Thursday, July 23, 2015

International Day 2014 - one year ago!

Last 3 years, International Day in Dulwich has been a really big deal for me personally - so I'm still trying to figure out how I managed to completely skip writing about this event last year. All the more since last year was special in a whole different way!! Anyway, to repeat what is fast becoming the motto of this blog - better late than never - here it is, International Day, a year ago!!

Second year in a row, I was the India country rep - first year quite by accident, and then the second year, by default!! To be honest, I was quite looking forward to it - I had some ideas that I was hoping to try out!! This year, India was on its own - no Bangladesh to share the booth - our neighbors would be missed for sure!! Initial meeting for the team setup - these are usually a waste of time, in my opinion - the people who would end up working, I meet all the time -  and those who are not interested, don't show up to any meetings - but protocol must be followed, and all Indian parents are invited to the kick-off meeting, with suggestions and opinions!!

First thing on the agenda - what do we serve at the booth?? With Indian cuisine, the possibilities are endless - from biryani to pav-bhaji to chicken curry and samosas - as long as someone volunteers to cook, anything is possible!! Unfortunately, not many people are - understandably - willing to cook something tedious. So what are we looking for - easy to make, easy to serve and most important, appealing to the expat crowd!!  So it came down to paneer frankies, chicken tikka, samosas, idli-chutney, gulab-jamun and mint lemonade - quite an extensive spread, isn't it??

Next on the list - the country basket. Indian baskets are usually packed with a bunch of spices, lentils and curry mixes - and although all this fills up the basket admirably, I always wonder if any of these items are really used by the eventual basket winner. Not to mention, we have to buy all these basket items - which considerably increases the contribution money - which in turn, leads to a lot of grumbling. So this year, I decided that the only thing we would buy was Kingfisher beer - beer is always a crowd-pleaser, right? - and everything else in the basket would be donations - if that meant we had a smaller basket, so be it!!

I had in mind a very basic basket - the beer, of course; a box of Taj Mahal tea, couple of Haldiram snack mixtures, couple of ready-to-eat curries - and a last minute idea - I had a spare Indian spice box, a stainless steel version found in homes all across India - filled the 7 little boxes with whole spices, and added that to the basket. And then, so many handicraft donations came in - that we ended up making 2 baskets - one food basket, and one handicraft basket. Funny thing is, when SK, VH and I got together to assemble the baskets - we were quite lost - finally called in an expert - thanks, MW, for helping us put together these gorgeous baskets!!

India country baskets

And now the reason this International Day was so special - the India entry for the entertainment program. We had an ace up our sleeve this year - SK, our very talented, accomplished friend - who was a classically trained dancer in Kathak and Bharatnatyam!! So no doubt that we were going to put up a spectacular performance!! Except that SK was quite keen that we put up a group dance with kids and moms - and then another mom PR was quite enthusiastic about the idea - pulling VH and a very reluctant me into the group. Yes, I was going to dance - I still can't believe I agreed to this - it's no secret that I have 2 huge left feet - so clumsy, I'm incapable of walking from one room to another without bumping into something, leave alone dance!!!

To her credit, SK accepted all the responsibility - and she was quite confident that she could teach anyone to dance - yes, even a total klutz like me! So began the rehearsals - we were to do a garba on the song 'Nagada' - the original Deepika Padukone song is breath-taking, and watching her dance on Youtube did absolutely nothing for our collective morale!! SK, however, is really, really good - and she managed to choreograph moves that were relatively easy for us, which also looked quite pretty!! Have to admit - rehearsals were a lot of fun, and it seemed like we wouldn't make total fools of ourselves!

There was a bit of a crisis the day before the event - it started to rain - and FoD had to scramble to move the entire event indoors. Country booths were changed to tables - all moved into the SS cafeteria - and there wouldn't be enough space for decoration. So when I showed up at school in the morning, wasn't really sure what to expect! India had been assigned a pretty good spot, and we also had a pillar behind us - so we were able to put up a couple of posters as well. As soon as all the team members arrived, our food and decoration was setup - just in time for the hungry people coming in!! The rainy day, chilly weather - our warm frankies were a big hit, and the rest of the food quickly sold out too!!

Incredible India!!

And soon, too soon, it was time to go backstage to get ready for our dance!! Butterflies - no, practically the entire animal kingdom - doing their own version of the dance in my stomach!! Our performance started off with only the 4 girls on stage - and then when they exit after about a minute and half, the audience started to applaud thinking the performance was over - and then our entry just about brought the house down!! We alternated one more time, and then all kids and moms on stage for the grand finale!! I can barely remember being on stage - just remember being very, very tense - and total complete relief with the final applause!! Watch the video - it's true, I did dance on stage!!

So much excitement - had a really wonderful day!! First the performance, and then our baskets fetched a record amount - which made me really happy, especially because we had spent so little cash on them!! Surprisingly, the spice-box was a bit hit - so many people asked me later if I could get one for them from India - don't know about that, but I do know what's going in the basket next year - and I did make sure that the spice rack was in the basket this year too!! With this post, I'm a little closer to getting caught up - couple more 'blast from the past' blogs, and I'll be all synced up!! Fingers crossed!!

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