Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah's presence at the Goa Arts and Literary Festival 2012 not just met expectations but even exceeded them.
Several attendees chose to park their vehicles kilometres away from the venue at Kala Academy in anticipation of unreasonable security arrangements. But, there were none.
Arts and literature lovers paced the length and breadth of the auditorium expecting a late entry, but were, instead, caught off-guard when the young chief minister landed on stage on schedule.
And when he began his speech, it was clear that the festival would start off on the right note. It is, after all, focusing on the northernmost state at its third edition.
"Both our states-Kashmir and Goa-are victims of being typecast. The first thing that springs to most people's minds when they think of Goa is the carnival and beaches, not art or literature. At least nine out of ten will speak about violence, when asked about Kashmir. This is inherently unfair for both states," said Abdullah.
He continued, "Yes, Goa has carnival and beaches. But that is not what Goa is all about. It boasts of a unique culture and has a rich history. And the same is also true of Kashmir."
The outspoken politician said Kashmir is also secular and is home to diverse cultures. "It is not just a place for problems. It is one of the most diverse states."
Elaborating, he said, "As it was placed near the ancient Silk Route, it was a melting pot of cultures since a very long time. It has its sprinkling of Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs and every region from Jammu to Kashmir to Ladakh has its own way of speaking, cuisine, dance and there are further sub-regions within these regions."
Goan writers Damodar Mauzo and Vishnu Wagh described the visit of Abdullah and the Kashmiri delegation of artists and writers at the festival as a meeting of the snow-clad mountains with the Mandovi.
"I am almost feeling guilty for not having brought some snow with me to Goa," Abdullah replied, drawing laughter from the small but involved audience.
The keynote speakers, writers Mridula Garg and Eunice de Souza, too, continued their romance with Goa in keeping with the mood of the occasion.
"Goa has done what it is known to do best-make the other its own. That is why I say Goa is just like literature. Goa has changed like all other places around the world. But it is also the same and has resisted the urge to become obsessive or delirious. Goa does not deceive. It is a paradox of frantic mining and deep concern for the environment," Hindi writer Garg said.
De Souza said Goa has given birth to artists, poets, writers and musicians in numbers which are disproportionate to its small size.
While chief minister Manohar Parrikar skipped the festival inaugural for his birthday celebrations, Abdullah made up for the absence with his graciousness as he took in the overwhelming experience of world renowned soprano of Goan origin Patricia Rosario with Mark Troop and Amar Muchhala. [TOI]