her skin. But today like millions others, she was given the right to make a choice and she exercised it.

This is why the democratic victory is not a victory for a candidate, but for an entire nation that embraces free spirit like no other. Truly the land of democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope...

Aishwarya Rao

Yesterday I hosted the UTD Indian Students' Associations' annual day celebrations - Sangam 2008. Given that this was the 10th year of celebrations, the entertainment was bigger, better and more professional than ever.

To say that the 'desis' present at the Charles Eismann centre last night was one of my most beloved crowds would be a miserable understatement...Because in the last 8 years of professional emceeing I have never addressed such a berserk audience ever!

My co-host Rajiv Karanam and I had prepared a very tight script which did not give room to any last minute confusions. We based it on a Bollywood theme and tried to convert the emceeing into more or less a FilmFare Awards ceremony. But lo and behold! That is reel and real world is very nasty! Some logistics issues demanded that the very well prepared emcees had to fill in for up to fifteen minutes - extempore!

A wikipedia article on Bollywood (that we had printed out in order to have snippets on our fingertips) was our saving grace. Not just that...time and experience had taught us to sport a smile and tell a story without the audience having a single clue about the craziness backstage.

As for the delivery itself, I thoroughly enjoyed interspersing my commentary with Marathi (Shah rukh, tu kutte ahez), Hindi (Ek Chutki sindoor ki kimat tum kya jano), Telugu (ipudi choodu), Punjabi (chado hunnu luvu shuv) and of course in Tamizh (enna koduma saravanan idhu)!

Apart from the insane cheering from the crowd each time I reminded them that I was Aishwarya Rao (and not Rai), friends and school mates screaming out my name in deep affection, the moment I will remember for a very very long time is when I mentioned the name of my favorite rock star- Rajnikant! For a full 40 seconds the crowd applauded in a fashion that could have only one description-maniacal. The last time I experienced such a thing was at the preview show of Rajnikant's Sivaji in 2007. Yesterday, I simply stood in front of the podium sweetly paralyzed by the frenzy of the people in front of me.

It also reminded me of an old lesson.
When you speak to an audience of a thousand people there are various touch points. It is important to touch all of them, but also find that one common thread and connect. Once that happens the engagement for the rest of the show is a cake walk!
Altogether Sangam 2008 was an emcee experience I will cherish for a lifetime...The very adorable crowd (that wondered where I vanished and demanded I be brought back when the second set of emcees took over) made my day. Sangam might have been one of my few non-commercial shows, but the feeling, the sensation and thrill of being a part of a very large and happy Indian crowd was unparalleled!