British Asia News Network
London: The Tamil communities in UK gathered to celebrate a belated Pongal at the SOAS University and the India House, London on 18 January. The day-long celebration started with the High Commission of India and the Federation of Tamil Associations (FeTAUK) in UK, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales honouring the great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar’s statue at SOAS University.
This was followed by Pongal celebrations in the magnificent Gandhi Hall in the Indian High Commission in the evening. The Pongal celebrations started at 3pm, with the members of the FeTAUK garlanding the Thiruvalluvar statue in the SOAS UCL main campus to pay their respects.
AS Rajan, Minister Co-ordination from the HCI and Professor Edward Simpson, the Director of SOAS joined in to garland the statue of the legendary poet, whose couplets and guidance on living well are still relevant 2000 years after writing them.
The statue was established in 1996 as a gift to SOAS from the government of Tamil Nadu. Professor Stuart Blackburn received the gift and was surprised by the size as he had anticipated something much smaller, said Professor Simpson, while in conversation with Prabhakar Kaza, the SBI UK Head in the UK.
Talking about the significance of the statue in the heart of the University, Professor Simpson said, “it brings the University into contact with the Tamil community – both Indian and Sri Lankan students and even the High Commission, which has been a wonderful thing for us,”
“SOAS University was founded during the late colonial period… but we’ve realised that we now live in a very different world. London is a great city but is no longer the centre of an empire. As a University, we now must work very differently. We must work with partnerships, community organisations, governments and largely due to the revered poet here, we’ve built many new connections.”
Dr Prabhu Executive Committee member of FeTAUK, said “ WTO-FeTAUK renovated the statue in 2013. We discussed getting the statue lit at night and put on an elevated pedestal. Our ideas were met with positive response from SOAS and the HCI.”
The Indian High Commission celebrations
Following the SOAS event, the FeTAUK team gathered in the majestic Gandhi Hall at the Indian High Commission for an evening of celebrations and dinner.
The special guests, MP Virendra Sharma, Deputy High Commissioner Charanjeet Singh, Minister Coordination AS Rajan, and Prabhakar Kaza, SBI Head in UK were welcomed to a packed room of participants and members of the Tamil associations.
Deputy High Commissioner Charanjeet Singh quipped on how Pongal celebrations in the UK are spread over a week, while it is celebrated for a day in India. “In Punjab, we say that Lohri, is the end of winter, but it’s the start of the season here. It’s the warmth of the people that drives the chilly season away,” he said. He stressed that the Indian High Commission has improved its services and welcomed any feedback to improve them further.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma congratulated the congregation for the elaborate arrangements and gave an anecdote on how Jacob Ravibalan, the Chairman of FeTAUK approached him in the initial years of the inception of the Association. He applauded Jacob for his leadership and encouraged the younger generation of professionals to play an active part in UK politics. By participating in the seat of power, the community will be able to influence policies that will be beneficial to the community. “Don’t take my seat in Ealing, I am very happy to retain it, but do come to me for advice if you want to join politics,” he said. The notables we presented with shawls by Jacob Ravibalan and Sowriharan Manohar, the Vice President of FeTAUK.
AS Rajan, Minister Coordination said that he was very happy to see such a large gathering at SOAS in the afternoon to pay homage to the great poet Thiruvalluvar. “This shows that someone is taking the lead,” he said.
“In the last five years, we’ve seen an increase in the people visiting the statue. It is becoming a part of the institution (SOAS) and many graduating students pose to take pictures in front of the statue.”
“The recent profile of Tamils migrating to the UK has been that of multinational heads and businesses. People avoid being in politics. I think that’s wrong – representing Tamils in the UK Parliament will be great.”
Sowriharan Manohar, the Vice President of FeTAUK said Pongal celebrated at the beginning of the year was a great occasion for meeting all the heads and executive committee members of the different associations across the UK, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. He thanked the Indian High Commission for supporting the event and opened the floor to Dance, music performances by mostly young artists.
The participating organisations and the participants were:
Organisation: Ukmakkal School:NSA Dance group:Shakthi Sreevats, Siddhitha, Yashitha, Deepa Ramki, Jayashree, Madhuri, kamla, Bhavna and Padmaja - Organisation: Ukmakkal School:NSA Music group:Sujatha Sreevats , Shakthi Sreevats ,Siddhitha Guru, Yashitha Praveen, Ritvik Ramakrishnan, Srijan Kumar, Sanjit Kumar, Adithi Bhaskar, Deeptha Ramesh ,Manasa Prasanna, Srinithi Rajan , Venkatalakshmi Satram, Saloni Boyina, Ananya Ravi, Plus Raja Sreevats & Krishna kumar - Gayatri Jeyachandran & Ishika Gupta from Kshetra Dance Academy -Jayaraj Theenathayalan from Vidhainel, Orpington Tamil Sangam.
Croyodon Tamizh Kazhagam Folk dance: Bhuvaneswari vasudevan Shanmugam, Prashanthi Nallathamby ep.Kulandai vadivel, Vinitha Devi mani, Aruna Gnanasekaran, Ramya Rajangam, Vasumathy Arumugam and Lokapriya Arunachalam Premalatha
Revathi from the Indian High Commission sang at the occasion.
The Office bearers of FeTAUK are, Mr. Jacob Ravibalan-Chairman Dr. Kandaswamy Selvan-Vice Chairman Mr. Mathan Raja- President Sowri Manohar-Vice President Karthick- Secratary Raja Nataraj- Treasurer Rajeswari- vice Treasurer.