Statesman News Service | New Delhi
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One of the most important aspects of public diplomacy is the people-to-people connect, strengthened through bonds built over the years.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, India and Lithuania celebrated their 'personal bond', with the release of the book India and Lithuania: A Personal Bond. The event organised by the Lithuanian Embassy in New Delhi, in collaboration with the India International Centre, saw an august audience including Ambassador Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa and other dignitaries.
"The contacts between India and Lithuania started earlier than 1992, dating back to 1625 or even earlier. This history is waiting to be properly researched. The book is a wonderful example of how individuals can play an important role in forging a strong relationship between two countries" said Ambassador TalatKelpsa.
The book featuring Mahatma Gandhi and three Lithuanians: Poska, Vydunas and Kallenbach on its cover, is a unique chronicle of the journey, times and contributions of these historical personalities towards the development of a special connect between two geographically distant nations.
For example, few people in India know that Hermann Kallenbach, Gandhiji's closest associate during his South African times, came from the small western Lithuanian town of Rusne!
The book provides a detailed account of how Kallenbach and Gandhi's journey. Adventure is the other name of Antanas Poska, who travelled from Lithuania to India on a motorbike in 1931! In fact, the University of Calcutta honoured Poska with a posthumous D.Litt. in 2014.
Compiling the book must have seen many challenges. Ambassador Talat-kelpsa agrees. "Collection of data was a huge challenge, besides the logistics pertaining to the publishing of the book.
The greatest challenge lies ahead in the continuation of the process of research of bi-lateral relations, so that the book does not become an onetime event. In fact, the book will be launched in Kolkata, Bangalore and New Delhi. We expect the events to draw enough media attention in order to help propagate the message."
The launch of the book was followed by the screening of the documentary Lithuanian Coloumbuses in India, which covers the stories of those prominent Lithuanians who have left a footprint in India since their first arrival, way back in 1625! What was the inspiration behind the making of the film? Director Edita Mildazyte elaborates "In 2018, Lithuania will celebrate its centenary as a republic. Men and women, in our history, have left a legacy behind them, stories which I wanted to compile into a series of documentaries of the destinations they had travelled to–India was one of those destinations. In fact, my appreciation for the valour and spirit of Lithuanians like Rudamina and Szostak, who came to India in the 17- 18th century, rose manifold, after I myself came to experience India and all its rich diversity. An emotional connect was developed with the protagonists of my films."
Mildazyte adds that the response to her film has been encouraging, with letters and phone calls from all quarters. She concludes on a philosophical note "My 'Indian' episode has a deeply personal connection. Firstly, I lost my husband just before coming here, so my trip to India was, in a way, a sort of escape. Secondly, I was introduced to so many wonderful people, with such interesting stories that I could have not imagined, even in my dreams." And journeys of a lifetime start with the turning of a page…