November 03, 2011
Alexander R. Boal '13
Members of the Hampden-Sydney International Club - Alexander Boal '13, Trevin Charity '13, and Hakeem Mohammed '14 and the two Amity scholars, Javier Valera from Spain and Marius Radeiski from Germany - attended the Festival of India in Richmond in October. This annual event is held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, where people gather to expereince Indian culture, music, and food. Many people, both participants and visitors, dress in traditional Indian clothes, such as saris and turbans. Visitors find all kinds of Indian goods for sale, including clothing, jewelry, art, and, most importantly, food. The festival creates an exotic atmosphere, one that affects all of the senses, and it almost feels as if one is in another country.
Visitors to the Festival can savor a wide variety of exotic and unusual dishes, many of which have a pungent taste and fragrant smell due to the spices used. One dish offered was a type of crepe, called a dosa, which was served either plain or filled with potatoes, onions, and spices. Both came with the choice of either coconut or ginger chutney. Another dish was samosas, fried pastries filled with vegetables and served with chutney. There was also a type of flatbread called naan and a hearty lentil soup. Savory main courses such as chicken biryani and lamb or chicken curry were also available. Desserts included several types of Indian cakes, pastries, and ice cream. The selection of beverages was just as wide and also just as delicious. Some of the drinks included coconut water, mango juice, chai tea, and Indian coffee. Liquid refreshment also existed in the form of lassi, a type of yogurt smoothie and faluda, a drink made with rose syrup, ice cream, and small seeds. Both drinks do a great job of cooling the palate after eating spicy Indian dishes.
The festival also included Indian music and dancing. One group performed a traditional style Indian song with violins and a tabla, an Indian percussion instrument. A number of traditional dances were also performed to Indian music. Visitors also experienced more modern Bollywood music and dancing. This was lively and upbeat Indian pop music from musicals, accompanied with choreographed dancing. There was also a tribute to one of India's most famous Bollywood actors, Shammi Kapoor, who just passed away on August 14. 2011.
The festival was an enjoyable and enriching experience, as well as a delicious one. It's not every day that one can become so immersed in another culture. Such an experience can offer eye opening insight into another culture's way of life. In the increasingly globalized world that everyone lives in, knowledge of other cultures can help to improve the way that one relates to others of a different background in both professional and social situations. While not everyone may get the chance to visit India one day, driving over to Richmond for a day is a fairly easy and inexpensive way to experience some of what India and its culture are like. It's definitely an event that's worth going to at least once; your stomach will thank you.