Canterbury celebrates Indian independence
The growing Indian community in Canterbury celebrated the Indian Independence Day, which falls on August 15, with full patriotic vigour, home-sick emotions, and festive moods, spread across that weekend.
"The Indian diaspora - always a large and dynamic entity all around the world - is composed of two main divisions. First is, people like me, first generation immigrants, who had lived a part of their lives in India and are familiar with what Independence Day means back home. Other section is the second and third generation immigrants who have not actually lived in India and may be unfamiliar with the emotions associated with August 15th. So such celebrations are an effort on our part to remember our home country, as well as share our history with Kiwi Indians and the wider community," noted Deepak Sharma, a volunteer with the city-based Indian Social and Cultural Club, who was instrumental in organising the Club's mid-winter Ekta [unity]festival on August 13, which was the part of Independence Day celebrations in Christchurch.
Indian Cultural Group
But before that, the weekend-long celebrations started with a pot luck dinner and a special quiz night organised by the Indian Cultural Group (ICG) on August 12, at the Te Hapua Halswell Centre. The quiz master was Dr Krishna Badami, an oncologist at Christchurch Hospital, and Dr Kishore Malhotra, who lives in Sydney was the host. In line with the patriotic feel of the evening, there were few dance and song performances as well.
Paayal Sharma, a journalist who has recently moved to Christchurch from India and is still adjusting to the life in New Zealand, was overwhelmed with emotions while listening to the patriotic songs being played throughout the evening. "While nothing can replace celebrating the Independence Day back home with friends and family, celebrations like these bring back those memories even if it is for a sole evening. We won our freedom after a hard fought struggle spread over a century. It's important that our young generation doesn't forget this."
Christchurch City Councillor, Jimmy Chen, who was the chief guest at the event, congratulated the gathering on India's Independence Day and thanked them for making the City a vibrant place full of colours.
Indian Social and Cultural Club
This was followed by the Indian Social and Cultural Club's Ekta festival on August 13.
The concert-style three-hour long celebration saw 21 performances with almost 135 participants showcasing their talent on stage. These included the Bollywood Dreams company, the Bharatnatyam Group of Christchurch, Nirosha and Group, Jalsa Hip Hop, and Laasya Kerela.
But the highlight of the evening was the part rendition of a widely revered Indian poet Subhdra Kumari Chauhan's famous poem on one of India's great women freedom fighters, Rani Laxmi Bai.
"We had around 650 people attending the festival, which shows the strong connection Indian diaspora in Christchurch feels towards Indian history and culture," said Natu Rama, President of the Club, whose family moved to New Zealand from Gujarat 100 years back.
Rama, in his speech, talked about Christchurch's connection with India, and shared the story of how the Cashmere area in Christchurch got its name after the Indian state of Kashmir.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, National List MP based in Manukau East, and Jo Hayes, National List MP based in Christchurch East, were the chief guests during the event.
"In the last eight years that I have been in the Parliament, I have seen the contribution of the Indian community grow leaps and bounds in New Zealand's success. This is a testimony to our shared ethos, and commitment to human democratic values,” noted Bakshi.
The Club also organised a special Tricolour hoisting ceremony on August 15, at 7.30 in the morning in Latimer Square in the City's CBD. The event ended with the gathering singing Jana Gana Mana - India's national anthem - in unison.
The City's corporate world was also not far behind in recognising and honouring India's freedom struggle. “Our company, AuCom Electronics, which is one of firms in Christchurch with the most diverse workforce, will be flying the Tricolour throughout this week to mark the Indian Independence Day,” said Shirish Paranjape, the International Sales Manager of the company who moved to Christchurch from Mumbai in 2002. Brent Archer, CEO of AuCom added, “This has been the tradition in our company over the last 15 years, and our small way of honouring what Indians achieved.”
The South Canterbury Indian Cultural Society, a non-profit based in Timaru, also organised a Disco Night on August 13, to mark the Indian independence, as well as provide an opportunity to new immigrants from India to get to know the community.