As I walked towards the entrance under the spaced out festoons of greens, yellows and pinks, the increasing sound of rock music filled the air. Large banners introduced the event- The 7th North East Festival in Delhi. It was my first time attending the event and my expectations were scattered.
Past the entrance, I was greeted by an expansive display of artwork on the left and an enticing band performance on the right. Deciding to savour the music in the background, I walked past the art exhibition. Large paintings, photographs and craftwork were pinned onto a makeshift wall. Everything from pop culture art to costumes of the North East were depicted in talented sketches and paintings. However, my eyes immediately fixated on a portrait of Kaziranga within a silhouette of a rhinoceros strung together in vibrant orange thread. Many string art works followed. Another wall displayed fashion photography with many models in traditional, modern or fusion clothing. The ground was sprinkled with boards that displayed pictures of various tribes of the seven sisters. I suddenly realised that the entire place was buzzing with a generous number of people for 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon.
Refusing to postpone any more, I walked to the packed amphitheatre where a foot-tapping audience faced a performing band. I stood fixated for several minutes listening to the remarkable original music, until I moved on to the next area. I traversed through a snake-like arrangement, passing by stalls of clothing, handlooms, jewellery, tea and books. To my surprise, some stalls even represented pet clinics and medical operators (I later realised the same were first-aid stations).
Finally, I stepped into a large open ground lined with stalls selling delicious North Eastern food. Naga food, Manipuri cuisine, Assamese delicacies, dishes from Meghalaya- one was spoilt for choice. I decided to finish up my tour or else I would spend all my time trying to decide what to try first.
As I crossed on to the handicrafts area, a large music and fashion stage was set up on my right. Many popular performers had played at the stage in the past couple of days. Popular singer Papon was set to play on the last night. When I finally got the handicrafts section, I noticed weaved baskets, large knitted garments and other accessories were neatly arranged for people to see. I walked past these stalls, noticing that some stall owners were still working on their craft in the space. An open mic space was also marked for people to participate.
Finally, I walked back to the food section and settled on some delicious fruit beer (I obviously packed three extra bottles to impress my roommates) and a serving of sel roti and aloo sabji (potatoes). With my hands full and a goofy smile on my face, I paused for a few more minutes of the music before I walked out. Whatever my expectations might have been, they were exceeded by the time I got a ride back home.
The North East Festival has created a brand in 7 years. It attempts to create awareness about India’s North East, its people and resources. Lakhs of people have attended the event over 7 years (all editions since 2013 were set up at IGNCA in Janpath, Delhi) and the same is considered to be one of the biggest festivals of Delhi. The event claims to have succeeded in boosting tourism in the North East and building bridges between the communities. It has been a significant platform for people from the North East to display their talents.
The North East Festival 2019 was held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in Delhi on December 8,9 and 10.