Art of Living Experiences, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, The World Culture Festival, World Culture Festival.

Before, am judged for taking sides, let me make it clear, that I am here-taking up your mind space, not to offend my professional fraternity (the media) nor to defend my personal loyalties (The Art of Living).

It has been few weeks since The World Culture Festival in Delhi drew to a close. Like everything else, time has eaten up this event too. The media however, has found numerous headlines from the event. They’ve tweeted vociferously and ensured that the event reached every home of the country. The portfolio of NGO’s and work they claim to do as well as the urgent need to clean and revive a dying Yamuna river was the talk at every breakfast table. From a third person perspective, it is fun to read leading newspapers report extremely opposite views about the same event, from the very same location. And am so grateful I wasn’t in that uncomfortable situation that Ayurvati & Parvateshwar were in – having to choose between their job & their Lord (Oath of the Vayuputras- remember).

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6 years as a journalist, 4 years into Corporate communications, many continents travelled, many events attended I must admit- all the chaos besides – the event per se was magnificent. It was jaw dropping to watch 37000 artists on a 50 feet high floating stage, 7 acre in width, complete with special effect lights. Performers from world over, bringing with them, sights and sounds of their cultures, costumes, musical instruments, dances and good wishes. What a dramatic & impressive platform it was!

 

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The audiences were enthused. They had travelled to Delhi from far and wide; walked into a huge event venue and made their way to the earmarked enclosures. Ever since the names of delegates and globetrotting celebrities who were going to attend the event had been made public, I knew there would be a stampede, I’ve seen it at every event I’ve attended; people clamouring for an autograph and now a selfie! What I saw here was mind boggling, a crowd so well-behaved, more so when an entire galaxy of stars have descended. No one broke out of the enclosures, no one yelled or screamed, everyone just sang and danced together and hollered for encores of course!

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The discipline of the performers was truly exemplary: no matter how electrifying the energy, or how hard the hail storm, not one moved from their place and ensured that the performances went on as scheduled. The moment that stole my heart was right at beginning on Day 1. It rained, some say nature played spoil sport. Some others say that the Gods showered their blessings. I only saw the determination, grit and enthusiasm of the performers. Over a 1000 Dhangari Dhol performers from Kolhapur danced in bliss as the chants of ‘Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari’ reverberated in the air. Drenched, on a wet stage, 1700 Kathak performers exhibited impeccable footwork as the audiences applauded and demanded an encore.

 

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Beyond it all, stood the man who was the inspiration for so many people gathered at the venue, the person responsible for an event of this scale to be imagined and executed. I saw Gurudev (as He is fondly called) Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji standing on a raised dais, beside Indian Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi ji, waving to the audiences and performers. Beyond the rousing welcome He received, I saw Him standing drenched and soaked to the bone, smiling and welcoming audiences and dignitaries alike. Here was someone who walked the talk. The devotees, audiences, artists, performers, organisers were drenched in the rains, how could He not show solidarity with them. And before someone decides to troll me just because Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was drenched and expressing solidarity with the others at this event, let me clarify that this is not just one instance. I am sure that the devotees have more to share. I am just sharing what I saw and experienced.

 

 

PMandsrisri

 

 

Of course, walking the venue was not easy. But given the size of the event, it was never going to be simple. Even lesser was finding parking or getting to the venue. But then, right from simple wedding celebrations to Bollywood performances, we in India have almost always had a problem with venue, parking, people management. For the scale of the free for all event (3.75 million people), we’ve had no stampede, just a few cases of pick pocketing or lost and found FIRs, no accidents, no brawl, I think it is beyond just commendable. The volunteers who’ve stood in rain and shine deserve their credit and does the inspiration behind it all.

 

Shwetal Rai

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