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Globetrotting Indians

April 2003
Globetrotting Indians

Perhaps it is only befitting that the people of one of the most ancient of civilizations, are also the ones who are most spread out across the globe. Thanks to the much publicized three-day 'Pravasi Bhartiya Divas' (PBD) held by the Indian government earlier this year, lately we have heard much touting about the NRIs (Non Resident Indians) and PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) totaling to about 20 million worldwide.

An interesting barometer of this phenomenon of the 'global Indian' is evident in the sport of cricket. Whether a world cup is being played in Sharjah or South Africa, there is never a dearth of Indian fans. More often than not, it is the Indian team that gets the most amount of cheering, second perhaps only to the respective host countries where the cup is being played. The cheering of course is coming from the Indian expatriates living in those countries.

There was a time when such an exodus away from India was considered detrimental to the country, and described as what has now become a clich� - 'brain drain'. That antiquated perception is fast changing. The official Indian government position is resoundingly positive and optimistic about its worldwide diaspora. The PBD which is to be an annual event henceforth was organized 'in recognition and appreciation of the constructive economic, political and philanthropic role played by the Indian Diaspora as well as the goodwill demonstrated by it towards India.'

Speaking of the economic role played by the diaspora, the IT industry in particular comes to mind. By many accounts the expatriate community - which was integral in establishing reciprocal networks in countries such as the U.S. - certainly proved to be a catalyst in the spectacular rise of India as an IT giant.

Yet, the economic, and even the political and philanthropic role of the diaspora, doesn't provide the full picture of the beneficial synergies between the motherland and its global diaspora. The subjective exchanges in this relationship are immeasurable. The cultural osmosis generated as a result enriches both ends of the spectrum. From films and music, to popular culture, the horizons are broadened in many areas.

Talking about the Indian diaspora is as large a topic as the diaspora itself. A library full of books has been written on it, touching up on its many aspects. A magazine article such as our cover story this month can barely hope to scratch the surface of this vast and varied people collectively labeled as NRIs/PIOs.

But if nothing else, we hope that the article will resonate the fact that even though our ambitions may be global, our identities are still very much anchored in our roots.

We leave you with the following thought expressed by Atlanta's own Mike Patel who was a keynote speaker at the PBD, 'I feel the need to stay connected with India not only for personal gratification but also for the rich culture I want my children to embrace. Going back to my roots gives me energy, drive, and personal contentment.'

-Parthiv N. Parekh

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