CAIRO: If you are Egyptian or a foreigner who lived in Egypt in the 90’s, then you must know how we spent the Eid (both Fitr and Adha) nights: watching Amitabh Bachchan fighting bad guys and saving his beautiful beloved all in an atmosphere of colors and singing.
And now, an Indian man who has been working diligently in this country through thick and thin since being named ambassador has managed to raise the bar of any activity embassies organize after bringing the Bollywood king to the land of Pharoahs one more time to participate in the Indian festival “India by the Nile” in its third edition.
Navdeep Suri has concentrated his efforts during the past three years by bringing the one and only Bachchan, the epitome of India for every Egyptian; if you ask people from the countryside or Upper Egypt, they would definitely have something to say about him, as they followed his movies for years. His visit to Egypt sends a positive message about the country and represents support for its tourism which has suffered greatly after the January 25 Revolution in 2011.
Ambassador Navdeep Suri was courageous enough to start this major big festival in a country that was going through a very turbulent hard transitional period, he started it in 2013 in the spring and took upon himself to make it an annual event.
He insisted to make use of this country’s passion for Indian culture and tried to quench the thirst of those who appreciate the uniqueness and difference of a country that has successfully maintained its original culture by embracing it and adapting to modern times.
“‘If you drink the water of the Nile, you are sure to return to Egypt.’ Mani and I discovered the truth of this ancient adage when we found ourselves back in Cairo a full 25 years after we had left it in 1987. It had changed, of course. The country was in the midst of a huge political transition and we recognized that it will take some time before state and society discover their new equilibrium,” Suri said on the official website of the first India by the Nile in 2013.
He added that they discovered something that didn’t change during the quarter of a century: “the extraordinary warmth and affection that the people of Egypt have towards India.” Suri believes that the points of reference are many such as ancient history and culture, democracy and pluralism, Tagore and Gandhi, and of course the amazing popularity of Hindi cinema, as he puts it.
Embracing such a conviction has had its effect on the success of the first and second round of the festival, which has hosted a number of dancing workshops, musical performances, seminars and food fair highlighting different Hindi recipes. Suri also made sure to deliver a glimpse of the Indian culture to different governorates each year; the 2015 festival will include Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said and Ismailia.
What is really impressive is Suri’s quest to bring back India to Egypt; it’s not just the fact that this festival is the first of its kind in Egypt and is the biggest foreign festival ever hosted here, but also his defiance of the ongoing circumstances in Egypt that drove away tourists and frightened outsiders. It’s not a secret how challenging the situation has been in the last four years, even for Egyptians, and bringing Amitabh Bachchan to inaugurate the festival along with artists and high rank authors, actors and singers is meaningful support.
Suri will soon end his post in Egypt and leave for Australia for his next mission, but has succeeded in creating a momentum for Indian culture and will be remembered by his friends in Egypt.