We came to Bahrain in 1982. Like many young couples we knew, our plan was to work and earn well for three years and go back to India.
But then, Life happened. Two children and, most importantly, a country that grew on you with its gentle and laid-back way of life, friendliness and offered a secure place to bring up a family.
Before we knew it, we have spent 40 years here and been a part of the unfolding of modern Bahrain’s progress and prosperity, its ups and downs.
What brought us closer to Bahrain was that we grew up with a peer generation of Bahrainis – professionals who returned from specialised study abroad as doctors, lawyers and engineers and took their place in the country’s DNA, graciously making room for their expat equals and helping to embed a diversity and inclusiveness into Bahrain’s growth.
Meanwhile, our relationship with India grew layered.
Living in the Gulf, we are just under four or five hours away from the farthest Indian city and with plenty of travel connections, Gulf Indians visit their home often. More than 30 per cent of India’s remittances are sent by Gulf Indians and they power the progress of families and India’s vast network of MSMEs with judicious investments.
Indian entrepreneurs have built upon the advantages of setting up businesses in the GCC and Indian enterprises employing more than 1,50,000 multinational staff like the RP Group founded by Dr Ravi Pillai or more than 57,000 like the LuLu Group headed by Yusuffali M A underpin the vast grid of Indian-owned corporations, big and small, that criss-cross the GCC today.
The fact is, though, that even as India celebrates 75 years of Independence (that’s tomorrow) and 50 years of warm contemporary diplomatic ties with Bahrain, we need to shout up our credentials a bit more. I remember one Indian diplomat telling me that the Bahrain-India relationship is like a comfortable marriage – there’s companionship, there’s support but the zing is intermittent.
I think an occasion like this 76th Independence Day and the 50th year of diplomatic ties is a great time for us everyday Indians and Bahrainis to examine how we can play a more effective role in the beautiful synergy between both countries.
Sharing culture and cuisine comes naturally to us Indians but we also need to understand that sharing is not a one-way street – or, for that matter, just a question of organising shows for ourselves.
As a community we need to make more effort to learn about Bahraini culture and welcome our host country’s cultural icons into our circle. So many Indian clubs collect and spend money bringing Indian artistes to Bahrain – their officials boast of influence in India too. Why not organise a Bahraini artist showcase in India then? There are so many Bahrainis who love Indian music and dance – then why is our Bahraini presence at such events limited to the chief guest and VIP cohort?
Seventy-six and 50 are weighty milestones – they point to the past as much as to the future. Let us recalibrate – the India and Bahrain of the start of this journey are vastly different and the sooner we amplify the new narratives, the stronger will be the understanding of the era ahead.