In Sudan, Fridays are dedicated to the family when all children meet at the father’s house for breakfast. This writer had the privilege of being with such a family last Friday. This was the house of Abdallah Khalil the second Prime Minister of Sudan from 1956-58. Abdallah Khalil’s son Amir had visited their farm house in Omdurman that morning and brought plenty of dates and other fruits. Amir Abdallah Khalil showed me his father’s room which was no less than a museum with antique collections of typewriter, telephone, music recorder, trophies, rifles and swords. There were photos framed on the walls showing Abdallah Khalil with many heads of state. The one that caught this writer’s attention was the one with Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. This photo was taken when Nehru visited Sudan.
Abdallah Khalil’s son Amir served the United Nations for 4 decades. He retired as Assistant Director General of Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. After retirement he was assigned to UN headquarters at New York as Advisor to FAO for Security Council Affairs. Currently Amir is the Chairman of Omdurman Teaching Hospital.
Exchange of Cultural Programs is a symbol of strong bilateral relations between two countries. So is the case between India and Sudan. Embassy of India in Khartoum in partnership with Ministry of Culture Sudan brought Goa Kala Academy under the aegis of Indian Council of Cultural Relations in New Delhi.
Goa Kala Academy performed folk songs and dances of Goa at the National Theatre of Omdurman on Thursday 18 May. Goa is a picturesque state in the West Coast of India. Goa has its own rich tradition of folk lore and folk art tradition. A ten member troupe from Goa Kala Academy performed various folk songs and dances with colourful costumes and ‘props’. The dance forms ranged from winding and unwinding of braids with brisk footwork, lamp dance with gymnastic skills balancing the brass lamps on their heads, warrior dance with swords and horse heads on the waists and stilt dances.
Minister of State for Culture Dr.Hasabalrasoul Ahmed inaugurated the program along with the Ambassador of India Amrit Lugun. They were joined by the Commissioner of Omdurman Majdi Abdulaziz.
The audience comprised Ministers, Diplomats, Dignitaries and members from both Sudanese and Indian communities. The Cultural troupe will also perform in Madani.
Having spent my childhood in a hill station, I have always had an affinity for the mountains. The picture of the hills in the Sudanese ‘tenner’ drew me towards it this time during Eid holidays. The famous Taka Mountain is located in Kassala in eastern part of Sudan near the Eritrean border. Interestingly during World War II, Italy had briefly occupied Kassala. British Indian troops fought alongside Sudanese in Eritrea in 1941 winning the decisive battle of Keren (earning the Bengal Sappers a Victoria Cross for mine clearance in Metemma, now on the Sudan-Ethiopia border). The Sudan Block of India’s National Defence Academy was partly funded with a gift of one hundred thousand pounds from the Sudanese Government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II. Taka comprises of cone like peaks (some refer to them as sugarloaf mountains) named Mukram, Taka, Toteil and Aweitila. On the way to Kassala the green and fertile lands of Gadarif can be seen which grows sesame, sorghum, sunflower and other agricultural products. Kassala is famous for its fruits especially the Grape fruit. Kassala is in the border of Eritrea and the seasonal rivulet Al Gash flows from Eritrea to Kassala. The people in Kassala are different from the Sudanese we see in Khartoum. They have maintained their ethnicity in terms of attire and culture. There is a small trading Indian community of around 125 people. They were busy in their shops in the Indian Souq till wee hours of day of Eid. Travelling outside Sudan to its provinces during Eid is not a good idea because the shops and services come to a standstill.
‘Ink Man’ is the No.1 shop for repairing Printers in Sudan. They have many branches with equal repute and goodwill. I can vouch for them with my experience today. My HP Officejet 4500 Wireless printer had stopped scanning and photocopying. It was printing alright. Two of my friends directed me to ‘Ink Man’ in downtown Suk Al Arabi. The owner of shop named Nour got the problem fixed in a jiffy and refused to accept any payment, saying that the job was very small. Found him to be a gentleman with ethics and integrity. Many of his employees who learnt the skill from him earlier have opened shop in the neighbourhood. He is happy for them because Nour is a true leader. Next time you have any problems with your printer call Nour 0912190380.
Last Monday, 15th August was my fourteenth year in Sudan celebrating Indian Independence Day. As in the previous years the Indian community got together in the morning at India House, the residence of the Ambassador. The Ambassador of India H.E. Amrit Lugun unfurled the national flag with the singing of the national anthem. He then delivered his speech to around 200 people from the Indian Community which included both the people of Indian origin and Indian nationals. He recalled the historic moment at the 1955 Bandung Conference, where the delegation from Sudan, a country still not independent did not have a flag to mark its place. Taking out his handkerchief, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote “Sudan” on it, thus reserving a place for Sudan in the international community. India and Sudan have maintained cordial and friendly relations. Sudan Block in India’s National Defence Academy was set up with the funding of one hundred thousand pounds from the Sudanese Government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II. Ambassador Lugun read out the speech of the President of India. To quote an excerpt “As we celebrate our seventieth Independence Day, I respectfully bow to the heroes of our independence struggle – known and unknown – who fought, suffered and sacrificed their lives to win freedom for us. Mahatma Gandhi’s luminous leadership finally made the British Quit India in 1947. When we gained independence in 1947, nobody believed that India will survive as a democracy. Yet, seven decades later, one and a quarter billion Indians with all their diversity have proved those forecasts wrong. The strong edifice of democracy built by our founding fathers on the four pillars of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity has withstood several threats from both within and without and has grown from strength to strength”.
The speech was followed by a cultural programme where children from Omdurman Indian School and Khartoum schools presented patriotic songs. The members of the Indian Ladies Club of Khartoum sang patriotic songs in a group. In spite of being a working day people took out time in the morning to pay tribute to their mother land.
Today we witnessed a cremation in Sudan. This is the only crematorium, situated under Umbadda District near Jabel Al Markhiyat and maintained by the Indian community in Omdurman. The crematorium is well designed with cross ventilation and the pyre with dry wood and straw is placed on an iron stand. Ibrahim is well skilled to undertake the cremation till the end. Fortunately this crematorium is available to expatriates like Japanese, Chinese and Hindus from India. We are grateful to Sudan for their open mindedness and extremely thankful to Dr. Anil Kumar Mithani Urologist and President of the Indian Community in Omdurman. Dr.Anil who is a son of the soil, went out of his way to help us.
‘Burn him not up, nor quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be scattered,
O all possessing Fire, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way unto the Fathers.
When thou hast made him ready, all possessing Fire, then do thou give him over to the Fathers,
When he attains unto the life that waits him, he shall become subject to the will of gods.
The Sun receive thine eye, the Wind thy Prana (life-principle, breathe); go, as thy merit is, to earth or heaven.
Go, if it be thy lot, unto the waters; go, make thine home in plants with all thy members.’
— Rigveda 10.16