Thursday, August 7, 2014

Indian Community in Sweden

I have been writing on various aspects of life in Stockholm in My Stockholm Diary ever since I came to Stockholm on vacation on July 4. Most of the entries in my diary are the lunches and dinners hosted by our friends in the Indian community. My observations about our hosts give a bit of flavor of the Indian community and their life style. I wrote repeatedly that the the quality of life and standard of living of the Indian community, in general, is much better than their counterparts in other European countries. The second generation of the Indian community in Sweden has become young and their assimilation into the main stream of the Swedish society is underway and rightly so.
Indian Ambassador to Sweden Banashri Bose Harrison

I thought of writing about the Indian community and resorted to web searching, including the website of the Indian Embassy, for information to supplement my meager  and shallow knowledge. But not much is available in this regard. I will try to put together bits and pieces partially with my own  old association with Sweden and partially my recent interaction in Stockholm.

Un-official estimates indicate that Indian community is about 15,000 strong Indian in Sweden out of which about 4000 are holding Indian passports. Indians started coming in 1960s as professionals and students. I know a few of them like   Bicky Chakaraborty, Dr. Seshadari Seetharaman and Dr. Narendra Yamdagni, who are around and kicking. Bicky (Barun Kumar) Chakaraborty is said to be one of the richest persons in Scandinavia. He owns one of the largest chains of budget hotels and pubs in Sweden. I met Bicky a couple of times and found him a down to earth and pragmatic business personality. I distinctly remember one of the meetings with him with Chief Minister Jyoti Basu sometime in 1992-93 at a reception at Wenner Gren Centre. Both Sitharaman and Yamdagni were highly placed professionals  with KTH ( Royal Institute of Technology) and were quite active and social in the community during my stay in Stockholm from 1991-94. It was rewarding to know and interact with them. The big influx came in early 1970s as Ugandan refugees under the UN arrangements. Most of them are settled in Mariestad in down south. I visited them a couple of times and played Dandia at the community celebrations like Diwali and Navratras. Most of them were of Gujrati origin and are engaged in small businesses. The next lot came from mid 70s to 90s who were semi skilled out right economic migrants some of them under the garb of one pretext or the other like political or religious persecution back home in India. Most of them settled themselves in odd jobs initially and later graduated to small businesses or better jobs. The bigger influx, in the form of floating population, came in wake of IT interaction and presence of Indian companies like TCS, WIPRO Sweden. Swedish companies like Ericsson etc. tended to engage Indian professionals in tele-communication. The number of Indian students got a boost. Many of these professional and students made Sweden their home and decided to stay back. 

Gurudwara in Tumba
Hindu Mandir in Stockholm
Generally, Indian community has done well. They are maintaining their identity and culture. There are Mandirs (Temples), Gurudwaras (Sikh Temples) in addition to various cultural and social outfits through out Sweden. Among them,  Hindu Mandir Society and Sikh Gurudwara in Stockholm and also Indian Association and Swedish-Indian Association are prominent. It is gratifying to note that many young Indians are, of late, registering good progress in their business efforts apart from excelling themselves in services and their professional domains. One of the articles in the media has given the names of prominent Indians which inter alia includes Stand up Comedian David Batra, National Golfer Daniel Chopra, Performance Artist Ayesha Quraishi. Many young professionals in IT, Tele-communication, Scientific Research, Banking and other fields of human endeavor are doing well. My own association and interaction with some of them have been good and satisfying. I may name a few of them namely Dr. Ravi Banga, a highly medical specialist, Parminder (Pammi) and Ajay Vadher, highly placed professionals in Swedish company Ericsson, Seema Jonsson, an Academics, Parul Sharma, an activist and consultant on on Human Rights and other social issues, Vijay Gupta, a senior  Marketing Executive, Vaibhav Vyas, an IT Expert and many more. Swedish India Business Council which is looked after by Robin Sukhia is engaged in promoting business interaction. Many young Indians have shown good progress and success in business. Sami (Sanjay) Sood, in travel and hotel business, Inderpal Singh, in trading and real estate, Karan Malhotra and Ajay Sehgal,    in Industrial manufacturing, Ajay Pal, in high end taxi business, to name a few, have done well. More and more young Indians are placing themselves in readiness to explore, identify and explore the emerging business opportunities. The up coming generation of Indians in Sweden will certainly be better placed with appropriate training and education to which they have ample access. 

I was about to close this piece and Naresh gave me some more information on the emerging talent in the community. It would be only appropriate to include them in the increasing list of up-coming professionals. Silky Bruta, a senior Executive with Microsoft and her husband Gautam Rawal, a banker with SwedBank, are doing well. Yet more, two brothers, Ashim and Robin, sons of my our old friends Kamlesh and Virender Khullar are adorning senior positions in a bank and Dell, a computer company. There may be many more about whom I don´t have information. I can always come back on the subject with a view to recognize and encourage the younger generation of our community in Sweden

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