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Independence Day: Overseas Indians showing pride in their roots

NEW DELHI -- For most overseas Indians, 15 August is the time to identify with their grandmother land, reports Swami Anand Kul Bhushan.

Indeed, it was time to show pride in their roots.

This is the day to an ideal opportunity for overseas Indians to socialise and bond and discuss happenings back at home.

Here the Independence Day celebrations in Kenya, Tanzania, Britain and Dubai are recalled by veteran journalists.

"August is a nippy month in Nairobi, Kenya.

India’s Independence Day celebration on 15th of this month is a very pleasant memory with the tricolor unfurled in the garden of Indian envoy’s residence in the quiet, leafy suburb of Muthaiga.

A choir of sari clad girls would sing the national anthem as the High Commissioner, dressed in Nehru jacket, would stand in attention with his staff during the crisp, sunny morning.

He would greet community leaders and top businessmen with a few Kenya African political leaders.

A short speech would follow extoling the achievements of India and appreciating the friendly ties with Kenya.


Veteran broadcaster Chaman Lal Chaman | Coastweek


Chaman Lal Chaman -Veteran broadcaster on radio and TV in Kenya and Britain.
Then the crowd would break up for a tea party and the usual congratulations to the Indian envoy. This routine was well established in the late sixties and continued for the four decades I lived in Nairobi.

With some adjustments, it is still followed.

The overseas broadcast of All India Radio was all I had to find out what speech was made from the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Tuning to AIR was not easy as the reception was usually poor with a lot of cracking sounds to distort the words.

Remember, there was no Internet and no 24-hour TV channels either.

Indian newspapers arrived three days later.  In the seventies, the local newspapers started to publish special supplements on India on this occasion.

Sponsored by major Indian companies in Kenya, these supplements usually extolled the progress being made in India and the joint-ventures that created jobs in Kenya.

Everyone looked at the headlines but very few read the articles.

With a vibrant and prosperous Indian community in Nairobi, there were more events on August 15 besides the embassy function.

A veteran broadcaster on radio and TV in Kenya and Britain, Chaman Lal Chaman, recalls, in Kenya various organisations celebrated August 15 in different ways, for instance, we in Voice of Kenya (VOK) always had special programmes to mark the occasion.

This continued from Cable and Wireless days until VOK era around 1969/ 70.

Features, including an interview with Indian High Commissioner, were also broadcast.

Patriotic songs were played on August 15th.

I remember Punjabi Kavi Sabha held special programmes at the Avenue Hotel, Nairobi, and a number of times.

Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi Mushairas/ Kavi Darbars were also held at various venues including Shree Sanatan Dharam Sabha, Arya Samaj and Gurudwaras.


Indians celebrating independence day in Hounslow, London | Coastweek

Indians celebrating independence day in Hounslow, London.

Indians in Dubai providing entertainment on Independence day | Coastweek

Indians in Dubai providing entertainment on Independence day.
Since I came to UK, I have attended Independence Day events at various venues, including India House, the rear garden of Indian High Commissioner’s residence and Mela in Indian Gymkhana grounds where Indians gathered in large numbers.

Dance and music and Bhangra bands entertained the visitors.

The Indian Overseas Congress has celebrated this event every year in London and major towns.

This year, India House is holding Independence Day celebrations on 24th August at Indian Gymkhana, Osterley."

Various local temples are also celebrating the day, said Chaman.

A novelist and a journalist, Shamlal Puri, has lived in Tanzania, Britain and Dubai and he has these memories: Tanzania: The Indian independence day celebrations in Tanzania always brought out the Indian communities in full force to celebrate the momentous day.

"To many of us, the Indian flag is a symbol of our roots - the land of our birth or the birth of our forefathers.

Dar es Salaam was always the focus of major celebrations as staff from the Indian High Commission joined the diaspora in celebrating 15th of August. The chief guest would include the president, the prime minister or high level Tanzanian politicians.

In the smaller towns of Tanzania such as Kigoma, Tabora, Mwanza, Mbeya, Morogoro, the Indians got together in the Hindu Mandir (temple) and often a local Indian dignitary or an influential businessman would address the gathering extoling the importance of ensuring our Indianess despite being thousands of miles away from India.


Shamlal Puri | Coastweek


Shamlal Puri

The meetings would often follow sumptuous Gujarati meals and the atmosphere used to resemble a mela. Though Tanzanian British-passport holding Indians have settled abroad, leaving largely Tanzanian Asians’ interest and enthusiasm for India is not as high as we had in the olden days.
However, there is no shortage of Indians who attend the Indian national day celebrations - they are Indian expatriates who always turn up at these events.

I arrived in the UK in 1975.

A very strong affinity exists here for India and thousands all of the country attend national day celebrations not only those hosted by the Indian High Commission here but also those organised by various community groups.

The last event I attended was in 2013 in Hounslow, West London where there were a few hundred Indians from London and its environs.


Indians in Tanzania attending independence day celebrations | Coastweek

Indians in Tanzania attending independence day celebrations.
Prayers are held at temples, gurudwaras on these days. Even British passport-holding Indians here have very strong connections and affinity for India as we saw in the last elections that swept the BJP and Narendra Modi to power.

The Indian press here is influential in the Indian community and the Indian TV networks also keep their interest alive in India.

I lived in Dubai for a few years and always noted the enthusiasm with which the Indian community there celebrated the Independence Day.

National days such as the Independence Day are actually an ideal opportunity for overseas Indians to socialise and bond and discuss happenings back at home."

They do not meet normally here in UK as they are busy with their own jobs and lives, said Shamlal Puri.



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