Crown Prince in God’s Own Country

The trip of Crown Prince,  Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, to the state of Kerala, in India, before he left for Japan, was an eventful one on many fronts. Without a doubt, his visit brought special joy to the thousands of Keralites who have worked, and who are still working, in this kingdom.

It meant a new appreciation for the hard work, and the contribution of all the hardworking Malayalam speakers, towards the development of Bahrain.
It is perhaps for the first time that a top ranking ruler from the Arabian Gulf has actually visited this state of India – which gives most of its workforce to the Arabian Gulf – to mix with its common people for a couple of days. Personally, not only was I happy to be a part of the media delegation accompanying the Crown Prince, but also was delighted at a special recognition I received from him, during his stay in Kerala, my home state.

It is not very often that you hear the Prince telling  you words like, “I appreciate your services to the Kingdom. We haven’t thanked you enough.” These words of the young leader – after 34 years of my work here as journalist – uplifted my spirits, and renewed my desire to serve Bahrain to the best I can, as a more responsible news publisher. The joy I received was as high as when I fulfilled my dream project of
publishing my book, ‘Shukran Bahrain’, marking my 25 years of stay in this beautiful country.

The joy I received was as high as when I was given the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman   – the highest civilian award conferred by Government of India for overseas Indians  – by the then Indian President Pratibha Patil in 2009. The Crown Prince’s words meant an acknowledgment and an honour that I will always warmly cherish. Earlier, when I had the privilege to be at the aiport reception, when   Chief Minister Oommen Chandy  introduced me, I found it as a warm pride when the  Crown Prince said “Soman is one among us”.

Many of us who heard the Crown Prince speak, were touched by his admiration of the hardworking Malayalees. He said, “People of Kerala have established their presence strongly in Bahrain. We owe a lot to

I was especially glad to hear these words: “A total of 2100 companies with Indian partners are registered in Bahrain. This is not enough – I want to see it increasing in number in coming days.” So, quite clearly, Prince Salman  is extending a hand for business-relationships with India and Keralites in days ahead for mutual economic growth. A good outcome on the sidelines of the Prince’s visit was the BD 7m deal that followed the signing of an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between Bahrain’s VKL Holdings Company Chairman Varghese Kurian  and Calicut’s  Baby Memorial Hospital (BMH), a 26-year-old multispecialty
tertiary care hospital, to manage a new multi speciality hospital in Bahrain. The  official dinner hosted by the Chief Minister in honour of the Crown Prince , at Le Meredien, Kochi , was marked by the presence of a galaxy of VVIPs. 

Understanding people’s concerns, the dynamic young leader told the dining audience that Bahrain is doing its best to streamline the labour market, and pointed out that the Kingdom has abolished the sponsor system. I saw that Prince Salman was extremely delighted watching the special presentation by Soorya Krishnamoorthy called “Naattarivukal”, a poetic representation of facts and knowledge bits on Kerala, which saw the participation of more than 100 artistes and a combination of various dance forms from the Hindu, Christian and Muslim backgrounds in Kerala.

He said that this was the kind of togetherness that is expected within Bahrain. Despite differences in opinions, people must solve problems through dialogue, and join hands to work together for the good of the
country. The Crown Prince said he was closely watching the outcome of the ongoing National Dialogue. He did not forget to thank the Indian community in Bahrain which stood with the country during its period of
unrest. Prince Salman also enjoyed  the bountiful beauty of the lush green vales and hills of  the  lovely land  during a houseboat  trip arranged by EMKE Group Managing Director Yusuffali  M A. Before winding up his Kerala tour,  Prince Salman also found time to extend  a royal gesture of generosity to four  Keralites at Taj Vivanta, where he stayed,  I had not expected I would be the fifth , to receive his words of appreciation. The four  given a special audience were  Dr P.P. Mathew, T.T.Thomas,Varghese Mathew,  and J.C. Titus   . All were honoured after acknowledging their long-term contributions to the island
nation, and I was given the privilege to introduce them. Little things also made a big impact. Just before our meeting, I was happy to hear Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al
Khalifa  say to Dr   Matthew, “Don’t you remember me doctor? I was one of your patients once?” I was also happy to see the Crown Prince being awed with admiration at
a 50-year old picture, brought in by Varghese Matthew, showing  Dr Mathew, the first port health officer of Bahrain,  getting  into a ship at Manama Jetty – when no causeways connected Bahrain’s islands–
to certify people’s health before they were allowed into the country by the immigration authorities. Times have changed. But the young prince’s visit shows that ‘relationships’ endure.
I recall the words of Indian Ambassador Dr Mohan Kumar , who was also in the official delegation, at the start of the historic visit : “Kerala is extremely honoured  to receive such an illustrious and
proud son of  Bahrain.”

Yes, Kerala was honoured. The Indian community was honoured. It was indeed a momentous trip that brought people closer. It is certain that the Crown Prince has left an indelible impression on the minds of the authorities and the common people of Kerala, which is  known as ‘God’s own country’.