Remarks by Ambassador Kenneth I. Juster at Durga Puja Inauguration

Salt Lake City, Kolkata: Good evening.  I am delighted to join you at the inauguration of the FD Block’s Durga Puja pandal.  I want to thank the FD Block Association for inviting me to be part of this very important cultural event.

I have always heard that Durga Puja is the grandest and most spectacular festival of the year for Bengalis.  Looking around, I now see that for myself.  And I cannot imagine a better place to celebrate this rich Bengali tradition than in Kolkata – the epicenter of Durga Puja.

I have greatly appreciated India’s ancient history and rich culture.  And I have learned tonight that even dinosaurs originated right here in Kolkata’s Salt Lake City.

One of the key elements of the U.S.-India relationship is our extensive people-to-people ties.  These ties really form the foundation of our relationship and provide a strong connection  between our two great countries.  Our shared history actually goes back over 200 years, when the first U.S. President, George Washington, nominated Benjamin Joy to be the first American Consul to Kolkata – then known as Calcutta – on November 19, 1792.  What a great name – Joy – for the person who was the first official U.S. representative in India.  And you now know the real reason why Kolkata is called “The City of Joy.”

Since the time of Benjamin Joy, the United States has deeply admired India’s ancient history and rich culture.  That is why it is such a great “joy” to be here in Kolkata and at this pandal to celebrate the important festival of Durga Puja.  I might add that, in the United States this month, there are also Durga Puja celebrations in cities throughout the country, including New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  This is emblematic of the continued growth – across the board and across generations – of the U.S.-India relationship.

In closing, I would like to thank the women residents of FD Block for their outstanding performance this evening.  You are the true embodiment of the strength, courage, and determination that is celebrated during this festival for the goddess Durga.  And thanks to all of you for sharing this special evening with me.  I truly wish you a most festive week of Durga Puja.