NEW DELHI: Embassy staffers doubling up as Yoga teachers in places where teachers cannot be flown in and Ambassadors practising Yoga daily, Indian missions world over are gearing up for the first International Yoga Day on June 21, while adapting to local lifestyles and conditions.
The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) had recruited over 30 Yoga practitioners to be flown to cities across the world for the International Yoga Day. But sending a Yoga teacher to Syria, where a four-year-old civil war continues unabated, would be too risky.
So, Delhi Police constable Rambir Singh, who is on an assignment in the Arab country, took up the task of organising a Yoga programme for the Embassy at the Al-Jalaa sport complex, built in 1976 for Pan-Arab Games.
“Security is always a concern, but if the Syrian Foreign Ministry has approved it, we expect it to be safe,” the 32-year-old Yoga enthusiast said, adding that mortar shells had landed close to the Embassy premises.
Rambir has been taking four classes a week at a local NGO, Yoga Syria, for the last one month. “We are not able to advertise or talk about the classes like we would in other places. But we hope to see a good turnout on the day,” he said.
In neighbouring Iraq, Baghdad’s prestigious Hunting Club will see around 150-200 invitees, mostly diplomats and senior Iraqi government officials, coming together to watch a Yoga demonstration by around 60 local buffs. An Iraqi Cabinet minister is likely to be the Chief Guest.
“The timing and venue were based on local conditions, of which security was an important factor,” said Bharath Kumar Kuthati, First Secretary at the Indian Embassy in Baghdad.
The club, which remained open even when its surroundings became a battlefield, was once the favourite hangout of slain dictator Saddam Hussein and his son, the late Uday Hussein.
Kuthati said security and the Ramadan Fast were some of the challenges, but “we wanted to leave no stone unturned in putting up the best possible show on the occasion”.
The Indian mission in Kabul and the four Consulates have their own events on Sunday, but within the office premises.
The MEA has been on an overdrive to mark International Yoga Day, especially since it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative that was approved by the United Nations in December.
Out of the 177 countries who supported the UN resolution, 47 were members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. In toto, the day’s events will be marked in 193 countries, except for Yemen where fighting and air bombings have led to the Indian Embassy being shifted out for now.
While the Iraqi, Afghan and Syrian capitals still allow for a relatively normal life, things are not as sanguine in Tripoli, Libya. So, the only event will be a nearly two-hour-long Yoga session at the Indian envoy’s residence on Sunday morning.
In contrast, across the continent in Thailand, around 5,000 people will practise Yoga together in the open playground of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok from 6.30 am on June 21.
“Experts from India, celebrities and 150 volunteers will guide demonstrations with the participation of local schools, colleges and institutes. Indian community associations are also active in promoting the event,” said Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Indian Ambassador in Bangkok. Shringla is also hoping to join the big crowd, having started practising Yoga for the last few weeks. “It’s never too late to start learning,” he said.
Indian envoy to Indonesia Gurjit Singh is also adapting his early morning Yoga practice to the protocol suggested by the Ministry of Ayush for the International Yoga Day.
The coincidence of Ramadan with the Yoga Day is a challenge for the world’s largest Muslim nation, “It will be the first Sunday after Ramadan starts, so people are likely to rest,” he said.
Nevertheless, the target is to get around 2,000 people to practise Yoga for the main event in Jakarta from 6 to 8 pm.
“We hope that people will eat their breakfast and then join us,” said Gurjit. All participants will get free T-shirts and Yoga mats, courtesy sponsors. Four other Indonesian cities will also see public events at the same time. An Embassy strategy was to send Yoga teachers to big media houses to conduct workshops on how to practise Yoga in offices.
“They got interested and agreed to promote International Yoga Day. Three media houses have come on board,” he said.