The City of Brussels is home to a surprisingly large number of Indians. We learned this while speaking to Sriman Narayana Founder and CEO of Indian Confluence who also has a day job as a software professional at Infosys Lodestone. He found Indian Confluence in 2013-14 to promote Indian culture and values in Brussels.
In a tete-a-tete with Deepti Kaul, Sriman talks about his meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi, cultural exchanges between Indians and Europeans and Indian diaspora’s efforts of giving back to India.
CtoI- It's astonishing to know that so many Indians reside in Brussels. How did the idea of setting up an Indian confluence take place? The intention behind the whole concept and how many Indians are associated with the group?
Sriman Narayana- Yes! It is surprising but true that Brussels resides a decent number of the Indian population. Some people living here as long as 33 years. I have been in Brussels since last 6 years and the first Indian Confluence event was organised two years ago on October 25, 2014.One that started like a family event of potluck with 12 people has grown like anything.
Initially, we used to have a get-together to few families slowly, but steadily numbers increased, when families started getting associated with the group, we felt that we have a potential of making it a big confluence. We have a free membership and today almost two thousand people are associated with the group with hundreds of them being actively involved.
Indian Confluence’s main aim is to promote Indian culture, family values, art and music in Belgium. We tend to bridge the gap between European and Indian cultures and serve the community. Our objective is to bring people from all walks of life together to celebrate Indian festivals while introducing them to Europe, support Indians to integrate into Belgian society.
CtoI- Events organised by Indian Confluence and their popularity among Indians and locals?
Sriman Narayana- As a part of cultural exchange program, we organise Indian sporting events, world music concerts involving the fusion of Jazz, Soft Rock and Indian music, food festivals that have Indian handicrafts stalls, live music, dance beside 50 food stalls that offer different Indian cuisine. Food festivals have been successful in bringing Europeans closer to the Indian community, the energy at such events is contagious. You will see more Europeans than Indians at the event.
The latest food festival to woo locals and Indians was the one organised during Indian Independence Day 2016. Samosas, bhajis, curries, vegetarian delights, street food, home-cooked meals all this was available at the food festival, along with live music and dance.
The participation, enthusiasm is at its peak at these events, which are attended not only by Indians but Europeans as well.
Indian Confluence works towards the improvement of the quality of living in rural India and people adopt villages in different states of India, starting from Andhra Pradesh under smart village initiative. Whatever we earn through these cultural events, it is used in the smart village initiative.
CtoI- How was your experience of meeting Narendra Modi?
Sriman Narayana- It was a great privilege and proud moment to meet our Indian PM in Brussels. The event was attended by around 6,000 people. I came to know about the meeting just two days before the big day.
CtoI- Does your group also raise funds to help people in distress?
Sriman Narayana- We are not actively involved in this field yet, but we are soon planning to help people. Although we were constantly in touch with the Indian embassy during the terrorist attack in Molenbeek in March 2016.
CtoI- Have you received any recognition/help from the Indian government?
Sriman Narayana- No, we have not approached the government yet. However, the Indian ambassador usually attends the Indian events that we organise and that is about it.
CtoI- Do you plan to promote Indian Confluence in other countries?
Sriman Narayana- We plan to promote Indian Confluence in other countries too, but nothing is concrete yet. As of now, people in Netherland are a bit involved in our events.
CtoI- Have you stayed in any other country apart from Belgium? How is the life different?
Sriman Narayana- Yes, I had a brief stint of three months in the USA. Unlike Brussels, which is now home to me. The US is more culturally liberal and there is no language barrier. Europeans go with family values, language is a bit of a barrier, countries are very small and public transport is quite accessible.
CtoI-One thing that connects India with Brussels?
Sriman Narayana- Yoga connects India with Brussels. Like Indians, people here also give importance to family life and social customs.