Celebrating cultural diversity

Celebrating cultural diversity

WARM The boys from Afghanistan. dh photos by shiva kumar b h

David and Carol hail from the Ivory Coast. “Our country is known as ‘Côte d'Ivoire’. We are a republic headed by a President and our official language is French,” they explain gesturing towards an interesting array of dishes with a strong French flavour that is typical of their cuisine. Like braised chicken and fish smothered in onions and tomatoes and N’voufou, a semi sweet dish prepared from mashed bananas mixed with palm oil.

A group of impeccably mannered young men man the Afghanistan stall. Scenic posters of their country fill the backdrop against which a well-presented buffet spread is laid out.
Hasan, an Afghan student, who also doubles up as head chef explains, “We find Indian food way too spicy and had no choice but to cook our own. We use mild herbs and spices like mint, saffron, coriander, cardamom, and black pepper. Most of our dishes are made from lamb and chicken, neither too spicy nor too bland.” Mohammed Yusuf , his batchmate, talks with a nostalgic fondness of his homeland. ‘There is no Taliban there anymore.We came to India on a scholarship and contrary to what you see on television and the news, it is a peaceful country,” he insists.

The gentle but very articulate Sonam Retty oversees the Bhutanese stall taking great pains to describe the cultural features of her country, from the currency to the embroidered traditional silk garments and the food. Curious students wander in and quiz her about the art and artifacts that are tastefully displayed.

Warm and welcoming were the students at the Sri Lankan stall, the Nepalese stall and the Tibetan stall, all colourfully dressed in their national costumes. Last but not least were the boys from Yemen, a fun and peppy lot. “We don't have to cook ourselves. There is a restaurant that servers authentic Yemenese food and Arab students flock there,” says Ibrahim, adding wistfully, “we are warm and friendly people. I miss my country a lot.
It is very different from India.”

“It is becoming increasingly important for us, as students, to value the different cultural groups in a globalised working environment. Today, it is unacceptable for a person to be racist and students will be more open to different cultures if they are exposed to their heritage and background,” says Danish, a student council member from CMR. “We need to jump into the shoes momentarily of our fellow students who speak different languages, have varying religious beliefs and traditions. The lines of communication need to be opened, and intolerance put aside.”

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