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16 nations, 40 youth, the Indian connection

Last updated on: January 13, 2010 13:46 IST

Image: The young delegates at Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

The 'Know India Programme' organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is a three-week orientation trip for diaspora youth to promote awareness about the different facets of life in India. This year, the programme was conducted in partnership with the governments of Kerala and Rajasthan.

The participants, Persons of Indian Origin between the age group of 18 and 26 years, are selected based on recommendations received from heads of Indian missions abroad.

This year, 40 students from 16 countries participated in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi. Before attending the PBD meet in New Delhi, they visited Kerala and are currently on their way to Rajasthan via Agra.

Reportage: A Ganesh Nadar

'My link to India is cultural'

Image: Some of the young delegates at PBD (top) and Harbinder Singh
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

Harbinder Singh is an under graduate student from Singapore. "My link to India is cultural. My culture is from Punjab. I am a Sikh. I am religious," he says.

Singapore, he says, "is a multi-racial country with Chinese, Malays and Indians. They are so well integrated that everyone celebrates Diwali and Chinese New Year".

This is his third trip to India. He spotted the advertisement for the programme at the ministry's website and applied for it. Harbinder says that the Indian High Commission has been very helpful.

"I will come back here next year for a holiday. I will work in Singapore," he says.

'I will become the first woman prime minister in Fiji'

Image: Angelita Shyla Narayan (top) and Preeyamvada Chuttovar

Angelita Shyla Narayan is from Fiji. Her maternal grandparents migrated from Punjab and settled there. She is studying commerce, industrial relations and management. This is her first visit to India.

When queried about her most memorable experience in India so far, she says, "We had food on a banana leaf in Kerala. That was so much fun. I always wanted to eat on a leaf but it never happened in Fiji."

Angelita traveled to India to learn more about the culture of her country of origin. She harbours some strong ambitions for her future in Fiji. "I will become the first woman prime minister there or I will become the first woman trade union leader," she says.

Preeyamvada Chuttovar, who holds a double graduation in English and Music, hails from Mauritius. A teacher by profession, this is Preeyamvada's first trip to India.

Talking about her forefathers, she says, "They came from Kolkata, but they used to speak in Bhojpuri."

"There are many similarities between the culture back home and here. Many people call Mauritius 'Chota Bharat,'" she informs us.

Preeyamvada is already planning another trip to India. "I will come back in two years for a holiday or further studies," she says.

'Everyday is a new experience'

Image: Lihi Shafran (top) and Nupur Kohli
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

Lihi Shafran works as a stock trader in Israel. After finishing school, she enrolled in the army as per the country's compulsory military training norm. The youth have the option of joining an university after completing their stint with the army.

"My family is from Cochin, I was born there," says Lihi, who will spend a fortnight in Cochin before embarking on a holiday in Sri Lanka.

"From Cochin, we went to interior Kerala and visited small villages. I saw a woman weaving. It was a unique experience, very different from life in Israel," she recalls.

Nupur Kohli is a third year student of medicine from Amsterdam. "My father is from Delhi and my mother is from Suriname. They met in Amsterdam. My father was studying computer science and my mother was studying medicine when they met," she says.

Nupur has often visited her family members in Delhi. Extolling the virtues of the 'Know India Programme', she says, "Everyday is a new experience. I have met people from 16 different countries. We are all linked through India; that's what makes it special".

She also has plans to come back to India. "I will come here and work. I want to do research here," says Nupur.

'It has been fantastic'

Image: Vinay Sevda (top) and Jaimal Ashok
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

Vinay Sevda is studying electrical engineering in Suriname. He is a fourth generation Indian from Bihar. "We speak Bhojpuri at home," he says.

Vinay has also enjoyed his visit to India. "It has been fantastic. Kerala is a beautiful place, the people are very friendly," he recalls fondly.

He plans to come to India in 2012 for his post graduation, though he hasn't finalised a college.

Jaimal Ashok is a second year student of medicine from South Africa. After he completes his six-year course, Ashok plans to specialise in neuro-surgery.

A visit to an Ayurvedic hospital in Kerala has made a big impact on him. "I am now debating whether I should study Ayurveda instead of Western medicine," he says.

'I will come back to meet my friends'

Image: Anjli Daya (top) and Ansana Persad
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

Anjli Daya, from South Africa, is a graduate in organisational psychology. Her forefathers migrated to the African nation from Surat, Gujarat. "The older people in the family keep in touch with relatives in Gujarat, but I don't know them," she admits.

She has visited Navsari in Gujarat in 2005. When asked whether she would like to settle down here, she replies, "I am used to the South African way of life. I don't think I will be able to adjust to Navsari. It is not a big city," she says. But she enjoyed her stay in Mumbai, adds Anjali.

Ansana Persad, who holds a graduate degree in business and management, is from Trinidad and Tobago. Her great grand father migrated from south India, but she doesn't know which state he belonged to.

She speaks English at home. "I will come back to meet my friends here after two years," she says with a broad yet shy smile.

'40 young people from across the globe, all connected through India'

Image: The young delegates attend a PBD event
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

Anant Dev Tayal is from Australia. He is studying engineering and commerce in Perth.

He enjoyed the trip to Kerala and found south India very beautiful. Earlier, he has visited Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. He visits India once in four years. "India is my holiday destination. Maybe I will live here one day," says Anant.

"It has been exciting meeting people here. I met Mahatma Gandhi's grand daughter Ela Gandhi. I met IT czar Sam Pitroda," he says.

"The most memorable thing I will take back from here is meeting 40 young people from across the globe, all connected through India," he says.

Brinda Rathod is from Fiji. She has graduated in accounts and then joined an accounting firm in the island nation. She finds India 'big and so busy'. "I come from Suva, a small place which is the capital of Fiji," says Brinda.

Brinda believes that Indians are very intelligent. "So many things have started from India," she quips.

Speaking about her marriage plans, Brinda says that she wants to marry a Gujarati from Australia or New Zealand. Some trends never change, irrespective of generational changes, geographical boundaries and cultural amalgamations