Bedecked in colour and light, and in song and dance, the streets near the Hindu Temple of Bab Al Bahrain in Manama, wore a grand and festive look on Saturday.
It was the launch of the ‘Little India’ project. A superb effort by the Government of Bahrain to give its residents and its tourists – especially, those visiting the Manama souq – that special inimitable taste of India – through songs, dance, food and crafts.
With India and Bahrain having maintained a strong bilateral trade and cultural relationship for over three millennia, I believe, this project is a timely and much-needed attraction for this beautiful kingdom.
Organised by Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) in association with The Indian Embassy and Samskrithi Bahrain, the launch event was so splendid and so enthralling that I am sure, it is heralding a new chapter of greater cultural exchanges, between the two nations, in future.
Everyone saw Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, at the opening ceremony, not merely commending the work done by BACA, but highlighting the relationship between Bahrain and India. And, more interestingly, enjoying the display of various cultural activities.
I salute the BACA President, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, for embarking on this unique ‘Little India’ venture which now gives India and its culture a new and special status in Bahrain. Just like how ‘China Towns’ give a special status to China in many cities of USA.
So, just as the Indian Ambassador to Bahrain Alok Kumar Sinha said at the opening, this “gesture shown by the Bahraini leadership to acknowledge and recognise the contributions made by the Indian community in the progress and development of Bahrain will go a long way to further strengthen the existing strong ties between our two countries”.
“The launching of Little India in Bahrain is an example of Bahrain’s cultural plurality; its rich cultural heritage and tradition of hospitality; its respect for diversity; and the openness and warmth of the Bahraini people”.
I believe the cultural diversity of India was very well-brought-out, during Saturday’s opening ceremony, by the performances of varied dance-forms endemic to various states of India.
Kerala’s Tiruvathira, Punjab’s Bhangra, Maharastra’s Lavni, Gujarat’s Dandiya and Garbaa, were a feast to the eyes, just like the other folk dances of Rajasthan and Bihar were.
And the documentary about the Indian community that was also unveiled at the event, gave valuable information to viewers.
It was interesting and nice to see that Frances Stafford, the head of this project, though not from India, was comfortably walking around in her bright silk saree at the event. She is a curator and Senior Exhibition Specialist at the Ministry of Culture, and her determination and effort must be applauded.
Speaking to our newspaper, Manama Traditional Market Committee Deputy Chairman Mahmood Al Namlit had said that the project would be a huge boost to the Manama Souq. He also expressed that ‘Little India’ project “has certainly created a buzz, and now we need to maintain this enthusiasm”.
And that is just what I feel is needed. Sustaining this enthusiasm, and keeping it going!
Resplendent in colour, and resonating with music, I think, this project has a lot to offer than what the organisers are envisaging.
They believe that the public space in the souq will also be a place for gatherings, relaxation and even trade (food, markets, events, and Bollywood films).
But I am sure it will become much, much more than that.