It’s been one month since I experienced something extraordinary. Something that made me realize that I could do more than I imagined, that it was possible to see together people united for something they believed in and watch a great expression of harmony unfold before my eyes – keep me bewitched with its splendour, yet seem ordinary. That made it extraordinary and even after a month, I wonder: what actually happened? And that’s why I’m compelled to share it.
I was part of one of the organizing teams for the World Culture Festival in Delhi, India that took place from March 11-13. Our team was focused on the live web streaming of the event with preparations that began many months earlier. What started as raw ideas for the web experience on a white board realized itself as actual successes during the program. People from 188 countries enjoyed the experience, pinging us feedback all the time and we, excited with the whole experience, happily exhausted and bewildered when the number of viewers and countries kept climbing up. We had really wanted to make the online event big, but how did so many countries log in? The world map became even more expanded for me, I learnt about new regions and realized that a single message of a One World Family from one individual can truly resonate across the globe.
Huddled in a tent near the stage, the program fanned out before my eyes – with the minute-to-minute flows and the inevitable changes that come in. The tent became our home, a temporary office environment which felt familiar in a few hours. We kept working on the live web program, with occasional breaks to stretch our legs while someone else backed up.
Every time I would step out – I would look at hundreds of people. Some artists taking a break and rushing off to stage, some volunteers distributing neat food trays to others, Europeans enjoying roti-sabzi while we sucked on some Chinese sweets. A huge sea of people welling up, with so many colorful and diverse waves.
There were world leaders who sat together on the same stage, performers who came together on one stage, musicians who performed together. From areas as diverse as Syria, Canada, South America, India, Europe.
The World Culture Festival, for me, became an expression of what the globe could become if we open our hearts. When I look at some of the post event pictures, I truly wonder: how did so many people come together? To get over 35000 dancers on one stage proudly showcasing their traditional arts from some places that I didn’t know existed.
There were exchanges of thought leadership, exchanges of culture through music and dance and a general bonhomie in the crowd. Isn’t this diplomacy between countries, at its best? Where leaders from diverse nations share a common vision, not in closed conference halls, but to a vast sea of humanity; where people feel pride in showcasing their cultural origins, feel a part of something that’s larger than themselves and global citizens, come away, feeling empowered to create changes at the levels of their community and countries.
For many of us, the circle of ‘my people’ gently expanded. The understanding of each other’s problems, countries, nuances of different cultures created a ring of bond that made it so natural for all of us to co-exist together. The sight of a Muslim praying namaz, a Nepalese wearing his national dress, the South African flag flying high, a beautiful dance from Lithuania which paved the way to drums from a village in Maharashtra – all seemed natural, rich and exuberant. There was no sense of competition or insecurity. Of course, there was skepticism in some, disbelief and even a certain discomfort when the rain gods decided to open up unexpected blessings in March or when the cars refused to move in long winding traffic snarls near the venue. Yet it all ended with laughter, giggles as one struggled not to fall and suddenly the arm of another color reached out to help you. When strangers opened their umbrellas and hearts to house one another; and guests said: how can I help you?
If its easy to feel despair as yet another news article about terrorism comes in, then why is it so difficult to laud something that’s making people come together for a better cause?
Let’s choose to see a story completely. Perhaps add a bit of good spirit in that as well; a bit of resolve to do good and at least observe good, if not laud it – so that when we look back on our years, through the kaleidoscope of time, we can be proud of the whole that we saw.