By Sarita Boodhoo
It is now acknowledged as a quasi-tradition that each year around 9th January, since a decade, the big family of 25 million strong Indian diaspora scattered all over the globe gathers in one big city of India or the other to celebrate their commonalities.
But besides these large manifestations of the global Indian presence, several Mini-PBDs also are held on the side. So far, five Mini-PBDs have been organised by demand from PIOs or NRIs of specific countries: New York, USA (2007); Singapore (2008); The Hague, Netherlands (2009); Durban, South Africa (2010); and Toronto, Canada (2011). The 6th regional PBD will be held in Mauritius this year, from 26 to 28 October.
Why a Mini-PBD and why Mauritius?
It was at the tenth PBD Conference in Jaipur, in January this year, that Mr Mahen Utchanah, GOPIO International Chairman, made a formal request to Shri Valayar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India for a Mini-PBD to be held in Mauritius.
The Mini-PBD serves as a reach-out to a whole lot of PIOs who are unable to attend the major celebration in January. Moreover, it is an effort to bring to local populations of the host country, who are not of Indian origin, several many- splendoured aspects and flavours of “Incredible India”: such as its enormous opportunities for doing business, for tourism or financial investment. Above all, it is a celebration of the sharing of ideas, thoughts, goodwill, cultural synergies and extravaganzas.
This Mini-PBD promises to be a big colourful event. Judging from preparatory observations, it is already assuming a magnitude of international dimension, which is a happy and significant phenomenon.
Mauritius is not only “that great little country” as Shrimati Indira Gandhi said upon landing for the first time on Mauritian soil in 1970. It is not only Chota Bharat for that matter, an endearment term. Is it Marich Desh as it appeared over the horizon to our forefathers, the indentured emigrants? It is much more indeed. The connectivity is obvious whether in collective consciousness or myth.
Why does India intrigue or fascinate?
India is therefore coming to Mauritius in a spectacular and gigantic way. Not only is Mauritius playing host to this fantastic happening because of its sizeable PIO population. It has much more to offer.
Over the years Mauritius has earned a reputation as an excellent venue for international conferences, from the time of the organization of OCAM or the OAU and currently African Union. That was a litmus test. It has not looked back since. It was the vision of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, then Prime Minister, Father of the Nation, who took the bold initiative to play host in 1973 to such a mighty Pan-African gathering, with international and far-reaching geo-political consequences. Mauritians have since gathered significant organizational skills and abilities, expertise and experiences in organizing events of such magnitude whether in the fields of diplomacy and international affairs, medicine, economy, liberal professions, education or culture.
With the emergence of Africa as a giant power base of human and natural resources, and a potential market on the global front, Mauritius is destined to be a bridge of connectivity, being not too far away.
We must not underestimate, therefore, the Mauritian human resource. It may be a tiny agglomerate, living in a tiny ocean island, but the Mauritian hospitality is now legendary. The savoir-faire of its bureaucracy or functionary and policy makers should not be taken for granted or undermined. Its political stability too should be brushed aside lightly – something often done by Mauritians themselves.
This PBD event will open wide the sluice gates of the tremendous potentialities of the country and its countrymen.
It will also, as mentioned earlier, mark a departure from beaten tracks. It will provide a venue not only to forge ties but also to cement existing bonds, with far reaching geopolitical and economic windfall gains for all players.
Why does India intrigue or fascinate? After all, as Osho has said in “India My Love” (Full Circle, Delhi 1996), “India is not just geography or history. It is not only a nation, a country, a mere piece of land. It is something more: it is a metaphor, poetry, something invisible, but very tangible. It is vibrating with certain energy fields which no other country can claim.”
As Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India, says in “The Discovery of India”: “Being an Indian I am myself influenced by this reality or myth about India, and I feel that anything that had the power to mould hundreds of generations, without a break, must have drawn its enduring vitality from some deep well of strength, and have had the capacity to renew this vitality from age to age.”
It is no doubt this same strength and vitality which the PIOs have taken with them in their tryst with destiny, wherever they have settled across the globe. It has helped them to face trials and tribulations, humiliation and oppression with aplomb. It also nurtures their capacity to bear and overcome untold sufferings and injustices silently.
The Mini-PBD will give them, needless to say, the opportunity to celebrate their success in diverse destinies, and to assert their confidence in themselves, their core values, their innate strength and abundance as well as enable them to explore new possibilities and meet new challenges. And also galvanise forces to help build better and more responsible citizens of tomorrow.
* Published in print edition on 7 September 2012