Press release, June 20, 2016

Tomorrow, on the 21st of June the International Day of Yoga will be commemorated for the second year. Celebrations will take place in 10 cities and towns, and the main venue for all events – lectures, yoga activities – will be Vilnius City Hall. Mr. Rajinder Kumar Chaudhary agreed to share his personal story and the importance of yoga.

Mr. Rajinder, how long have you been living in Lithuania and how did you get here?

I left Delhi, India in late 1992 for Moscow. At first I headed a British company, afterwards – a Dubai based company, I was a CEO. My contracts finished in 1997 and I decided to start my own business. During my stay in Russia I travelled a lot in the East Europe and really liked Lithuania and Latvia. I had a friend from Kaunas who said “Why don’t you come to Lithuania?”, and I went to the then Consul of Lithuania in Moscow who is now a Senior Ambassador Rank Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vilnius, and he recommended it as a great country. So I took my wife to whom I was married in India for many years, and we moved there. On June 21 I will celebrate my 19th anniversary in Lithuania. Unfortunately my first wife died a few months after we moved here, and in 2000 I married for the second time. She is a doctor and works in Dubai for the last six and a half years.

What were your first steps here? Did you work in the Consulate the whole time?

In 1997 I opened my first restaurant in Vilnius, then in Tallinn, Parnu, Riga, Jurmala. I was soon appointed as the First Honorary Consul of India to Lithuania. I Was very busy running 7 Restaurants in the Baltics but once I was free from those 6 in Latvia and Estonia, I was once again appointed the Honorary Consul last year. It’s a semi-diplomatic career, and the Honorary Consulate is dependent on the Indian Embassy which is in Warsaw.  At the beginning I thought it would be just a status job but it is not so, I have many responsibilities, especially with so many Indian students studying in Lithuania.

Do you miss India? Or do you feel Lithuanian already?

I haven’t lived in India for 24 years now but I go there 6-8 times annually. I miss my closest people, my friends, family ties are extremely important in India so I look for any kind of excuses to go there. My friends and relatives also visit me; my younger sister comes here every year and spends three months here. Now I am a happy citizen of Lithuania for the last two and a half years.

If you compared Lithuanian and Indian societies, are they very different?

The main difference between Lithuania and India – is the number of people, 2.8 million in Lithuania and 1.25 billion in India. But culturally we have a lot more in common, our values are the same – we give a lot of respect to our families, our parents, we bring up our children with love and care. We both give plenty of freedom to individuals. Your language is very nice it is a little bit like Sanskrit and Hindi. And you also take off your shoes while entering the home and so it is done in India, and many other common traditions. Even the Pagans have very similar customs to our traditional Hindi customs.

Yoga has deep roots in India; is it widespread in the world?

There are some misconceptions about yoga, it is about 7000 years old in India, it is not something new. Basically it is cleaning of the body and mind, keeping healthy. It is a way of life, and currently the younger people are more involved in yoga because the advantages of keeping fit are far better than keeping ill. Many people think that India is imposing its religion via yoga, but it is the Hindu Philosophy of keeping the Body and mind healthy and active. And almost 177 countries in the United Nations supported the declaration of June 21st as the International Day of Yoga. Yoga is now very popular in Japan, China, even in every American city you can find yoga clubs – there is no need to convince people that healthy life, clean body and mind is important.

Do people make mistakes while practicing yoga here?

There are variations of yoga, many types, forms, but the basics of the philosophy and exercises are the same, so there are no big differences between what people are doing here and what in India.

Can it survive in the modern world?

Many of the large companies have now introduced compulsory half an hour yoga routine five days a week, because everyone got to realize that your energy levels go up. Our Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has been exercising yoga for 30 or 40 years, and now he works 18-22 hours a day, so averagely he sleeps 2-5 hours a day: it is a power of yoga. He maintains a healthy lifestyle, he fasts for a week twice a year.

Do you personally do yoga?

I used to do yoga personally, but I have a broken spine in 4 or 5 places for many years and it is now not recommended. But instead I walk a lot, and I live very healthy, so I can work 16 hours a day. I keep myself fit doing simple exercises.

You said there are many yoga clubs in Lithuania, is being healthy something that Lithuanians crave?

Lithuanians have always been very fitness-conscientious, practically every family is involved in sports, outdoor activities, marathons… It has never been so in India, and people never took sports as an equally important activity to keep fit therefore we have so few gold medals in sports events, comparing to you. And now it is changing in India too. I was surprised to see many yoga clubs in Vilnius, no one forced to open them, but people are attracted to it.  For Lithuanians accepting yoga was never a problem.

Tomorrow, on the 21st of June, International Day of Yoga is taking place in the world and the Honor Consulate of India for Lithuania is organizing various events. What was the experience last year?

Last year we held an international Yoga day in 18 cities, but there was a heavy rain so the participation was not as great as we expected so we hope for a better weather.

What about famous people, maybe they could be yoga ambassadors and attract more people?

People are still shy associating themselves with yoga, there are no popular personalities, while in Poland there are famous yoga ambassadors. Some people believe that Yoga is a matter of personal choice and they therefore wish to avoid displaying their choices personally. But this Yoga day is not an Indian function, it’s an international event – Lithuania also voted for this day. So I am Inviting everyone, especially famous people that Yoga has no religious affiliations with Hinduism and we hope to see many more people visiting the celebrations.

Does this day play an important role in India’s international relations?

We don’t use it as a tool, as diplomacy. It is just to say that we’ve been using yoga for thousand years, and we can share the advantages. There is no copyright for yoga, so we don’t charge anything 

We also organize many cultural events: we have a group of Lithuanian girls who dance Indian dances, sometimes we do joint activities with Indian musicians that come here. There are 2-3 major events where consulate takes part. We also work with universities, organizing events promoting India, we invite groups of India to present the culture of India, we organize two National day receptions – for the Independence and Republic days.

What is the most crucial activity on the 21st in the City Hall of Vilnius?

From my perspective, we have a really good program for the 21st, and every presentation, dance, yoga session is very important. People should come and participate, to gain some knowledge, because knowledge is never wasted. India is taking a lead in organizing the International Day but so do many other countries and thus it is a shared celebration. I will try to participate at least in a couple of places myself, and will attend the main events in Vilnius Town hall.