The Indian High Commission in Guyana on Tuesday hosted a local celebration of the 2018 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which is held bi-annually in India to honour overseas-based Indians who have made contributions towards the development of the country.Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which translates to Indian Diaspora, is observed onA cultural presentation by ICC dancersJanuary 9 annually and commemorates the return of Mahatama Gandhi, the country’s greatest Pravasi, to India from South Africa to lead the independence struggle.This year’s event was held under the theme: “Diaspora – The connection with India”. It also saw the hosting of the first ever People of Indian Origin (PIO) Parliamentarian Conference.A 23-member Guyanese delegation of 20 Members of Parliament (MPs), including former President Bharrat Jagdeo, attended the conference on Tuesday in New Delhi, India.The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebration in India started back in 2003 and provides a platform to discuss issues concerning the Indian Diaspora. The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards are also given.Prominent Guyanese such as former Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar along with business tycoon, Dr Yesu Persaud have all been recipients of the award in the past.Addressing the gathering at the local celebrations held at the Indian Culture Centre, High Commissioner Venkatachalam Mahalingam said Indo-Guyanese, who are the in third and fourth generations of indentured ancestors, have made great contributions in shaping Guyana. He noted too that in doing all this, they managed to preserve many of the cultures and traditions passed on by their foreparents.“Amazingly, they have preserved their Indian culture in various forms through religious practices music, costumes, food habits, etc, though they have lost linguistic and family contacts from their ancestral land primarily due to enormous distance involved,” he stated.However, Mahalingam noted that the High Commission has since been engaged in various activities to further strengthen and sustain the cultures and traditions that were passed down. In fact, he noted that the High Commission will soon be organising cooking classes to teach Guyanese authentic Indian cuisines.Meanwhile, Cultural Activist Neaz Subhan was invited to speak on the topic: ‘Continuation of Cultural Moorings – Guyana’s experience’.He reflected on the journeys of Indian ancestors, who ensured that their identities, especially their cultural genetics, were never compromised when they decided to stay and build their lives in this foreign land.However, while much has been done to preserve the culture and traditions passed down, Subhan warned of the cultural erosion that is largely impacted by western and other influences, including technology. He urged Indo-Guyanese to remember in mind and spirit who they are and where they came from.“…We must not allow ourselves to succumb to complacency for it is being bombarded by tremendous influences with unfortunate erosion in some areas. But we cannot give up and must not be overwhelmed by the influences despite the difficulties and the lure, for if we do, then I don’t think we can genuinely pay homage to our indentured foreparents and the value of their selfless sacrifices can eventually disappear. While there is not so a subtle hint of gloom in that, we must also be proud of what we have done within the context of the Guyanese experience,” he said.On this note, the cultural activist posited that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas must be seen as an avenue to foster ideas and introspection that will aid in the navigation through the challenges and times when necessary adaptation is no longer an option.The opportunity afforded to Indians across the world to meaningfully participate is not only most useful, but must be commended. The longevity of our culture, the continuation of the cultural moorings so that we can have and preserve the Guyanese experience, may depend a lot on such events including this simple gathering here this afternoon,” he asserted.Nevertheless, Subhan noted that on the local context, Indo-Guyanese must find ways and means beyond to sustain and broaden the efforts triggered by the cultural moorings over time.