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23 May 2019, Edition - 1409, Thursday

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Coimbatore

“Indo-German relation is in its best phase, at least since unification of Germany,” says Dr Vishnu Ramdeo

Indrani Thakurata

Back in 1983, at a meeting of the President’s Council for International Youth Exchange, President Ronald Reagan was quoted saying, “The world will be all right if we all start talking to each other instead of about each other … we must trust our system and our values enough to know that young people from other countries, if they have the chance to visit us and live among us, will come to understand the American experience.” And this holds true for any cultural exchange. An exchange always opens up perspective about the other, and therefore helps break stereotype.

Indo German relations made news a few months back when Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and Germany’s Economic Affairs Minister Brigitte Zypries tweeted about the exchange programmes for Indian and German Startups. Currently there are 600 Indo-German joint ventures operating in India, employing 200,000 people approximately. Such exchanges are only strengthening our ties. We speak to Dr Vishnu Ramdeo, The Indian co-founder of IGYLF , who’s working on Indo-German cultural bridge programme, wherein he invited Germans students to intern and create some useful projects in Rajasthan early this year. He gives us insight into his work and talks about the importance of cultural exchange in today’s world.

Could you talk about yourself and how it began for you?

I was selected for German chancellor’s fellowship for year 2016. The project I undertook for the Fellowship was “People to People Connect” . It was disturbing for me that the world still relates India with Yoga and Ayurveda. In the present context when India and Germany are signing many MOU’s at political and business level, the basic understanding of each other’s cultures is still missing.

Most Indian’s think that Hitler is a Hero figure in the eyes of the Germans and, for a German, caste system in India is still openly practised and widely accepted among Indians. Instead of only submitting the research report and recommendation, I planned to implement the recommendation on my own. Prof Boike Rehbein from Humboldt University helped me in implementing the recommendations. For connecting people to people from all generations,
following steps were suggested and few were implemented in less than 6 months of time.

1st, the kids who cannot travel- To teach Hindi and other Indian languages in German government School and to teach German in Indian government Schools 2nd, the university students who can travel and implement the first task, can do their internship also. 3rd, young leaders who can’t travel for long time, for them, the Indo German young leaders forum is the space for exchange of ideas.

4th, People on pension travelling to each other’s countries and becoming mentor for someone who works in their field of experience(for example a teacher mentoring young teacher) and at the same time learn the Ayurvedic and home medicines in India.

Given the current global scenario (Of fear,xenophobia and intolerance), do you think cultural exchanges are necessary?

Cultural exchange nowadays is more important than ever. Intolerance and fears often result from stereotypes and simply the lack of knowledge. It is easier to accept what someone tells you then seeing it for yourself. It is important for people to create their own truths through exploring different worlds and seeing first-hand how it actually is.

Could you talk briefly about the relationship between India and Germany currently? Is there a change with the change in government?

To me Indo-German relation was never so good before, at least since unification of Germany. Both government are meeting bi-annually, 3rd meeting was concluded last month. We never had bad relations,we weren’t in each others priority list, and china was the biggest gainer. Now Germany is looking towards India as possible destination for investment and big market to promote their product and at same time Make in India program is attracting more Germans to invest in India. Having said that, government can make grounds but it’s still the people who need to play to make a match happen.

Could you give insights into IGYLF, the goal, mission and accomplishments of it

You would be surprised to know that IGYLF is appreciated by our Prime Minister Modi and German Chancellor Merkel in their joint statement on 30th may 2017. In a nutshell it’s a platform for young leaders to meet and make relations and experienced leaders to pass on the baton and relations to young people who are interested in Indo German relations. In first conference Deutsche Bank CEO and AUDI Director and Ex German Ambassador and Indian Ambassador were present to pass on the experience and relation they made during the lifetime.

Could you talk about the Cultural bridge and its work in India

Cultural bridge is supported by IAAW at Humboldt University Berlin. In first phase we selected 4 students from different universities of Germany. They did their individual internship but taught German in Government schools and made a envoi mental awareness campaign for up-cycling of plastic waste bottles, made art out of plastic waste which is installed on main city walls. And translated a local German song in Hindi and learnt Hindi version and taught German version and performed with school kids. Learnt Indian musical instrument in Blind school with visually impaired students and many more– all done in two month of internship…

Why is the cultural bridge important? For tolerance, awareness and responsibility?

Its one of its kind, for people to people connect. Germany’s demographic is changing with many refugees coming in the country. For German students, India is best country to learn cultural acceptance and tolerance towards other cultures. At the same time, in small cities, white person is still the angrej(british), Cultural bridge is trying to play important role for students to make their internship possible at this time and in future to study in each other’s country. The student doing internship from Germany get credit points in their degrees and it’s considered as one subject cleared.

What are the programs?

The program gives the students a different view on the Indian culture and lets them explore the country through their own eyes. They actively engage in cultural talks, events and if desired they can create their own projects like the ‘Green Wall Project’. It is totally up to the participants to decide what their mission for their internship is. Whether they want to spread environmental awareness, teach English, German or teach about other worldviews and cultures.

Which of these programmes are loved by the students? What are the highlights of (the German programme track)?

Student liked the teaching part most as they get a chance to interact with students. Secondly they like the freedom to chose their path with plethora of opportunities. In second batch we have selected 4 Girls from Germany, they like to work on child marriage(which is still an issue in Rajasthan), water pollution–purifying water with traditional method, teaching woman hygiene to girls and campaign in favour of ‘No Horn Please’ with the city police under supervision of SP of District.

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