Diasporas Can Disappear, the Homeland is forever

0908threeapples (Medium)Once there was and there was not …

… a neighborhood in a suburb of Kolkata, India, where a tall, pristine white stone wall separates the grounds of a sparkling Armenian church from a modern-day slum and its poverty, smells, refuse, rabid dogs, and noisy rickshaws.

Security guards kept the native neighbors at bay as our group of tourists entered and exited the church grounds. We were there a year ago today, a group of Armenians from around the world making a pilgrimage to India on the 300th anniversary of the founding of one of the Armenian churches in Kolkata.

My stories of the journey and India are on the Internet, so there is no sense in repeating Indian-Armenian history or reality. Why I write this column is to convey abstract premonitions after my nearly-month-long journey to the once-thriving Armenian community there.

While the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin has done a remarkable job of keeping our Indian-Armenian churches, schools, centers, and senior home functioning, the once-thriving community has dwindled in size. Armenians began leaving India after British merchants – backed by the Empire’s banks – began to eat away at the prosperous businesses they had established under the directive of the Persian Shah Abass.

Dwindling profits and opportunities in better places like Australia and the Americas initiated the decrease of the Armenian population in India. A traveler today will find a beautiful and hospitable Armenian community in various parts of India. They will also find far-away churches that go unused, forgotten cemeteries that are visited once every six months, and markers that record the history of a once-super-sized and now-downsized Armenian community.

Next Stop, the Twilight Zone

A few days after the 300th anniversary of the St. Nazareth Church at the Taj Bengal Hotel, and a few days before the mass murders of tourists on the streets of India, I left Kolkata to embark on the longest journey I’ve ever taken in my life.

It was the third week of November of 2008, and my journey began with an hour-long drive to the airport through frenzied freeways where no one follows traffic laws. There was a two-hour wait in a humid, fly and mosquito-infested airport and a three-hour flight to Delhi. After six-hours at the Delhi airport, there was an eight-hour flight to London, another four hours in London, and another half-day flying across the Atlantic to Los Angeles.

The journey not only felt like I was coming from another place on the other side of the planet, but it felt like I was coming from another time. The flights were like time machines bridging an old world with the new, bridging the 2008 world of India with the dark realities that are also possible in Los Angeles 300 years into the future.

Standing outside Tom Bradley terminal at LAX, listening to the whistles of traffic cops, the commotion of the cars, smelling the disgusting vapors of the buses, I flashed forward and realized how possible it would be for a group of Armenian pilgrims to be waiting for their tour bus in the year 2308.

These tourists would be arriving for their pilgrimage if our country’s corporations, politicians, and citizens keep on the apocalyptic path they’ve been on for nearly a decade – a path of wars, fear-mongering, fraud, and a path of ignoring the needs of the general public.

I imagine if the rich and powerful in rich and powerful nations ignore and abuse the masses, once-thriving nations become catastrophic societies boiling over with poverty, ethnic and religious gangs, lawlessness, and failing social systems.

The Armenians pilgrims would arrive from an elsewhere they would have escaped to if our modern-day America becomes a place with an economy so out-of control that our government could not feed, clothe, shelter, educate, and employ its citizenry. Instead of humans evolving to higher, more soulful creators, they would become dehumanized, banal, and useless forms of life.

Apocalyptic America

In the apocalyptic America of 2308, the Armenian tourists would come from a newer economy, from a society of abundance, from a future elsewhere. They would arrive by ship from the Chinese province of Hawaii, crossing the Great Ocean of the People’s Republic. They would come to see where their forebears lived and made history in what would in the future be the United States of Mexico.

The pilgrims would pile into an air conditioned bus and drive through thick clouds of smog, eastbound on pot-holed avenues like Wilshire and Santa Monica. Freeways would be dismantled by then, fallen into ill-repair or destroyed in turf wars. Entire portions of the city would be abandoned or flooded by the L.A. River whose concrete walls would have fallen apart letting nature control the flow of water in our basin.

The bus would have to maneuver past cattle and donkeys, past hawkers selling fragments of sidewalks from the Walk of Fame and pieces of the Hollywood sign. The bus would have to get past abandoned cars, bricks from fallen buildings, and drive through gravel or dirt roads to make its way to our old churches in Hollywood or Montebello.

The visitors would tour our school campuses in Orange County and Pasadena, marvel at how well-kept they are by the Holy See, and wonder why Armenians had settled in the Americas, in this flooded and broken down Babylon.

Hispanic-Armenians would entertain the visitors with images downloaded to the visitors’ hand-held computing and communication devices. These images, sights and sounds, would be from school video yearbooks and parades and dinner-dances.

The remaining Armenians of the Americas would recount for the visitors the days when Armenian basketball teams were crowned regional champions. They would talk about how Armenians ran the Hollywood studios, the casinos, and the military-industrial businesses that had eventually caused the failure of the most powerful nation in the world.

They would gleefully talk about the Kardashian Clan and how it ruled the sex and fashion industries while the Cult of the Partamians used comedy to battle the Kardashians in their individuals quests for ideological and TV ratings rule of the diaspora during the democracy-through-television era entertainment wars between Armenians.

The tour guide in 2308 would even make arrangements for the visitors to take smaller off-road vehicles on a day-long journey into the mountains of Southern California, where the tourists would see the camps where Armenian children spent summers before the devastating fires that burnt all vegetation away.

Starbucks Fix at the Grove

Before the doomsday scenarios had a chance to ferment in my mind, my friend Arsen who had picked me up from LAX suggested we stop at the Grove and get some coffee in me. With the first sip of caffeine, the scenarios of a doomed L.A. disappeared but the premonition of what could happen to the American-Armenian community and to our beloved America have stayed in my mind for the past year.

While the scenario of the dwindling Indian-Armenian community may be probable for any diasporan community around the world, what would remain true is what was true 300 years ago in India. The community there always had its eye on the Homeland. Diasporan communities, wherever they may rise-up in the future, will also have their eyes and hearts on the Homeland.

In India 300 years ago, the visionaries dreamt of returning one day to their beloved and mythical Armenia, their ancestral birth
place. They wrote volumes about an independent Homeland, where all citizens were equals. They sang songs about Ararat and about their historic culture of heroes. They did as we do now and as our remnant communities will do in 300 years.

A year ago, I deplaned from a jetliner, half-asleep, seeing the chaos around LAX, and imagined they were the same as the sights and sounds from the rat-infested, decrepit railroad station in Kolkata.

I imagined other diasporan communities being abandoned by our people as we made our way to newer economies and newer nations with better opportunities. I imagined Armenians taking their children away from civil or foreign wars, from poverty, and from crime and chaos.

I imagined Armenians landing and making a community in more hospitable lands, where the survival of our identity would be ensured. I also imagined our footprint in Southern California resembling the disappearing footprint of the Armenian community in India.

A year ago, I deplaned ready to rent a tux and raise money on Thanksgiving to build infrastructure in the independent and liberated homelands, knowing that while diasporan communities come and go, our focus will always be the Homeland.

Even though I will not be asking you for your donations this Thanksgiving, I ask you to always connect your identity, existence, and essence to that place you may today love or hate, that place which is your ancestral birthplace and your grand children’s final destination.

Connect your identity to our Homeland and do what must be done to ensure its survival not only for the next 300 years, but for another 3000 years.

And three apples fell from heaven: one for the storyteller, one for him who made him tell it, and one for you the reader.


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  1. Michael Stephan said:

    Dear Paul,
    Great article.Yes its true armenians are on the decline in India.I hope the Holy See of Etchiamiadzin as well as the armenian ambasador at India take more interest for armenians to come and settle in India.As you know India has been projected to become a super power by 2020.Infact the number of Expats now in India is very high.
    I hope and pray that by bringing a few families to Kolkata and Chennai the community would once again grow.I am sure the Kolkata church would help them if they were approached.One would not like to see the end of Armenians in India afterall we are part of India’s history.

    Michael Stephen
    Former,Caretaker.Armenian Church,Madras ,India
    Former Asst.Manager,ACPA.Kolkata,India

  2. Pingback: Diasporas Can Disappear, the Homeland is forever | Asbarez News | armeniatoday

  3. Nina Hovnanian said:

    As a Diasporan living in Yerevan I feel like I am living on a roller coaster here. One day I’m ready to leave, the next I’m thinking , ” you know, this place has legs (potential)….”
    But here is the bottom line… Armenia free and independent is here to stay, and it’s about time the Diaspora stops dreaming about the lost mythical Armenia and starts embracing the one we’ve got. The sooner the Diaspora embraces it — regardless of its flaws, the more we can make those dreams a greater reality. The Diaspora is Armenia’s greatest asset;and we the Diaspora needs to learn to play that it in our favor. We need a HUUUUUUGE influx of Diasporan immigration (I am in Armenia, so it’s immigration; for those of you living in the Diaspora it would be emigration or mass exodus). The greater the Diasporan presence, the bigger, more positive impact it will have on Armenia’s future. Armenia’s future, in essence, has a lot to do with Diasporan’s involvement in it. It’s up to you to help build that dream.
    So do get involved, visit it often and make it yours — it can be a dream come true.

  4. Sarkis Yeramian said:

    Bravo my Son You are `irav`armenian keep writing. Adding oil to “Gantegh“ of our survival.
    I am going to send this to my children to read and think about their future.

  5. Maria Titizian said:

    I always hoped that the final destination was meant for our generation, after all it was our generation who finally witnessed a free and independent homeland…the place our grandparents dreamed for us. I wonder what happened to that dream? We need reinforcements, if you know what I mean.

  6. Seervart said:

    His roundabout story made sense and his good point well taken. Indeed, our final destination; hopefully for good many of us who think and feel Armenian every day of our lives; is essential to repatriate for the sake of our children and our children’s children, and for the survival of the nation that we love – Armenia.

  7. Dino Ajemian said:

    “it’s about time the Diaspora stops dreaming about the lost mythical Armenia”. This sounds like it’s straight out of the pro protocols playbook endorsed by the Armenian Assembly and AGBU. The same guys who wanted help from the turkish lobby to stop the true Armenians in the Diaspora who are against the protocols. What kind of Armenians seek help from the turks against fellow Armenians? Pure traitors. It’s a divide between those who believe in and live the Armenian Ethos and those who do not. And those who do not are clueless or part of the plutocrasy/cleptocrasy that has continued to impoverish the Armenian people thru monopoly and nepotism. i’m sure you know what monopoly and nepotism mean Nina.

    Those who sought help from our eternal enemies also think they can do business with the turks and everything will be hunky dory. You think things will be fair in transport and trade with them? Boy, you guys are going to get burned. To you and the oligarchs the past is ENTIRELY meaningless. Lost and mythical? How can something be both lost and mythical? The vast majority of Armenians in the Diaspora AND in Armenia are against the protocols. It’s all about the future. And it has been sold at the lowest possible price by Armenians with no sense of pride, dignity or historical consciousness.
    The only legally binding instrument of international law is the treaty of Sevres and our enemies know it. Is the treaty of Sevres lost and mythical to you Nina? Is the Armenian Genocide something lost thru time and thus mythical that a sub commission is needed to find out what happened oh so many years ago? Armenia free and independent is not here to stay BECAUSE of the protocols. The protocols if implimented will destroy Armenia not save it. Quislings abound that will assist in the destruction of Armenia; the oligarchs, the sarkisyan’s and the Nina’s of the Armenian world. Turks love the likes of the Armenian Assembly, AGBU etc because that’s how they perceive all Armenians to be. They have a saying about Armenians who are for forgetting the past and looking just to the future, “Armenians are like dogs, you beat them and an hour later they are licking your feet.”

  8. Louise Kiffer-Sarian said:

    I am a poor old woman, but I have 4 children et 4 grand-children. I an sure one day they will go
    to Armenia. They know all our story. My father had written his diary when he was 14 years old
    I translated it in French from july 24th 1915, when all the family( 10 persons) had to leave adabazar and go
    to the,desert. After the war, they were only 4 left . He went to Constantinople and as his father had
    disappeard, he went to an orphanage and had a benefactor Mr. Tokatlian, who sent him to
    getronagan school. Then, he managed to come to Marseille, and had his little brother who was in
    an orphanage in corfu to come to France, and then he had his little sister come to France too.
    But hie died at the ge of 37 years old, we were 4 chidren, I was the eldest. We have been very miserable.

  9. Armanen said:

    Very well put Nina jan!

    Armenia is the future, it is the one place in the world where an Armenian can truly feel at home.

  10. David Keoseyan said:

    Armenians in Diaspora were vibrant society when Armenia was part of Soviet Union; The Armenians in Armenia lost their identity and became part of communist society.  While no body was attending to church ceremonies in Armenia, the Armenians in Diaspora were building Armenian churches and schools all over the world, and kept their identity better than the Armenians in Armenia.  While the Armenians in Diaspora were educating the whole world about the Armenian genocide, Armenia today is joining the Turks to review Armenian genocide ever happened.   While the Armenians in Armenia were changing their names to Russian names, the Armenians in Diaspora were keeping their fathers’ and mothers’ name alive by naming their children to their fathers’ and mothers’ name.   I have to stop here before going over the board.

  11. Lory said:

    Exeellent piece Paul. As always, your articles and commentaries excel in creativity and journalistic quality. I can’t believe you are not going to host the Armenian Telethon this year! My family and I wait very year to see you.  For years we have been watching you and I must say you were the only trained, professional TV journalist on the show. Not only that, you were so passionate and heartfelt on TV, you actually cared about the mission of getting assistance to the Homeland. What a shame! has the Armenia Fund lost soul and direction to replace one of their own just like that? We want Paul Chaderjian on TV!

  12. karineh said:

    Beautifully written Paul!  What great a visionary you are!
    And I too am sad to hear you are not hosting the Armenian Telethon this year…what a pity for us, the Armenian Diaspora, for who else can fill your shoes??

  13. Yeghia said:

    Exeellent article as always Paul. I will agree with the above comments – We want Paul Chaderjian on TV, hosting the Armenian Telethon, among other things!!!!

  14. George said:

    Armenia is the only solution. Diaspora is going to die sooner or later…..we need to learn from our history ..see whats happening to Iraqi Armenians….the once vibrant community in Lebanon is now screwed up…..while the Armenians in the Americas have stopped using the language. lectures are done about Armenia, genocide, Armenian identity all in english!!!
    Wake up diaspora…..Armenia is our last ship….one of the commenter’s talks about oligarchs and corruption…tell me my friend in which country there is no oligarchs and corruption? the middle east ? or the US which went to war in Iraq for Cheney’s and Bush’s oil and defense companies?
    Excellent Article! And a very well written title! a wake up call for all those diasporans……

  15. Tebi Yergir said:

    The conclusion to this article is clearly this. Im France you are French, In Spain you are spanish, and in  America you are American, so given this simple pattern we can only assume that we can only be whole 100% Armenians in Armenia. Or else we are simply leisure time Armenians for the most of us. 20% percenters at best as I see it. why 20% you ask, well because if you break down you time and energies you will come to a conclusion that at best you can contribute 20% of it to being Armenia in anywhere but Armenia. Anywhere else, you are eating, breathing, making, breaking, the goods and materials of that place.
    If we all remember the beginning of this country America, we can remember how the Americans had to come here to create a new world, not make plays from England which based on the history of the time did not do to well for other European imperial powers including England. So yes we can send money, sure we can lobby, sure we can sing songs and wear shiny clothing in court, but as history has shown us the only way to start something is by taking it, sitting on it, holding it, breathing it in falling in love with what is good and bad there, like the Pilgrims did, like allot of great civilizations in history did.
    This article reinstates my belief in the ability of Armenians to flourish anywhere in the world. If we can make money, create societies, lobby, etc, etc, it is about time we take our talents back to the homeland. This should be a wake up call for everyone. It happened in India, it will happen here and everywhere else.
    TEBI YERGIR ? or 20% percent at best (the decision is yours)

  16. George said:

    Tebi Yergir….I fully support you!
    I just want to REPLY to Mr David Keoseyan. I dont where you get your news or how you came up with the conclusion that “The Armenians in Armenia lost their identity and became part of communist society.” Just  a reminder my friend…..
    when the soviet union collapsed who was the first to vote for independence….not the diapsora for sure…it was the Hayasdantsi who was able to remain Hye and who remained the only people who didnt dissolve with the russians and stood for our country…….another reminder Mr Keoseyan …….when war broke out and Karabakh was in danger who went fight to fight? couple of hundred diasporans from Lebanon??? or the young Hayasdantsi and Artsakhtsis who fought for their land while the diaspora was following up the news through the media…..wake up my friend…lets not live in illusions anymore…..diaspora is dead more then before…..diaspora spends millions of  USdollars on the US congress and Lebanese parliamentary elections and for what???? what’s the result? ZEROOOO ..while that money could have been put into proper use in Armenia…Our land…our final destination and the only safe heaven for you and me and our children……..Tebi Yergir!

  17. Ninachka said:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Diaspora is dead more than ever. The Diaspora in LA, in Russia, in Europe is thriving today more than ever. Only God knows how it will be in the future, and let’s pray that the Diaspora will always be a thriving source of inspiration for Armenia.  
    The Diaspora’s driving force is its dream of Armenia — a dream that can become a reality if the Diaspora becomes more actively involved in its development — or re-development.  The problem is (there are no problems just situations!) that the Diaspora only pays lip service to that dream by simply sending money.  So while the Diaspora thrives, Armenia is crippled with the problem of always relying on outside resources to band aid over its problems.
    It’s not the same crippled Armenia as it was 10 years ago. But it is effectively morally crippled —  always relying on help from the outside to stand on its own legs but never quite getting there.
    A large influx of diaspora re-pats could fix this crippling effect in so many subtle ways.  It’s the fresh perspectives and know how that the Diaspora bring into Armenia that matter so much.  It’s the faith they have in God; it’s their old world values which have matured in a modern 21st c. way;  it’s their expertise in best business practices  in the fields of banking, medicine, sciences, technology, engineering;  it’s  their can do ethos, their  work ethic that can make such a dramatic impact on Armenia’s development.  The diaspora workforce has a willingness to work without 15  coffee breaks a day, and they understand the merits and the absolute necessity of consistency in performance and quality.
    All of these things are lacking today in Armenia but are so within reach if the Diaspora commits itself to building that dream together.  With a large influx of diaspora re-pats, Armenia would have a huge advantage over its present situations.
    Let’s not put down the efforts of the Diaspora, let’s not say it’s dying.  Let’s not say its efforts abroad have been a waste of time.  Let’s praise it and thank God for the Diaspora’s commitment to their undying dream.  But let’s ask the Diaspora to WAKE UP and make that dream a reality. It’s possible with the Diaspora’s participation and emigration to Armenia.   Armenia needs a great deal of repatriation NOW, whether Armenia knows it or not.

    • George said:

      Dear Ninachka,

      Your last paragraph asking the Diaspora to WAKE UP means indirectly that the Diaspora is in a deeep sleep.  

      The diaspora still dreams of Armenia while Armenia is a reality a fact more then ever. It’s everybody’s responsibility to make it a better place. But for Diaspora, Armenia is that old map on the wall and the occasional money donation which GOd knows where it goes. 
      We have great potentials in the Diaspora which can greatly transform Armenia to a modern country and regional power BUTTT we also have a negative propaganda within Diasporan circles against everything called “Hayasdan” and “Hayasdantsi”.
      This propaganda was so obvious when the protokols were announced.

      After the Independence, Independent Armenia became an essential part of our identity. We cannot ignore this fact.
      With multi citizenships, We can only have 1 Hayrenik yev verch.