DUBAI // Beyond the opportunity to earn higher wages, the decision to live in the UAE, for most Indians, is directly linked to a sense of belonging and an emotional connection.
Indian expatriates see cultural similarities in their adopted country – such as the focus on family, an appreciation of the arts, music and poetry – that encourage them to raise their families in the UAE.
“I firmly believe that you have to belong to a place or it will not give you anything back,” said Vaishali Mhaisalkar, who teaches “kathak”, a classical dance.
Respect for the arts encouraged her to promote the tradition in the UAE. “I love it because you can pursue your passion. Learning a classical form is like learning the alphabet, then words, then sentences, so you concentrate to get happiness within,” she said.
“My daughter will be 5 in a few months and will grow up in a country that gives you the best of everything. We can rely on great infrastructure, education, a safe environment and we are close to our home country.”
Indians anticipate a deepening of ties with the state visit of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Sheikh Mohammed will preside as the chief guest at India’s 68th Republic Day celebrations on January 26 and an Armed Forces contingent will march with Indian troops at the main parade.
In the UAE, a poetry group that has hosted a recitation event every Republic Day for the past 15 years will also commemorate the event.
The cover of Kavi Sammelan Mushaira (Gathering of Poets) pulls together a collage of past years in which the Red Fort in New Delhi is encircled with photographs of UAE landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa and Etihad Towers.
“Our language is common and with poetry the people to people contact is achieved,” said Syed Salahuddin, the group’s founder.
About 2,000 Indian poetry lovers attend the yearly event that extends invitations to Emiratis and Arabs.
“For us the UAE is like a part of India. Culturally we share respect of our elders and love of the arts,” said Mr Salahuddin.
“When I arrived in the UAE in 1979, I came for better opportunities so that my family status would improve. But I’ve stayed for 38 years because of the UAE’s beauty and my affection for the country, a safe place for my children.”
In the UAE, the balance between work and life fosters creativity, according to Jogiraj Sikidar, who launched the Malhaar ensemble that teaches classical Indian performing arts such as music and dance.
“When I was in India, I always wanted to pursue music but time was a constraint, and this is the biggest satisfaction that this country [the UAE] has given me,” said Mr Sikidar, a producer with a television network.
“People talk about the swanky lifestyle but for us it goes beyond that to connections with ethnicity, cuisine, music, a cultural bonding of Arabic, Hindi and Urdu languages.
“When people from both countries tell a story, we tell it with emotion and that is what connects us. We can build on that emotional sentiment we share.”
Pansy Lobo, a grandmother of two who manages charity and social events for the popular India Club, said she could not think of another place that her family would rather live in.
Like many expats, her children studied in universities abroad and returned to the UAE for work.
“Sheikh Mohammed’s Republic Day visit makes me very happy because it shows that our bonds go very deep. The visit is a proud moment for us all,” said Mrs Lobo.