I Love Living In Lagos, Close To The Sea - Sanjay Srivastava (President: Oversea Friends of Bhartiya Janta Party) - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Sunday, 7 July 2019

I Love Living In Lagos, Close To The Sea - Sanjay Srivastava (President: Oversea Friends of Bhartiya Janta Party)

The Indian Diaspora is very much integrated in the Indian nation. The last Indian election few weeks ago confirmed this, as the frenzy was all over Indians in India and Indians in Diaspora. Here, the Indians gathered under the banner of Oversea Friends of Bhartiya Janta Party (OFBJP), with the Nigeria chapter President being, Mr. Sanjay Srivastava.

Together, they upheld and pushed for the re-election of Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Damodar Das Modi. Eventually, the Prime Minister who had all along been popular with his policies and government strategy won the election with a landslide. And it was celebration time for the Indians in Nigeria.

Ex banker Sanjay Srivastava, the President of OFBJP had the honour of being officially invited by the government to witness the Oath Taking ceremony of the Prime Minister’s second term in office. He returned to share the joy of the moment with us in this interview with Paul Ukpabio. He also tells us generally about life as an Indian living in Nigeria.

You have just returned from the ceremony in India, where Prime Minister Modi took oath of office for the second term. Why did Indians in Diaspora campaign for PM Modi with such vigour during the pre- election period?

First of all, we all feel the need to be connected with our country, no matter where we are. It is important that we know who we are. For instance, I am Sanjay, I’m an Indian. When you’re an Indian you have to be different from the other people.  It is natural to be different. So being Indian means being involved in the things about India and things that affect Indians at home and in the Diaspora. We talk about these things; we talk about being Indian on social network.
We read newspapers to know about the things that are going on in our country and we can’t help but be distressed about the bad things that atimes goes on in India. As we are living in a foreign country, we ask ourselves what best ways we can contribute to our motherland and when elections came, that brought about the opportunity, we decided we could do something on social media, we could meet people, talk to ourselves, advice that they call their relations in India to share a common aspiration with us, to vote for our candidate Prime Minister Modi, who eventually won with a landslide victory.

What endeared Indians in Nigeria to Prime Minister Modi particularly?

Our prime minister is very creative, very active, energetic and very much into performance. So good governance of exemplified by PM Modi is known by all of us. Even few days ago, a popular newspaper in London rated him as one of the most influential leader in the world. So he has his kind in persons like Trump and other world leaders.  He is that kind of person who goes ahead to forge a way for the country and truly, he has done quite a lot for India, creating hope for people living in India, and also creating hope for those of us living in foreign countries outside India. Even when we are living in Nigeria, outside our country, we still have some expectations from our government. We expect that we should have good roads, that electricity will be there, policies will be attended to promptly and so on. Since he became the Prime Minister, he has been performing very well over the years. He has actually been meeting up to our expectations and that’s why we like him.

During his second inauguration you represented the Indians in Nigeria, tell us how was the feel of the second inauguration?

It was amazing; I was fortunate and humble to get the invitation to be in India for the Oath Taking ceremony. The invitation was from the Prime Minister himself, and they have protocols they follow before inviting people. I feel I was invited because; we have been doing a good job promoting the government and not just our party alone, a government that has been doing well, building railways and giving a better education. The Indian population which is about 1.2 billion is not a mean feat. So the Prime Minister represents the entire population of India, and that is amazing.
It was indeed an opportunity for me to be there. I was sitting in the government house itself, where the whole power of India is. It was beautiful; other leaders were there, presidents of neighbouring countries, the Ministers, big, top business men who drive the Indian economy were all there. I was fortunate to meet many of them, shake hands and so on. It was a historical moment, and history was created in that place. I am still thrilled and excited about it.

Now that the PM has been re-elected, what happens to your group, will it be disbanded in Nigeria?

No, the group will continue, because it has many other things to do. When any Minister is visiting from India, we are there. Our strength is to connect people to people, to grow friendship among Indians, to promote better relationship, promoting bilateral trade between here and our country. There are many other positive activities that we do.

In Nigeria, what kind of work do you do presently?

Well, I am into training and consulting. I own my training firm. We are into corporate training and we also specialize in skill acquisition. I’ve been here for 12 years and I’ve discovered this is one of the important things required. Here, we have opportunities to transfer skills. We go to universities, and teach them too. It is not enough to have a good degree, it is better to have additional skills and these are the soft skills we transfer to people. We offer some free but some we charge.

Where you born and bred in India?

Oh yes, I was born and bred in India.

What was the appeal for you to come to Nigeria, and have you met the expectation of coming here?

In India, I worked in a bank, then in the public sector unit which was an engineering consulting company. India is very big and so I was transferred from one place to another. At a point I decided to apply to go abroad. I kept on applying until I got an opportunity to go to the Middle-East. Going abroad means more learning and more exposure.  Soon a company took my interview asked if I could join in two weeks and I said okay. That was how I got employed in Nigeria. First I worked in an automobile company, then to telecommunication before I decided to go into skill Development Company where I work with a group of people.

You said you have been in Nigeria for twelve years, have you been eating only Indian foods all these years?

Oh no, I eat Nigerian foods. I love eating amala, Eba, but I like peppersoup the most.

How about your family, are they in Nigeria?

My family is here. They are Indians. My daughter is studying where there are lots of Nigerians. So she has lots of Nigerian friends, and they study together. My family has begun to learn lots of African languages and other languages.

That means that they are coping well with Nigerian culture?

Yes, definitely they are.

How about travels?

We do travel once in a year.

That will be to India. Is it only India that you travel to?

No, we travel to other places, even within Nigeria and outside Nigeria. We go to the United Kingdom too. We travel around other places in Europe, America, Australia and so on.

What are your hobbies?

My hobbies include yoga, meeting people, charity and youth mentoring. I’ve mentored quite a number of Nigerian youths and now they’re doing very well, doing big programmes and big activities. I go to Rotary meetings because I am also a Rotarian. I like meeting people and taking part in charity.

Today, we are meeting you at the venue of a Yoga event. Tell us more about it?

Prior to this day, Yoga has been practiced in India for over 10,000 years. Few years ago the when PM Modi came to power, he took it to a higher level. Yoga is a way of giving health and happiness to you, along with harmony and peace. It is a form of keeping oneself healthy through the ancient practices. PM proposed Yoga to the United Nations to be adopted on 21st June which is the longest day on the earth. So it is a significant day to give attention to yourself and your energies which comes from the sun. This day is therefore celebrated all around the world. Some nations supported it and it was passed in the United Nations. From there, he gave order to all Indians to organize Yoga activity on that day symbolically,

Is yoga a religion?

Not at all, it’s a sport activity, a fitness activity or an exercise. In exercise your breath and mind are not together but in yoga they are kept together, you are not listening to music or any other thing. You are focusing on yourself and on your mind.

What are the benefits of yoga?

The benefits are numerous and they include healthy living. It heals different ailments and pains in the body. Only a yoga guru can tell you what yoga to do for what issues you have. For instance you have a knee or back pain; it is a Yoga expert that can tell you which form of Yoga to do. Most importantly by doing Yoga, you are giving more to me to yourself to know yourself more and more.

When you moved to Nigeria newly did you have any challenge regarding cultural differences?

No, not really. India is also highly diversified and where I come from there are many tribes; some worship the sun, some the earth, some the trees and so on. And it is the same here. It’s just that mindsets are different; you have to give time to know and understand people. These things are also taught in yoga, not to react but to learn, respect and space to the people who are in front of you or people who you come in contact with.

When you came to Nigeria did you have an estimated number of years you’ll spend?

No. I didn’t. The companies I worked for were paying and it was okay. They were to determine. The company and the group I work with now are okay too.

Do you like it here?

Yes, I do. I am happy living in Nigeria. It has a very nice weather, the temperature good and fine between 25-38. By God’s grace we live in Lagos and Lagos is by the sea, the weather is cool and calm. There’s greenery, so no wahala! Those things are good.

Do you wear African clothes, Nigerian native dresses?

Yes, I do. I love them and I have some of them in my wardrobe. I love to wear Ankara.

Have you been attending Nigerian parties?

Yes, I have. At least I have attended various marriage parties and I also go for cultural shows at universities. I’m mentoring youths and they keep inviting me to shows. Some time ago, I was with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Honorable Lai Mohammed at the Terracotta show in Victoria Island. It was nice. So I make time to socialize with Nigerians.

Is there a healthy traffic between Indians in Nigeria and India and what is the population of Nigerians like in India?

There are thousands of Nigerian students studying in India, and I see and talk to them here and over there. Though once in a while, some biased people come to me with wrong impressions and I immediately correct them by telling them that some people are just naturally bad but not all people are bad. People go to India for cheap health care and education. The cost of getting healthcare in India is just about 10% of that of the U.S. The bottom line is when people go abroad they should remember that they are representing their country. Whatever image they create there will affect the image of their country so they should do well. But that does not mean that everybody from that country is bad.

Are there any special expectations from the Prime Minister in India for Indians in other countries?

We expect that this current tenure of his will be the one of fulfillment. Our expectations are that we want Indians to be able to aspire and do well in law, politics, science and all other spheres of human endeavors.

Your values?

We all are human being first, whether you’re an Indian, British, American or Nigerian. So we all should give each other respect, and keep learning. We need to evolve ourselves and make a better society.

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