Abu Dhabi: An Indian social organisation in the capital has been successfully representing India’s diversity in its true form during the past 50 years.
“Our organisation represents a miniature of India in the UAE,” Joy Thomas John, honorary president of the Indian Social and Cultural Centre (ISC), told Gulf News on Thursday on the occasion of its golden jubilee celebrations.
Its membership comprises Indians from all regions of the country who speak different languages and represent various cultures. The ISC celebrates all of their religious and cultural festivals that often end up as year-long celebrations on the ISC premises. “We celebrate all major festivals of India. The cultural programmes associated with each festival offer a pan-India glimpse,” John said.
The five-month celebrations began on Thursday evening (November 9) and will end in March 2018. Navdeep Singh Suri, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News that the golden jubilee is an important landmark for an institution that has consistently served the Indian community in Abu Dhabi. “By providing a vibrant platform for cultural, social, educational, sports and other activities, the ISC has helped in bringing diverse groups together and enabled them to remain connected with India.”
When the ISC started its journey from a small building in 1967, it was the only venue for Indians to celebrate their festivals, said a senior member. Most of the members then were employees of two major oil companies. The centre’s facilities were limited — sandy volleyball courts, badminton courts, billiards and playing card rooms. In comparison, the present-day Dh35-million five-storey building has all kinds of sports and games facilities, and provisions for cultural and recreational use.
“The ISC’s status as one of the largest social clubs outside India is a matter of pride for the Indian community in Abu Dhabi,” John said.
Its philanthropic and cultural activities and valuable contributions to the India-UAE people-to-people relations earned it the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Samman,’ a prestigious honour from the Government of India, he said. “We were there when India wanted us … in times of natural calamities and other crises. The ISC members and their friends always contributed to the Indian prime minister’s disaster relief fund,” he said.
M.A. Salam, honorary general secretary of the ISC, said he still remembers the 25-day-long celebrations during the centre’s silver jubilee. “It was a smaller building. From there, it has been a long way to becoming one of the largest social clubs outside India,” Salam said.
Jayachandran Nair, honorary vice-president of the ISC, said the centre would felicitate heads of prominent businesses that have been giving job opportunities to Indians in the capital. “The ISC is here because of them,” he said.
Cultural and entertainment programmes performed by prominent Indian artists will feature during the five months of celebrations. The five-storey building has been bedecked in lights themed on major Indian landmarks such as the Taj Mahal.
On Thursday evening, a live band by Anju Joseph and team entertained the audience and on November 16, famous ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas is scheduled to perform live. The ISC is planning a musical programmes of popular playback singers Shreya Ghoshal and K.K. (Krishnakumar Kunnath) in the coming months. The ISC’s annual cultural and entertainment event, ‘India Fest’, will be held in December, organisers said.