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Patriots at Work in Foreign Realm

May 01, 2010, Saturday 03:34:31 PM, Aleem Faizee

Shervani Rahatade performing during the Maharashtra Day celebration last year in Riyadh


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As part of the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd (MKCL) team, I was in Riyadh, the gigantic capital of Saudi Arabia, on May 1  in 2008. MKCL team was in the Kingdom to promote Information Technology (IT) Education. Having finished the routine day at the King Saud University and back to our residence, I was yet to relax when one of my colleagues informed, today we will be having a bash at a hang-out park in Riyadh. A bash at a place like Saudi Arabia was a big surprise for every one of us. More surprising was the disclosure that the party was to commemorate the Maharashtra Day. Surprising because we were in the country where its own National Day is normally not celebrated like we do in India. Also back home, hardly anyone of us had celebrated the day, except of course for the extra nap, the only way for most of us to enjoy a holiday and National Festivals.


Nevertheless the idea to celebrate the Maharashtra Day on the foreign land was exciting. In the Arabian Deserts the functions are normally organized late in the evening and by the time we reached the venue, wonderfully decorated to mark the occasion, it was pack to its capacity. Men and women perfectly dressed for the evening were chatting in small groups. Some of them were at the entrance to greet the people who were joining them for the party. A group of five was on the podium playing with harmonium, tabla and other instruments.  Though the function was organised to celebrate the Mharashtra Day, amazingly the gathering was not limited to Maharashtrians alone. There were the people from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, from Karnataka and Rajasthan, from Tamil Nadu and Assam and even from Kashmir. The gathering was giving a Pan-Indian look and the atmosphere was so overwhelming that for a brief moment we forgot we were in a foreign country.


“The function is the brainchild of Arun Ramchandra Datar of Mumbai”, I was informed. Arun Datar, who is Executive Assistant to the President of Dar Al Riyadh, is living in the Kingdom since last sixteen years with his family.


Ask Arun Datar to reason and he says, “Away from homeland, the patriotic feeling is at its peak. Moreover under the hostile environment in a foreign country due to homesickness the newcomers become desperate. The festival season is tough even for the people like us. Hence on the special occasions like Republic Day, Independence Day, Maharashtra Day and other such National Festivals and of course during the festivals like Eid and Diwali , we organize such functions. Through such gatherings, we try to provide our people a place to exult, introduce to others, share the problems and find out the solutions.”


Arun Datar in his mission is assisted by Unmesh Rahatade, Pratap Phadtare, Shrirang Karkar and Tejas Shah, all occupying senior positions and living in the Kingdom since many years. Tejas Shah-Asst. Training Manager at Almarai Company and Shrirang Karkar-Asst. Manager at MEMF-ETA Switchgear Manufacturing Co., at the forefront to celebrate the Maharashtra Day interestingly are not Maharashtrians. Both of them hail from Baroda.


The glittering eyes of the people enjoying the function were enough to suggest how successful Arun Datar and his friends are in their mission. “Very nice! It feels like we are back in India”, said Machindra Jadhav, Estimation Engineer from Satpur Nashik, who came to Riyadh four months before.


The same feelings were echoed by Rajendra Mahajan of Pune who had joined KFB Group in Riyadh as System Administrator barely a month ago. “A timely shot-in-arm for me”, he said to “I badly needed this as I was facing difficulties in adjusting to the hostile environment”, he said and joined the gathering that was profusely clapping as 9-year old Shervani Rahatade danced to the tunes of Chale Jaise Hawai…. 


For the MKCL team led by its General Manager Shailesh Ashtekar, it was a double bonanza. Besides getting a timely break to hang-out, they also earned praise from everyone by some excellent performance. The audience was thrilled when Ashtekar brilliantly played the popular Bollywood numbers on his tiny mouthorgan.


The interesting function to mark the Maharashtra Day in Riyadh, followed by luscious Maharashtrian food specially prepared for the evening by the families of the organisers, culminated late in the evening. However it left unforgettable memories in everyone’s minds. Exactly one year after that memorable evening today, I was just assessing if we could have a celebration to mark the Day with the zest and unity we did a year before in Riyadh here at our own homeland, my son pointed towards the headlines of a newspaper. “Attacks on the North Indians continue….” the headlines were screaming and I gave up the idea.




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