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Expat explores India's diversity

An FR intern swaps workplaces with a journalist from the Hindustan Times for four weeks and here's his account of a visit to the subcontinent's largest trade fair in New Delhi. Read on.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2011 19:01 IST
Danijel Majic
Pavilions-at-the-31st-India-International-Trade-Fair-ITTF-at-Pragati-Maidan-in-New-Delhi-HT-Photo-by-Sunil-Saxena
Pavilions-at-the-31st-India-International-Trade-Fair-ITTF-at-Pragati-Maidan-in-New-Delhi-HT-Photo-by-Sunil-Saxena

One day is just not enough. Early Sunday afternoon, Jaswinder Talwar can already see that he will only be able to view half of the stands at the India International Trade Fair (IITF).



"You need at least two days. But, sadly, I only have today off," the tourism manager says while waiting in the long queue with his wife and two children at one of the food stands. They have already seen the pavilion of the state of Kerala, visited the stand of the railway ministry and thought about what they can bring their relatives from India's biggest trade fair. "A pity it's only held once a year," Talwar finds.



The

Hindustan Times

certifies the IITF as the "most important date on the capital city's calendar." Indeed, it is the largest trade fair in India. After five days reserved for professional visitors it opened its doors to the general public on 19 November. In the past, the trade fair has attracted up to 2.5 million visitors. Today, the number of visitors has been restricted to 100,000 people per day.

The IITF is many things at the same time: small-trade market, showplace of Indian industry, advertising platform for governmental agencies, and not least also a kind of Indian Expo, where the different states present their own pavilions. Sometimes, the IITF is even used as an election campaign platform, such as the pavilion of the state of Uttar Pradesh demonstrates, the front of which displays over-life-sized portraits of Chief Minister Mayawati.



Then there are the international exhibitors. Prior to the visitor days, the Chinese delegation caused displeasure because it took down its pavilion early. The business opportunities were not good enough was the reason given.

By contrast, the offering by "arch enemy" Pakistan meets with great interest. Only early November, the government in Islamabad decided to grant India the status of a "preferred trade partner." "But," Muzafer Ahmad believes, "naturally, the people mostly come for our handicrafts." In a wooden pavilion the size of a Christmas market stand, the textile merchant from the crisis region of Kashmir is presenting jumpers, shawls and cloths made of the famous wool of the domestic cashmere goats. "At the bazaar, I have 10,000 potential customers, but here there are ten times as many on one day."

In the meantime, Jaswinder Talwar and his family move on. They still want to see what the state of Bihar has to offer at the IITF 2011. "The special thing about this trade fair is that it shows all of India's diversity in one small place."

Danijel Majic is an FR intern who has swapped workplaces with a journalist from the Hindustan Times for four weeks.