As most of you know, June 21st was our first ever International Yoga Day (an initiative by our Honourable Prime Minister-Shri Narendra Modi). Indian Embassies all over the world celebrated it and I was also fortunate enough to be a part of it.
Yoga Day was planned in Bangkok with confirmations of attendance from the Tourism Minster, Ambassadors of various countries including Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Russia, Panama and Chile. There were also various UN representatives who also attended the event and the Tourism Minister of Thailand was the guest of honour. Me and Micky-a Thai TV celebrity were the emcees for the event.
I must confess I was quite nervous at this assignment even though in the past I have anchored a reality show on prime time TV and spoken on stage innumerable times while promoting my movies (Telegu), TV shows or while doing product launches. So let’s just say speaking off the cuff is not something new to me. (On a side note, I should tell you-the reality show that I anchored had Indian and Pakistani contestants and one of the judges included the comedian with the poker face-the late Jaspal Bhatti. Anchoring that show was a real challenge for many reasons. Firstly because the Pakistani sense of humour is very different from the Indian one-it involves a lot of “shers” (Hindi word). Also during the show-emotions ran high because of the pressure of the reality show format and I never knew when anyone was going to either get upset or burst into tears.) However that’s a story for another day-the backstage trials and tribulations of a reality show is something that’s a really long story 🙂
Having said all that I was still nervous because this was a prestigious event organised by the Indian Embassy with so many dignitaries present and also because I wanted to put my best foot forward in a foreign country.
The event had students performing yoga dances who had come in all the way from India, a live demo of yoga with two gurus and another demonstration of yoga with 5 different yoga Gurus on stage. The opening address was by the Indian Ambassoder to Thailand, Shri Harsh Shringla and HE, Minister of Tourism and Sports for Thailand. For me the kicker was that though the event was scheduled to start at 7am, we actually ended up starting off the event before time since at 6.30am-there was already an enthusiastic 7,000 strong contingent assembled on the ground-complete with yoga mats ready to to do yoga. Seeing so many people enthusiastic about it on a Sunday morning made me determined to take my yoga lessons a bit more seriously in the future.
The event went off seamlessly (my part also :-)) and received a huge amount of media coverage both in Thailand and overseas. (Some media links and YouTube clips below) When we realised that Yoga Day in Delhi which was spearheaded by our prime minister, Shri Narendra Modi had 35,000 participants and we had managed to get almost a fifth of that number in Bangkok, we were all thrilled beyond belief. Of course, it could never have been accomplished without the driving force behind it all-HE, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla and his competent staff at the Indian Embassy. While introducing him, I realised his impressive record included serving stints representing the country in Tel Aviv and Paris as well as being a permanent representative of UNECAP.
International Yoga Day was proposed by our Honourable Prime Minster-Shri Narendra Modi in his maiden address to the UN and unanimously approved by them. The June 21st event, International Yoga Day in Bangkok started off with a impressive televised address by him to all people on this special occasion. As he said in the address, yoga centres your physical and mental self and teaches us to live in the present-not in the future or the past and I’m sure that’s something which is of relevance to ALL of us.
I came back from Bangkok, having not only pushed my limits professionally by trying something new but also very impressed by quality of our diplomats and the representation of India on foreign shores.
Being part of Yoga Day and from stage that day, literally looking at the huge amount of people embracing yoga in a foreign land was an amazing experience. Listening to our Prime Minister’s impressive speech made me feel extremely positive and in terms of initiatives I do hope this is the start of bringing forward and presenting the best of India to the world.