By William Doyle-Marshall

“When people of Indian origin are treated with great respect in their adopted land, so goes the respect for India.” This profound message was echoed to celebrants of South Asian Heritage Month at the Vedic Cultural Centre of Markham last Saturday.

Keynote speaker Dr. Aditya Jha, celebrated Indo-Canadian entrepreneur, philantropist and social activist in Canadian public affairs, traced the history of India’s economic influence on the world and the impact of persons of Indian heritage in the Diaspora on the Motherland.

The presence of successful and influential Indian Diaspora in so many countries have become a source of direct support for India as the influence, not just the popular attitude but also the government policies go to the benefit of the Mother country, India, Dr. Jha reported. He observed that with the phenomenal success of global Indian entrepreneurs and innovators, India is benefitting tremendously through the luring of large multinational companies for the Indian footprint as well as the entrepreneurial ventures in the country.

Dr. Jha disclosed the 30 million large Indian Diaspora is a highly contributing group to the nations around the world. Those of Indian heritage have increasingly taken up important mainstream roles and responsibilities in their adopted countries such as the President of Singapore; Chief Justice and Governor General of New Zealand; two Governors of the United States of America; Prime Ministers of Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago; a former Premier of British Columbia and federal minister as well as other world renowned personalities.

“We cannot underestimate the importance of such global respect in our increasingly globalized world,” Jha continued.

Speaking around the celebration’s theme “India in Canada” Dr. Jha observed in the public lexicon people are qualifying India as an emerging power but indeed the world is witnessing the country’s re-emergence on the world stage.

“Before 18th century or prior to its political subjugation by the imperialist powers, India was a dominant player in the world economy. At their peak India and China together accounted for close to 50% of the world gross domestic product – just 200 years ago,” the entrepreneur said.

Reminding his listeners that ideas from India helped shaped the culture, law, philosophy and signs of the time, Dr. Jha advised that India has thousands and thousands of years of practice of harmonizing difference.

“There is an essence to India which tells us that behind the diversity of life there is a spiritual reality called unity. To some it is unity in diversity, an entity in which some eminent common spirit transcends apparent differences. To me India represents diversity in unity, a centrifugal state reined in by the very loosest and most fragile of bonds,” he continued.

As part of the heritage observance the Vedic Cultural Center hosted a special program that included an exhibition with interactive demonstrations, photographic displays and a food bar at its 14th Avenue, Markham premises. Truly a fun-filled afternoon, organizers engaged politicians like Conservative Peter Kent and Liberal Michael Chan in an extensive dance session through which they followed directions from the choreographer. Other participants included students from the community, community leaders and police administrators.

Newly appointed Chief of York Regional Police Eric Joliffe congratulated the event organizers. He emphasized the town’s profound diversity makeup of which the South Asian community was a vital part.

“We have shown despite our differences, we live in peace and harmony,” he added.

Deputy Mayor Jack Heath said he wants to see more South Asian celebrations in Markham as he truly enjoyed the experience, especially the spicy food that are a definite part of South Asian celebrations.

Members of the VCC Heritage Committee that planned the celebration included Adityanand Kumar, Devanand Ramoutar, Norman Jainarine, Sharada Bhajan, Vivek Ramcharan, Satyanand Sarju, Dr. Harry Persaud, Ram Jagessar, Keoli Kumar, Ajit Wadhwa, Shailesh Joshi, Veda Mohabir, Das Ramsaroop, Savi Ramsaroop, Neera Chakrovarthy, Indeera Prasad, Sushima Narine, Sandy Heeralall, Amar Persaud, Sheila Jafri, Ahmed Jafri, Sita Raykha, Winston Tamaya, Shanti Sarwan and Arvin Sriram.

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