"The gang rape made headlines in our newspapers for a long time. We all are aware of the dreadful incident," said Kilian, from the Michael Drama Group, Germany, who was here to participate in the just concluded 13th Children's Festival for Performing Arts.
"We had heard and read a lot about Delhi being unsafe for women, so were a bit apprehensive. We weren't sure," he said adding that the perception changed after a few days of stay here because of the "warmth of people."
Besides Germany, 20 other countries participated in the four-day festival beginning December 5, hosted by Ryan group of institutions and included performances like musical plays, dramas, circus, workshops and puppet plays. A girls-only dance troupe from Sri Lanka, echoed the sentiments of the group from Germany.
"We had read in the news about the Nirbhaya gang-rape. We had some doubts about the city but now they are gone as people are so kind and nice," said Anjana of Vishaka School and Gitanjali Dance academy.
Performers from Morocco and Russia said even though they had "heard a little bit about women safety in the capital" they decided not to have pre-conceived notions. "It is better to see something yourself and then form a judgement about it," said Badr Zahrane, a performer from Morocco. The city's food and "driving habits of Delhiites" were the other most discussed topics in the conversation of these young performers from abroad.
Regena, who heads the troupe from Russia and who was visiting here for the second time said, "The driving here is crazy. That's something I have never witnessed in my country. It is amusing." Some relished the "hot pepper" and other spices, whereas others got a "rude shock" on tasting the food here.
"My folks in Morocco had told me that Indian food will be spicy but I didn't know it would be to this extent that I wouldn't be able to eat at all," said Badr. Students from India bonded with their foreign counterparts. From cheering for each other's performances to playing the "perfect guide" to visitors and promising to "stay in touch", the festival was much more than just performances for participating students.