Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi on Wednesday urged the Indian diaspora youth to make their presence felt in the countries they live in.
Interacting with 30 young men and women of Indian origin from nine countries in New Delhi to take part in the Know India Programme (KIP), he said: "Make your presence felt. Your society must feel about you, the Indian diaspora."
KIP, organised by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA) in coordination with the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), is a programme to help the young from the Indian diaspora understand Indian culture and life. This time, Kerala is the partner state. The participants will spend two weeks of their three weeks in that state.
Thereafter, they will return to New Delhi to take part in the Jan 7-9 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora.
"After you complete your programme in New Delhi, go back and work hard. In the US, the Indian diaspora is very visible, they have worked hard, succeeded and their presence is now even felt in that country's politics," Ravi said.
Ravi, who himself hails from Kerala, called upon the participants to make the most of the programme.
He narrated a mythological tale behind the creation of Kerala.
When the participants expressed their keen desire to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President APJ Abdul Kalam, the minister promised to do his best.
Welcoming them at an official briefing on Tuesday, MOIA secretary Nirmal Singh urged them to go out and feel the real India - a country that most of them haven't seen and only heard about.
"You are going to one of the most beautiful states, Kerala," Singh said.
"Go out, interact with the people there, keep notes and let us know whether your perception of India has changed."
The participants, who would leave for Kerala on Thursday, are excited lot.
For Mohit Narotam, an actuarial analyst in Johannesburg who is a first-timer in India, the experience has already been a mind-boggling in the very first four days he has spent in India.
"I spent the first day in much apprehension," Narotam said. "But the next day, I got rid of all apprehension and walked around Connaught Place, taking in the sights, the people, hooters of cars. It has been mind-boggling. I am just looking forward to the programme."
For Ashutosh Jha, a fresh computer science graduate from Toronto, the programme is more of a means to build bridges between Canada and India.
"I intend to look at opportunities for Canada in India in various fields. I also would like to act as a facilitator for Indians who want to go to Canada. I want to paint the true picture of India back in Canada," said Jha, who traces his roots to Bihar.
For 20-year-old Varsha Gannes of Trinidad & Tobago, it is all about Indian culture.
"People back home have such different conceptions about India. I want to know the real India. After this programme, when I complete my graduation, I will come back to do a course in Odissi," said Gannes, who has been learning this form of classical dance since the age of five.
While in Kerala, the youths will get to stay in village homes, visit places of tourist interest like Kanyakumari and Kovalam, visit newspaper offices and participate in a national youth integration camp being organised by NYKS.
This year, the programme is being organised in two batches. After this first batch completes the programme, a second batch of 30 diaspora youth will arrive in early January and will be taken to Rajasthan.
The first batch has participants from South Africa, Kuwait, Britain, Israel, Canada, New Zealand, Mauritius, the US and Trinidad & Tobago.