At the registration tent of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas at the Le Meridien, Kochi, there are all sorts of people milling around. One of them is perhaps the oldest. He is the 87-year-old S Mohinder Singh Bhullar.
“I emigrated from Punjab 62 years ago,” he says. Bhullar is a citizen of Brunei and has a booming business in carpets. He is also the president of the Lions Club of Brunei, and has received the Pingat Indah Kerja Baik or Meritorious Service Medal from Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
“I have come to the event to meet other Indians and to get a feel of what is happening in the country,” he says. “I have already made some investments in Delhi and Chandigarh,” he says. Interestingly, Bhullar carries a portable chair, so that he can rest as and when he feels tired.
Another person who has come to meet other Indians is Dr Danielle Moutoucomarapoule. She has come from the French-controlled island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
“Have you heard of it?” she asks, looking amazed at a guest. “My forefathers migrated from Tamil Nadu or Kerala or Kolkata. A cousin of mine is trying to trace our roots.” Danielle speaks in French and a smattering of English and shows a maroon-coloured passport. “I am a citizen of France. I came to the Divas meet so that I can meet others who look like me. There are so few Indians in Reunion,” she says.
Jestin Raj Savarimuthu is another person whose ancestors migrated to Malaysia more than hundred years ago.
Today, he is a government official who has come to see the possibilities of investments and cultural interactions between the two countries.
“Kochi is a busy city with a high density of population. But, I only see Indians here. In Malaysia, there are Malays, Chinese and Indians in large numbers,” he says. At the registration tent, there are different types of stalls: Paid/Unpaid Delegates/On the Spot Registration/Govt Officials/Sponsors and GOPIO.
The person manning this stall does not know what it stands for. Assistant Executive Sunil S Pai at the help desk of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry pleads helplessness.
Finally, a tall, aristocratic-looking gentleman says, “GOPIO? Well, the first ‘O’ definitely stands for Organisation.” He frowns and suddenly it comes out in a rush: Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin.
It is a New York-based outfit whose stated objective is to enhance cooperation and communication between Indians living in different countries. No surprises therefore about their presence in Kochi.