Wednesday, September 26, 2007

India @ 60

India is going all out to woo foreign tourists to India and improve the country's image abroad. Possibly the biggest range of events to bolster the 'India Shining' image, Incredible India@60, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in collaboration with a host of other bodies, is currently in progress in New York. I was part of the inaugural ceremony on Sunday, and it was certainly a bang as far as the Americans were concerned. New Yorkers gathered around in curiosity as the nadaswaram and mridangam played loud and clear. A red carpet welcomed guests, with women in Indian garb on either side, as they moved into Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center to witness truly spectacular performances of traditional Indian dance forms - Odissi, Kathakali, Kathak, Mohiniattam, Bharatanatyam and Manipuri. The final performance included a fantastic jugalbandi of sorts, with all dance forms represented on stage at the same time. Madhavi Mudgal's Odissi dancers and the Kathak performers from Kathak Kendra in Delhi were genuinely remarkable. The Kathak dancers, especially, held the audience in sway as the bells on their feet chimed in perfect melody even as their minute and complicated foot movements were faultless, and their skirts twirled gracefully. The era of Umrao Jaan truly came back to life.

It is rather tragic that I had to witness something that is so quintessentially Indian after coming to New York. I've seen some of these dance forms in India of course, but not all together like this, and it was certainly worth watching.

Unfortunately, I can't praise the organisers. Tickets exceeded the auditorium's capacity, some people who received invitations were not allowed inside, and tickets meant for certain people were handed out to others. The Indian VIPs were there in full force though, from the Indian Ambassador in New York Ronen Sen, to Pranab Mukherjee, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Vayalar Ravi, Nandan Nilekani (whose foreign invitees, by the way, were not allowed inside as they didn't have their tickets on them), Rajat Gupta of McKinsey fame, Sunil Mittal, Sam Pitroda and film stars Shabana Azmi and Anil Kapoor. The press in India covered the event extensively but since they took all the trouble to organise this huge event, the CII would have done well to get a few international press representatives to cover it as well.

Still, as more than one American came up to me as an Indian, and said that day, 'Congratulations on your 60th birthday!', here's hoping that in the next 60 years India will truly become the country we all want it to be.

No comments: