In 2001, the Pakistan chapter of the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation was started with just two teachers and an assistant. Today, it is has over 10,000 followers across the country. A hundred of them are visiting India, many for the first time, as part of the World Culture Festival hosted by AOL last week.
“No matter where we went, people wanted to take selfies with every single one of us,” said 55-year-old Shahnaz Minallah, a member of the Pakistan contingent.
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Pakistan performed on the final day of the festival, which claimed to have hosted artists from 155 countries in the three-day cultural gala. The performance of the 100-member strong Pakistan contingent was one of the highlights of the event held on the Yamuna floodplains.
“We were greeted with a standing ovation and many of us had tears in our eyes. It was surreal. We got our visas at the last minute, just a day before our scheduled departure, but we were packed and ready to go,” she said.
The participants performed a contemporary sufi routine called “Punk Sufi” to the tunes of Arif Lohar’s “Jugni ji”— the most viewed Pakistani song on Youtube. Interspersed with poetry by Bashir Qureishi, the performers waved the Pakistani flag on stage dressed in white and green while others moved to the tunes of Sufi trance. Choreographers Wahab Shah and Nighat Chaodhry created this performance as a tribute to the friendship between the two countries.
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“I wanted to give a face to modern dance from Pakistan. So I created this style which involves the use of fabric and the blend of various techniques. For this particular event, we had original poetry by Yousaf Basheer Quershi which talks about harmony and oneness, love and peace. Legendary Kathak dancer Nighat Chaodhry choreographed the story-telling aspect by weaving the poetry with dance,” said Shah.
Led by Pakistan’s youngest Member of Parliament Uzair Khan, the group is now travelling to other parts of the country to make the most of their visa. “Some of us are in Jaipur and Agra. We had a very short visa so no one wanted to miss the Taj Mahal,” said Khan.
He added that the response to the Pakistan contingent in India has been overwhelming and they have been able to get around without any extra security cover.