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‘Taj Mahal’ afloat on the Thames

Hasan Suroor

“India Now” to showcase cinema, theatre, fashion, food and business in London

— PHOTO: AFP

BRIDGING THE GAP: A model of the Taj Mahal is stationed on the Thames in front of the London Bridge on Tuesday.

LONDON: A Taj Mahal on the Thames? Tourists stopped to take pictures and bored Londoners, stiffly rushing past Westminster, paused in amusement as a replica of the Taj floated down the Thames on Tuesday morning.

No, it was not the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Board promoting the newest wonder of the world, but the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone trying to market London to Indians!

And on hand were a host of Indian celebrities, including (yes, you guessed it!) Shilpa Shetty, to lend a touch of glamour to the launch of a three-month “celebration” of contemporary Indian art and culture.

Shilpa waxes lyrical

The Bollywood actor, still basking in the glory of her Big Brother fame, got almost carried away by her role as an “ambassador” for India as she breathlessly waxed lyrical about the “amazing gifts” India had to offer, hailing the festival as something akin to a godsend for Londoners and visitors to London.

Rahul Dravid, captain of the visiting Indian cricket team, on the other hand, quietly took his place and watched the six-metre-high “floating Taj” sail past some of London’s most famous landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s and the London Eye before coming to rest at the London Bridge.

“India Now,” as the festival is called, will showcase cinema, theatre, music, fashion, food and business through more than 1,500 events spread across London — home to some 4,30,000 people of Indian origin and a popular destination for the Indian tourist.

Opening a new world

The marketing pitch for the festival, billed to attract over one million people, is that it will open a whole new world for Londoners wanting to know more about India.

Launching the festival, Mr. Livingstone described it as an opportunity to experience the “richness of Indian culture” while James Bidwell, Chief Executive of London Unlimited, the international marketing agency for London, called it a bridge with “one of the most powerful emerging countries of the future on cultural, sporting and business levels.”

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