Salam from Iraq — An Arab student’s ode to India

Following is an edited version of a letter Asaad A M Al-Salih, a PhD student at Jamia Millia from Iraq wrote to Dr Karan Singh, President, Indian Council of Cultural Relations about his stay in India:

Five years ago, when my friends and I arrived from Iraq to India, through ICCR scholarships, we were astonished by the noticeable contradictions. Despite being a non-petrol-exporting country, India is so rich in its agriculture, water resources, industry and minerals, besides human resources, and the Indians are so rich in their culture and values. At a time when there are a lot of “homeless people” sleeping in the streets with  so many “beggars” roaming in the roads, Delhi has the cleanest Metro in the world and the Indians are about to launch a man to the Moon. They are furthermore giving us (i.e. the foreigners) the chance to get our higher education degrees (Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral) within their universities including paying the tuition fees and the personal allowance to cover living expenses.

Asaad al Salih (middle)  with examiners and the Iraqi cultural counsellor in India Dr Nazim Sulaiman (second from left) after passing his viva voce at the Jamia Millia Islamia on 14 March this year
Asaad al Salih (middle)  with examiners and the Iraqi cultural counsellor in India Dr Nazim Sulaiman (second from left) after passing his viva voce at the Jamia Millia Islamia on 14 March this year

What a great country India is !! Having 1.3 billion of population, the Indians however do possess and own all the necessary and sufficient features of: science & technology, atomic power, space, as well as self-sufficiency (plus surplus exporting) in products of agriculture and light and heavy industry. In their international relations, they raised their remarkable slogan “Friendship through Culture” as they open their arms to embrace people from all over the world. They practically have established very good relations with all nations, especially the “ Third World “ countries. Under such policy with these levels of development, India , as I reckon, shall soon leave the label of the “developing” countries to be a fully “developed” country. Though I spent almost 4 years (December 1986-September 1990) in Manchester, UK , yet I never had intimate impression towards Britain and the Britishers and their values like what I have had towards India and the Indians.

For me, my five-years period in India has passed so fast. I actually started it in setting up the first “Image Processing Lab.” in Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university, in the Department of Computer Science. Through using the available university facilities, under the care, respect, given to me by my department, I have finished the requirements of my PhD research work in the area of “Systems Engineering of Image Processing” and thereby outstandingly published 20 papers of that research work in well (internationally) recognized journals and conferences related to IEEE, McMillan, and Springer. I have therefore submitted my PhD thesis, and currently am waiting for the viva voce. I am ready afterwards to go back home to participate with my other Iraqi citizens in restoring and rebuilding up our home-land, Iraq.

Amongst those unforgettable 5 years, and through several wonderful omni-directional summer & winter tourism camps (to explore all India) organized by the ICCR to its international students (under symbolic refundable costs), I have experienced INDIA. I visited Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Sikkim, Punjab, (as well as Haryana) Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Kashmir , on my own).  Through those enjoyable trips, I have got pretty good idea about the great Indian heritage among the different eras of civilization across history. In fact those colorful trips gave me the good chance to know a lot about the diverse rich folk aspects, customs, habits, and traditions of the people in the Indian subcontinent. This further gave me the opportunity to get closer for mingling and interacting with other ICCR colleagues from other world countries. In brief, India for me now is the land of magic, peace, smile, beauty, charm, simplicity, endearment, tolerance, and modesty. Sure there were some exceptions, yet that was my impression in general. In spite of the 28 formal different Indian languages and ethnic origins, the Indians share only one flag within the confines of the dominant well known theme “Unity under Diversity”. For all of that, India brought for me a peace of mind, and I have no other choice but to fall in love with India , people, land, and culture. Verily, the Indian ICCR experience could be possibly inspired and collaborated by the Iraqi side to establish the “Iraqi Council for Cultural Relations – i.e. the Iraqi ICCR.

There shall still be some Indian individuals with their ever-smiling faces born in my mind inside/outside the ICCR/JMI environment. This involves (but not limited to): Syed Ismail Ahson, Naresh Kumari, Rata Lal, Nelam Chopra, L. Bajaj, Karan Singh, Ameena K. Ansari, Shamim Ahmed, Mushirul Hasan, K.K. Dewan, Zahid Hussein Khan, Mohammed Ishtiyaq, A. Ansari, K. Mustafa, Aqeel Ahmed, Hasan Qidwai, Habibulla Khan, Syed Akhtar Hussein, Syed Hamidul Rahman, Hasanein A. Zaidi, and others. The last word to say from heart is: “Thanks to the ICCR, Thanks to India.”

Asaad A. M. A-Salih was an ICCR-PhD Research Scholar, Dept of Computer Sc., Jamia Millia Islamia, NewDelhi. 55-year-old A-Salih is Assoc. Professor in the Dept of Elec. Eng., Univ. of Baghdad, Iraq. He may be contacted at alsalih1996[@] Earlier he studied at Manchester University in mid-1980s where he was an undergraduate student while MG editor Zafarul-Islam Khan was doing his PhD. They  lived together in the university’s senior students’ hostel, Moberly Tower.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2011 on page no. 9

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