Sunday, November 28, 2010

A confluence of cultures

Last week, the Overseas Women's Club of Bangalore hosted their annual India Night event at the Taj West End. This is the second year that I have attended this event. Nearly 200 people from different parts of the world come together to experience and participate in all things Indian. It is absolutely fascinating to see this confluence. Men and women, old and young from Canada to Indonesia arrive dressed in the most elaborate and beautiful Indian outfits and taste a slice of India through various cultural, culinary and entertainment experiences. Of course, I got yet another chance within the last few weeks of going ethnic again!

A wide range of activities were organized for the guests including Mehendi art, palm reading while artists in traditional Indian costumes mingled with the guests and provided photo-ops. Food was a variety of the finest Indian cuisine with some international fare thrown in for good measure. Entertainment included a medley of local tribal dances. And no such evening is complete without a Bollywood influence. An instructor from a dance studio was on-hand and led a group of international guests in a dance session set to popular Bollywood songs.

What was most interesting to observe was the enthusiasm with which everyone participated. There were no cultural barriers and people were open to new experiences. Clearly a key to understanding and appreciating different cultures, celebrating differences and finding ways to collaborate!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Obamania in India

US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrived in India for a 3-day visit on the eve of Diwali. While there seemed to have been limited media coverage for his visit in the US, the Indian media just could not get enough of the first couple. Most TV stations virtually carried his visit live round the clock. Talking heads went nuts analyzing every word spoken by Obama and every action taken by the first couple.

At the end of the day, this 3-day visit seemed to be primarily a sales visit. A growing economy and a rising middle class is turning India into a desirable market for companies in the West. Obama was accompanied by CEOs of large US companies including Boeing and announced deals valued nearly $10b. He sent a strong message back home about the positive impact of these deals (50,000 new jobs).

What was interesting was that the first couple spent a lot of time with children and young adults during their visit. Given that nearly 60% of India's population of 1 Billion is below the age of 30, India has an edge in the upcoming decades due to a large and growing workforce. Clearly the youth will be shaping the future of this new global power in terms of innovation and consumption and Obama was attempting to reach out and connect and engage with them.

It was fascinating to observe all of this from this end!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Festival of lights brightens another year

India celebrated Diwali this weekend. This festival of lights has become one of the biggest festivals in the country and is celebrated by all regardless of age, state or religion. The evening skies are lit up by fireworks as friends and families get together to celebrate in unison. Buildings are lit up around the city, sweets and gifts are exchanged and blessings of goddess Lakshmi (symbolizing wealth & prosperity) are invoked.

But as with everything in India, the festival is about building connections and strengthening relationships. Diwali brings families and friends together in a joyous celebration. The association in our building had organized a two-day celebration. The first day was celebrated by the residents by bursting firecrackers together. Nearly one hundred residents, old and young, got into the spirit of the festival by lighting up sparklers, rockets, ground wheels and ear-deafening bombs. Day two was another fun-filled evening that started with a cultural program organized and presented by the residents. Only in India can you find an hour-long program where you get to see a table recital, kathakali dance performance, a bollywood dance number and a rendition of Shakira's FIFA theme performance, Waka Waka! The program was followed by dinner and dancing. This gave Mona and me an opportunity to go ethnic!

India had a special guest this Diwali. US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are in the country and celebrated Diwali with children at the Holy Mary school in Mumbai.

With the country registering a 9% growth, there is plenty of other reasons to celebrate and celebrate we did!