Ask anyone to describe their first exposure to another country and the most likely answer will be that it was through culture. Data crunching or social debates will most likely come a distant second to a vibrant presentation of art, music, dance and food. That was the case in Stockholm too this May, when residents of Sweden’s capital city were exposed to a kaleidoscope of Indian flavours, sounds, rhythms and philosophies.
The experience was part of ‘Namaste Stockholm’, the culminating leg of the third edition of ‘India Unlimited’, a festival organised by the Indian embassy in Sweden through summer this year. While the focus of the annual fest is to improve economic relations and social ties between India and Sweden, the cultural showcase of the former seemed equally important and could be seen attracting locals the most. ‘Namaste Stockholm’ showcased the spirit of India through yoga, dance, arts and crafts, fashion and savoury Indian cuisine.
“India Unlimited seeks to strengthen India-Sweden connections and partnerships in all areas that benefit both countries, with special emphasis on economic relations and people-to-people ties through business seminars, exhibitions, food and cultural festivals. India Unlimited is about promoting India in Sweden, as well as promoting Sweden in India,” said the Indian ambassador to Sweden, Banashri BoseHarrison. But even the ambassador agreed that it was yoga, food, music and dance of India that got Stockholm residents flocking to the multiple venues of the festival. “Just look at the number of local residents taking part in the yoga session. They seem so passionate to know and learn more about this ancient Indian discipline,” she added, pointing to the large and enthusiastic gathering that was dedicatedly following the instructions of the yoga guru at the morning session organised at Kungsträdgården (Swedish for King’s Garden), in the heart of Stockholm.
Legendary Indian contemporary dancer-choreographer Astad Deboo received a similar response during his performance later that day. While Deboo enthralled the crowd at the King’s Garden with his fluid movements and international compositions, the evening also saw large dance troupes present glimpses of Indian festivals in an energetic collage of colours and rhythms. On the side were art exhibitions and talks about other aspects of Indian culture.
Also thrown in was a fashion show presented by students of the National Institute of Fashion Technology focussing on ethnic textiles from India. In the background of the show, the food stalls set up by Indians residing in Stockholm offering homecooked desi flavours made brisk business.
As Indians cheered for performances from their respective states, for Stockholm residents, the fest seemed to be an eye-opener. “I never knew so many festivals are celebrated in India and that it has such beautiful and unique travel destinations,” said Hans, a college student, who had come to the venue with his friends to taste some “spicy Indian curry”. However, it was Bollywood that got them grooving! As the audience moved to peppy Bollywood numbers, boundaries and cultures truly merged.