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Some hits, some misses
Josy Joseph in New Delhi |
January 09, 2003 15:03 IST
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas kicked off to an impressive but chaotic start on Thursday.
Delegates continued to flow into the main venue at the sprawling Pragati Maidan in New Delhi even after the function got off to a mellifluous start with Bharat Ratnas Ustad Bismillah Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar enthralling the audience to a stunning rendition of a rare jugalbandi.
The gathering grew in volume and became almost unmanageable. In the confusion, George Shiu Raj, Minister for Multiethnic Affairs in Fiji, was unable to find a seat and was pushed around by the crowd and security services.
It was only after the intervention of a senior ministry of external affairs official that he was let through.
With over a half-an-hour-long performance, the two maestros from the older generation charmed the crowd that consisted mostly of the whiz kids of the microchip world.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed off his address asking, "Kaise kahein mehmaan? (how can we call you guests?)," indicating that the doors of India are open forever to the Diaspora.
Of poetry and Hindi
There was a poetic touch to the entire morning as Persons of Indian Origin from over 60 countries trooped into the Pragati Maidan.
While vintage Vajpayee was visible towards the end of his speech, Chairman of the Committee on Indian Diaspora LM Singhvi tried reciting his own poems in Sanskrit and Hindi.
Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius, who lighted up his interesting speech with the narration of the struggles of Indian indentured labourers taken to far off lands by the colonizers, wound up with a few lines in accented Hindi.
Modi draws fans
Probably, the biggest hit with the Diaspora among the younger lot was Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Young girls from the United States and Canada were seen mobbing the latest face of the hardline Hindutva.
Though there wasn't much of a saffron touch to the inauguration, there was at least one delegate spotting a big nameplate of Overseas Friends of BJP.
First amongst equals
Off all the awards and honours, the one that went to Nazir Mohammed, the oldest delegate who reached Trinidad as a young child in 1912, was really special, and greatly symbolic of the growth of the Great Indian Diaspora.
Clad in simple attire, a frail Mohammed walked up to the dais to the accompaniment of loud cheering from the gathering.
He had on Wednesday remarked to the media that if he could find a wife he would like to settle down in India.
Even as the Indian Diaspora met to discuss its diverse future and shared past, the entire SAARC region was sorely absent.
It was not long ago that the Indian government was welcoming General Pervez Musharraf as a celebrated son of Delhi, showcasing an old haveli. There are doubts still if the haveli that Musharraf visited was the place where the Pakistan President was born. But, it was greatly symbolic.
The Diaspora committee has kept away the entire SAARC region from its ambit. So, the Indian now based in Nepal or in any of the other SAARC countries was missing.
There are several in the government and outside who believe that this could have been a great occasion for improving India's relations with its neighbours.
Yet, from the orientation of the meet, one thing is clear: investments to India would improve.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas