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Balwant Sanghera: Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada


Par​vasi Bhartiya Dias and the NRI Sammelan

Surrey, Vancouver, Jan. 20, 2014
Balwant Sanghera

Well, another new year has just begun. With it come the Parbasi Bhartiya Divas in New Delhi and the Parvasi Divas (NRI Sammelan) for Punjabi NRIs in the Punjab. Both of these events scheduled at the beginning of the New Year indicate that the governments of India and Punjab recognize and appreciate the importance of NRIs in the overall scheme of things. Both of these events were attended by NRIs in large numbers from various countries. As usual, NRIs from countries like Canada, U.S.A, U.K., Australia and New Zealand seem to have a fairly high profile at these get –to-gethers. If nothing else, these meetings keep the issues facing NRIs up front. At the same time, it strengthens the bonds of NRIs to the country of their origin. In this regard, the national and provincial governments must be commended for putting on these conferences. The media in India and abroad did  a good job in covering  the Parvasi Bhartiya Dias and the NRI Sammelan.

  In addition to the New Year resolutions and related festivities, it is time for many to visit their homeland. As a matter of fact, the exodus of Indo-Canadians to India starts in October and continues well into the New Year. For some, especially senior citizens, it is like an annual pilgrimage to visit their ancestral villages and relatives in Punjab as well as other parts of India. A visit to India is always fascinating. So much has changed yet a lot stays the same. Due to cheap air fares and frequency of services, a large number of Indo-Canadians now prefer to travel to New Delhi via Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong or Guangdzu. As a matter of fact, some of these flights have almost 80% of their passengers of Indian heritage, specifically Punjabis. A lot of them are senior citizens.

                       Keeping this in mind, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has requested airlines serving these routes to have at least one or two Punjabi speaking persons as part of their cabin crew. Also, PLEA has requested these airlines to make Punjabi newspapers, magazines and movies to their Punjabi passengers on these flights. This would make these flights more convenient and enjoyable for most of their passengers travelling to India. In this context, on behalf of PLEA, I would like to urge our travel agents as well as travellers to ask for these services in Punjabi. Hopefully, the managements of these airlines will be willing to accommodate them. Also, it would certainly help if the Indo-Canadian media also takes this issue up. At a personal level, my wife and  I will be on our way to India soon. Going via Beijing(China) will again be quite an  experience.

                        China’s capital city (Beijing) has undergone profound changes over the years. In 2009, my family and I had the opportunity to visit Beijing on our way to New Delhi. It was just after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The city looked very clean and bright. There was no smog and very little pollution. It was a very enjoyable experience to visit places like the Olympic Park-the Cube, the Bird’s Nest and many other Olympic sites. Walking in the Tiananmen Square was a delight .The city is worth visiting and has a lot to offer to the visitor. This time, due to scheduling problems, we will be simply passing through the Beijing International airport on our way to New Delhi.

                        New Delhi is also very different from what it was a few years ago. It is a much cleaner city now. The Metro has made a big difference. Also, the New Delhi International Airport is considered to be one of the best airports in the world. The roads are reported to be much better now. Travelling from New Delhi to Punjab has also become a lot more efficient and convenient. The dhabas on both sides of the National Highway are still a great attraction for NRIs

 Once home, the weddings in the family will be on top of the agenda. Soon after arriving in my home town Pharwala (near Nurmahal/Bilga) in Jalandhar District, we will be busy with the weddings at least for the first couple of weeks. Then, it will be time to visit some of the Gurdwaras as well as historical places. Last time, the elections for five or six provincial legislatures, including Punjab, were the major headlines. It was interesting to see the political posturing and dynamics. This time, it will be the campaigns for the upcoming elections to Lok Sabha. Already, Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have caused quite a buzz all across India. The way Kejriwal and AAP have decided to tackle the issues of corruption and VIP culture may bring about a major mental shift in the political landscape  of India.

Despite all of its problems, India continues to be one of the most popular countries to visit. For NRIs it has special appeal. There is so much history. To its credit, the government has done a good job in preserving and promoting the historical monuments. It is always a pleasure to visit them again and again. A visitor never gets tired of visiting these places that bring history back to life. I hope to visit some of them again. I am looking forward to a pleasant and enjoyable visit to India for the next few weeks.

(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)




Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.