The first-ever “festival of Poland” in South-east  Asia, offering music and poetry, movies and seminars on Polish history and culture, was held in Bangalore just recently.

Oh, what an experience! And Poland? Yes, Poland is a great tragedy once it was!
Poland that was destroyed from the world map, history and politics for over 125 years! Poland was divided into three pieces and “owned” and brutally dominated by three empires, Austria, Prussia (Germany) and Russia!

Yes, history was this way.

And a people were so dominated and transformed. But Poland was a great country, a great culture and it is now too!

Chopin was my first introduction to Poland. Chopin, I appreciated before I knew what Western classical music was like! Then later came the Polish poetry. Czeslaw Miloz became my inspiration! He won the Nobel Prize and also another Polish poet, two Nobel Prizes for Polish poetry within 16 years of each other!

Yes, there is something great and powerful in Polish culture and this festival brought home to India and Indians in ample measure.

Polish people are great survivors, this festival brought home repeatedly by many speakers>
The theme of the opening seminar I attended was devoted to the idea of Poland and the idea of India.

What a great theme! The speakers were world leaders in thought and diplomacy.
The Polish Ambassador was there, so too the former Ambassador, a great Indian authority, he spoke Sanskrit and Hindi fluently, a great linguist and a philologist. The others on the panel were Krzysztof Zanussi, Polish film director, and Joanna Erbel, Polish sociologist and photographer. They are all in their own ways distinguished and very knowledgeable about the world, about India as well!

It   was a seven day festival and appropriately, it seems, the venture of the festival was at the Alliance Franchise in Bangalore.

It was an eye-opener for the audience, mostly Indians who had had varied exposures to the outside world.

The high profile day was the one on discussing the idea of India and the idea of Poland. The current ambassador of Poland to India: H.E. Piotr Klodkowski and also a former ambassador of Poland to India! Name: Prof.K.M.Brski who is a long time  expert on India, he did his Ph D in Benares University and speaks fluent Hindi and Sanskrit, soo to the current Polish Ambassador! There were also a few more Polish experts, one a sociologist and one an artist, cinema historian and so on.
The audience, though small, were members who were distinguished in so many fields.
There were also great many artists, musicians, peace activists and poets and so on.
The Bangalore School of Music was organizing this festival and it is a pioneering promoter of Western music in Bangalore.

What came out so dramatically from the panel discussion on the themes of the ideas of India, the ideas of nation, country and people were the very original presentations of some of the ideas.

The first day and the third day saw some more special music and operatic performances. The classical piano recital was by the well-known Polish musician and singer, Ella Susmanek, Professor of music, Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music, Warsaw.

There was also a very artistically displayed exhibition of posters displayed on the glimpses of contemporary Warsaw. This was a very culturally enriching and enduring experience indeed!

For example, Poland, we were told, belonged to what is called the Western Europe, a Latin culture country with 95 per cent Roman Catholic religion as the dominant religion. While the history of Poland is such that it was wiped out of history for over 125 years! It was curved into three parts, each occupied by three empires, Prussis, Russia and Austria!

So, when the Communism came Poland became part of Soviet Russia and as an Easter European country! Eastern Europe was a part of the Slavic-Orthodox Church of Russia.

So, the Polish people survived and their struggle for survival was based on their culture, their arts, literature, music and painting and cinema.

So, for long Poland was and even now  known for its high achievements in music(Chopin was Polish and a nation icon),literature(Polish poetry won two Nobel Prizes within 16 years interval and Poland itself is a free country now only  for just 20 years!

So, the distinguished speakers all said that Polish people are the great survivors.
Now, the Polish experts as well as the Indian participants brought home to the Indian audience and to the foreign audience who were present the following highlights about India.

India became a British colony, unlike the Poland which was ruled by the Germanic and the Russian autocracy. The Russia and the Germans were notorious for their brutality, unlike the British occupants of India, the British, said the Polish scholars, brought to India some of the best benefits, best railways, rule of law etc. Unlike the Russians who imposed their poor manufactured products like worst airplanes, cars, unlike the Polish products that were very good but prohibited by the foreign occupants.

Even today, said the Polish visitors, the Russia sense of justice is zero, no respect for rule of law and  there is as much oppression in the Russia of today as it was when the Soviet Russia  occupied Poland.
So too German brutality. Some of the harshest words were used to describe the German and Russian brutality.

Then, it was also pointed out that the current and future challenges are while India has a Hindu majority syndrome that affects the relations with Pakistan and Bangladesh being the Muslim majority nations, while Poland is still faced with the problem of how it is integrated with the European Union.

Whether EU and India can save the world? One asked from the audience. Pat came the reply from the ebullient Prof.Brski: USA is the fatherless child of Europe If India and EU can articulate human values and non-violence as a new millennium goals, then perhaps, USA can be tamed into serving the larger cause of humanity.

While India had had also experienced wars, the South Indians for the last 200 years never had any experience of wars and brutality.

May be that may be one reason why the literature from the Southern states doesn’t have that fire and tumult one finds in the Polish poetry and literature and the arts, said one participant.

As for education in today’s world, there were so many indications in the festival’s programmes. Institutions like Alliance Franchise now conducts language courses in so many parts of India and learning foreign languages and their cultures, cuisine and mixing with the foreign guests in our midst surely is the next progression of ideas in education.

Said one Polish scholar: learning English is a wasteful activity! It is for trade and business and may be science. But for articulating ones thoughts and ideas, it is the French subtlety that is needed!

Yes, the idea of India and the idea of Indians as a people need more subtle interpretations than just as statistics or rates of growth!

Image Source: polandforvisitors.com

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