Commonwealth from distant Canada

While that’s not something to write home about in itself, let me attempt to describe why this event has been etched indelibly in all our hearts after watching it live on TV from Hamilton, Canada.

At the beginning of the event, the eight of us — ie three Canadians of Ghanaian origin, four more of Pakistani origin and myself (an Indian visiting Canada) were just a group of friends who had developed a close relationship during the years we all spent together working in the UAE.

While agreeing this would be an unusual combination of nationality anywhere, the unique significance of our being together in far-off Hamilton unfolded for us only as the ceremony progressed along its three-hour journey. By the way, some decades ago, the first CWG was held was held in Hamilton... howzzat for a coincidence?

Anyway, as we all chatted together after an exciting trip to Niagara Falls, we chanced upon the fact that the opening performance was to be telecast live here since Canada is also a part of the Commonwealth. To everyone’s satisfaction, our decision to watch it together was as simultaneous as it was mutual.

A definitive moment

This was a definitive moment since it suddenly dawned upon us that other than our long friendship we also had a common heritage which bound us closely in a unique manner. Though we were from India, Pakistan and Ghana respectively all of whom have rich individual histories, as erstwhile colonies of Great Britain we now also share centuries of common history.

Further, the irony that most of us were now living in yet another former colony that shared this common heritage was not lost on us either. We rejoiced as our hearts warmed further in spite of the cold rain and 9c temperature outside.

Well, the eight of us whooped and cheered and clapped as the classical and folk dances provided a breath-taking exposure to Indian culture at its richest and best in the huge, newly furbished Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at New Delhi. While the dancers show-cased the exquisite nuances of expression and scintillating movement, the stylish choreography and stunningly elegant costumes supported them superlatively all of which reduced us to open-mouthed wonder at the beauty and pageantry of it... topped up by the Army dudes’ precision in the flag hoisting protocol!

Being the only Indian around, I didn’t lose the opportunity to preen a bit until my Pakistani pal put me squarely you-know-where by identifying the classical dance styles on display rather better than I did. But we were all uniformly delighted that the world had a chance to see and enjoy aspects of our distinctive and unique 5,000-year old culture rather than the 50-year old brash Bollywood bunk that too often passes as ‘sweetness and light’ now-a-days!

And then came the contingents from more than 70 nations and principalities... another definitive moment had arrived! We cheered lustily for each other’s home country athletes as they trooped excitedly in... each of us was also proud of them and as hopeful for medals as the athletes themselves. And from the oldest to the youngest amongst us, we roared with appreciation when the Canadians came on!
Strangely enough, even though I’m not Canadian, the spirit around carried me along too; just as all of us laughed aloud in unison over what the commentator called ‘a triumph of diplomacy’ when both, the Indian President and Prince Charles declared the Games open one after another! We fellow ex-colonialwallahs know all about political posturing!

While 1.18 billion Indians heaved a collective sigh of relief when this opening ceremony heralding the Games went off without a hitch, the eight of us had forged another powerful link in the chain of friendship and coincidence of history. And in the true spirit of our ‘common wealth’ the Canadian team’s chosen motto is ‘Lage Raho.’

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