On the evening of July 16, a special informative program was organised by the ABPL (UK) Group, 'Gujarat Samachar' and 'Asian Voice,' the newsweeklies published from London, at Ahmedabad’s Hotel Radisson Blu.
The program was to re-identify and honour the identity. Rohit Wadwana (IFS) who was the First Secretary (Economics and Commerce Wing) and also had responsibility of the Additional Charge of Press and Information division at the Indian High Commission in the UK has been promoted to a new post as the Deputy High Commissioner of India to the Republic of Kenya. In addition to this, he has also been granted responsibility as India’s permanent deputy representative at the UN environment agency and UN-habitat which is also head-quartered in Kenya’s Nairobi. We would like to specially mention here that . Rohit Wadhwana has taught people to think beyond traditional boundaries through his popular columns 'Arohan' in 'Gujarat Samachar' and 'Introspection' in 'Asian Voice' and has also inspired new directions in the process by creating new understanding among readers. Among the invitees present were Padmashri Devendra Patel, Ajay Umat, Krishnakant Undkat, Bhagyesh Jha, Jyotiben Undkat, Mayaben Deepak, stage actress Bhaviniben Jani, Digant Sompura, Rituraj Mehta among others.
The program to honour Rohit Vadwana and learn from him about his experiences during his tenure in Britain gave a spectrum of colours to the rainy evening. The program was moderated by popular anchor Tushar Joshi, who is based out of Ahmedabad.
Introducing Rohit, he said, “Today we have gathered to hear, know and respect a singular personality, . Rohit who identifies himself as an author by hobby and Indian Diplomat by profession. Apart from being an Indian diplomat, he is also a writer, thinker and a good listener himself. With a track record of authoring columns and books in several dailies, he could be identified as a creator who loves playing with words. Being a native of Okhamandal, located at the banks of an ocean, he is filled with the vastness, comforting generosity and exuberance of the sea. Those who have met him in the UK have personally experienced this. He will be joining as the Deputy High Commissioner in Kenya. Let us applaud him with the good wishes that his work as Deputy High Commissioner will be another addition to the series of achievements he has had so far.”
“The program has been organised by the ABPL Group. This is the Golden Jubilee Year for Gujarat Samachar and Asian Voice. We all know the group’s Chief Executive Shri CB. CB Patel is currently a part of this program online through Zoom. We all have family relations with ABPL Group and CB Patel. I request Mayaben Dipak who has associated with this family to come forward for the prayer.”
An expert in tunes and notes, Mayabhen Deepak recited a beautiful prayer.
After the prayer, Rohit Vadhwana and his wife Femida were given a warm welcome with a bouquet of flowers presented by Shri Nilesh Parmar, Bureau Chief of Ahmedabad office, and Shri Ajay Umat welcomed Shri Subodhchandra Shah, retired Judge of Gujarat Highcourt.
ABPL’s Publisher and Editor-in -Chief CB Patel was present in the meeting from London via Zoom. CB Patel in his speech from London said, “Jay Bharat, Jay Gujarat! It is a pleasure to see that all of you have gathered in Ahmedabad on the pious land of Bharat. I welcome Rohit and Femidaben. There is a message of unity behind the welcome with a bouquet. My colleagues have done fantastic arrangements in Ahmedabad. I was able to see 68 people. I salute the blessings and co-operation of guests, who chose to remain present even while it is raining terrifically outside.”
“Rohit, you are going to Kenya which belongs to Africa. India-Africa relations are vital for India’s future. You are going as Deputy High Commissioner to a country with which India has historical relationship. I have been associated with the India House for the last 57 years. Many officers of India’s MEA at India House have been known to me. However, our Rohit is the youngest, brightest and most high spirited among them. We seek to gain a lot of insight from Rohit in today’s program ‘Unveiling Britain’.”
“Rohit has worked for three years in Britain. I have seen him ‘working’ and ‘getting work done’, but have never heard anyone complaining about him. This is indeed difficult. As you go to Kenya, it would be no doubt ‘Advantage India & Kenya’, but it would be a disadvantage for Indians in the UK. I have a strong belief that Rohit, with his caliber, will assume much higher responsibilities, in future. You are a mature human being. There is spiritualism even in your scholarship too. It is said that diplomats are not interested in other things. However, you have also chosen to experience ‘Vipashyana’. I have been reading your columns to find that you have the will and energy to work, honesty and maturity. You will definitely play a vital role in protecting India’s interests and people in Kenya and empower them. There will be more co-ordination between India & Kenya. It is a privilege to hear Rohit. It is a privilege to have such a young Gujarati IFS. My best wishes to Rohit.’
Ajay Umat, Editor-in-chief, Navgujarat Samay said that, “Rohit may be a diplomat by profession, but he is a multi-tasker. In addition to being successful in diplomacy, he is also successful as a writer. If you were a Journalist, it may have been challenging for someone like me and Krushnakant. If you read a writer and search for him you will definitely reach him/her. Rohit Vadhwana also met us like that. The best thing about him is, in addition to writing poetries, essays and novels, his most-appealing and most-discussed work is as a motivational writer. Rohit himself is a motivating person. The man who represents India as a diplomat was in fact educated at a remote town of Okhamandal. When the factory at which his father worked in Bhanwad stopped, his schooling also stopped. He passed Grades 11 & 12 with self-study. He came to Ahmedabad for studies and made a mission to go for IFS (Indian Foreign Service). He succeeded in the mission after appearing for the UPSC examination. He has shared his success with people. He has been guiding everyone for UPSC exams. His guidance has in fact helped many Gujarati students to clear their exams. He is the ‘son of soil’ of Gujarat for whom everybody should be proud off. I am not going to speak about politics and foreign country, but I would definitely like to add that after Rohit’s arrival in UK also brought the British government down.``
Retired Judge Subodh Shah said, “As CB uncle had invited, there was no question of denying, however, at the back of mind, there was a hope that since I hail from Wadhwan, I may be able to find some link with Vadhwana. Majority Gujarati want nothing but to do business and earn money. Post my retirement, I have even commenced tutorials to educate students to become Judge, IRS, IFS. Starting with the donations from the Jain community, till now 20 students have been successfully cleared for exams for IAS/IFS. For Gujaratis it may be difficult to do a job outside Gujarat or outside India after becoming IFS. Gujarati women find it difficult to live outside Gujarat and India. In this reference, we need to give a round of applause to Femidaben.”
Krushnakant Unadkat who is a motivational columnist and empathiser, addressed the audience saying, “After conversing with Rohit and discussing his words and articles, I also felt a connection with him, because words connect emotions. If anyone deserves the credit to keep the Gujarati language alive in London/UK, it is none other than CB Patel. I congratulate CB and Gujarat Samachar team for organising such a fabulous event. In addition to being a diplomat Rohit is a writer and writers are honest, who keeps on trying to identify himself. An artist is most faithful with his own self. Rohit played an important role in becoming a bridge between India and UK during the covid pandemic.”
Chief guest and the keynote speaker of the program ‘Unveiling Britain’, Shri Rohit Vadhwana started his speech by thanking CB Patel for organising such a wonderful event. He said, “April 30, 2019, was my first day in London. I started working the next day itself. On May 1, there were celebrations of Gujarat/Maharashtra day at high commission premises and other places. On my third day in London, I and CB met in person at the Nehru Centre, which is the cultural name for the Indian high commission. Since then we have been working together on a lot of things, which also continues to date. I received his love during my posting. CB has the most inspirational personality. I thank CB for being my friend and guide and for standing by the Indian community. There CB has been doing several different events regularly. He is the most popular person in the UK's Indian/Gujarati community. Recently I also visited the Ahmedabad office of ‘Gujarat Samachar’ and ‘Asian Voice’. Ahmedabad and London teams are working beautifully in close coordination. It is a dedicated team that works like a family.”
Discussing UPSC competitive exams, he said, “This is a wholesome struggle. Whether you belong to a poor or rich family, you need to put in the same amount of hard work. Everyone has to pass the struggle. I have always believed that there is nobody who hasn’t struggled in his life. Sometimes, it seems that people from well-to-do families have to struggle more as they face more mental pressure. Because of fewer seats available, this is the most difficult competitive exam. Only 1000 candidates are selected from a million. Even I could not get through on the first attempt. Do not worry about the number of attempts, just keep on working. I request you to give time to your children as this achievement is not possible without that. In fact, there are no specific scales of success and failure. Give them enough time and let them prepare. Career is only an Indian concept now. In western countries, there is a culture of career.”
“Britain is the most exciting subject of discussion right now. Right now the procedure to select the PM is going on. There is no election. The election was already held, where the Conservative Party has won 358 out of 650 seats in Loksabha/House of Commons, hence there is no election right now. Right now it is a contest on who will lead the party. In the end, when there are two candidates left, the registered members of the party will vote to elect the Prime Minister.”
“In the 66 million population of Britain, the Indian community is just 1.6 million or less than 2%. But, their contribution to the economy there is over 6%. Among the biggest investors in India, the UK occupies the 6th position. Whereas, India is the second biggest investor in the UK, which means it is only the USA that is ahead of India. Indian investments create jobs there. The UK government, leadership and citizens accept the contribution of India and Indians due to which they always positively welcome Indians. More contribution by the community is indeed a good thing for diplomats. Whichever country we go to, we consider the community's behaviour, strength and acceptance as important. My posting was as First Secretary (Economic department) and I was given an additional responsibility of the Media and Press section. When we used to go for community activities we used to enjoy it a lot. We used to meet people, make new friends and live a good life. We could become helpful to people.”
“If we talk about important things between India and the UK, the UK was severely affected during the first wave of Covid. India had a strict lockdown and was able to manage the pandemic better. During this time, India sent a lot of help, mainly pharmaceuticals. The Oxford vaccine was produced at India’s Serum institute, which improved the relations between the two countries. The UK took note and appreciated these initiatives.”
“In the second wave of Covid, India was severely affected. We wanted to send Generator Sets, but they were so huge that they cannot be carried in a flight. We hired a ship from Ukraine and used it to send the generator sets. Community’s contribution and role was appreciable. We were able to collect millions of pounds in no time. I was in the core team of the high commission. We came to know that there was an immediate need for equipment. Main challenge was transportation. We held meetings with several suppliers to procure 10/12/15 litres cylinder. At that time, British Oxygen Cylinder (BOC) helped with arrangements to send 5000 cylinders of 46 litre capacity. This was a great help.
“Generally, there is no trend of working after the work-hours are completed in the UK. People do not carry their official tasks home. During Covid the British bureaucracy also consistently worked during Covid. High commission used to stay in contact with people till late night. It was a question about people's lives. Everybody worked.
“Another important matter is the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This is not a political matter, it is an economical matter, in which everyone would be the beneficiary. The agreement could be completed by Diwali. The UK will become the third nation to have an FTA with India. The other two countries are Australia and UAE. The fact that there are good relations, business and connections between UK and India does not mean that visas would be available easily. Visa is a completely different matter.
“For posting, our first country was the UK, but we never felt that we were first time on a foreign land. Our transit admission was in Wembley. When you go out for an evening walk in Wembley, men selling ladies' fingers in a monkey cap and people talking on phone in Kathiyawadi accent are common sightings here. We have also seen Gujarati signs to indicate people that they cannot spit after eating Paan.
“The UK is one such country we understand and recognize very well. We have read a lot about their culture and lifestyles, but there are many things we are not aware of. There, it does not make a difference whether you are a diplomat, a shopkeeper or a driver. They maintain a difference between work and personal life, which is not done here. Let us understand the stress by maintaining the balance between work and life. Here they are experimenting with 4-day-work-week. The most we need to care for and learn is to maintain cleanliness. Iran seems to be the cleanest country. In my column ‘Aarohan’ in Gujarat Samachar, I wrote that Ahmedabad is changing. Traffic hazards are increasing. Without paying attention to traffic sense, our people tend to find a way from anywhere. We need to control that. These things are small, but they can have considerable effects. We need to learn several things including education.
“The last important issue is pollution. It is also important to stay alert about pollution personally and in groups. We need to control the speed of life. Our condition is like a frog sitting in boiling water. It is beneficial to work towards net zero emission, and carbon neutrality. In the UK they have to declare ‘Red Alert’ due to severe hot weather. Transport for London has advised people to avoid using transport unless necessary. This is a serious matter. Finding who is responsible will not help, as everyone is suffering. A little effort towards understanding and spreading the message can go a long way.”
Rohit in his address said, “Do come on a tour to the UK. We need to learn a lot. There is respect and honour for Indians, which is incrementally increasing. In the current cabinet, ministers of Indian origin are becoming popular. They are famous. We have prestige there. A former official of the Gujarat government and a writer and poet Bhagyeshhai Jha said, “I take care of three things in my life. The first is not to waste a single moment after waking up early. The second is that never believe after hearing from someone about what people said about you, cross verify it. The third thing is that when a program is followed by dinner, keep your speech short. You are going to Nairobi and must be aware that many people in London hail from Uganda. Watching animal migration can be shocking. CB is a modern version of Shibi, the King (Shibi Raja). Best wishes for your tenure in Kenya.
In honour of Rohit Vadhwana and his wife Femina, ABPL (UK) group organised a dinner in the auditorium. Guests dispersed after enjoying the delicious dinner.