Article published in the Darpan Magazine published by Navnat Vanik Association
The recent Cricket world cup tournament was marked by the huge number of Indian supporters following the Indian cricket team. The Indian diaspora in far flung corners of the world were all rooting for the Indian cricket team. This bond with the motherland is unshakeable and unique. When I was a very young child growing up in Kenya in 1962 news came that China had attacked India. I found my parents very sad and asked what was the cause. They mentioned the war to which I said, ‘ we are in Kenya, we do not have to worry’ . My mother replied that India was our country. The penny dropped and I realised for the first time that though I was born in Kenya by heritage I was Indian. To our parents if the monsoon was good in India it was a matter of rejoicing Kenya. For the war effort in 1962 Indian ladies donated the jewellery they were wearing without hesitation. There was hardly anyone who had not sent money back home to help build a school, a hospital, an orphanage, a centre for differently abled children, or for an animal sanctuary. Money was also sent to relations for children’s education, weddings and to help start businesses. The Gujarati diaspora has contributed hugely to the development of Gujarat. After the exodus from East Africa the Indian community brought to life Indian culture in the UK. The community excelled in education as well as business and also built many temples and community centres. With more money at their disposal travel to India became very easy and the second generation connected with India. Hundreds of youths went to different institutions in India to teach or to establish charitable institutions. By the late 1990’s as the digital revolution took place Indian’s from India arrived in big numbers to the UK. Highly educated, they hold leading positions in the corporate world. They now outnumber Indian’s form Africa. For their spiritual and cultural needs they found temples and cultural centres built by the communities from Africa. The result is a coming together of Indian’s from many parts of the world. Hindus from the Caribbean, Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan, there is an amalgamation of Indian’s from different parts of the world with Indian’s from different states of India. With the rise of India as an economic power there is a feeling abroad that India can reclaim its former glory. What is known as India’s soft power is taking deep roots in European countries. Yoga is now mainstream in many parts of the world and so is the vegetarian and vegan movement. It is acknowledged that India is the home of the concept of compassion to animals. Millions of English people can prepare a good Sabji now! In the former Soviet block countries like Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic there is a huge interest in everything Indian. Indian art forms like Bharat Natyam and Kathak as well as philosophical ideas of ancient India are very popular. Many have Indian Gurus. Deep in the country side of Hungary there is a Hare Krishna commune complete with a beautiful Radha Krishna temple. Hungarian devotees wake up early at 4am and offer prayers to Krishna in Sanskrit language. They grow their own food and believe in simple living and high thinking as taught by Srila Prabhupad the founder of Hare Krishna movement. With the arrival in India of BJP in power a unique bond has been established with the Indian diaspora. While in the past Indian’s dreaded a visit to the Indian embassies where the negativity of the staff and bureaucracy would exhaust any one and would be a case of embarrassment when the local people told of their harrowing tales in Indian embassies, now the diplomatic staff actively engages with Indian communities and even celebrates important festivals with the diaspora. What is at play here is a changing perception of India, a highly successful Indian diaspora and a conviction that India has a lot to offer the world and that this is just the beginning. The recent pictures of a Gujarati lady born in Tanzania giving her blessings to Virat Kohli the Indian cricket captain and other players is symbolic of how a special bond between the children of mother India from different parts of the world is bringing to life the aphorism, ‘ Vasudev Kutumbkam’ , the world is indeed a family.
Nitin Mehta MBE, Croydon