Tonight: Bollywood, Indian food and ice skating come together at Schenley Park

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When you're having fun, eating delicious Indian food and helping a good cause, you don't really care that much about the wind-chill factor.

That's why organizers of the second annual Bollywood on Ice are expecting another large turnout tonight at Schenley Park Skating Rink on Overlook Drive in Oakland.

"Last year went very well. We had an overwhelming response," said Rounak Narvekar, 26, of Highland Park. "So much so, that we actually had to turn down some people because we prepared for 160 to 170, and we did not have enough food for everyone. This year, we are prepared for a good 200."

The outing is sponsored by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Association for India's Development, a national organization dedicated to helping one of the world's fastest-growing countries.

"India is at the threshold of being the next superpower," the AID website explains. "[Yet] while her metros and cities are thriving with this newly acquired pulse, there are thousands of villages and small towns that are far removed from this global dream. These are the areas where water, infrastructure, education, health and other basic facilities are a struggle to acquire."

There are 36 AID chapters across America, nearly all of them in big cities or college towns. The Pittsburgh chapter, registered with the University of Pittsburgh since 1995, was the second one, after the first was formed by graduate students at the University of Maryland.

Today, according to their website, the Pittsburgh chapter has 30 active volunteers planning activities and fundraisers generating more than $10,000 a year for needs in India.

"The projects that we fund are always at grass-roots levels. Places and villages where there are farmers who do not have the funds or maybe the infrastructure to carry out farming on a big scale," said Mr. Narvekar, who is project coordinator for the Pittsburgh chapter.

"We get requests from [non-government organizations] in India to fund particular projects. We investigate it and, if anybody is visiting, we try to make a side visit. Then, once all the questions are answered, we vote on whether to fund it or not, and at what level. We help farmers, we help out schools. We even help out health groups, where doctors buy medications."

A native of Goa, India, Mr. Narvekar came to America in 2009 to pursue his master's degree in information sciences at Pitt. Since graduating in 2011, he has been working as a network engineer for a local rail transportation company.

He and the other members of the local AID chapter meet on the Pitt campus once a week. Sometimes, he said, they are faced with helping a project that is beyond the means of their limited staff.

"If the project request we get is something we feel we do not have the resources to do, we can always ask for help from other chapters in bigger cities," he said.

But that doesn't happen often. Thanks in part to Pittsburgh's universities, Mr. Narvekar said, there is a strong Indian population here mindful of the needs in their native land.

So tonight, they hit the ice, skating to the accompaniment of Bollywood music.

"The Indian film industry is associated with a lot of song and dance sequences," Mr. Narvekar said. "A lot of music. Tonight, most of the songs played will be from the Indian film industry. Music that you usually dance to. I guess music that goes very well with skating."

Skating is from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 with a student ID, $15 for everyone else. That doesn't include skate rental, but it does cover the cost of food supplied by Tamarind, an Oakland restaurant that specializes in South India cuisine. The dining hall will be open until 11.

And don't be shy if you aren't the best skater.

"As you might imagine, there's no ice in most of India," Mr. Narvekar said. "Myself, for example, I had never skated or been roller-blading before I came to the U.S. I gave it a try and I guess I'm OK, and that's true of many Indian people.

"The point is that it is fun."

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456.This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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