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Festival, Yes; Fiasco, No!

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We, the Citizens

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

The DM has announced that the Winterline Carnival in Mussoorie will be held for four to five days in the last week of December 2022.  One of us was walking down the Mall in the late 1940’s when Mons Jules Roberts, Manager of Hackman’s Hotel, spoke to him and said, “Kashmir has a Festival, why can’t we?” That was how the first Festival in Mussoorie started. It was run entirely by a group of the town’s citizens and it, and all its many successors, was called the Autumn Festival. Other hill stations followed our lead.

We don’t know when that line of Festivals ended, but when we returned to Mussoorie after retiring from the Indian Navy, our town’s Chairman, Jot Singh, asked us to join the Organising Committee for the Winter Festival from 24th Dec.1999 to lst Jan.2000. Many creative folk in our little town donated their writings and photographs for a unique brochure. Every article in it carried the signature of the author. It has become a Collector’s Item. We also designed and stitched the Festival Flag.

Now it is neither the Citizens nor the City Board that is running the Festival, but the District Magistrate. That’s progress. The next series of Festivals could well be headed by the CM after which the sky would be the limit!

Seriously, however, we do see a danger here. Senior netas tend to take their five-year shelf-lives as serious political cultivation time. The five brief years that will make or mar their future. So, will we now see a great political slant being given to this festival under instructions from netadom? Are we, for instance, going to wipe out Mussoorie’s past because it belongs to our Foreign Masters? What are we going to do to rename the Mall? The Malba Marg because of its usually deplorable state? We say this only half in jest because we know that when ignorant netas have no successes to boast of, they change place names. Such knee jerk reactions are fiascos.

So dear, ignorant, petty-minded netas, if this is what you have in mind, go ahead and indulge your small-minded fantasies. You will have plenty of time to regret your follies.

The rest of this column is therefore, addressed to folk like our old friend Jot Singh who had the vision to create many of the tourism activities we profit by today.

First, if we had a hand in this festival, or Carnival, we would make sure that there was enough trained police force available to arrest and detain all drunken goondas, regardless of their political contacts. If a person is drunk and unruly, arrest that person, name and shame him by displaying his photograph in public places. Then ensure that the authorities who did the arrest are defended from all political backlash. Do remember, netas, that attempts to shield the guilty netas in the Ankita case have backfired and we have not heard the end of that repercussion yet. Many more heads are likely to roll.

Next, give every such festival a theme. We suggest that this festival should be called The Festival of Uttarkhandi Festivals. It should highlight the many village and rural festivals with commentaries in both Hindi and English. These festive ceremonies, especially its dances, should be recorded and made available to people all across India. This will highlight the myriad ways in which the folk of our state enjoy their ceremonial occasions. It will also serve as a reminder to tourists and film makers of the richness of our mountain culture ensuring lasting returns.

When filming the festivals, the terrain in which these festivals are most popular should also be included. This would make these CDs excellent promotional material for the many attractions of our state.  Without casting aspersions on any person, ministry or organisation, our tourism outreach is rusty and antiquated. We still rely on Selling our products, not Marketing them. This is, largely, because we have been handed Heaven’s bounty of the Char Dhams. But, in our Brave New Cynical World, faith has often been reduced to ritual and superstition. One very famous movie star went so far as to say “Then I do my Little Puja Thing”, as if worship is a “thing” like lipstick and false eyelashes!

So, finally, dear netas, take this Festival of Carnivals as a serious attempt to Market some of the attractions of our unique state. Because if you mess this up as some people did the Ankita matter, and others did the Morbi bridge collapse, you may not get another chance!

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command.
Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel
Agents Association of India.)