The Overseas Bihar Association is engaged in various activities to promote Indian culture in Russia
By NB Staff
The COVID-19 pandemic, ever since it took the world in its formidable grip in March 2020, has wrought indescribable miseries everywhere. Indian communities living in Russia have been through a harrowing time, fighting for survival and spending sleepless nights as they watched their homeland engulfed in its worst-ever crisis, brought on by the fury of the pandemic.
The pathetic condition of daily wage workers during and after the national lockdown in India left the diaspora shocked and distressed. The Overseas Bihar Association (OBA), a non-commercial socio-cultural organisation of Indians living in Russia, took the initiative. It collected funds from its members and organised grocery packets containing rice, wheat flour, potatoes, pulses, cooking oil, sattu and salt, for distribution among the poor and daily wage workers in backward areas of Bihar. Sanjay Pandey and Vindhyachal of OBA took up the responsibility of organising the distribution of this aid during the first wave of COVID-19. Around 5,000 households were covered.
Later, during the second wave of COVID-19, OBA could not be indifferent to the severe shortages of oxygen and medical equipment. It took the initiative to buy 30 oxygen concentrators in Russia and supplied these to India as humanitarian aid, via the NGO Innovators in Health, for distribution in rural areas. This effort was supported by the Embassy of India in Russia, by way of speedy customs clearance.
The decision to establish OBA, in May 2012, was taken with the intention of promoting Indian culture through various activities and paying tribute to the people of the culturally rich Indian state of Bihar, which in many ways has contributed to the motherland and to society at large.
Under the leadership of Anjani Kumar Das as President, Mukesh Kumar as Vice-president, Praveen Kumar as General Secretary, and Jitendra Kumar as Treasurer, the main activities of OBA are directed towards promoting Indian arts, culture, cuisine and other aspects of Indian heritage in Russia through various events.
A major milestone for OBA was the successful celebration of the centenary of the foundation of Bihar. The occasion was celebrated on 28 July 2012 as Bihar Divas in Moscow. The event featured a concert by the famous Bollywood playback singer Alka Yagnik with Chetan Rana and Bihari folk singer Devi Singh. The former Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation, Ajai Malhotra, was the guest of honour on the occasion.
Another milestone was the celebration of OBA’s own anniversary on 10 August 2013, with a live mega concert by the world-famous and legendary Indian Bollywood playback singer Sonu Nigam, together with his musical band, at the prestigious Crocus City Hall in Moscow. Ambassador Malhotra attended the concert as chief guest. The ambassadors of Nepal, Bangladesh and Mauritius, as well as Russian guests, were also present.
“The decision to establish OBA, in May 2012, was taken with the intention of promoting Indian culture through various activities.”
On 29 July 2017, OBA organised a musical concert with a live performance by Bollywood playback singers Sona Mohapatra and Neeraj Shridhar. It was dedicated to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Russia.
In the same year, OBA felicitated the legendary Anand Kumar of Patna Super 30, for his contribution to the education of the poor.
On 28 July 2018, OBA hosted a live performance by Bollywood playback singers Ankit Tiwari and Unnati Shah, with the support of the Embassy of India in Moscow. Indian Ambassador Pankaj Saran was the chief guest on this occasion, which was attended by the ambassadors of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mauritius and Nepal, as well as other Indian and Russian dignitaries.
In 2020, OBA planned to invite the Bollywood playback singer and music composer Kailash Kher and his band but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisation had to postpone the event.
OBA has engaged itself not only with organising gala concerts but also in educational activities designed to encourage and nurture skills. It has held children’s competitions in the fields of drawing, essay-writing and debate, for students of the Embassy of India School in Moscow. Another attraction was the Indian Food Competition “Temptation”. On the same occasion, OBA also organised exhibitions of Indian costumes, jewellery and handicrafts, and arranged Indian food stalls.
OBA took part in a cycle rally organised by the Embassy of India in Moscow, in cooperation with the city government, to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 19 May 2019.
OBA has been widely appreciated for its various celebrations and the involvement of Indians of all backgrounds in Russia. It is honoured for its hard work in bringing together all members of the diaspora community through such events.
The objective of OBA’s activities is the promotion of Indian culture in Russia. Its track record is proven and appreciated by all communities in Russia. Only OBA, they aver, can organise such events on a grand scale. The impact is huge, as the association gets requests to organise such events more and more often, and is able to foster genuine cultural interaction.