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From Malabar to Indus, they are all Indians

By Arunkumar Bhatt

MUMBAI, JAN. 10. Indians living abroad have been given different "unofficial" names by the locals , and a list of such names is amusing.

No matter where in India you are from, you would be called "Malabar" in Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles and Madagascar. This is because most of the Indians the locals met first were from the Malabar Coast, the nearest Indian point, reasons K.D. Pillay, a trader from Seychelles, here to attend the Third Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

In Mauritius, where the Indian community is the largest, they have acquired many names but not all are charitable, says journalist Harish Chundunsingh. The locals call the Hindus "No. 22" and Muslims "Lascars" and "Ace of Spade."

"The Chinese call us `achyan' in Hong Kong," says jeweller A.S. Jamal. His reasoning is that like the Indians at home, in Hong Kong also they are in the habit of saying "achchha," which means "okay." The Chinese corruption of the word is the name of the Indian community.

Kumar Bajaj was born in Kenya but lives in New Zealand. He says that Indians are referred to as "Asians" in Kenya and "Indians" in New Zealand, where "Asians" refers to people from Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, there is no specific name for the community but one is called "Singh" if he puts on a turban, according to T. Selvam.

The French call the Indians "Indus" — which is how they pronounce "Hindu" — irrespective of the person's religion. Even Pakistanis are referred to as "Indus," says Bimal Day.

In Fiji, the local term is "Indo-Fijians." The ethnic clarity is to ensure that Indians do not claim any right to own land there, says Sainath Iyer.

In India too, overseas Indians have two names: "Non-Resident Indians" and "Persons of Indian Origin." While the former are Indian citizens, the latter could be holders of foreign passports.

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