Text supplied by By Satish C. Rai

The concept of Discover Your Indian Roots was first developed in 1994 by Satish Rai after his return to his then home in London from India. In this trip Satish Rai hoped to locate the roots of his paternal grand parents in the district of Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Satish had gone to UP armed with some information which he had managed to obtain from his uncle (father's elder brother).

His trip took him up to Lucknow and Basti. But as a first time visitor to India, he came up with a number of difficulties, mainly due to unfamiliarity with the area, lack of knowledge of assistance and services available, and companionship of a familiar person. After several days he returned to Delhi, without even getting close to his ancestral village.

Upon his returned to London his failure in Uttar Pradesh prompted him to write a paper 'Discover Your Indian Roots' in which he outlined the benefits India , specially Uttar Pradesh, could get if the central government of India and the State government of Uttar Pradesh (as well as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh), could get if they assisted the descendents of indentured Indians, (some 1 million of them were taken to European plantations from 1838-1916), to trace their roots and visit their ancestral roots in India. Today some 10 million descendants of Indentured Indian labourers live outside India.
In 1995 Satish Rai made another visit to India but was unsuccessful in getting near to his ancestral village once again. After posting this paper to the central Indian government and the State government of Uttar Pradesh in 1995, Satish Rai migrated form UK to live in Sydney Australia. While living in Sydney he promoted Discover Your Indian Roots via local Indian media.

In 1999 while planning his third visit to India he searched the net to get further information about Uttar Pradesh. During this search he came across Uttar Pradesh Tourist web site, which advertised Discover Your Roots Project. A great coincidence, he thought and sent e-mail to the project. Contact was eventually made and Satish Rai went to India to shoot footage for his documentary, which he named 'Milaap-Discover Your Indian Roots'. This documentary follows visit of former Fijian senator Asha Singh to her maternal and paternal grandparents homes in Uttar Pradesh. It also features interviews with officers of UP government's Discover Your Project and visits to several villages in Rae Bariely, Gorakhpur and Basti from where people had migrated to Fiji, Guyana and Surinam during the indenture period. The final part of the documentary takes Satish to Balrampur, where he documents his interview with local press regarding his search for grand parent's village. Subsequently he learned from contacts in Balrampur that his grand mother's village has been traced.

The documentary was shown in Sydney and in 2003 it was shown in Fiji during the India Week, which was held in August in Suva. During the India Week Satish Rai provided information on Milaap-Discover Your Indian Roots-sharing booth with the India Tourism-Sydney-its staff providing valuable assistance. The eight day information sessions provided information on tracing Indian roots to over 800 people and was able to trace roots of over 80 people. The support provided officers of India Tourism-Sydney, the local media, the organisers of India Week and the national Achieves Fiji was great and contributed enormously to the success of Milaap information project.

Encouraged by the success Milaap hopes to return to Fiji later in the year to assist thousands of others who wish to trace their ancestral villages in India. Milaap also plans to hold information days in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Auckland.

However the next project of Milaap is another documentary film shoot in India. The project will start on 11th September and finish on 29th September 2003. The documentary shoot will consist of documentation of visits of several Indo-Fijians to their ancestral villages in Rajasthan, Basti, Balrampur and Jabalpur. It will also document interviews with UP government officers, service providers and opinion makers. The team will also try to trace villages of some 80 indentured Indians whose immigration passes were extracted during Milaap week in Fiji. Visits to villages found will also be documented. This documentary will feature Fiji's popular opinion maker Thakur Ranjit Singh, who is a great supporter of Milaap project. The documentary will be ready for launch in Fiji during the next Milaap sessions in Fiji.
From its small start in London in 1994-Discover Your Indian Roots is becoming a popular project. So far it has managed to provide information to some 1000 people about tracing the roots of their forefathers in India and assist some 100 people to extract immigration passes of their ancestors which will certainly help them to locate their ancestral homes in India.

However the work ahead is enormous but with gigantic potentials for the descendents of the brave indentured Indian labourers and for India itself. In Fiji alone some 30,000 immigration passes for those labourers needs to be found and matched with the descendent who now exceed half million. Similarly world wide excess of half million such passes need to found and matched with their descendents who now number excess of 10 million.

A process has been started, which is slowly but surely spreading to the Descendents of Indentured Indians Diaspora. The Diaspora started in countries such as Mauritius, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Surinam and Fiji but now has spread around the globe. Slowly the descendents of the brave Indians who left India to make some money, but were not able to return to their families, are completing the journeys on their behalf, by returning to their villages after 100 odd long years. It offers great emotional satisfaction for millions of people and hope for many more.

If you need more information about Milaap-Discover Your Roots Project or the documentary film contact Satish Rai via email: rai2@iprimus.com.au.

By Satish Rai
BA (Hons)-London, MA- London-Sydney