Pioneer in reconstructing the bonds: Baleshwar Agarwal
This year’s Pravasi Bhartiya Divas cannot be complete without remembering the person who coined and nurtured the concept of Pravasi Bhartiya in the real sense. Though widely known as the founder of Hindustan Samachar news agency and publisher of patriotic literature in Hindi and English, Shri Baleshwar Agarwal made the most significant through the leadership he has provided since 1978 to the Antar-Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad, Bharat (Indian Council for International Cooperation). The ARSP an NGO has been engaged in strengthening the existing links between the people of Indian origin all over the world and their country of origin. This effort was further translated into celebration of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas during the NDA regime.
With his visionary efforts, ARSP has been organi-sing several seminars, symposiums, conferences on all current subjects-Nepal, Fiji, South Africa, Burma, Sri Lanka, etc. from time to time involving delegations of different countries, having sizable Indian origin population. Due to his untiring efforts, Delhi hosted the first International conference of PIO Parliament. Shri Baleshwar Agrawal, during his 50 years of traveling to network Indians all over the world, he had developed personal contacts with various countries particularly and had personal rapport with several Prime Ministers, Speakers, Parliament Members etc. He was rightly regarded as a link between PIOs and India. Resolution to continue his legacy of celebrating Indianism reach all over the world through rejuvenating the roots of PIOs would be the real tribute to Baleshvarji this Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
There is a Statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in HO CHI MI of Vietnam. They installed it as a tribute to the great king of India. During the Vietnam war, people used to study the guerrilla war tactics from the style of Shivaji. A small country like Vietnam brought a mighty USA to it’s knees. President of Vietnam was asked by reporters, how could they achieve that feat?
He replied that “I read the character & deeds of a great king, who inspired me to try his war tacticts against the US Forces..and the success just followed.”
When asked who was the king , he replied “Shivaji”. He further added that “had such a king been born in Vietnam, we would have ruled the world” After the death of the said Vietnamese President, he had it inscribed on his tombstone “Shivaji Maharaja’s One Mavla, has achived Samadhi” (Since Shivaji’s soldiers belonged to Maval region of Maharashtra, they were called Mavlas)
A few years later the Vietnamese, lady Foreign Minister visited India, and as per SOP conducted to Red Fort and Gandhi’s Samadhi. She asked where is “Shivaji’s Samadhi” ? The Govt officials went into a flutter, and replied that “ at Raigadh”. She expressed her desire to visit the same. On reaching the Samadhi at Raigadh, & paying her tributes, she picked up the soil around the samadhi and and put it into her briefcase. When questioned by reporters, she answered “ This soil is of land of braves..once I return to Vietnam, I will mix it with soil of my country, so that brave people like Shivaji born there.”
The unrecognised NRI scientists
Though many people talk about the achievements of Indian IT professionals abroad, but there is also a list of Indian scientists contributing the world of science through their path breaking research. Our tribute to such unrecognised scientific innovations by Indians abroad:
A poor Andhra boy Subbarao came to the US in the 1920s. He is credited with the synthesis of Folic acid, Aureomycin, the first of the tetracycline antibiotics that have saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1948, and Methotrexate, which is used to alleviate several types of cancer, including childhood leukemia. The discovery of folic acid helped a medical company to discover vitamin B12. The medicines found by Subbarao helped the doctors to control filariasis, a killer disease. Subbarao was instrumental in establishing a cancer research unit.
In fact, it is said that aureomycin, presented to the medical world in 1948, should have won him the Nobel Prize. Subbarao did not like advertising of himself. He was not known to many Indians. His work was selfless. He worked in USA at the time when eminent scholars and doctors didn’t allow Indian to do research in medicine. Of him it was said, because he lived, you may live longer.
Dr Rangaswamy Srinivasan, the little known pioneer of Lasik eye surgery, who is the only Indian to feature in the US National Inventors Hall of Fame in the company of greats such as Edison, Ford, Disney, Nobel and the Wright Brothers. After he engineered the technique to correct shortsightedness that has enabled millions to get rid of eyeglasses, Srinivasan wrote out the patent to IBM, the corporation he worked for. His reward: A measly $10,000.
In a recent interview Dr Praveen Chaudhari, the Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, who was also Dr Srinivasan’s colleague at IBM, when asked how it felt to have such achievements go unrecognised by the media and unrewarded financially in an age when people were patenting age old inventions and milking millions. “The joy lies in the discovery, not in the reward,” he said.
Dr Praveen Chaudhari should know better. He engineered the rewritable compact disc (CD), and like Dr Srinivasan, wrote out the patent for IBM for a fraction of the billions Big Blue, Sony, Phillips and other corporations got from the invention.
But neither Dr Rangaswamy nor Dr Chaudhari display the slightest sign of rancor at IBM’s profits or envy at the fame and fortune of today’s NRIs.
“Between a billion dollars and the pleasure of giving perfect eyesight, what do you think I will choose?” asks Dr Srinivasan.
These men never send out press releases or talk to the media. They are not rich or famous. They are sacred and profound. They are the true representatives of Vedic way of living for the welfare of mankind.
Power of Credible India!
There are many gurus who established infulential institutions and are being instrumental in spreading the Indian message of spiritualism
all over the world
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
“Maharishi Mahesh Yogi” introduced the concept of transcendental meditation to the west and has a worldwide following. An ambassador of Indian culture and knowledge in the world, Maharishi brought to light the full potential of Indian knowledge to create a disease-free and problem-free family of nations and formulated this for the reconstruction of world. Now, there are many universities and colleges across the world like Maharishi Vedic Universities, Maharishi Ayur-Veda Universities and Maharishi Colleges of Vedic Science.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
With the vision of violence-free society, an ambassador of peace and a spiritual leader, the man whose name and fame has spread across the world is none other than Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He has been instrumental in uniting millions of people across the world with service projects and the course in “The Art of Living”. The art of living is an organisation founded by Sri Sri Ravishankar operates in 152 countries and touched the lives of millions of people going beyond the barriers of race, nationality and religion with the message of a “one world family”. The art of living movement has spread peace across communities, through diverse humanitarian projects, disaster relief, empowerment of women, prisoner rehabilitation, education and many more. He was regarded by Forbes as one of the five most influential people in the whole of India and received many international awards such as the Centennial 2006 Medallion by the Legislative Assembly of Calgary, The Humanitarian Award by the city of Brampton, and the 2006 International Peace Award by ‘For the Love of Children Society of Alberta Canada’ for his peace keeping efforts. He was also felicitated by the Title of Yoga Shiromani (Supreme Jewel of Yoga) by the President of India. (Courtesy- Art of Living Bureau of Communication)
India has been graced since time immemorial by incarnations, rishis and sadhus. And one of them is Swaminarayan. According to him the ultimate goal of life is to realise oneself as atman and offer devotion to God. He preached the message of love, brotherhood, addiction-free life and respect to all. Swaminarayan Sampradaya has been formed by Swaminarayan himself (a bhakti sampradaya) to represent the purest form of Hindu religion in front of world. The Swaminarayan Sampradaya is the largest and fastest growing branch of Hinduism in the world. It is reported to have 20 million followers across the world. Over thousands of major temples in the world including massive campuses and estates throughout the US, England, Australia and worldwide are run by the Swaminarayan trusts.
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a Hindu religious organisation with a worldwide confederation of more than 400 centers founded by AC Bhakti-Vedanta Prabhupada. The core beliefs of ISKCON are mainly based on the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam. In recent times, ISKCON’s number of membership has been expanded on huge scale all over the world. ISKCON devotees worship Krishna as the highest form of God, and often refer to Him as “the Supreme Personality of Godhead”. The purpose of ISKCON is to systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life.
Many such organisations are spreading the message of India through spiritual transmission of universal brotherhood, unity of God and tolerance.
—Nishant Kumar Azad
Pew recognises rise of American Hindus
Hindus most Tolerant, Educated and Affluent
If Pew Research Forum, a survey based research group in the US to be believed, in comparison to any other migrant groups, Hindus are the most tolerant, educated and affluent. In its report of 2013 on socio-economic and educational survey of various religious communities in the US, American Hindus have made a mark in every field of life.
There are many migrant communities in the US and out of them 10% are Hindus. Till recently, Jew was the most powerful lobby in the US but skillful Indian-Americans have overtaken them in education and wealth creation in the US. The Hindu way of entrepreneurship and savings also plays important role in this. The report also specifies that most Asian-American Buddhists and Hindus, maintain traditional religious beliefs and practices. Two-thirds of Buddhists surveyed believe in ancestral spirits (67%), while three-quarters of Hindus keep a shrine in their home (78%) and 95% of all Indian-American Hindus say they celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. At the same time, keeping their basic nature of religious tolerance, 75 % of them celebrate or participate in Christmas or festivals of other religious communities, which is higher than any other group. The report explains that US Buddhists and Hindus tend to be inclusive in their understanding of faith as they reject the notion that their religion is the only one and instead say that many religions can lead to eternal life (or, in the case of Buddhists, to enlightenment). Nearly all Asian-American Hindus surveyed trace their heritage to India (93%) and for most of them religion is very important in their lives. Not very surprisingly, Yoga is not just an exercise for Hindus but seen as a spiritual practice (73%).
Politically While Asian-American Hindus are much more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party than the Republican Party and voted overwhelmingly for Obama (85%).
As per the report the performance of Hindus in education and economic status is more striking. As per the report, the vast majority of the US Hindus are of Indian descent, and Indian-Americans as a whole are a well-educated, affluent group. But Indian-American Hindus tend to have even more years of education and higher household incomes than other (non-Hindu) Indian-Americans: 51% of Hindu Indian-American adults live in households earning at least $100,000 annually, compared with 34% of non-Hindu Indian-Americans, and 58% of Hindu Indian-Americans are post-graduates and 85% are graduates, compared with 36% and 34% respectively among the non-Hindu Indian-Americans.
If Indians who lives in abroad can establish themselves as superior in socio-economic status, why we cannot be affluent in our own country, why these individuals have to move to other countries for education or to test their entrepreneurial skills, these are the questions we in India should ponder upon. The answer lies in perhaps, Hindus moved to other countries have retained their Hinduness and the legacy of socialism and secularism has curtailed our abilities to explore our potential. —Bureau Report
Politically Powerful PIOs
Tun VT Sambanthan Thevar, was the fifth President of Malaysian Indian Congress and one of the founding fathers of Malaysia. He was the MIC President from 1955 to 1973, when he was ousted by party members. Sambanthan Thevar was one of the leading Indian leaders who played a prominent role in the independence movement in Malaya and consolidation of the Malayan Indian Congress.
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, (April 15, 1851 – November 30, 1930) was a Solicitor-General and Tamil political leader in Sri Lanka. Ramanathan was educated at the Colombo Academy and was nominated as an unofficial member of the Legislative Council of Ceylon from 1879 to 1892 representing the Tamil-speaking people. He was the very first Tamil candidate to be elected to the Legislature of the country.
Sellapan Ramanathan, born on July 3, 1924 is a Singaporean politician who was the sixth President of the Republic of Singapore. Usually referred to as SR Nathan, he was first sworn in on September 1, 1999. In 1999 and 2005, he was elected President in uncontested elections, surpassing Benjamin Sheares to become Singapore’s longest-serving President. His 12-year term ended on August 31, 2011.
Mahendra Pal Chaudhry of the Fiji Labour Party was the first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister of the country and was elected after defeating, Sitiveni Rabuka on May 19, 1999. In January 2007 he was appointed as Minister
of Finance in the interim Cabinet of Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
Swaraj Paul is an Indian-born, British-based business magnate, philanthropist, and Labour politician. In 1996 he became a life peer, sitting in the House of Lords as a Labour member with the title Baron Paul, of Marylebone in the City of Westminster. He was presented the “International Indian of the Decade” award for outstanding achievements in the fields of industry, education and philanthropy. Paul was made a member of the House of Lords in 1996 and donated one million pounds to prevent the London Zoo from closing in 1994.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar was the first female Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. She was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 26, 2010. Persad-Bissessar is the political leader of the United National Congress and was the first woman to serve as Attorney General, acting Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago. She has served as Member of Parliament for the Siparia constituency since 1995 and served as Attorney General in 1995
Bharat Jagdeo is a Guyanese politician who was President of Guyana from August 11, 1999, to December 3, 2011. Jagdeo joined the youth wing of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the Progressive Youth Organisation, when he was 13, and became a member of the PPP itself at age 16. He was one of the youngest Heads of State in the world. The World Economic Forum (WEF) identified Jagdeo as one of their inaugural Young Global Leaders in 2006 and Time Magazine named him as one of their “Heroes of the Environment” in 2008, and he was awarded the United Nations “Champion of the Earth” award in 2010. —Heena Nanda