UK-India Year of Culture: Rain ruins parade plans

Even as the UK-India Year of Culture was to get the India treatment with Change of Guards to the tune of Jai Ho, the weather washed out the event

The band that was to perform Jai Ho
The band that was to perform Jai Ho

It was supposed to be a grand kick-off of the UK-India Year of Culture at the Buckingham Palace with the Queen's Band of Grenadier Guards set to hit it with Jai Ho. Instead, in typical Brit irony, inclement weather on Monday washed out all the hopes of the crowd huddled together under giant umbrellas and trench coats, waiting for the unusual Changing Of The Guard Ceremony at its regular 11 am slot.

'Token' parade
"The band cannot let its instruments get wet and also can not march on wet roads due to health and safety concerns," said a security officer at the Palace.

"This is so disappointing. I was looking forward to the special Change Of Guards and had travelled in especially to witness it," said Arvind Mehta, a Surrey resident who drove an hour to London. Tourists from abroad were equally disappointed. "This would have been fantastic. I love Slumdog Millionaire and India," said Antonio Alvarez, a backpacker from Spain, humming Jai Ho. "It would have been a proud moment to see our British soldiers march to the tune of Indian music," said Andrew Lanes, a British pensioner.

Meanwhile, as there was no contingency plan in place, after deliberation, a hasty alternative plan was put into motion that that neither the press or public was informed about.

For the alternate, the usual 30-minute ceremony around the mall that concludes at Buckingham Palace was turned into a five-minute affair in the Wellington Barracks where a hastened version of the event saw the band hit a few notes of the melody from Don and Slumdog Millionaire's Jai Ho.

Gala reception
The Year of Culture is a celebration of the deep cultural ties and the 70th anniversary of India's Independence through a year-long programme of events and exhibitions, which will take place in both countries.

In service of that, a royal gala reception hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace later on Monday evening welcomed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and a host of Indian celebrities Kunal Nayyar, Anoushka Shankar, Ayesha Dharker, Kapil Dev, Manish Malhotra and Kamal Haasan.

A confluence of Indian dances — Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi and Manipuri, will also be performed at the Palace by the dance group Akademi.

"We were informed about this just five days ago and quickly planned the show," said Arunima Kumar, the chorographer.

Peacock symbolism
The highlight of the event was the projection of a peacock design, celebrated as the national bird of India, which was visible from all approaches of the Palace.
"The peacock, both regal and dramatic, is the perfect metaphor for a year of incredible cultural events connecting UK and India", said Alan Gemmell OBE, British Council Director India.

"It isn't every day that you have the opportunity to project an image onto the façade of Buckingham Palace". The projection has been designed by Studio Carrom, a Bengaluru and London-based design studio.

"We wanted to ensure people knew this was about India, but which would also surprise and intrigue people, encouraging them to follow the UK-India Year of Culture. It needed to be cool and contemporary as well as referencing India's rich cultural heritage. We were drawn to the idea of performance and dance, as it encompasses different people and traditions that make India such a diverse and unique country," said a spokesperson for Studio Carrom.

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