Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

UAE's Indian community marks independence day

The country celebrates its independence from the British empire on August 15

Indians of all ages and backgrounds gathered on Thursday to celebrate their country's independence day.

A line snaked around the Consulate General of India in Dubai by 8am as people lined up to join celebrations. Some wore orange and green bindis, or flags draped over shoulders. Others wore suits and hospital scrubs, ready to go straight to work.

Guests were treated to live singing for an hour before the white, green and saffron Indian flag was unfurled at 9am, showering rose and marigold petals on the crowd below.

India’s Independence Day is celebrated on August 15 every year and marks independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

“Independence, it was not easy,” said Kiran Wagh, a banker from the city of Nashik in the western state of Maharashtra.

Our forefathers they sacrificed a lot for our country so we should respect them

Kiran Wagh

“Our forefathers they sacrificed a lot for our country so we should respect them. Here in the UAE it’s a very small celebration but in India everyone, irrespective of their earning, they are celebrating today.”

Mr Wagh planned to watch patriotic movies with his family after work. Some of his earliest memories are celebrating August 15 with his father as a child. Mr Wagh’s son is growing up in the UAE but he is determined that his son will have his own independence day memories in a few years.

“Now my child is one year old but he’s at home sleeping,” said Mr Wagh. “Once he grows up, I’ll bring him to the flag raising.”

Rochelle Pereira came with friends and her five-year-old daughter for the flag raising.

“Right from the time you’re in school is this something you would do from school so when you grow up you do the flag raising,” said Ms Pereira, 34, a UAE resident of eight years who is originally from Mumbai. “It's a simple thing but it has a lot of feeling.”

“My daughter’s been in the UAE since she was born so she sings [the UAE anthem] ishy bilady, so I’m trying to get her to learn about our national day.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Indian nationals gather during the celebration of the Independence day of India at Indian Consulate in Dubai. Ruel Pableo for The National for Anna's story
Guests are led through the crowds ahead of the flag raising. Ruel Pableo for The National

It will be a full day for the family. Ms Pereira and her family will visit the Catholic church in the evening for the Feast of the Assumption, which commemorates the ascension of the Virgin Mary into Heaven and falls on August 15.

The Hindu festival Raksha Bandhan also falls on Indian independence day this year. It celebrates sibling relationships.

The President, Sheikh Khalifa, sent a congratulatory message to the President of India, Ram Nath Kovin. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, also sent congratulations to President Kovind and to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Independence day has special poignance for overseas residents, said Dubai resident Dhanush Acharya.

“It’s our Independence Day and we’re away from our country so that gives us the inspiration to come and be with our countrymen today,” said Mr Acharya, 30, an assistant manager born in Dubai. “When you’re away from your place, you actually know the importance of it.”

Yet the Gulf’s centuries old ties with South Asia mean the UAE can be a home away from home. Mr Acharya’s friend Ashish Singh said he did not feel any of the culture shock of coming to a foreign country when he moved from Delhi to Dubai a few years ago.

“Dubai is like a mini India,” said Mr Singh, a blockchain consultant. “Every type of Indian food you want is here, the people around you are Indians, you don’t feel like you are outside India.”

He will celebrate all day long.

“I’ll be celebrating in my office. It’s multinational and I’ve got an Indian flag and I’ll stick it up. Lunch for the office is on me today. Yesterday was Pakistan’s Independence Day and they did the same for us.”

His friend smiled. “That’s the advantage of Dubai,” said Mr Acharya. “We celebrate together.”

Updated: August 15, 2019 02:44 PM

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