There are tears of sorrow and there’re tears of joy…. What I tasted last night was beyond these basic feelings. My tears tasted sweet!
I felt happy and I felt proud!
In spite of heavy criticism from all around the world (including myself & the rest of us Indians) surrounding the much anticipated 19th Commonwealth games, deep down in my heart I wanted it to go well! I do not feel embarrassed in admitting that I was being extremely critical of the preparations, solely for very selfish reasons! I wanted MY country to do it well and did not accept various allegations that we COULD NOT do it well!
There has not been many occasions where I have watched TV by myself waking up till 0345 am…the last one was World cup Soccer finals and I was disappointed!
Amidst all the speculations and negative publicity, I convinced myself to watch the opening ceremony through the Australian lenses and hear the commentary by the Aussies meant for the Aussies. And God I loved it!
What a presentation! Right from the very first minute, there was this magic in the air.
The energy of 80 thousand excited people could be felt sitting thousands of kilometers away.
A wonderful opening of the opening by junior star Keshav who not only dared to play tabla by himself in the middle of the arena, however visibly enjoyed every moment like a pro. Just the smile on his face and that teasing look in his eyes, he loved challenging the various drummers around him in the musical language of Jugalbandi! The great Hariharan’s Swagatam was mindblowing but very traditional!
Following the opening speeches by the various dignitaries, Prince Charles on behalf of the queen declared the 19th Commonwealth games open!
Something which has never happened before in any other Commonwealth games was the parade of all the athletes before the cultural performance. This was a fantastic idea (introduced for the first time in Delhi this year) as this gave the various athletes the opportunity to actually watch the cultural performance live in the arena.
The first team to enter the arena holding their flag was Australia (always the last hosting nation). Amazingly, all the 71 teams were lead by an Indian female wearing a completely different traditional wear. No other country in the world could display 71 completely traditional dresses just in its original form. This was thankfully noticed and appreciated by the Australian commentators who just could not believe the diversity!
Something which really shook me but brought an inevitable smile on my face was the applause the Pakistani team received! It surprised everyone considering the interesting bond we have shared all the way along. Really, amongst the 71 nations present, Pakistan is the closest to India!
However, what became one of the highlights of the night was the applause for the Indian team, who were the last to enter. Quite obvious, the host team draws a lot of attention. But just the blast of human applause when the team entered was beyond anything anyone had ever seen or heard before! One of Australian commentators (Nicole Livingstone) has been to many Olympics and Commonwealth games both as an athlete and a team official, and had no hesitation is admitting that ‘it was the loudest applause she had ever heard in her life’!
It has always been a tough task for us Indians to portray this phenomenon of diversity called India without going into extreme details or confusing everyone including ourselves! Such is the extent of the diversity of India!
However the wonderful way putting the whole nation together by dances, colors and dresses was just breathtaking. Over 500 artists of Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Odissi, Kathak, Bihu and Manipuri did something for fifteen minutes. However that something (beyond words and expression) would have been once in a life time experience for everyone watching the performance.
The fact the dancers first performed their individual acts but at one stage, sixteen of each dancers from the above at performed together to the same music.
Without exaggeration, never in the history of any event anyone would have seen such a fantastic performance of different dances together!
During the performance, it was made a point to put across the importance of ‘Guru-Shishya’ relationship to our culture!
My first reaction when I heard ‘Indian railways’ as the next was completely overpowered by the fact how Indian railways is such an important part of modern India. As the engine of Indian railways entered, one could see and appreciate all the little things in around the fake train which make India what it is today. Ranging of ‘Chaiwalaa’ to ‘Bangel shops’ to ‘bollywood songs’, ‘Rickshaws’ and every little thing we have always taken for granted!
At one stage, there must have been a thousand performances just enjoying the moment and the energy on the ground was unseen and unfelt before!
What I really liked about the organization was that no body let the arena and everyone was ecstatically dancing together to one tune! There was no so-called symmetry as such but I guess that’s what India is all about!
A beautiful thought to remember Mahatma Gandhi (on his birthday) by the wonderful performance of ‘live sand art’ which was closely telecasted on the huge screen in the middle of the arena.
An International event in India would have been incomplete without A R Rahman. So to conclude the colorful ceremony, Mr. Rahman performed live and played the ‘Official song of Delhi Commonwealth games’ and ‘Jai ho’, both of them were unanimously loved by the audience!
The above effort to describe what actually happened that night is no where close to reality! It is by no means a complete justice to the nation’s efforts to welcome the world!
Lying on my couch, heart pounding and tears rolling down my cheeks….. I felt proud…very proud!