I grab my camera and begin to work my way through the crowd of over 500 people. Men in business suits and women in fancy dresses sway to the sounds of blaring Bollywood music as I find my way to the front of the room. A blur of sequins and colour flash on gyrating hips as throngs of professional dancers move to the music on stage. In the centre of the stage, Shiamak Davar, dressed in a black velvet suit jacket and wearing sunglasses, serenades the crowd, in true Bollywood fashion.
When one thinks of government-organized events, the stuffy and formal stereotype is not often wrongly assumed. But, with an open bar, and live Bollywood music, the formalities at the Canadian Consulate’s Canada Day party quickly and thankfully went out the window…
A couple weeks ago I was contacted by Daniel Bood of the Canadian Consulate in Mumbai. I had first met Daniel well over a year ago when DWP held the first major function in the newly transformed garden in Saki Naka. After months of hard work transforming the garbage dump into a beautiful green space, DWP celebrated by donating 42 hand cycles to disabled members of our community and surrounding areas during the one day event. Daniel joined us as a special guest, acknowledging DWP’s work in India. Daniel spent the entire day with our community, wandering the lane ways and meeting community members. When he left the event, I was a very proud Canadian, wishing that more of our Government employees could be as down to earth and real as Daniel.
With Canada Day only a couple of weeks away, the Canadian consulate team was busy preparing for their biggest event of the year. I was asked to come to the consulate for a meeting with their team. I sat down with Nicolas Lepage and Preeti Prabhu, and gave them a informal presentation of what DWP was all about, and how it works in Mumbai, outlining our current and past projects. After the meeting, I was honoured that the Consulate had chosen DWP as their charity of choice for the Canada Day Event and was going to donate funds generated from their silent auction, as well as promote DWP at the very prestigious event in Mumbai.
With the day of the event finally here, I headed to South Mumbai from Saki Naka in a old yellow taxi. My dress shirt was hanging off the dusty back seat and the shirt I was wearing was pasted to my back, in the plus 30 degree humid monsoon heat. Over an hour later I arrived to the very posh Trident hotel and headed into the Regal Room to set up a slide show of DWP photos. Soon, the smiles of Saki Naka lit up our corner of the room, and I finally succumbed to the reality of formal wear and put on my dress shirt and long pants.
By 7:30 p.m., the beautifully decorated room was beginning to fill with Canadian and Indian CEOs of prominent companies, their employees and Government officials. By just after 8 p.m., the room was packed with people and the wine was flowing. After a few moments of introductions and speeches, the work of DWP was highlighted in a speech; a very proud moment for DWP in Mumbai.
With the formalities over, the room darkened for a moment, and then Bollywood took over. Bright strobe lights flashed across the room as 3o dancers gyrated, and Bollywood’s most famous choreographer/singer, Shaimak Davar, took the stage. For the next two hours, the crowd was treated to several amazing, over-the-top performances, a spectacle that only Bollywood can manage. As the last of the dancers left the stage, the crowd begged for more. Soon, Shiamak Davar, and his troupe reappeared on stage, inviting guests to join them. To my surprise, Deputy Canadian High Commissioner Jim Nickel, was one of the first to join them, and began to sway his hips to the latest Bollywood tunes. He was quickly joined by the entire Consulate team, as well as other members of the audience. For twenty more minutes, everyone danced their hearts out to Hindi pop and hip-hop music to the delight of the crowd.
When walking back from the stage with a grin on my face, I was grabbed by Preeti and quickly ushered in to meet the team from NDTV,(an English/Hindi local television channel) for an interview. Having no time to prepare, or even get nervous, I gave a quick live interview with the interviewer about DWP’s work in Mumbai, and our involvement with the Canadian Consulate.
With the night winding up, I headed over to DWP’s table which was surrounded by Indian businessmen bidding for the Rocky Mountaineer Train Trip across Canada. Peeking over their shoulders, I saw that the sheet was filled with bids and the highest bid had surpassed 100,000 Rupees! DWP invited employees of the Foundation for Mother and Child Health (FMCH) as my guests for the evening, and had pledged that all donations garnered on the night would go to FMCH to help them establish their new clinic in Mumbai. DWP will be joining forces with FMCH on various new projects over the next little while and I’m very excited to help support this wonderful NGO. Their mandate is to teach mothers who are poor, how to manage their childrens’ health, through education about malnutrition, its causes and symptoms, and how to nourish their children for optimal growth, both physical and mental. Their clinic is headed by Dr. Rupal Dalal, and staffed by caring, bright, educated women who are dedicated to helping poor families thrive through proper nutrition. (www.fmch-india.org)
At the end of the evening, as I walked out of the Trident Hotel, I couldn’t help but smile. DWP is one of the smallest NGO’s working in India and was just an idea a few years ago. Over the last 3 years DWP has funded a school, a women’s centre, turned a garbage dump into a green spaces, sponsored and supported the education of hundreds of children, and provided medical care for a few thousand, while remaining small and independent. It has been a crazy adventure and one that continues to surprise me daily.
A huge thanks to Daniel Bood, Preeti Prabhu, Christian Jolicoeur , Nicholas Lepage and Jim Nickel for their support of DWP!
A quick video from the night ~