Stampede “Mela”

Ian Tyson (Parade Marshal), Premier Alison Redford, Calgary Stampede Board Chair Michael Casey and Calgary Stampede Board vice-Chair Bob Thompson greet parade attendees.
Photo Credit: Harrison Gallelli

I have been following the news about Calgary Stampede with enthusiasm. Having lived in that city for few years, I thoroughly enjoyed the stampede and the parties. For the uninitiated, Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every july in Calgary, Alberta in canada. It is often called the ” Greatest Outdoor Show on the Earth”. The theme is mainly western and the main events include the stampede parade, the rodeos, chuck wagon racing etc. The Stampede grounds are lined with vendor after vendor selling all kinds of foods and goodies, many amusement type rides and then there is a farm life component to it , many breeders and farmers showcasing their animals. The most amazing thing is that the Stampede impacts all aspects of life in the city during its ten day run. Every place from restaurants and malls to banks and churches are decorated in stampede themes; the corporate head honchos ditch their power suits for a cowboy hat and boots- Everybody is dressed for the stampede!

The rodeos have also drawn negative attention in the past on the account of ill-treatment of animals. But that is not my place to comment.

I must admit , the Calgary stampede resonates with my indian-ness(if there is a term like that). Being an immigrant means always drawing on some similar experience from your homeland to understand your new experiences. Up unitll some years ago, every major town in India had its own version of stampede called in the hindi language as “mela” (pronounced may-la). I think the literal meaning of mela is a meet or a fair . it can be religious or commercial or a sport meet. But the components remain the same – Exhibition, Eateries, Entertainment , Shopping and Games / competitions and most importantly people gathering. Some big melas are thriving till today. Notably popular among tourists are the Surajkund Crafts Mela and the religious Kumbh Mela. Whatever be the purpose of these fairs or meets, It is incredible what can happen when people get together. Every individual adds to the atmosphere and contributes to what we take away from these experiences.

In bollywood movies of old, the mela figured in many a stories and usually featured a village belle enthralling the audience with her song and dance.

Sophisticated or not , at the very least, almost everyone I know enjoys a good show and relishes in a collective experience. Whether it is Calcutta (now called Kolkata) or Calgary, I’d cheer on the collective experience that brings us all together.

Phir Milenge!!

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