May 29, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Berlin, May 28
Though the pronunciation of Hindi words by the students left Mr Vajpayee and others perplexed initially, they were cheered by the Prime Minister and Indian expatriates here.
Mr Vajpayee was not found wanting and immediately announced that the Indian Council of Cultural Relations would provide a scholarship to one student of the school annually for a two-week trip to India accompanied by an adult.
It was only after Union Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley provided the published work of Mr Vajpayee from where the German students had selected his poem that he began comprehending the recitation. It was poignant because the poem was titled “Jeevan Beet Gaya” (Life has ebbed). Mr Vajpayee said it was true that life had ebbed and went on to recite the poem in his own inimitable style. He was keen to translate the poem in German but it was not to be.
Mr Vajpayee said barriers were breaking down all over the world and Germany was an example of that. He recalled his visit to this country when the Berlin wall was standing. All that was a thing of the past with the unification of West and East Germany. He said amid laughter that he had taken a photograph with the Berlin wall in the background. “I have the photograph with me but where is the dividing wall now ....”
He said Germany had seen war and peace. It had witnessed a split and unity. Breaking down of barriers was imperative for progress.
He championed the cause of greater interaction between India and Germany. In this context he said an Indian Prime Minister was visiting Germany after a decade and that was a long gap which was not good. “That is why the German Chancellor and I have decided to meet every year alternately in Germany and India.” He was confident that India and Germany were bound to improve their multi faceted relations.
Resplendent in a “dhoti” and “angavastram”, Mr Vajpayee regaled the Indian expatriates with witty comments and repartee. He spoke of a large number of Indologists in Germany. He understands that even today one can find more Germans speaking Sanskrit in Berlin as compared to Delhi.
There are about 35,000 Indian expatriates in Germany, including 3000-odd in Berlin. This country has a sizeable number of Indians in the Bundestag (Parliament). The Indian community comprises mostly Punjabis, Gujaratis and Bengalis. There are of course a multiplicity of Indian organisations in this country. There is also a gurdwara in Berlin which was established two years ago.
India’s ambassador to Germany T.C.A. Rangachari made a pointed reference to the multiplicity of Indian organisations in Germany which made matters difficult because of lack of unity. He said Bonn was referred to as Benaras on the Rhine. The first book in Devnagri was available in this country 300 years ago. There were also dictionaries in several Indian languages like Malayalam, Bengali and Hindi.
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