By Siraj Wahab
Published in Arab News on Friday, June 11, 2004
Indian social organizations abound in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, too many of these groups have a primary focus of arranging photo opportunities for their members. There are a few organizations, however, which do work hard to contribute something to the community. Jeddah's Urdu Academy is one of these.
The group’s specific aim is to promote the use of Urdu. In line with that goal, the academy invites well-known Indians to discuss events in India that have a bearing on the lives of expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. They also hold seminars and training sessions for Urdu teachers in India. Every year the academy holds a National Education Day as a tribute to India’s first Minister of Education Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
Last year, the academy invited Kuldip Nayar to be its guest in Jeddah. His visit was met with enthusiasm. Kuldip Nayar has been a torchbearer of secularism and has highlighted issues concerning minorities in India. He is also a great advocate of Indo-Pak friendship and has always taken a lead in defusing tensions between the two nations.
Such visits work both ways. The visiting dignitaries get to know what Saudi Arabia is all about. This results in the explosion of many myths. They come here with many preconceived notions and then go back to India and relate how surprised they were with the quality of life here.
This year the organization invited two prominent journalists and they spoke at length about the Indian political scene, which has suddenly sprung to life with the shock defeat of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.
At the National Education Day celebrations last week, people wanted to hear what Rajdeep Sardesai, a prominent television journalist with NDTV satellite channel, and Sagarika Ghose of the Indian Express, had to say about the behind-the-scenes story. They didn’t disappoint the capacity crowd. Rajdeep holds a special place in the hearts of Indian expats for his fearless coverage of the Gujarat riots. He enthralled the audience. Even after he had spoken for three hours, the audience were still reluctant to let him go.
Jeddah Urdu Academy President Syed Jamalullah Qadri and Vice President Nayeemullah Shareef were delighted with the community’s response. It seems that people believe a wind of change is blowing in India. Even from a distance they want to participate in it. One can only hope that such optimism and enthusiasm will lead to better times ahead for India and all her people.