Miles away, yet close to their roots

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the United States Department of State, Nisha Desai Biswal, speaks in thick American accent. But, ask her whether she knows her ‘mother tongue’ and she quickly responds, “Hun Gujarati Chun.”

Her parents Kannu Desai and Lata Desai migrated to the USA in 1971. During their stay in the foreign land thousands of miles away, the family did not dissociate itself from its roots and continued to speak to their children in Gujarati. Kannu Desai says he made sure that he spoke to his children only in Gujarati at home in order to make sure that they do not forget their Gujarati origin. The story of many others from Indian Diaspora is not different. They are still deeply connected with their roots through language, culture, food habits, art and music and so on.

Rashmi Todi, whose father Susheel Saraff from Thailand received the Pravasi Bharatiya award says her parents made sure they organised various cultural events at home and with the community in Thailand. They would regularly visit temples and celebrated Hindu festivals. Sanjay Kumar from Thailand married a girl from that country. However, he made sure that his ties with India are not disconnected. Hence, he sends his wife to the Indian Embassy to learn Hindi.

Dnyaneshwar Mulay, Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, says the Government of India realised the urge among the Indian Diaspora to stay connected to their roots culturally and linguistically. Hence it conducts many classes for the children of Indians living abroad. It also took initiatives to have Indology as a subject in universities and have chairs there on Indian art, music, language and history.

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