The much-hyped International Sufi Festival organised on October 20 and 21 had all the elements that made it sound interesting. Sufi scholars and international poets from across the globe, the historic venue of Khalsa College and performers from 12 countries coming together at one platform to regale the audiences. However, despite all these elements, the festival lacked the enthusiasm that an event of this stature is supposed to generate.
The festival was organised by Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) and Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board, Punjab government, in collaboration with the ministry of tourism and Arpana Caur.
The line-up of the two-day festival included an academic session to talk about Sufism and its various aspects, a poetry session chaired by Surjit Patar and Sufi performances on both the days.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and governor Shivraj Patil inaugurated the festival on Saturday while Arunachal Pradesh governor Gen JJ Singh (retd) inaugurated the first academic session on Sunday.
However, the high-profile event failed to strike a chord with the locals. The audience present at the academic sessions on both the days comprised largely of participating scholars, while the presence of the general public was almost negligible. Similar was the situation during the poetry session held on Sunday. The Sufi performances were the only events which saw public participation, but that too wasn't large.
Mismanagement by the organisers was also one of the reasons for this. While the poetry session was underway, the poets were asked to vacate the chairs in the front rows for the VIP guests. Ajeet Cour, president of FOSWAL, later apologised to the poets.
Interestingly, while the event was being held at Khalsa College, no college student was present during the academic and poetry sessions. "Students of post-graduation classes of the college should have been present as the discussions would have helped them. But unfortunately not many students attended the sessions. Besides, a screen containing subtitles of what was being said should have been installed since not many were comfortable with the language," felt Patar.
When contacted, Geetika Kalha, principal secretary, culture and tourism, said, "People of Amritsar need time to appreciate that such events are coming to their city. On our part, we did everything possible to generate hype for the event, be it advertising or inviting people. I feel once the event becomes a regular feature it will attract more crowds. With word of mouth next year we are positive of getting more people."