Diaspora looks back home to trace roots | india | Hindustan Times
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Diaspora looks back home to trace roots

Residents of countries as far as Fiji, Surinam, Trinidad, Mauritius and Malaysia are keen to hunt in the backwaters of India. But it is not fortune they are after, reports Vivek Shukla.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2008 01:27 IST
Vivek Shukla

Residents of countries as far as Fiji, Surinam, Trinidad, Mauritius and Malaysia are keen to hunt in the backwaters of India. But it is not fortune they are after. They are looking for links to their ancestors that may have survived, a century or more after their forefathers had left these places to hunt for fortunes on foreign shores.

Some of them go hunting with the most rudimentary information. Surinder S. Dalliwal, a businessman in Malaysia who came to India for the first time recently to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, says his grandfather migrated from near Amritsar in early 20th century and never returned. This is about all he knows; yet he is taking to the search for his village with missionary zeal. He says, “I am meeting lot of people who can help me find my village. If I succeed in my mission I will bring my family.”

There are those who are helping people with their searches. Dr. Chandrasekhar and his organisation Indi Roots is one such group. Over the last two years they claim to have found about 200 villages for Persons of Indian Origin. Former Trinidad Prime Minister Basudeo Pandey was one such person.

Dr. Chandrasekhar says one reason for lack of clues is that many of these early unskilled migrants were unlettered. They never wrote back to their villages and so left no clues to the addresses.

Moti Tikaram, former judge of the Fiji Supreme Court, agrees and informs that till recently many people in Fiji did not even know the names of their states, let alone their villages. They only knew they were from India. Tikaram however knows that Vijay Singh, who put Fiji on the global golfing map, is from Uttar Pradesh.

Unlike the diasporas from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, PIOs in Malaysia usually know of their roots. Eloquent Tamil speaker and Malaysia’s PWD Minister Samy Vellu says most PIOs there are from the Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu, as is he. He says, “When I visit Tanjore I somehow feel I am back with my own people.”

The cost for such a hunt is a respectable $500. Explaining why he dished up such a sum for locating his village in the Faizabad district of UP, Ram Kishan Buddu from Mauritius says, “I am a fifth generation Indian abroad. My father and grandfather couldn’t find the village. It's my only desire to visit the land of my forefathers at least once.” Indi Roots' business is built on that hope.