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Celebrating India’s diversity

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Say cheese: Children from American International School, Chennai, performing at the Indian Week celebrations on Friday.
Say cheese: Children from American International School, Chennai, performing at the Indian Week celebrations on Friday.

Sarah Hiddleston

Curtains down on week-long festivities

Chennai: A slice of Incredible India unveiled itself before us.

Malayalee fisherfolk, Rajasthani rajas, Tamil maidens and Bollywood filmstars took their turn on the stage. The Emperor Ashoka, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Sachin Tendulkar and Shah Rukh Khan stood shoulder-to-shoulder to tell the long history of the nation in drama, dance, poetry and song.

Students at the American International School on Friday painted a glowing picture of India at the grand finale of a week-long festival celebrating the diversity of the nation. The enthusiasm was palpable, whether it was the powerful Jana Gana Mana of the grade 3 anthem singers, the hip swinging “bom bom bhole” bop of the grade 2 dancers, or the graceful lines of the students in their senior year. “The week has been really interesting. It was fun to learn a new type of dance. And I love the dresses here,” says a grade 5 student from Europe who has been in Chennai since last July.

Bright bandinis, sleek chiffons, glowing Kanchivarams, elaborately mirror work ghagra cholis and silks intricately woven with Kantha lit up the hall. Bhaskets, beads, bangles and bindis were selling like hotcakes at the makeshift bazaar in the picnic area. The smells of the sambar rice being prepared in the kitchen for the special thali peppered the air.

“Sometimes, if you travel a lot, it’s easy to blow in and blow out of a place. But Indian culture is incredibly rich,” says parent and teacher Bruce Sullivan, who has been in Chennai for 5 months. “My daughter is learning Tamil and my son training to be a Yoga instructor,” he says, adding “it’s very exciting”.

For parents, as much as the children, it appears to have been culturally enriching watching their children prepare and helping them learn about the country they now live in. But some of them couldn’t resist. It was with great aplomb that the mums rounded off the show with fast-moving Bollywood bhangra to a wave of applause. And then it was namaste and thank you India, until next year.

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