Sunday, October 3, 2010

Commonwealth Games: Finally at India

NEW DELHI: In the end, it turned out like a perfect Indian wedding. Shrugging off all the heartburns, last-minute snafus and accompanying chaos, everything fell into place; and it left both the baraatis and the dulhanwaalahs, with huge smiles on their faces.
The next few days will tell us if the honeymoon too, if not the marriage itself, will be as successful.
A festive crowd of almost 60,000 packed the stadium and lustily cheered through the ceremony. They cheered former President A P J Abdul Kalam (who got the biggest hand), UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and other luminaries. They cheered the performers. They gave a standing ovation to the Indian contingent. And, in a truly moving moment that warmed the hearts of even the most cynical, they reserved the second-biggest round of applause for the Pakistani contingent.
The only break in the bonhomie came when Organizing Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi was jeered as he began his speech. But the joy of the occasion took over, with Kalmadi concluding to cheers, though he referred to Kalam as Abdul Kalam Azad.
In three spellbinding hours, light, colour and technology merged to present a well-conceived and immaculate show. Yet, in the same space, India managed to showcase its rich history, culture and higher learning to the entire world.
Two complaints: It would have been nice to have had a greater Bollywood presence. The most popular symbol of Indian contemporary culture was clearly inadequately represented. And we could have done with fewer long-winded speeches.
On the positive side, the Nehru Stadium looked like a bride through the evening. It dazzled like a diamond, showing off its rubies and sapphires or emeralds and pearls intermittently. Up above, the aerostat hovered proudly like a giant spaceship, spewing colours and designs that would easily be at home in some other planet too.

The theme of the show was quite evidently, unity in diversity. It couldn't have been more appropriate, coming just a few days after the country peacefully accepted a court verdict on one of its bitterest disputes.
On Sunday night, the show-setters at the JN Stadium, almost prophetically, encapsulated the country's amazing commonality, lying just under the surface, by picking its most variegated strands and nuances and stitching them together into a single fabric.
Not surprisingly, the ceremony started with the segment called Rhythms of India: ingeniously though, it didn't assemble the entire array of sounds at the country's disposal. It simply brought together a family which has probably never met as one, and never will again: the drummers of India.
Expectedly, they were different in every aspect, right from the way they are played to the way they sound. Different timbres and different textures that make it virtually impossible to integrate into a symphony. Yet, here at the CWG, that's precisely what happened as they entwined into one powerful entity.
Dhols, dholaks and drums from 10 corners of the nation reverberated in the stadium, rising to a crescendo to capture the heartbeat of India.
Even before the buzz could dissipate, Hariharan sang Swagatam as a thousand students from Delhi's schools celebrated. Next, it was time to invite the athletes from 71 countries. As they marched in, the drums rolled and the lights twinkled. Australia, England, South Africa were given warm welcomes; but the loudest round was reserved for the Pakistani contingent, greeted like long-lost brothers.
Pretty soon, it was time for the real show-stoppers: India. It was back to ground reality, though, the very next instant. As Suresh Kalmadi was invited to give the welcome address, boos hissed out of angry hearts. Kalmadi, to his credit, braved through the moment and, vacillating between crinkled brows and tight smiles, carried out his job.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and CWG chairman Mike Fennell too were given their two minutes before, first, Prince Charles and then President Pratibha Patil declared the Games open.
Then, it was time to bring India together once again. They found it in the Tree of Knowledge, one of India's most alluring qualities through the ages.
As sheets descended from the spaceship and met the ground below, it transformed into a gigantic tree, reminiscent of the marvel in Cameron's Avatar.
Out of it emerged the various dance exponents of the country. Yet, once again, they managed to find a meeting point, doing bharatanatyam, kuchipidi, Manipuri to just one beat. Each choreographed by the master of their art, they blended into each other sweetly without losing their own purity and character too.
India's biggest contribution to the world, no doubt, is it's spirituality. In the segment called Yoga, its 5,000 years of learning was presented by school children even as mantras and sacred shlokas cast everybody in their trance-like spell.
The sombre mood, however, was promptly broken by the arrival of the Great Indian Journey, choreographed by Bansi Kaul. Heralded by the lilting number 'Chaiyya, Chaiyya,' the biggest unifier of the country for years, Indian Railways, won everybody's hearts. Accompanied by folk dancers from the heart of India, a million vignettes gave us a glimpse of our hinterland: doodhwalas, politicians in their ubiquitous Ambassadors, magicians, tongas.
The finale was reserved for India's one true international celebrity: A R Rahman. As the magician belted out the CWG theme song, the aerostat came alive in a bluster of colour and graphics. Fireworks shot out furiously, signalling that it was time for the spaceship to go. It was time for Jai Ho!

Source:Times of India

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