In the end it’s not so bad being marooned in London when everyone else seems to have jumped ship (or taken a plane) to escape our monsoon-style weather. Because London is increasingly one of the greatest cities to be in, however much we all moan about transport, costs and of course the weather. The whole world lives here and if you’re searching for exoticism it’s not hard to find – but this summer it gets even better.
One of the city’s most high-profile events ever – INDIA NOW – is an ambitiously scaled fest of all things Indian. I haven’t got to the subcontinent this year (yet) so am sorely missing that beguiling country, its dazzle, history, heat, humanity, colour and intensity. When people ask me what my favourite country is, it’s always a tough call. “India and Mexico” is usually my reply – seemingly polar opposites as they don’t share a cultural heritage, but so close in many other ways.
So, back to India Now. It means, as of next week, when in dire need of a break from writing about Mexico, I can grab a bus or tube and head for Trafalgar Square. For three weeks there’ll be dance, music and something that really intrigues me – a choreography on motor-scooters from Bangalore. So they don’t just deal in IT down there. There’ll also be poster-painters from Mumbai working on a giant canvas and a few sessions of bouncing Bollywood dancers. It all sounds fantastic, a real extravaganza that’s bound to wake up the pigeons.
We’ve already had a scaled-down Taj Mahal being floated down the Thames, and a big inaugural party of the fest at the London Eye. Then there’s a great programme of concerts – sitars, tablas, dance and films, meaning contemporary India is also getting a look in. And at Alibi, in the heart of the City, regular club nights with Bollywood beats and top Indian DJs. Another event I’ve put in my diary (August 29th) is the festival of Jaggarnauts – three gigantic chariots honouring different Hindu gods (in the spirit of the festival at Puri, in Orissa) which will be pulled through the streets from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. I can already visualise the scene – with plenty of song, dance and great music – again. And maybe a few downpours.
The grande finale is on September 2 when the whole of Regent St will be closed to traffic for an entire day’s feasting and festivities. Last time that happened, for a huge Spanish event, half a million people turned up. For India Now, considering the number of London Asians and Indianophiles there are, it could well be more. By then, the 60th anniversary of Indian Independence will have been celebrated with unbelievable panache. I’ll drink a lassi to that.