It was a pleasant surprise not only to a few Indian families, but also to more than 350,000 Indians living in this country – when His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister , visited them last week, during the festive occasion of Diwali.
This, I believe, is a very distinct characteristic seen only in Bahrain, where the leadership of the country recognises an expatriate community by going to their homes, to wish them on their festival.
With this special visit by one of the country’s rulers to their humble abodes on the festival of lights, the Indian community’s pride in the choice they had taken, to live in Bahrain, got a quick rejuvenation and a sudden resurgence.
Otherwise, how often do we hear of royalty dropping-in on commoners?
Stories of this sort are found only in old fables and fairy tales – and, of course, as you can see, also in this lovely expat-friendly country called Bahrain.
Kewalram, Bhatia, and Haridas’ families are among some of Indian business families that have been trading in Bahrain for a century or more, and needless to say, their families are overjoyed at the visit by the Crown Prince.
The words of the Crown Prince on the occasion rang with a special melody illuminating the truth that many of us have come to know.
He had said that “Bahrain, home to many religious communities, maintains its long-standing support to fostering religious and cultural tolerance”.
Diwali, he said, was an occasion when we must remind ourselves that ‘light’ will always serve as a beacon for truth, human dignity and compassion.
Diwali also represents an opportunity to celebrate the important and valuable contributions the Indian community have made to the Kingdom, he added.
Indian Ambassador Dr Mohan Kumar, who was present during the visit of the Crown Prince, described it as a magnanimous gesture which is in line with the great thinking and tradition of the Bahraini ruling family.
“By participating in the joyous occasion of the Indian community, the Crown Prince was also thanking the community for their stellar contributions to the development of Bahrain,” he noted.
All the three heads of the families I spoke to, said that their families and their staff are overjoyed at this cheerful and heart-warming gesture of the Crown Prince.
While talking to me, Baboo Kewalram said that this special visit of the Crown Prince on the most important Indian festival sent ripples of joy among the Indians.
The visit is also exceptional because, according to Mr. Kewalram, the Crown Prince had assured them that he will try and continue this tradition of visiting Indians during this festival, every year.
The octogenarian businessman also recalled the time when his brother Sundar Kewalram died in an air crash in India in 1988. The then ruler of Bahrain, the late Amir HH Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa had personally called him in India and offered his condolences. On a visit later to the late Amir’s majlis alongwith Sundar’s son Kishore, the leader consoled them and asked them to always treat him as their father.
This human touch can only be found in Bahrain’s leadership.
Crown Prince’s character reminds me of a quote by Jim Young King, the 12th President of the World Bank, who said: ” The most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback, and to try to get better.”
The Prince just displayed to us in a small way what a huge and potent combination “leadership’ and ‘humility’ truly is.