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Exclusive: Fiji Actor Vishaarad Sharan talks about his connection to India and Love for Bollywood

The actor acquainted NewsGram with the Indian diaspora one finds in Fiji

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Vishaarad Sharan. Image source: Facebook

Not many know that besides being an actor and a model, Vishaarad Sharan is also a Social-activist. Fiji-born Vishaarad is of Indian descent, belonging to the North-Indian diaspora residing in Fiji,  and has also been a part of movie “3G- A Killer Connection” starring Neil Nitin Mukesh and Sonal Chauhan, where he performed the negative role of ‘Jaden’. To talk of him, only in terms of acting in a Bollywood movie, confines his multi-skilled personality. Apart from love for Bollywood, he has deep interest in the diversities of Indian culture and Hindu religion in particular. In an exclusive interview with reporter Megha Sharma of NewsGram , Vishaarad Sharan speaks his heart out on Bollywood and his connection to India. We cover this article under the series mitti_kiKhusboo (the smell of the Motherland) under Indian Diaspora category.

ALSO WATCH: Vishaarad’s ( as Jaden) role from the movie ‘3G- A Killer Connection’ 

‘Back in 1879, when the British took in the ‘indentured laborers’ from across the whole of India, a large section of the population were transported to the islands of Fiji. And from there the journey started, eventually developing into a new cultural and ethnic evolution of the Indo-Fijians.’ Fiji has been a country which accepted the Indian culture and its people with open arms. The actor told us about how Indian immigrants spend their lives in Fiji. This diasporic eye gave us an interesting insight into the lively cultural practices and an eternal bondage shared by them.

MEGHA SHARMA (MS): It was the first time you worked in Bollywood. Can you tell us about your experience?

VISHAARAD SHARAN (VS): I have worked in movies even before. Here, in Fiji we have some directors who make Hindi movies and I did get some roles in them. I got negative roles only and it was a great experience to see how the Hindi film Industry works in India.

MS: What differences did you find in the local Fiji movies made in Hindi and the ones in Bollywood?

VS: The Hindi movies made in Fiji are low-budget and also lack skillful actors. People are limited in the resources when it comes to movie-making. The movies have a limited audience and are not explored globally. As far as the differences are concerned, there is definitely an attempt to imitate the Bollywood style. We have movies like “Chatai Kaha Bichau” (where do I lay the mat) which was shot a year before “3G” and includes songs.

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MS: In an interview elsewhere, you have stated how co-actor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, described to you the ways to appear and about your style. So before this, did you go through any professional training or did you attend some workshops for your professional development?

VS: I never went through any professional training. However, after “3G” I did attend some workshops as I thought of overcoming the lack of professional exposure. When it comes to 3G and Neil Nitin Mukesh, it was very amazing to see him work. He is very serious and sincere towards his work. He was of great significance in bringing about my role. He aided the choreographers while my scenes were being shot. He even lent me his jacket for a scene and choreographed most of the fight scenes. It was very interesting to see how the actors have a say in movie-making. They too become a part of the movie and work for a productive outcome.

MS: What makes you connected to India even while being born in Fiji?

VS: Personally, I feel a very strong connection to India. Even when people look at me they do see Indian looks and identify with me.

(As the interviewer saw him talking in a Hindi accent, she asked)

MS: Hindi? Where did that come from? Feels like you are indigenous to the language. Would like to explain that?

VS: I am a 4th generation (from my mother’s side) and 5th generation (from my father’s side) Indian. I have been brought up in an Indian culture and never found it away from me. My parents speak Hindi. However, Hindi here is different from the Hindi spoken in India. Here, we have a mixed version of Hindi with Bhojpuri and Awadhi.

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MS: Was your schooling in Hindi in Fiji? Are there institutions that recognize Hindi as a language and what do people think of it?

VS: Hindi is a compulsory language for primary classes in many schools here. A child reads and writes it till the primary classes and after that, it is provided as an optional language. The interest in Hindi has regrown and it’s very interesting that if two Indians start talking randomly, they end up talking in Hindi only. So the Hindi-connection, whether it is orally transmitted or being studied, it can be widely seen among Indians residing here. The masses are interested in taking admissions and learning the language. Even I studied Hindi.

MS: What are other traditional identifications that you feel are very prominent?

VS: There is no one strand of which I can talk. It is being practiced in each household bearing an Indian identity. I would like to tell here that the love towards India however, has regrown after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Fiji in 2014. People did understand that they are being recognized as they saw him coming here and meeting the diaspora.

MS: Which Indian communities manifest themselves as a face of the Indian diaspora? Do we find the same enthusiasm in celebrating festivals as in India? 

VS: We have a number of North Indian communities who came under the British Indenture. They are accompanied by many Gujarati and Sikh communities too who came as free Indian as opposed to the Indentured ones. It cannot be same but people are enthusiastic when it comes to celebrating festivals. Navratri is the most celebrated one. There is the same 9 days long worshiping of the goddess.

Holi is also very popular with singing Holi folk songs, eating sweets and coloring each other. Its celebration declined in past 15 years but for last 2-3 years, there is again the same colorful approach. It is also because of the commercialization and sponsorship in the urban areas. Diwali is also observed in the same way, with cleaning up houses and lightening them on the day of Laxmi pujan. There is also a South-Indian fire-walking festival which goes on for a week or two and is witnessed by over a thousand of people.

vishaarad sharan
The fire walking festival fiji. Image Source: youtube.com

MS: India is a land with different flavors of food. What about Indian cuisines in Fiji?

VS: Indian food is very famous here. Gujarati came here for over 2-3 generations ago. They still prefer speaking in their regional language, at home or at their temples, and eating Indian cuisines. We have many restaurants specialized in Gujarati, Punjabi and South-Indian food. Like we have the ‘Maya Dhaba’, which is a Punjabi food restaurant, and also street stalls and vendors selling ‘dosas’, ‘Dhokla’ and many other Indian dishes.

I myself have three temples nearby my house. One is Kabir Mandir, there is a Gurudwara and also a South-Indian temple. There are regular ‘kirtans’ and the Ramayana by Tulsidas is admired a lot. Every Tuesday it is recited at the temples here and most of the Ramayana stories are being told in them.

Follow vishaarad on twitter: @vishaar

MS: Did you get a chance to see all this practiced live by visiting India ?

VS: I visited India for around three weeks in 2010. The visit was very welcoming. I heard people describing it as not so pleasing but I felt at home. I was not able to attend any festive activity but I saw a Marathi cultural fest which was interesting to see. We do not find the tea stalls here as we do India. (He laughs). I plan to visit it again for a scholarship programme in Yoga from SYVASA Yoga University in Bengaluru/Bangalore.

MS: Do you watch Hindi movies and would you like to be a part of Bollywood again?

VS: As a child, I did watch a lot of Hindi movies. The interest lessened with growing age. “Monsoon Wedding” is my favorite movie and I love listening to all the songs composed by A.R. Rahman. I would definitely like to work again in Bollywood movie, if they pay me well (he laughs).

MS: Will you prefer the same negative role? Is there any movie you wish you would have worked in?

VS: I want to do a very negative role and I have always been interested to know what happens behind the camera. I still feel that I must work behind the camera only and learn more professional skills.

For movies, I have always liked all the historical movies as they give a wider awareness of the cultural plurality, India is rich with. “Ashoka” is one movie, I would have liked to work for and even “Baahubali” has an influential story-line. I would have certainly worked for free in “MohenJo Daro”, the upcoming Indian epic. I really have an eye on movies like these.

On asking his views about NewsGram, Visharad says that he appreciates the work that the news portal does and finds the ‘Indian Diaspora’ section quite interesting as he has a sense of belonging towards India. He says he follows NewsGram and loves to browse through the stories published on the portal, for it brings him closer to India.

-by Megha Sharma. Twitter@meghash06510344

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5 Events Of November Which Are Ideal For Family Vacations

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Events in November which will give you a vacation mood.
Events in November which will give you a vacation mood. Wikimedia.

As we approach the year’s end, Indians not just bid adieu to their summer outfits but also welcome the festival seasons. October and November are two months in India which are full of cultural events and festivals, which make these months, the ideal time for going on family vacations.

Below are the events of November 2017 which you will regret missing. They are worth the try for family vacations:

1.  Dev Deepavali, Varanasi

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Representational Image. The ghat of holy city Varanasi. 

Varanasi, the holiest city of India, celebrated Dev Deepavali on Kartik Poornima every year. The festival is celebrated with joy. The ghats of Varanasi are lit with beautiful diyas (earthen lamps). God is believed to have descended to the banks of Ganges, to take a holy dip. The festival will take place on November 3, 2017.

 2. Dharamsala International Film Festival

Filmmaker, cinema buffs or all those people interested in the art of films come together of Dharamsala International Film Festival (DIFF). This film festival will witness filmmakers coming from different regions to show films on various issues- socially relevant, contemporary etc. DIFF will take place from November 2 to November 5. If you are a movie buff, then you should immediately pack your bags and seal a date for attending the festival.

3. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan

Family vacations
Representational Image. Camel Fair is celebrated in Pushkar. Pixabay

Pushkar Camel fair, a cattle fair, in Pushkar which truly defines the real meaning of culture. The Pushkar Camel Fair has been in tradition for a very long time. The fair attracts a huge crowd every year. One of the most ideal and happy places for family vacations. It will take place between 23rd October to 4th November.

Also Read: 7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

4. NH7 Weekender

The five seasons old Indian multi-city music festival has indeed garnered a lot of attention and love from the musically inclined youngsters across the country. It is a combination of national and international studies coming together. In Meghalaya, the event will take place from October 27 to October 28.

5. Guru Purab

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Sikhs celebrating Guru Purab. Wikimedia.

Guru Purab, one of the most important festivals for Sikhs. The golden temple celebrates it with a lot of joy. The celebration which Amritsar witnesses at this time are unbelievable. It will take place on November 2017. Golden temple is indeed one of the best places for family vacations.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.  She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.

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Recent Trends among the Indian Diaspora and its Increasing Significance

As the Indian diaspora is increasingly organizing itself in the host countries by accumulating the resources, it may have potential impact on the economic, social and political landscape in India.

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Indian Diaspora
Indian Diaspora organizing community identity in the host country

 

What is Indian Diaspora:

The Indian diaspora is a generic term representing the people who migrated from the Indian territories to the other parts of the world. It includes the descendants of these groups. Today, over twenty million Indians which include Non Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin are residing outside the Indian territory as Indian diaspora. According to a UN survey report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world. In 2005, Indians formed the world’s third largest diaspora. The Indians who settled overseas in 1960s for more developed countries such as US, UK, Canada, Australia and Western Europe formulate the category of the New Diaspora.

What are the popular host countries for the Indian Diaspora:

The 2010 estimates of Census data of US, UK and Canada suggest that Indian diaspora constitutes three million people in US, 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom and one million in Canada. Indians are the fourth largest immigrant group in the United States. Also, five million emigrants from India reside in the Gulf region at present.

The History of Indian Diaspora:

A brief overview of the history of Indian diaspora suggests that the first group of Indians immigrated to Eastern Europe in the 1st century AD from Rajasthan during the reign of Kanishka. Yet another evidence of migration was witnessed in 500 AD when a group immigrated to Southeast Asia as the Cholas extended their empire to Indonesia and Malaysia thereby spreading the Indian culture in these states. Thus the early evidences of diaspora were found during ancient times. The medieval period witnessed the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism during the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Mughals took Indians as traders, scholars, artists, musicians and emissaries to the other parts of the country.

Old Diaspora:

The first wave of the Modern Indian Diaspora, also called the Old Diaspora, began in the early 19th century and continued until the end of the British rule. The Dutch and French colonizers followed the suit. Indians were sent in large numbers to become the bonded labourers for sugar and rubber plantation in their colonies.

Indians in Caribbean, Africa and Asia:

By the end of World War 1, there were 1.5 million Indian labourers in the colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. At present, around 60% of Indian diaspora is constituted of this Old Diaspora.

Impact of Immigration policies on Migration from India:

After the Indian independence, a large number of unskilled and some skilled Punjabi male Sikhs migrated to UK from India due to favorable immigration policies in the United Kingdom. Similarly, 1990s onwards, due to software boom and its rising economy, H-1B was introduced in the US immigration policy that allowed the entry of highly skilled IT specialists, doctors, scientists and engineers in the US. Further, 1970s witnessed oil boom in the Middle East that led to significant growth of Indian diaspora in the Gulf region.

While the low skilled and semi skilled workers are moving to the Gulf region for better economic opportunities, highly skilled labour is moving from India to US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Has Indian Diaspora started impacting the economies and societies:

With the growing rate of international migration since the beginning of millennia, there is a significant impact of diaspora on the economies and societies of the world. In recent years, diaspora is influencing the economic, political and cultural affairs in their homeland. It is so because the influence of the diaspora communities increases as they organize themselves and accumulate resources in their host countries for several years. The mobilized diaspora are now influencing the affairs of the homeland countries. A common form of exchange is the financial remittances provided to the relatives by the diaspora community. Overseas family networks of the political elites in India are shaping the political landscape as well. Culturally, diaspora is influencing the music and literature trends in India as the content is consciously structured to cater to the tastes of the diaspora.

What actions have been taken by the government of India to tap the potential of Indian Diaspora:

The first Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was organized in 2003 by the Government of India to expand and reshape the state of India’s economy by the use of the potential human capital which the Indian diaspora reflects. Clearly, Indian diaspora has a larger role to play in the Indian economy over the coming years as the efforts to mobilize them increase in the homeland.

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10 Customs of the Hindu Dharma Explained by Science

Have you ever wondered the rationale behind the customs and traditions of the Hindu dharma?

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Hindu dharma
A deeper look into the practices of Hindu dharma reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge. We tell you how! Pixabay

New Delhi, October 4, 2017 : You might have been moved by the way followers of the Hindu dharma bow down and welcome you inside their homes. Or by the way Hindu women dress, with jewellery adorning their hands and legs. Who doesn’t like the crinkling of their bangles, after all? But have you ever wondered the rationale behind their customs and traditions?

According to popular notions, the traditions and practices of the Hindu dharma have been equated with superstitions. However, a deeper look into the practices reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge and have been observed over generations , keeping in mind a more holistic approach.

Hinduism can hence, be called a dharmic scientific religion rather than just scientific religion. We prove you how!

 1. Worshiping the Peepal tree

Hindu dharma entails a myriad gods and goddesses and there exist a variety of reasons that propagate worship of Peepal tree. According to Brahma Purana, demons Ashvattha and Peepala hid inside and lured people to touch the Peepal tree and consecutively killed them. They were killed by lord Shani and hence the tree has been worshiped ever since. Another legend believed Goddess Lakshmi resides under the Peepal tree every Saturday which lends it a divinely touch. Another school of thought believes lord Hanuman sat on top of the Peepal tree in Lanka to witness the hardships faced by Sita.

Hindu dharma
Leaves of the ‘holy’ Peepal tree. Pixabay

The Peepal tree does not have a succulent fruit, lacks strong wood and does no good other than provide shade. However, it continues to enjoy increasing devotion from people practicing the Hindu dharma. Science confirms that Peepal is the only tree which produces oxygen even during the night. Hence, in order to preserve this unique property, ancestors of the Hindu dharma related it to God. Additionally, the tree is of utmost significance in Ayurveda and its bark and leaves are used to treat diseases and illnesses.

 2. Do not chew leaves of Tulsi plant

The Tulsi plant is revered in the Hindu dharma. Apart from its medicinal qualities, the plant is also known for its symbolic presence in Hindu mythology.

According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Hence, biting and chewing it is considered disrespectful.

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According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Pixabay

However, according to botanists, Tulsi has high quantities of mercury. If raw mercury comes in contact with teeth (calcium), it can possibly result in inundation, making the teeth fall. Hence, leaves of the Tulsi plant are suggested to be swallowed and not chewed.

 3. Applying tilak on your forehead

Application of tilak is a religious ac. According to the Hindu dharma, the forehead signifies spirituality. Hence, application of a tilak on the forehead denotes an individual’s thoughts and conviction towards spirituality.  Various Vedic scriptures and Upanishads maintain that energy, potency and divinity comes to those who apply a tilak.

Hindu dharma
A flute player from India with a tilak on his forehead. Wikimedia Commons.

However, science asserts that during the application of a tilak, the central point in the forehead and the Adnya-chakra automatically pressed which encourages blood supply to the facial muscles.  According to body anatomy, a major nerve point is located in the middle of the eye brows on the forehead. Application of the red tilak is believed to maintain vitality in the body and prevent the loss of energy. The Tilak is also believed to control and enhance concentration.

 4. Obsessive cleaning during Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights honors the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth. The festival also commemorates the return of lord Ram after an exile of 14 years to his kingdom in Ayodhya. According to Hindu mythology, the night of his return was a new moon night. To illuminate his path in the pitch dark night, the villagers of Ayodhya cleaned the entire village and lit it with lamps.

Hence, Diwali is preceded by extensive cleaning of the entire house in honor of both the deities of Hindu mythology. Legend also believed goddess Lakshmi comes home on Diwali and thereby, the entire place should be cleaned and decorated to welcome the goddess.

However, science backs the concept and explains that Diwali essentially falls in October and November, and mark beginning of winters and end of monsoon season.

Hindu dharma
People indulge in cleaning, repari and beautification of their homes ahead of Diwali to welcome goddess Lakshmi. Pixabay

In older times, the monsoons were not a good period as they were characteristic of excessive rains that often resulted in floods and damaged homes, which then needed repair. This is why people indulged in repair, cleaning and beautification of their homes.

 5. Folding your hands for ‘Namaskar’

You will often find people practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. The ‘Namaskar’ is believed to signify respect for people.

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People practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. Pixabay

This pose requires an individual to join all finger tips together that carry the pressure points of ears, eyes and mind. Science says pressing them together activates these pressure points, making our mind attentive.  This aids us to remember people for a longer duration.

The Namaskar can also be backed up by an act to maintain hygiene and cleanliness since it does not involve any physical contact.

 6. Wearing toe rings

Traditionally, toe rings are worn by married woman on the second toe and are treated as a sign of holy matrimony. However, they are believed to be a part of the Indian culture since the times of Ramayana when Sita threw her toe ring for her husband lord Ram, upon being abducted by Ravana.

Science says that a nerve on this toe connect the uterus to the heart.  Wearing a ring on this finger helps regulate blood flow, thereby, strengthening the uterus and regulating menstrual cycle. It is also believed to have an erotic effect.

 7. Applying henna on hands and feet

Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. According to popular beliefs, the color of the henna denotes the affection a girl will enjoy from her husband and mother-in-law.

Hindu dharma
Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. Pixabay

However, science provides rationale of applying henna during the stressful times of festivals and weddings. Festivity stress can bring fevers and migraines, which when mixed with excitement and nervous anticipation can prove to be harmful for an individual.

Thus, besides lending color, henna also possesses medicinal qualities that relieve stress and keeps the hands and feet cool thereby shielding the nerves from getting tense.

 8. Fasting during Navratri

There are four major Navratris throughout the year, however only two are celebrated on a grand scale. Throughout the nine day festival, devotees observe ritualistic fasts, perform several pujas and offer bhog (holy food) to Goddess Durga in an attempt to gratify her.

Hindu dharma
Durga, the Goddess of strength. Wikimedia

But according to science, these navratris are celebrated when the seasons are transitioning. As the seasons and the temperatures change, our eating habits also do.

Fasting during Navratri allows our bodies to adjust to the changing temperature. Individuals get a chance to detox their bodies by quitting excessive salt, sugar and oil. Additionally, Navratris allow them to meditate and gain positive energy. This helps them prepare for the upcoming change in seasons.

 9. Applying sindoor

In traditional Hindu societies, the Sindoor denotes a woman’s desire for their spouse’s longetivity. The red powder is believed to be the color of power, symbolizing the female energy of Parvati and Sati. The Hindu dharma holds a woman is ‘complete’ or ideal only when she wears Sindoor.

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Sindoor a cultural identity of every Hindu women. Wikimedia

Science explains that sindoor is made out of Vermilion, which is the decontaminated and powdered type of cinnabar (mercury sulfide). Because of its characteristic properties, mercury is known to reduce anxiety, control blood pressure and also initiate sexual desire, the primary reason why married women are advised to wear the ‘holy’ red powder. This is also the reason why widows are prohibited from wearing sindoor.

10. Wearing bangles on wrists

Bangles have been worn in the Hindu dharma since times immemorial- goddesses are also pictured to adorn these beautiful rings in their wrists. Bangles are believed to enhance feminine grace and beauty. The Hindu dharma almost makes it mandatory for newly-wed brides and to-be brides to wear bangles as they are believed to symbolize the well-being of the husbands and the sons.

Hindu dharma
Bangles are believed to accentuate the beauty of the Indian woman. Pixabay

Science suggests the constant friction caused by wearing bangles in the wrists expands the blood flow level. Besides this, the energy passing through the external skin is once again returned to one’s own body due to the round-molded bangles which has no ends to pass the energy out.