Exhibiting exquisite creations

Exhibiting exquisite creations
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Highlights

My first experience of organising a fair was when, as Sub-Collector at Ongole, I was asked to organise a cattle show. The Ongole bull is an internationally known variety, and the surroundings of Ongole also boasted of many other varieties of cattle.

My first experience of organising a fair was when, as Sub-Collector at Ongole, I was asked to organise a cattle show. The Ongole bull is an internationally known variety, and the surroundings of Ongole also boasted of many other varieties of cattle. I worked hard at making the show a success and was satisfied when it was widely appreciated.

Weekly fairs and shandies, popular particularly in the tribal areas of the country, serve the dual purpose of showcasing the products made by the tribals for sale to outsiders, as well as creating an opportunity for the tribals to purchase their daily requirements such as rice, sugar, pulses oil etc.

In Andhra Pradesh, in particular, the Girijan Cooperative Corporation (on the governing board of which I had the pleasure of serving for a few years as the Registrar of Cooperatives Societies of the state), has an extensive and deep reach into the tribal areas, and is able to serve both purposes much more than adequately.

Probably for the reason that people usually go to exhibitions with their family, amusement parks, and services such as refreshment stalls, invariably constitute an integral component of fairs and exhibitions. I remember how, as a seven-year-old in (the then) Madras, I used eagerly to look forward to being taken to the annually organised exhibition with my parents. On one occasion, my father slammed the car door behind him after getting off, and my hand got crushed as I was trying to come out!

The annual Industrial Exhibition at the Exhibition grounds in Hyderabad is another very popular show. Once, when my parents, Sitaram Yechury, my nephew (then five years old) and I, visited the exhibition, Sitaram and I tested our strength at a machine which told you how strong your grip was, as also your complexion, for some strange reason! I distinctly recollect how proudly Sitaram announced, in his sweet babyish words, that his complexion lay between those of India and Egypt!

The Amusement Park attached to the Pragati Maidan at New Delhi is another great attraction for children. I once took my daughter and son there and, in a rush of foolhardiness, got on to the rollercoaster along with them. My teeth rattled, and my hair stood on end with fright, by the time we got off. What made me feel even worse was the happy smiles the children wore! The word exhibition may, sometimes, also be used in a derogatory sense as a person 'making an exhibition' of himself.

In 1995, within days of my taking over as a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, in the government of India, I was tasked with the organising of a mammoth exhibition to be called the "Agri – Expo 1995". Balram Jakhar, the then Union Minister of Agriculture had already invited the President to inaugurate it some three months earlier.

New to the Government of India, and denied the facilities one took for granted in the state, like, for instance, personal staff accustomed to staying late, an exclusive vehicle for personal and official transport, taken together the inordinate delay (I stayed in a room in Andhra Pradesh Bhavan for close to seven months!) in the allotment of accommodation for me to stay in, I found the task challenging, if not formidable.

After three months of nightmarish and hectic arrangements, during which many crises had to be faced and overcome, everything finally got ready. While waiting for the President to arrive for the inauguration I walked across to another neighbouring area where the President was fulfilling an earlier engagement. And, to my horror, came to know that our Exhibition was not on the President's schedule at all!

Some half an hour of hectic activity on the phone later, the confusion was sorted out and Shankar Dayal Sharma, the President of India, duly arrived to perform the inaugural ceremony. Precisely at that time a prize exhibit, right at the entrance, a grain of rice thousands of years old, stored carefully in a plastic container, and the platform arranged to revolve gently on a rotating platform, suddenly emitted a puff of smoke and came to a halt! Somehow, between the time the President arrived, and the time he reached the exhibition entrance, we got that system going again and the rest went off peacefully. While I myself may have felt that I had performed a great feat, it was apparently a run- of- the- mill event for the Delhi media. My Secretary at that time, J C Pant, was later to remark, that it had gone off uneventfully, meaning 'unnoticed'!

One of the most systematically organised, and attractive, shows I have ever witnessed was the annual show organised by the Kitchen Garden Association of India, of which my wife Usha served as the Secretary for a few years. The tender attention to detail, and delicate presentation of the exhibits, was such as only women are capable of imbuing into such a task.

Art galleries display works of art, such as paintings, photographs or cartoons. I had the privilege once of being invited to inaugurate an exhibition of cartoons and other drawings by the famous Bapu. Another attraction of the function was the presence of the yesteryear matinee idol A Nageswara Rao.

After the customary speeches were over, somebody from the audience requested Bapu, who was, quite characteristically, quietly sitting somewhere in the audience, to say at least 'oka mata' or 'just one word' in Telugu. Bapu promptly got up and said 'oka mata', and sat down! The exhibition itself, needless to say, was a dazzling display of Bapu's inimitable talent.

The Surajkund Mela organised annually at Faridabad near New Delhi is another popular show. I must confess, however, that the pleasure I feel when I recollect that event was mostly confined to the tasty food offered at the Haryana government hotel thanks to our generous batchmate Dhanindra Kumar!

There are also other popular shows, such as the Delhi Arts and Crafts Mela, popularly known as Delhi Haat, which is worth visiting for the exquisite items on display, most of which are artefacts made by artisans in villages. Shows are also organised periodically product-wise, such as automobiles and aircraft, largely with a view to promoting the marketing of the product and attract niche clientele connected with that particular area.

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh) 

(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)

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