‘Culture’ is the one word everyone across the world associates with India. Colourful traditional crafts and clothing, glorious classical and popular music, and endlessly diverse food that has conquered palates on every continent — this is India outside the corridors of hardcore power politics. But culture has soft power, too, and its impact perhaps goes deeper.
“Taste the flavours, feel the culture,” says Sreeman Bommisetty, Founder of Indian Confluence. He is referring to the Indian Food Festival presented by Indian Confluence.
The 7th Indian Food Festival is being held on August 19-20, 2023, at Parc du Cinquantenaire, an iconic landmark in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. The opening day of the festival includes a performance by the Brussels Bollywood Choir.
Speaking to Connected to India ahead of these events, Sreeman Bommisetty and Rahul Venkit, Indian-Belgian, Founder of Brussels Bollywood Choir, talk about how the Indian diaspora has grown in Belgium and how Indian culture is contributing to Indian soft power in Europe.
The idea of organising the food festival came to Sreeman Bommisetty in 2015, when he thought of bringing the festive mood on different occasions out of Indian households and into the public space in Brussels so that everyone could participate. With 15,000 attendees in the very first year and volunteers of many different nationalities, the festival has been a catalyst for two-way cultural assimilation from the beginning.
Indian Confluence has also brought to Belgium the legendary Indian classical flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and a Kalaripayattu (martial arts of India) troupe, and the food festival has some new element — for example, handicrafts — added to it every year, for an all-round experience.
Venkit says that the increasing number of Indians in Belgium — mainly working in infotech roles — has also meant a larger pool of artistic talent. The choir he started has grown from 25 singers to 70 performers.
Belgium is not yet one of the global hubs for the Indian diaspora, but it has all the ingredients for an Indian cultural feast. Bommisetty and Venkit are happily working together to set up the banquet.
Watch the full interview here.