By Ambuj Saxena
“Good morning! I am here. I hope you are ready for Surajkund mela?”. Within 5 minutes of sending the message, I saw Maureen and Maggie step out of their rooms with a big smile across their faces. Their “Good morning” was full of excitement as they knew they were about to experience a cultural extravaganza within a short span of time.
Maureen and Maggie are from UK and are spending a relaxed life after their retirement. They are in India to attend a dear friend, Asad’s wedding and are putting up in a Bed and Breakfast room that was arranged by BnBNation. They are looking for experiences that they can cherish for a long time and want their loved one’s back in UK to know! Asad is a dear friend of theirs and has been staying in UK for about 5 years and plans to bring his wife back to UK after marriage.
Maureen, Maggie and I started out for the mela and along the way the ladies started expressed how they admired the Indian values and marriage customs. They also expressed how excited they were to witness Asad’s wedding and what they plan to do for the newly married couple when the couple comes back to London in March! They enquired about the welfare schemes for the poor in India and how the state of affairs can be handled properly by the administration. I quenched their thirst for knowledge by informing them about the schemes such as Housing for All, Skill India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Hunar se rozgar, and other relevant schemes. They were happy to know the initiatives and thought that India is moving forward in the right direction!
They sounded positive about the Demonetization drive to root out black money and thought that the pain caused to the people would reap rich benefits to the Indian economy in the future. We have delved into the rationale behind Demonetization in an earlier blog post: http://wp.me/p7iRDY-8U
Once we reached the fair, Maggie said to Maureen “Wow! Look at that! It’s so colorful!” She was referring to a mask-wall put up by Jharkhand pavilion. Roaming around in the Chaupal where the cultural performances were taking place, Maureen exclaimed “The dresses of the performers are beautiful, aren’t they?? Why aren’t people back home in UK as colorful as them? Why do they always prefer black and white over other colors? I fail to understand! I love the colors here! Look at the vibrancy of the place!”
Both the ladies roamed around the mela and noticed the Central ministry empaneled stalls. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment empaneled stalls had elegant paintings and art products on display. Similarly, Ministry of Textiles empaneled stalls wore an exquisite look with a colorful display of stoles, shawls, carpets etc.
Then we moved towards the Open Air theatre where both the ladies stopped and enjoyed the folk dance performed by Rajasthani girls on the Rajasthan Tourism song ‘Padhaaro Mhaare desh’. Later, they saw the dance by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism board which was followed by the dance by Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and other states.
In another part of the mela they checked out stalls set up by other countries like Tajikistan, Kazakhastan, Tunisia, South Africa, Egypt, Sri Lanka etc. They were delighted to see global culture ensembled in one place!
Next, they saw the section where Haryana State Legal Services Authority had setup stall where all the socially relevant messages were displayed. They were standees and displays for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign which impressed them the most. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao was launched pan India, on 22nd January 2015 in Panipat, Haryana to address the declining sex ratio of India by celebrating the birth of a girl child, based on the observation that child sex ratio in India has decreased to 918 in 2011 from 976 in 1961.
Among the other initiatives, the initiative against the ‘Acid attack’ surprised and appalled them in equal measure. They couldn’t fathom how could anyone throw acid at a girl. However, on knowing that such instances have reduced drastically after a few acid-attack incidents were highlighted by the media and prompt action was taken against the perpetrators by the governments, they felt relieved! Both were glad to know about the initiatives and were appreciative of the social message sent by Haryana States Legal Services Authority through the stall.
Furthermore, Maureen said that after looking at the Haryana States Legal Services Authority’s thought-provoking banners, her perception about social justice in India has changed for the better. Earlier, she and her peers in UK would think that social justice is a far-fetched concept in India and that the law and order as well as justice system in India is not well organised. However, after visiting the Haryana States Legal Services Authority area and glancing at the number of NGO’s working for social cause of the downtrodden and less privileged in India has made her think otherwise.
By the time, we exited the mela, they had bought a few bags and a pair of colorful slippers from the Surajkund mela for themselves and for their near and dear ones’ back home. But what they didn’t pay for was the smile and the contentment on their faces. They felt as if in a matter of a few hours, they had experienced the entire cultural heritage and traditions of India and a few other countries!
About the Surajkund Mela:
This year’s Surajkund Mela is the 31st edition of Surajkund mela. It is organized by the Surajkund Mela Authority & Haryana Tourism in collaboration with Union Ministries of Tourism, Textiles, Culture and External Affairs. For the 31thSurajkund International Crafts Mela-2017, the state of Jharkhand has been chosen to be the Theme State. At least 20 countries & all the states of India are participating in the Mela. Countries like Kazakhastan, Sri Lanka, Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Tajikistan, Belarus etc have set up their stalls to display their cultural heritage and their unique products.
The most important feature of the mela is the cultural performances of renowned national and international folk artistes and cultural groups at both the Chaupals and the open-air theatres, located in the Mela premises. Maggie and Maureen were delighted to see the colorful costumes of the dancers from Chhatisgarh, Jammu Kashmir and a few tribal groups of India.
The Mela is indeed a custodian of the heritage crafts involving use of traditional skills that are fading away due to cheap machine made imitations, and a special section is earmarked for showcasing of these heritage crafts.
The multi-cuisine Food Court provides ethnic cuisines from all over the world, which are immensely popular with visitors. There are designated places for amusement, adventure sports and joy rides that make it a must visit event for the young. In 2013, the fair was upgraded to an international level and in 2015, a record number of 20 countries participated in the Mela and Lebanon was the Partner Nation and Chhattisgarh, the Theme State.
The mela has been growing in popularity by leaps and bounds and the upcoming editions are expected to be bigger and better!
About the Author:
Ambuj Saxena is Co-Founder at BnBNation. He is a 2013 Brand Management graduate from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA). He has successfully executed various online and offline marketing campaigns for companies operating in Automobile, Fashion and Lifestyle, Travel and Tourism sectors as well as Government departments. He has co-founded BnBNation as he believes that Tourism and Hospitality is as much online as it is offline, and he can add value to both.