Atlanta celebrates Indo-German relations
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Atlanta celebrates Indo-German relations

'India Meets Germany' was the genesis of the festival that launched amid serene resplendence at the Sheraton Towers, writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 22:49 IST
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya

In India, many of us are only too familiar with the Max Mueller Bhavans and the German fare they offer- from language classes to classic eats. Their Atlanta counterpart, an equally vibrant organization called the Goethe-Institute is celebrating its annual festival currently and has honoured India as its partner nation in this endeavour, quite like many government agencies in Germany.

Consequently, the Indo-German US Cultural Festival at Goethe Institute, Atlanta that kicked off as a dazzling and verdant montage of the unfolding cultural and socio-economic ties between India and Germany had numbered but discerning Indian, German and American patrons, all of whom were looking forward to the unravelling of this global dynamic with excitement.

'India Meets Germany' was the genesis of the festival that launched amid serene resplendence at the Sheraton Towers Colony Square Mall on Saturday, May 20 at 7.30 pm. Tickets for the event, at $35 for the general public and $30 for Friends of Goethe were on sale some weeks prior to the event as also at the venue itself.

This opening night event, celebrating the culture of India was a medley of Indian music and dance that rested firmly on the shoulders of the man-in-charge, city-based Manoj Bhatia, an alumnus of Emory University who actively straddled the roles of organizer, host and co-coordinator. Skilfully flitting between receiving dignitaries and encouraging audiences to participate in the ongoing hoopla, Bhatia's efforts were buffered by the talented troupe of performers who regaled the assembly.

Guests of honour included Monika Reuter, Vice Consul, Consulate General of Germany who in her inaugural speech expressed her recently piqued fascination for India and its legacy. She highlighted Germany's growing interest in India not just economically but also academically, with many German students taking to the study of Indology and Sanskrit. Reuter also spoke of how Rabindranath Tagore was inspired to learn the German language in order to read Faust in its original avatar, placing Indo-German ties in a universal, historic context.

Following the opening speeches, the buffet with Indian specialties as 'seekh kabab' and 'samosas' was thrown open for a round of starters. In the background, soulful soundscapes from a live table performance kept the audience company.

This was followed by 'Kathak' and fusion dance performances scheduled for the first half of the evening. These comprised the Kalavati Tarana, Kar Shringar Dekho Chalat Sundari, Thumri- Saiyaan Chodo Na Mori Baiyaan and Katrina dance chapters. While the first three conformed to the classical syntax more or less, Katrina was a fusion of classical dance emoting to 'filmi' tunes and racy music. Naturally, to an international audience this spoke louder, as they joined in with encouraging shout outs.

These hearty dance numbers were followed by a dinner break, enjoyed thoroughly by fans of spicy Indian delicacies and saccharine sweets. The second half of the program constituted stellar musical performances by the acclaimed local band 'Navrang'. Rakesh Raj and Moumita Dalal, the lead singers and Ramesh Maraj, playing the saxophone were especially resonant. Raj in fact reached out to the audience by serenading salwaar-kameez clad Germans and inviting people to dance to his tune.

The festival, spread over the week is scheduled to have many more interesting presentations on India before it culminates on June 3, 2006. Of the ongoing and forthcoming events, Robert Arnett's photo exhibition on India, India Unveiled, and his slide presentation on May 26 are likely to garner avid interest. Also noteworthy are lectures by Dr. Rajesh Chakrabarti (India in a Globalizing world) and Dr. Jagdish Sheth (Economic & Cultural Ties: India, US, and Germany) slated for May 22 and June 2 respectively.

If the opening act is anything to go by, the festival should see lively reception from the Diaspora here. Even in brilliant contrast to the subtle, cozy, table-setting for the seventy-member odd audience, the tambourine of dance and music played out starkly, underpinning the sentiment of 'josh' that Indian cultural presentations have come to be associated with in the Western sensibility.

No doubt, other perceptions will similarly be endorsed, contradicted and changed over the tenure of the festival and beyond.

First Published: May 23, 2006 22:49 IST