For me, one of the high points of the past week was Thursday evening.
It should be recorded as a momentous occasion not only for me, but in fact, for all residents of Bahrain from India’s Kerala state.
On Thursday 29 September, Shaikh Khalifa bin Daij Al Khalifa, President of HRH the Crown Prince Court, was the Chief Guest at a special event in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
It was the ‘Bahrain-Kerala Friendship Summit’ organised by the “Bahrain Returnees’ and Residents’ Association (BRAIN)” and he made us all proud with his words. The summit was organised as part of BRAIN’s
“Over the past 25 years, the association has acted as a bridge between our two great nations”, said Shaikh Khalifa.
For Malayalees sitting there, including me, it was a heart touching moment when he said: “You lived and worked in Bahrain in various professions, side by side and hand in hand with us. You have worked hard in building the Kingdom of Bahrain to bring it to where it stands today. And for that loyalty and service, I thank you!”
The warmth in those words reflects Bahrain’s continuing goodness towards its foreign residents. And this is, perhaps, the reason why these Indian returnees from Bahrain actually established an association such as this — to promote friendly relations between the two countries at a common-man level.
Shaikh Khalifa also made a generous donation to the association which had been, for years, celebrating not just Bahrain’s National Day, but the very goodness of Bahrain in their meetings.
Though the workers from Kerala number in millions in the Arabian Gulf, it is not very often that we hear the acknowledgement of their hard work, by the senior leaders from Gulf States. And it was therefore, very special.
Attending Thursday’s event was the Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan and the Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram and former Minister of state for External Affairs Dr Shashi Tharoor, who had both talked richly of Bahrain-India relations.
It reminded me of an earlier visit to Kerala by Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in March, 2013, whom I had the pleasure of accompanying at that time.
Bahrain’s Crown Prince was in fact the first and the only high ranking ruler from the Gulf to visit Kerala, which shows the special regard that the leaders of Bahrain have towards the Malayalee community.
Before his departure to India at that time, the Crown Prince had wished to contact a few returnees who could have an audience with him, and I had had the privilege of introducing five such families.
On meeting them, the Crown Prince expressed great appreciation of their contribution to Bahrain.
This Thursday too, the speech of Shaikh Khalifa evoked an emotional response from BRAIN or Bahrain Returnees’ and Residents’ Association.
“You gave us an inspiring speech”, said S Krishnamoorthy, the President of BRAIN. “A speech that flowed deep from your heart, and conquered hundreds of hearts assembled here. You moved with each and every one of us. We felt that you were one among us. You brought royalty to commoners. In barely 36 hours you changed our perception”.
“I must say that BRAIN’s stature and the members’ confidence rose to a pinnacle because of your presence during the silver jubilee function. And it will be a lasting memory”.
At the event, Shaikh Khalifa was awarded BRAIN’s first ‘Bahrain Kerala Friendship Award by the Chief Minister.
Shaikh Khalifa was accompanied by his two sons Shaikh Daij and Shaikh Khalid to Kerala.
Shaikh Daij, a budding toastmaster, surprised the audience with an instant speech in which he paid tribute to the Indian community for their contributions for the development of his country saying, “You are not only our doctors, architects and engineers; but you have also become a part of our family.”
“Both Shaikh Khalifa and Shaikh Daij won everyone’s heart,” said BRAIN General Secretary Sivaprasad Pillai.
It is this very spirit of Bahrain’s leaders that touches us, foreign workers – not just from the Kerala state in India but from all over the world. So much so that Bahrain simply becomes our second home.
Many of us continue to follow what the late Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam once said to me in an interview. “Enrich your host country with your sweat, knowledge and dignity”.
In return, Bahrain has enriched our lives and treated us with dignity.
That is an undisputed fact which I emphasised when I spoke at the event. And which I am sure all expatriates in Bahrain will agree with.