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Global Indians: A profile in courage and enterprise

No diaspora in the world has ever come close to such a global spread and endured so much hardship, sacrifice and deprivation as Indians.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2004 21:27 IST
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra

Over 24 million Indians live outside their home country, arguably the largest ongoing migration in the world. What makes it so wonderful is the diversity of the flow. Manpower and brainpower, expertise and acumen form this global diaspora and make it unique in history. There used to be a joke that the reason why Indians did not play football was that if you gave them a 'corner' they would open a teashop.

The humour of that sporting reference to Indian enterprise has lost none of its significance. On the contrary, it is the strength and bedrock of the many-splendoured successes of the Indian wanderlust. Indeed, the beginnings were humble. Indians not only built teashops but created empires right across the globe. Are we proud to be Indians? Yes, indeed, because no disapora has ever come close to this kind of global spread and endured so much hardship, sacrifice and deprivation and yet maintained its customs and traditions through the centuries.

The great Indian diaspora is not a 20th century phenomenon. On the contrary, even though historians would say it was forcefed in that the colonial powers compelled their colonized populations to be shipped out as cheap labour, the adventurous spirit was always there. Over the past four hundred years the trade winds blew favourably across the west coast and the seafaring Indians of the Malabar Coast right upto Gujarat and Kutch generated enough mobility to move free Indians doing business all the way to North Africa, West to the rich trading grounds of the exotic Byzantine complex of the Middle East and the Gulf.

From the east coast of India, in later years, Indians also moved towards the Orient, the connections with Chinese commerce creating durable business. If some of that business was in human cargo, it was regrettable but in those times, human beings were bought and sold and despicable as it seems, it was this transfer of manpower that forms the core of the Indian spread on the 21st century globe.

The entrepreneur and the trader, the businessman and the skilled professional came much later. It is the descendents of these luckless but definitely hardy and intelligent people, who moved from the backbreaking labour in the crop fields and in the ports and on the plantations into the realm of intellectual pursuit. The Indian mind, even when enslaved, was of exceptional quality and rose sharply to position itself as incomparable in the disciplines of mathematics, languages, economics, planning and honesty.

First Published: Jan 06, 2004 13:48 IST