By Irfan Mohammed
No matter how far from the motherland, the Indian diaspora always carry a bounty of Indian tradition irrespective of their ethnic background with them wherever they go. And, over the years, Indian festivals have found a place in various foreign countries including Arabian Gulf countries.
Celebrating any festival alone within a house is sheer different than enjoying the festive fever among the people. Owing to traditions and sentiments it’s not an easy task abroad especially in Saudi Arabia. Many Non-Muslims, who have the freedom to practice and their faith and rituals privately, feel missing about their festivals.
When one is able to share his or her joy of the festival with others by donning a new dress amidst the festive atmosphere for the first time it makes lifelong memory.
It was a touching moment for a long-time NRI who burst into tears of joy after stepping into the Indian consulate premises on Christmas Day. Vardhanapu John, a native of Panjeshawali in the old city of Hyderabad was astonished to find a Christmas day function in purely Indian style inside the Indian Mission.
“I worked and then drove a long way straight to our consulate, when I stepped inside the consulate, my exhaustion evaporated and enthusiasm instilled by seeing tricolor and Christmas tree”, he said.
He added, “In the past, I had attended Christmas functions at the Pakistan Consulate but felt different and alien, but now I can’t describe my joy for being a participant with my compatriots”.
For the first time, the Indian Christian community in Saudi Arabia celebrated Christmas at the Indian consulate in Jeddah as part of Amrut Mahotsav Week.
The cultural programmes performed by Syro Malbar Church in Jeddah and various other prayer groups thrilled the audience.
Christmas in India is a beautiful affair from God’s own Kerala, Mumbai to East India diverse groups across the country Christians celebrate the festival with cultural diversity. All such different groups were represented at the event.
Consul General Mr. Mohammed Shahid Alam, speaking on the event, emphasized to have hope in humanity amidst of covid-19 shadow. “The hope in humanity and the message of brotherhood is the hour of need which is the message of Christmas”.
He revealed that whenever he visited different provinces and met with high ranking Saudi officials, they all praised the hard-working Indian community, especially nurses. The top diplomat added that nurses working with every patient is a test of god that makes such a positive difference.
Delivering Christmas Message, Pastor Hanok Abhinav, who hailing from Andhra Pradesh, emphasized on brotherhood and love which was the concept of Christmas.
He prayed for prosperity of Saudi Arabia and its leadership and also appealed to the audience to pray for Safeguarding India and Saudi Arabia from covid-19 pandemic.
The pastor also expressed gratitude on behalf of the Indian Christian Community to the Indian Consulate and Saudi Authorities.
The Consul General formally cut the cake flanked by other senior diplomats. Anil Kumar and Sushila Joseph anchored the event. Kumar Bhore welcomed the audience while Nai Joseph proposed a vote of thanks.
Indian Christian Community (ICC) that comprises different Christian groups organized the event with the support of the Indian consulate under supervision of Mr. Bobby.
The Christmas celebration by Indian expatriates was the concept of young dynamic diplomat Mr. Shahid Alam. Celebrating Christmas as a community event in a place like Indian chancery in Saudi Arabia was unimaginable till some time ago. In the past, there were some cases where Christmas day celebrations were prevented and participants were arrested.
However, sweeping changes in Saudi Arabia and support of Mr. Shahid Alam has made it possible.
There are an estimated 18 lakh Christians living in the Kingdom, majority of them hailing from India’s Kerala and Philippines.
The Indian Christian expatriates are significantly a dominant section in the healthcare field in Saudi Arabia and known for their quality care towards patients and hailed for their commendable services.
It’s noteworthy to mention that the majority of Indian Christians in Saudi Arabia hail from Kerala’s Kottayam and Alappuzha districts where the history of Christianity goes back nearly to the time of Christ. St. Thomas, the apostle of Jesus, arrived in 52 AD in Kerala.