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August - September 2005


Spotlight

Delhi Exposition comes to London

by Krishan Gopal Dutt


London’s Trafalgar Square was turned into a vibrant open-air Bazaar during a two-day period of festivity 18-19 June where a dazzling display of exquisite Indian handicrafts and hand-made textiles specially flown in from India, as well as food stalls and a cultural show, won the admiration of vast crowds of British people including Indians resident in the UK. Dilli Haat, the exposition of Indian art, craft and culture - which has become a regular and popular feature of life in Delhi for the past eleven years - had come to the British metropolis with a BANG! A unique feature of this lively event was the presence of traditional artists/artisans, in their colourful costumes, from various parts of India, demonstrating their skills and displaying their wares for the benefit and entertainment of the hordes of curious spectators. Sitting cross-legged, amidst their exhibits, in small Dookans (shops) were Mansingh Rathwa (Gujarat), Gouribai (Karnataka), Khaleel Mohammed (Kashmir), Jameela Jahan (Delhi), Kailash Chand Patwa (Rajasthan), and many other craftsmen and women from Orissa, Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar who, back home, were national award winners. It was a fascinating experience for indigenous Britons and UK Indians to participate in this boisterous Hindustani market right in the heart of London. Before I proceed further, let me briefly take you to the inauguration, on 15 June, of Dilli Haat/UK at the City Hall along the Thames. Among the VIPs present were London Mayor Ken Livingstone; Arvinder Singh Lovely, Minister of Tourism, Government of India; Ramesh Negi IAS, Managing Director, Delhi Tourism Development Corporation; Deputy High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal; Kuldeep Bharadwaj, Minister of Press and Information at India House; and Ben Ahluwalia, chief executive officer of Creative Intellect, UK-based publicity and public relations outfit. Displaying a red Tikka on his forehead, Ken Livingstone gave a brief talk to pressmen of the origin of Dilli Haat and how, with the joint sponsorship of the Delhi administration; Ministry of Tourism, Government of India; Indian Handicrafts Emporium; Air India; and the Mayor of London’s office, it was brought to Britain. The Mayor said, London is home to the largest Indian community in Europe; with its social, cultural and economic ties with Delhi, both these great cities have a common and close link. Two smart Indian girls in Sarees passed around cold drinks and snacks to the invitees, and distributed excellent leaflets and brochures about Dilli Haat.
 


Dancers from Saurashtra entertaining London spectators


Mansingh Rathwa from Gujarat


(Back to Trafalgar Square)
The opening day of Dilli Haat was attended, among others, by Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi who went around the various stalls and talked to some of the spectators. Among the popular items on display around Nelson’s Column were glass and plastic bangles, wooden elephants, Jutees, leather goods, bedspreads, necklaces, and earthenware Ghharas and Matkas. I wonder what Lord Nelson would be thinking as he looked down from his high perch onto this Indian Mela in London! Whilst delectable Indian cuisine including Chicken Bariani on sale by the famous Mayfair-based ‘Chor Bizarre’ restaurant also attracted large crowds, the male/female Saurashtra dance troupe was another popular item much enjoyed by the visitors. The dancers from Gujarat then merged with the spectators and encouraged them to dance with them. Several English ladies, young and elderly, throwing caution to the winds, enthusiastically joined the circle of dancers, gyrating rhythmically to the vigorous drumbeat. Set up jointly in 1994 by Delhi administration and the Tourism Development Corporation, Dilli Haat has successfully created greater awareness of India’s rich crafts tradition, and is a popular tourist attraction for visitors from abroad. At a reception held 20 June in the recently-created 160-seat auditorium in Nehru Centre, and presided by Kuldeep Bharadwaj, a group of the participating artists and crafts people from India were introduced to the audience. At this meeting were Padam Talwar, Deputy Director of Nehru Centre, and Ajay Kumar, Additional Development Commissioner in the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. Mistress of Ceremonies Jaya Jaitley - from Delhi-based Dastkari Haat Samiti - gave a slide show depicting the various arts and crafts, and ornate Rajput dwellings in Rajasthan. The lady in purple Saree also showed a large rainbow quilt made up of multiple pieces from cast-off clothes which goes to show that nothing is wasted in India. After all said and done, the week-long Dilli Haat in London in June 2005 was a most colourful and exciting show viewed and enjoyed both by the English people and UK-based Indians.

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