The much-anticipated Festival Of India has come to stay. Period!
The parade was a total showstopper, as three gigantic hand pulled chariots from the ancient city of Orissa towered high into the Lagos skyline. Only a cluster of birds flew higher. But wait, these were not birds at all; they were drones -cameras in the skyes! After all, this was the only way the event could have been filmed. The parade was a human sea stretching as far the eye could see.
Igbokiti from Western Nigeria slugged it out with the Kerala Samaj – an ethnic group from Southern India. While the Durbar Horsemen raced with their Punjabi counterparts from Northern india – heavily bearded, Powerbiking, turbaned and screaming Punjabis who added spice to the blend! What entertainment! This showstopper could be Nigeria’s premier international tourist attraction. The Igbokiti cultural group won 1st prize in the Parade category, while the Oriya Samaj won 1st prize in the Chariot Design category.
But we’ve only just started! What about the Indo-Nigerian EXPO that followed? And the concert nko? Phase two of the Festival was an international EXPO, with up to one hundred and fifteen corporate bodies, ethnic exhibitors and retailers taking stalls at the TBS grounds. The Lagos Ministry of Commerce also accompanied 15 SMEs to the venue, to help showcase their works in the international arena.
Sponsors like MTN, Airtel, GTB, Godrej and Z-World were bustling with activity. The food court occupied a section of the grounds and you could buy anything from Briyani, capatis, assorted masalas, you name it. Honestly I was a bit of a greedy pig. I asked for a takeaway pack so my wife would know what she just missed! As I moved along the stalls I encountered the much-advertised fashion and jewelry section. Yes, all those Bollywood sarees, Punjabi suits, trinkets and whatnot where all available at affordable prices. All the stalls of the Festival of India were beautifully decorated and the prize of best stall went to the Rajasthani Samaj. A word of advice to the organisers here. Never plan such an event in the rainy season. Twice it started drizzling and I was afraid for the worst. Luck shinned on them that Saturday. But it was risky.
Finally dusk ushered in the final leg of my adventure at the Festival Of India – the concert. The performances began with colourful children from the various Indian Samajas and cultural shows from all over India. Up-and-coming acts like Aditi (Nigeria) and Pandey (India) were also given an opportunity. Pandey surprised and thrilled the Nigerian audience with his rendition of Emergency from Dbanj and other Nigerian songs in Nigerian languages. Top Bollywood star, Yuvika and Anup Jalota, as well as Nigeria’s Sammy Okposo, Tee Mac and his Gold Convention, Ara and Pasuma were in a class of their own. Nollywood personalities such as Desmond Elliot ,Tina Mba and Saheed Balogun to name a few, spent precious moments sharing thoughts with their Bollywood counterparts in the special Artists’ green room.
The surprise of the day must have been when Yamuna, a Nigerian dancer (Eastern Nigeria), who had studied in India, took the lead in the Indian classical dance category. Yamuna was brisk and controlled, with intricate finger gestures, characteristic of the complex Kathak style. Even the Indian audience was held spellbound by her footwork. Yamuna had chosen a particularly difficult repertoire and I believe this is what earned her the title. While Nigerians await medals in the ongoing Rio Olympics, we’ll just have to make do with this! Well-done madam for making us proud.
I interviewed Bolaji Rosiji, Chairman of Gaurapad Charities (the official sponsor of the Festival) and Chairman of the Festival organizing committee. He had this to say: “Now that the festivities have taken off, we’re asking Nigerians to please join us as we embark on a collaborative project for the revival of our SMEs in Lagos State. We need to come out of this unprecedented economic crisis by building Nigeria from the bottom up. The largest economy in Africa (Nigeria) and the second largest SME network in the world, India, will partner for mutual benefit".