Pandemic plight and philanthropy of the non-resident native

Phanindra Ivatury

By Phanindra Ivatury

Indian quiz master Phanindra Ivatury, who resides in Utrecht in the Netherlands shares with Bernama how the diaspora across the globe have helped their brethren back home during the Covid-19 crisis.  For Phanindra, the bigger picture is not about recognition for their effort, it’s about the unnoticed intent.

UTRECHT, The Netherlands:  Amulya Krishnan, 39, a native of Malaysia, now lives with her husband in the neighbouring nation Singapore.  As they are a working couple, their 11-year-old son Sankeerthan lives with his grandparents in Malaysia, where he studies at a Kuala Lumpur school.

Amulya, who regularly travels the mere four-hour road distance between Singapore-Kuala Lumpur during weekends to spend time with her son now has not met him face-to-face for over 15 months since March, 2020 owing to necessary pandemic protocols between both countries.  Her story is one among those millions of pandemic hit classic cases of so near yet so far.

Ever since the pandemic proclaimed its traumatising authority on humanity, global diaspora’s difficulties have multiplied to unimaginable proportions often causing anguish, pain and helplessness among the international travelling community.

People have missed funerals, surgeries, events, accomplishments, weddings and happy occasions concerning near and dear back home, not to mention the utter disappointment and financial losses they underwent owing to cancellation of long-awaited holiday trips to native countries.

There have also been bizarre cases of people travelling for work on off shore projects and getting holed up in foreign lands for months due to lockdown measures, some of them even succumbing to the virus away from home with no family or friends to offer support or help.

The Governments tried (and are still trying) their best to facilitate international travel by even operating flights under ‘air-bubble’ agreements between countries, but the catastrophe at large was so colossal in nature that very few were fortunate to have benefitted from such stop gap measures.

The pandemic has cruelly succeeded in adding yet another complexity to the already complex status of a non-resident native. Contrary to age old, popular orthodox belief that most non-resident natives are those citizens of a country who migrate to foreign lands seeking green pastures, through my global experiences in a diplomatic set up over the years, I have noticed that the situation is actually the exact reverse to the above-mentioned belief.

Once they start living abroad, diaspora communities across the world get more and more connected to their motherlands over the years in three longing ways — emotional, sentimental and cultural.  Also, their political and ethical leanings on raging issues back home become more rational and are more often based on logical, ethical and literate perceptions rather than being driven by partiality-based rooting or emotion.

From an individual point of view, another interesting aspect of the non-resident native is, he or she mingles and bonds more up close with their fellow natives in a foreign land adding weight to the popular proverb ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’.  Fellow native friends abroad fill in for loved ones back home.

I have always often wondered with pride on how the non-resident native acquires the philanthropy virtue effortlessly just after a few years of living abroad. The global diaspora is always the first to react and respond on an ‘individual basis’ to any calamity, catastrophe or cause of concern occurring in their motherlands.

Let me quote an example. As a current resident of the Netherlands, I am a personal witness recently to a marathon fund and oxygen cylinder mobilisation drive undertook by the members of a non-profit diaspora organisation called ‘Foundation for Critical Choices for India’ here, in response to the devastating second wave of Covid virus that swept across India.

Within no time, the members put in extraordinary efforts on an individual war footing basis to arrange 80 oxygen concentrators and also raised a good chunk of funds to be despatched to needy people and hospitals battling with the fatal virus variants back home.

I don’t have an iota of doubt in saying that there must be thousands of such diaspora organisations in every nook and corner of the globe engaged in outstanding philanthropy activities towards their respective homelands which often go unregistered and unreported by the local communities and press unlike those philanthropic efforts made by locals in a country which garner good societal applause and media space.  The debate is not about recognition, it’s about the unnoticed intent.

As a global non-native citizen living through these harrowing Covid-19 times and as a Quiz host to a year-long ‘Covid times international Quiz series’ on social platforms, I am very closely aware of the traumatic plight the global diaspora is dealing with due to the pandemic. It is high time we realise and acknowledge these shining examples of bravery, courage and charity as the non-resident native is often someone who represents the ‘best face’ of a nation abroad. 

(Names of individuals mentioned in the article changed to protect identity. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of Bernama)