Diwali with a Russian flavour

The Festival of Lights is charged with optimism, exudes vitality and welcomes absolutely every guest. Source: Boris Vershinin

The Festival of Lights is charged with optimism, exudes vitality and welcomes absolutely every guest. Source: Boris Vershinin

A special programme to mark the Indian Festival of Lights was held at the Moscow Aviation Institute. Curious Russians visitors seemed to have the most fun.

Diwali festivities in Moscow on Sunday, November 3 proved to be an intercultural experience, where visitors could observe Russian girls in traditional attire performing along with sari-clad dancers in tune with Hindi film songs from the 1980s.

This Diwali had a special meaning for me because I saw it through the eyes of my Russian friends.

For Vasilisa, who is an English language professor at one of Moscow’s universities, and her 7-year-old son Misha the Festival of Lights became their first tryst with Indian culture. Before, they had heard songs and seen dances only on TV but having a firsthand experience of an exotic and alluring culture was a completely different thing.

Vasilisa and I were in a hurry not to miss any part of the holiday. But when we crossed the threshold of the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) where the event organised by Sammy Kotwani, the Indian Business Alliance (IBA) President, and the Hindustani Samaj took place it turned out (anticipated by me but unexpected for her) that there was no reason to fret. You simply can’t be late for such an event! Whenever you come you are right in time for the Bazaar with its wide display of Hindu spiritual literature, Indian jewellery and garments, and a long and friendly conversation with the sellers whose peaceful disposition is contagious to everyone who just approaches a stand.

My friend exclaims: “What an amazing array of spiritual literature!” and we are glued to the nearest stand for a while. We waded through the books and booklets, a relaxing gesture after the hustle and bustle of the city, and Misha took an immense delight in spinning the wheel of truth.

Just when I thought we were going to buy all the contents of the stand, the concert was announced.

Source: Boris Vershinin

The dance programme consisted of multiple classical dances like Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Odissi as well as numbers from Bollywood hits like Three Idiots.

The talented ensembles like Chakkar, Sarasvati, Tarang and others captivated the viewers with their skilful rendition of classical dances.

The audience also enjoyed a creative mélange of East and West when a dance troupe performed an energetic Indian dance to an 80s disco music hit - Modern Talking’s Brother Louie song.

As a frequent visitor to the Indian events in Moscow, much as I enjoy the performances I realised that my freshness of perception had somewhat faded when I saw Vasilisa’s emotional reaction. She was excited about seeing the multi-coloured lighting of the stage floor and was impressed with the smooth and honed movements of the dancers. 

“It’s like immersing into another world!” Vasilisa gushes. “The dancing is so beautiful, and so are the costumes.” My friend admitted that the performance was not just culturally enriching but also made her feel calm and relaxed. It didn’t have quite the same effect on our little companion though, who on the contrary felt a boost of energy and had a great time singing along to the music or running around, playing with other kids and flirting with the Indian girls of his age in vicinity.

Vasilisa was unaccustomed to this at first but then she realised that this was a part of the carefree ambience of the holiday, with children enjoying unrestrained freedom and adults feeling like kids. Relaxed atmosphere, friendly banter and moving around the hall during the concert, and later easily fitting in the company of strangers while indulging in Indian cuisine was a new experience for my friend.

And her vivid interest towards all the happening reminded me what I like about the Festival of Lights so much – it’s charged with optimism, exudes vitality and welcomes absolutely every guest.  

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