India's Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, spoke to more than 1,000 pupils at the Indian High School in Dubai, on Friday.
He made a stop at the oldest Indian education institution in the Gulf region as part of his three-day visit to the UAE.
“You can work anywhere you like but have India in your heart,” he said in response to a question from a pupil who asked how youth living overseas can contribute to their home country.
Brushing aside a conventional outlook that people who left the country to study or work overseas were a ‘brain drain’, Mr Muraleedharan described making a mark abroad as a gain for India.
Cherish your roots
“Your service to India need not be that you go back to India and work there,” he said.
“When you go anywhere else in the world, uphold the traditions and culture of our country.”
He also asked pupils to not neglect the underprivileged sections of society.
“Earlier, Indians who received education in India but went abroad for work were termed "brain drain". We no longer use that word for the phenomenon now," Mr Muraleedharan said.
“We say Indian youth have transformed the whole world into their workplace.
“So, you may have received your education in India or you are studying in Dubai, always uphold the tradition of vasudeva kutumbakam (the world is one family).”
He urged schools and organisations to provide stationery for needy children and clothes for the poor instead of presenting mementos and coffee table books to guests at events.
Education is key to success
He also spoke of the need for pupils to adapt to a fast-paced changing environment by regularly updating their skills and valuing the education they have received.
“The world is witnessing rapid changes in education,” Mr Muraleedharan said, mentioning the skills initiatives announced by governments in India and the UAE.
“The Covid pandemic has further accelerated changes in every field including learning.
“Knowledge and skills required for tomorrow will certainly be different from what we have got used to today.
“It’s important to acquire knowledge and skills and adapt to the changing environment.
“You all have to be ready to accept this change and foresee future challenges.”
The takeaway for students was to be the change themselves instead of offering advice to others.
"This is the first time I am seeing a minister address pupils in person. We relate and realise that we should really talk to people more and understand them,” said Gayathri Gopinath, a 16-year-old student.
Parthiv Jayachandran, 17, spoke of how academic excellence was not enough.
“It was interesting to know that along with academics, we also need to develop and learn to contribute and help others.”
Mr Muraleedharan will meet community, business leaders and workers on Friday and Saturday.