(This concludes the series from my Seychelles Blue Diary… the one with maximum Indian masala and Takamaka punch!)
Things got very hectic very quickly once we were ensconced in our hotel rooms at Berjaya, Beau Vallon. There were rehearsals and press conferences to attend, singing and cooking workshops to undertake, and music and dance performances to be staged. A string of stellar performances and amazing music renditions brought down the house every evening. But some moments were a little more special than others. Like when Sivamani jumped on to the stage for an impromptu performance with Naveen Kumar’s soulful flute performance. Or when Naveen himself joined ace singer and cool mover Benny Dayal on stage, ‘air-fluting’ to the flute interlude in the song ‘Humma Humma’. Or when Akriti Kakkar’s powerhouse performance got the audience, state dignitaries, ambassadors and all, up on their feet, doing the ‘Dandiya’ with a gusto. Or, when the stunning Miss India-Universe Ushoshi Sengupta made a grand entry, nested in a huge, billowing gown of fiery red silk that covered the entire stage, making everyone catch their breaths in awe. Or, when Anjana Sukhani burst into the iconic steps of Madhuri’s ‘Ek Do Teen’ with easy grace, followed by Terence Lewis’ rib-tickling take on ‘Chulbul Pandey’s cop dance!
There were other moments off stage that were memorable too. Like when we quietly stole the bowl of masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor’s freshly-made, mega-sized, delectable ‘Gulabjamuns’ from the demo kitchen, (mischievously egged on by Chef Saurabh!) soon after his engrossing cooking event at Le Relax, only to be caught red-handed, literally, with the sweet in our mouths! Or, when Sivamani played with nothing but a basket full of freshly washed cutlery, when suddenly the lights went out at The Maharajas, the popular Indian restaurant in Mahe, and all you could hear were the beautiful voices of Runa Rizvi and Akriti singing the haunting melodies of ‘Yaara Seeli Seeli’… and then a quick mood switch to a fun and lively ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ by Gaurav Sharma, joined in by everyone at our long star-studded table, including the charming guest-of-honour R. Madhavan, and everyone else at the restaurant. Haven’t seen a more precious and pure moment of music binding people together!
Then there was the day trip to the islands Praslin and La Digue, where we gaped at the weirdly-shaped Coco de Mer fruit at the UNESCO Heritage Plantation, and snorkeled in knee deep blue-green waters, almost touching, always playing with big and small colourful fishes amongst fascinating corals, and said a slow ‘H-e-l-l-o!’ to the smiling, wrinkly faces of really old, large turtles at the Source d’Argent plantation, and marveled at the ancient rocks on the pristine beach of Grand Anse. The pretty little 15-seater plane, flying at a mere 1000 ft height, made the 15 min flight to and fro that much more spectacular! Thanks to the amazing hospitality of Le Relax (owner Pravin Darad and our friendly guide Robert, hats off to you!) whose unique boutique properties at each of these islands make you want to stay back and soak in the sun, the beach and the food for at least another week, if not more!
A chance meeting with Resort Manager Bob Suri of Four Seasons led to an impromptu lunch with Executive Chef Dave Minton and a cliff-hanger of a site tour with Caroline O’Grady and her buggy (that officially certifies her to drive on Mumbai roads!) around the breathtakingly beautiful Four Seasons Hotel property, a hidden gem set precariously on the side of a hill overlooking an emerald cove. But more of this very special lunch in a later post… It’s worth the wait, I promise!
Another chance meeting with a young couple, Arnab and Ashima, at a local supermarket just before it was closing its shutters, resulted in a lovely dinner at one of the oldest eateries in Seychelles – Sam’s Grill. Over several rounds of the flavourful Takamaka Rum and some juicy Mussels, Calamaris and Mixed Grills, we became good friends from complete strangers and bonded over everything from the ‘Island’ way of life, to the traffic in Mumbai, to the melting pot that is Seychelles.
But no meetings of minds and hearts, chance or otherwise, would have been possible without the consistent, untiring and smiling efforts of Team Alchemist, spearheaded by ‘Mr. Cool’ Manish Porwal. Sometimes coaxing, sometimes whipping, this cool-headed bunch of go-getters fused all the myriad aspects of this prestigious event into one unified, colourful and exciting whole. So… when’s the next one guys? 😉
Seychelles is not just beautiful to the eyes… Its beauty goes much deeper, and spills out through the open, welcoming smiles of its simple, uncomplicated people, its curious fusion of French and Indian cuisines in its Creole offerings, its humble heritage sites and nature parks, and its keen sense of being in tune with Nature and preserving and protecting all that it has to offer. And so, the Seychelles India Celebrations turned out to be a giant conduit for exchange of values – the Indian way of passionately celebrating heritage and spreading love, and the Seychellois way of proudly nurturing Nature, and giving back love!