Last week, Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India came down to Sweden and gave a speech at Uppsala University. The speech was about the relevance of Gandhi and Tagore (the first non-European to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1913, visited Uppsala in 1921 and 1927) in world peace today. This blog is not so much about the speech but about the evening. The Indian Embassy arranged for a bus to take us from Stockholm to Uppsala. I went with a friend. When we reached, there was already a sizable crowd waiting outside the auditorium. The size of the auditorium was impressive and was absolutely stunning in terms of architecture!
But before we get to the evening, let me dwell on the atmosphere around as the President came to Sweden. According to a Swede who has lived here for long, this was the most security she had ever seen for a Head of State since the American visit in 2013. There was a lot of traffic in the center of Stockholm that evening. Such fuss is rare in Sweden, where it is common to run into your Prime Minister in the gym! There was also a slight controversy surrounding the visit with the Embassy of India wanting a newspaper to censor some parts of their interview with the President. That was not the only drama the 79 year old President had to face though. On the day of his visit to Uppsala, his convoy met with an accident. 9 people were taken to the hospital, but no one sustained any serious injuries.
Anyway, so there were many things happening around on that sunny afternoon in Uppsala. The whole event was meticulously organized and I enjoyed every bit of it. It started with Uppsala Indian Choir singing some songs penned by Tagore. First I was surprised that Uppsala even had an Indian choir, then I was surprised that they were SO good! Then I felt happy and sad at the same time and felt like crying when they started singing the national song ‘Vande Mataram’. I am not very nationalistic and all, but it was definitely a moment.
After that the oldest choir in Uppsala, Allmänna Sången, performed their songs. It was so different from the music I normally listen to. I was quite amazed at high and low tones they could reach with ease. It was all in Swedish and was really enjoyable. I loved looking at the singers’ and conductor’s expressions!
Then the Prince and Princess of Sweden made the entrance with the President of India. It was one of the most epic entrances I have ever seen in my life! The music was quite imperial haha, almost made me want to be a royal for a moment!
This was followed by the actual speech. The speech was very well written, but I felt the President didn’t have the energy to really bring it to life. There was a small segment when he drifted away from the script and spoke about what he actually felt about terrorism and world peace. That, to me, had a lot of energy and life.
By the time the speech ended, we could smell Indian food waiting for us! After another epic musical send off to the Very Important People, and another couple of songs by Allmänna Sången (these two songs were sung to Tagore in the same hall during his visit in 1921! A friend of mine explained that one of the songs was about some herbs you take to prevent pregnancy haha!), we proceeded to eating some food. The food was prepared Indian Street Food. Unfortunately, they ran out of vegetarian food before my turn but guessing by the speed in which they were devoured it looked like the food was delicious!
We returned back by the bus shortly after the event. It was super nice of the embassy to arrange transport and all. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of non-Indians who turned up for the event. All in all the event was most fun. I was discussing it with my new boss at work. We started talking about how being a leader of a country or a president of a University comes with its stresses and responsibilities. I remembered how I felt when I saw this apology by Obama for killing two hostages in a drone attack by accident. I mean, Obama is supposedly one of the most powerful men in this world, but sometimes when I look at him he looks absolutely burdened and helpless.
Anyway, you can watch the entire event here: http://media.medfarm.uu.se/play/video/5044/
And I leave you with this picture of the President of India dressed appropriately for the Swedish summer! haha!
Find more pictures from his visit to Sweden here : http://www.presidentofindia.nic.in/foreignvisitdetaillist.htm?