6th June 2015 – Bucharest, Romania
A mere 25 days waited in front of me,
To find myself back in the warmth of home.
But then, home found its own way to come to me.
After all, home is wherever your heart decides to roam.
I decided to go back to the Herastrau park again today. But not to enjoy the public domain, rather for 2 other reasons. One was to see the Dimitrie Gusti National village museum. Another was to get a little taste of home.
And I found the perfect partner to go along with. Cristina Istrati was not only a published Romanian author, she was also a couchsurfer – we met in the Bucharest couchsurfing meeting – and a beautiful human who was enriched with curiosity about people, places, and especially India. We decided to meet in the afternoon and check out the Dimitrie Gusti village museum.
The entry tickets cost 10 Lei, but was totally worth it. This open-air museum displays houses from different parts of Romania, and from different time periods. I clicked around a lot, but kept getting positively distracted by Cristina who kept plucking berries from the trees and giving them to me to eat. I was initially sceptical to try some berry, not sure if they were safe to eat. But then, she was an author, and somewhere inside I knew that all authors can talk to trees.
After walking through the village museum, we finally reached what we came to see. The Namaste India festival. Organized by the Rabindranath Tagore cultural centre, the festival was a celebration of ‘incredible India’. And surprisingly, my initial reaction was not exactly positive despite seeing a slice of my own home.
For one, I am not a huge fan of the way we showcase spirituality as the USP of India. Somehow, they were surrounded by all colours of a palette, which mostly gave the impression that India was the nation of promised spirituality, Holi, red Gulab Jamuns, bright chiffon saris, and Bollywood. Oh, loud-and-blaring Bollywood!!
And secondly, there was a photo exhibition which I wasn’t too fond of. It was almost like Danny Boyle’s contribution from the sets of ‘slumdog millionaire’. The curator had successfully managed to acquire every single image which showcased India’s slums, poverty and the lives of poor people, and not even one from any of the developed areas or metro cities of India.
Of course, India is definitely the land of Holi, bollywood, slumdogs, and all those bright saris. Yet, it was much more than all of that. Here I was, watching the most diverse nation on the planet – economically, socially, politically, linguistically, culturally – reduced to colours on a palette, and ‘slumdog millionaire’. “This is not India. It’s all this and more!” – I wanted to get on the stage, and shout!
I didn’t get a chance. Namrta Rai came up on the stage, and started her kathak dancing. And all of a sudden, all my negativity vanished. Here was a trained Kathak dancer – one of the most famous kathak dancers in the country – who was showcasing everything that India was about: culture, identity of our roots, and unashamedly showing them to the world.
She had the whole crowd in her grasp, and continued the beautiful dance for an hour. And just like that, I started loving this festival. The day only got better after that. The Kathak show was followed by a group of Romanians who did the traditional Romanian dance to the tune of a traditional Bengali song.
I am not kidding you!