Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani

Consulate General marks Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and World Hindi Day

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Give back to the society, but don’t forget your motherland.

Continue to excel but also explore new frontiers.

Be a responsible resident of your adopted home but also a proactive NRI.

Promote Hindi.

These were some of the messages speakers gave at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) event organised by the Consulate General of India, Sydney on 9 January.

The CGI also marked World Hindi Day in the same programme.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India on 9 January 1915.

Acting Consul General Chandru Appar began the proceedings, reminding the audience that it was the Atal Behari Vajpayee government that first began celebrating the day.

Chandru called for a greater engagement of India-bound travel by Australians. “NRIs in Australia should motivate Australians to visit India.

Even if each of us can interest two Australians about India, cumulatively, it will make a big difference,” he said.

He praised Indians in Australia for the sizeable remittances to the motherland – pegged at close to USD 2 billion last year – and urged NRIs to contribute to the Swachh Bharat Fund and India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians.

Acting CG Chandru said that NRI should make a conscious effort to portray a positive image of India and curb the tendency to say negative things at first.

Indian community elder Neville Roach, who spoke next, said that India can be ‘overwhelming’ for some people, but it is still a place to be experienced first-hand.

Referring to Shashi Tharoor’s book ‘Inglorious Empire’ and how the British exploited India, Roach said the Aboriginals were treated ‘far worse’ by European settlers in Australia.

“We can naturally empathise with the Aboriginals and therefore should support them,” he said. He added that while PBD was a good initiative, a good NRI shouldn’t wait for one day in a year to raise their concerns to the government of India.

“The feedback should be continuous and constructive, so that it helps the government improve its processes and mechanisms,” he added, reminding the audience that it also had an obligation to serve their adopted home.

Dr GK Harinath, Chair of Multicultural NSW, carried forward this thought when he said that while India is his janmabhoomi (land of birth), Australia is karmabhoomi (the land where one works).

He emphasised that Australia was a land of opportunities, where anyone who worked hard could make their mark.

And close to half a million Indians, with their dedication and entrepreneurial spirit, certainly have made their mark in Australia, said Sheba Nandkeolyar, National Chair of Australia-India Business Council (AIBC), who spoke next, also recalling the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas event she attended at Bengaluru, India, in 2017.

Giving back to the community also formed the crux of what Council of Indian Australians (CIA) President Mohit Kumar told the gathering.

“Australians are some of the best in terms of giving back to the community. This is something NRIs should emulate. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in terms of money; you can also donate your time or labour,” he said.

Kumar also said that NRIs should try to break the stereotype and pursue new career avenues.

“I would love to see the first Indian professional surfer in Australia, or the first Indian federal politician,” he said.

Harmohan Singh Walia of Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) recalled his journey – and struggles – of establishing himself when he first came to Australia.

Rekha Rajvanshi of ILASA strongly called for promotion and preservation of Hindi.

Charles, a true-blue Aussie, addressed the audience in fluent Hindi, talking about his 40-year-old association with India and how being bilingual enriched one’s personality.

Charles’s remarks set the tone for the second part of the evening, in which seven students from the Indo-Australian Bal Bharathi Vidyalaya recited celebrated Hindi poems.

To see Australia-raised children enunciating in chaste Hindi the stirring compositions written by the likes of Maithili Sharan Gupt and Dwarka Prasad Maheshwari left the audience visibly impressed.

The children and the poems they recited were

  • Jayesh Nauriyal (16) – Koshish karne walon ki haar nahi hoti,
  • Aryan Jatyan (17) – Sapne,
  • Neha Saini (16) – Maa,
  • Ronen Gupta (10) – Haunsla,
  • Pavani Chanana (14) – Jhansi ki Rani,
  • Stuti Doshi (14) – Nar ho na nirash karo mann ko
  • Arya Wadhwani (11) – Itne unche utho.
  • Thirteen-year-old Hrithwik Nauriyal deserves special mention as he recited a poem, titled Lagan, that he himself had written.

A fitting conclusion to the evening!