The Indian community across Australia celebrate Independence Day
Representing our motherland in our new home
Responding to an invitation from the High Commissioner’s office, a group of retired service officers made a trip from Sydney to Canberra to attend the Independence Day celebrations. Apart from the fabulous weather, the great drive and very engaging company, the day is one to remember. The ceremony was held at the Commonwealth Club in Canberra and the guests were received by the High Commissioner Mr. Biren Nanda and his wife and other members of his office. The atmosphere was electric and there was an excitement in the air. It was great to see the Indian officers mingle with their serving counterparts from the Australian defence forces. As finger food and soft drinks were served, guests from the two countries mingled with each other sharing their thoughts and views.
Then it was time for the official ceremony. A toast was raised to the President of India which was followed by the Indian national anthem. A toast was then raised to the Queen and this was followed by the Australian national anthem. The true essence of being an Indian Australian dawned on me as I sang both the anthems with equal fervour and pride. The High Commissioner Mr. Nanda addressed the august gathering which included the chief guest Senator Lisa Singh and Andrew Leigh representing Foreign Minister Bob Carr. In his speech Mr. Nanda spoke about the bilateral ties between Indian and Australia and how the visit of former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard to India helped improve and tighten these ties as it opened a ‘new chapter’ in the Indo-Australian relationships. He also spoke about Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s visit in 2009 that prompted the growth of relations between India and Australia in the fields of education and trade. He hoped that these relations would continue to grow and strengthen as ministers from both the countries continued to visit each other.
Senator Lisa Singh quoted lines from Nehru’s famous ‘tryst with destiny’ speech as she spoke about her Indian connections. She articulated that the Indo-Australian relations were strong, healthy and ever-growing. She spoke about the large number of Indian students studying in Australian universities and about the formal agreements between Australian and Indian universities, including student exchange, staff exchange and academic research. She also spoke about the Australia India Institute established in the University of Melbourne which has helped enhance the understanding and cooperation between the 2 countries. The senator’s speech was inspiring and delivered a strong message of continued friendship.
In his speech, Andrew Leigh spoke about his Indian connections, his visits to India and the vibrancy of the Indian nation. He spoke about the interesting Indian politics and was amazed at the way elections were held and offices formed in the largest democracy in the world. His speech was very refreshing and laced with humour.
As the ceremony concluded the feeling was one of exuberance and pride of being Indian Australian. As Indian Australians we make positive contributions to the fabric of the community that we are currently a part of. It is the Indians in Australia who create and build the platforms for better ties between the two countries; we are the representatives of our motherland in this adopted country of ours and we should always be conscious and aware of this responsibility.
A song for azaadi
The Independence Day flag hoisting ceremony in Sydney did not follow tradition this time round.
In a change from routine, the event was held around midday, as opposed to 9 am in previous years. Those of us who had to leave work on a week day to attend, expected to see a thin crowd but we were pleasantly surprised indeed. Gathered at the Consul General’s Pleasant Ave residence in East Lindfield, on a pleasant winter morning, were some 300 members of the Indian community, all geared up to sing the national anthem, many dressed in suitably Indian colours.
Lucky Singh wore her cherished tiranga jhanda as a dupatta over a plain white churidar suit (ok, not really, we know she’s way too patriotic for that: her chunni was daintily dyed in the national colours). Rekha Bhattacharya, an Allahabad University alumnus who has always worn white on Independence Day, brought out her pearl-white Assamese silk sari for the occasion. And the adorable Oscar was there again this year as every year, in his trademark Nehru cap and swashbuckling khadi suit worn over his favourite Gandhi-themed t-shirt.
Consul General Arun Goel was no doubt tickled pink that his little experiment had worked. He said at the outset that the change was in keeping with local demand as community members found it hard to get to the north shore at an early hour. As well, he declared, the new timing coincided with the timing of the real celebration back home.
Not changing tradition however, he unfurled the Tricolour, led the gathering in a rendition of the national anthem, and read out the message of the President of India on the occasion.
The President’s missive was a call to rise up to the many challenges that face the nation today. He spoke early on about the declining morals within society, a cause for concern for every right-thinking citizen. “We have allowed unbridled personal enrichment, self-indulgence, intolerance, discourtesy in behaviour and disrespect for authority to erode our work culture,” he declared. “The ideals of patriotism, compassion, tolerance, self-restraint, honesty, discipline and respect for women have to be converted to a living force”. He spoke of the need for a “judiciary that gives justice without delays”, and the need for world class universities as entitlements that will lead to empowerment of the people. The Uttarakhand tragedy and the Maoist violence in Chhatisgarh also found mention. To end, he reminded his people of their democratic duties in terms of the upcoming general elections, and somewhat spiritually, placed responsibility directly in their own hands if they wanted to see change in the larger society.
Afterwards, the gathering moved to an adjacent community hall for a cultural show. The regular culprits were up on stage, Vinod Rajput, Rekha Rajvanshi and others. But it was newbie Dawa Dolma that stole the show. Her strong Ae mere watan ke logon literally brought the house down. Dear Rekha Bhatta was reduced to tears in a hall that came to an absolute standstill. And if you thought it was because she is one of the older members of the community, what would you say to the twenty-something Deepa Gupta who openly jabbed away at her eyes with a tissue. CG Goel revealed later that Dolma rang his office out of the blue, to say she wanted to present this particular number on the occasion. Our very own Lata Mangeshkar was inundated with offers afterwards.
The brunch that followed – or should we call it a filling lunch – was very welcome after that emotional interlude. The fresh bhature, the biggest samosas you have ever eaten, the gulab jamuns and the masala chai were all lapped up eagerly.
Hurray for azaadi, a newfound singing sensation, and… oversized samosas.
Rajni Anand Luthra
And where were you on 15 Aug 1947?
A crowd of about fifty gathered at the India Consulate at 344 St.Kilda Rd, Melbourne to celebrate India’s Independence Day. The early morning ceremony saw the acting Consul General Raj Kumar unfurl the Indian national flag as the members of the Indian community collectively sang the national anthem.
Mr Kumar also read out the message of the Indian High Commissioner in Australia Mr Biren Nanda, to Indian nationals here.
“India’s relations with Australia have grown from strength to strength since the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two countries in 2009,” Mr Nanda observed. “Last year people born in India were the largest segment of new immigrants in Australia. The 400,000 strong Indian community in Australia is acting as a bridge between the two countries. They have the potential and the capacity to qualitatively transform our bilateral relations in the future”.
Community members then took the floor. The eighty-something Krishna Arora, everyone’s favourite “Aunty”, spoke warmly about her memories of mid August, 1947.
“I was a teenager in Delhi,” she recalled as everyone listened, enthralled. “There were feelings of happiness sweeping over the entire city. We sat glued to the radio, our only source of information. I remember the city all lit up in celebration. The India Gate area was decked up like I had never seen it before”.
No doubt the description was of the days before the religious riots between the Hindus and the Muslims broke out. Or perhaps, Mrs Arora cleverly chose to ignore that part of our history on this particular occasion!
84-year-old Gurminder Dhingra took the opportunity to remember Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first and most popular prime minister.
A poem presentation in Hindi by XxXXXX was another highlight.
Over snacks, the discussion was all about the upcoming Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to be held in Sydney later this year.
Independence: To wish for glory
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge…..At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long supressed, finds utterance”.
These immortal words of Pandit Nehru delivered an ancient and proud nation into independence. Almost seven decades from that day challenges and promises remain with the country now truly established on the world stage and one to be reckoned with and not taken lightly.
Across the world, Independence Day is celebrated by Indian communities big and small. In Adelaide the celebrations were conducted with pomp and ceremony with the Indian community out in force, many proudly resplendent in national dress. The proceedings, organised by the Indian Australian Association of South Australia (IAASA), started with the singing of the Australian and Indian national anthems. Dr Rakesh Mohindra, the incoming President of IAASA reminded us of how our forefathers had to fight long and hard for the freedom we are enjoying today. That it was a day for us to reflect on the sacrifices made and our opportunity to pay homage to those brave souls. Guests included Mr Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia, Mr Hieu Van Le, Lt. Governor of South Australia, other ministers of the State, and local government representatives. South Australia has singled India out as a country with which it would like to establish trade links so it was not surprising to have the Premier, Jay Weatherill, state his desire to establish a broad-based economic and cultural approach on an institutional basis with India. Other speakers present also extolled the positives to be had in a relationship with India. Recognition was also paid to the large number of migrants from India who call South Australia home.
Following the speeches, the mood was lightened by music and dance from all corners of the country highlighting the variety of language, race, culture that is India. The programme commenced with the Bharatanatyam prayer dance Pushpanjali in welcome to the audience. This was followed by a touching performance of a patriotic song in Telugu by Sharda who dedicated the song to her mother and to her childhood when she was taught this song. A simple delivery, a lovely voice coming from the heart was quite captivating. The Temple of Fine Arts bravely put on a Gujerati Dandiya dance with children some of whom were of pre-school age. The brightly coloured clothes, the clicking of sticks and movement in dance could only be applauded by an appreciative audience. We had the aptly named and very accomplished Murali Ramakrishnan playing a haunting melody on the murali. The cultural programme came to an uplifting end with the Guru Nanak Society performing a blazing bhangra with energy, colour and carefree abandon.
The importance of celebrations of the Independence Day cannot be overstated as one can easily forget in the daily humdrum of life the sacrifices made by many for our futures. The roll-call of our saviours such as Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, the debonair Bhagat Singh, Maulana Azad, Dadabhai Naoroji to name a few, goes on and on. But I leave you with the words of the mysterious, the enigmatic and the one who inspired fierce loyalty, Subhas Chandra Bose: “Mujhe khoon do, main tumhe azadi doonga”.
Celebrations as well as soul searching
The 66th anniversary of India’s Independence Day was observed on a warm sunny Thursday morning at the Honorary Indian Consulate in Brisbane. Although the turnout was a mere few people, it did not dampen the patriotic spirit burning strong in the hearts of those present.
The Indian flag was hoisted at 9am sharp by Archana Singh, Honorary Consul of India for Queensland along with Prof Sarva-Daman Singh, former Honorary Consul of India for Queensland. The Indian national anthem was sung with fervour.
Speaking on the occasion, Archana Singh, Honorary observed, “India can be very justifiably proud of all her achievements in all fields of industry, infrastructure, education, research and technology. Economic performance and growth rates are no doubt an important indicator of our tremendous achievement. However, hand in hand with the celebrations, some soul searching is also crucial to India’s future progress. It is only when every citizen becomes an integral part of the journey into the future and partakes of the benefits of freedom and development that we will be true to the memory of all freedom fighters. There is so much to be done. The mother that has nurtured and sustained us through trials and tribulations over the centuries, now more than ever needs careful attention”.
She further said, “We may not live in India, but in our own small ways, we can all honour and sustain her great traditions of social harmony, religious pluralism and freedom of thought and belief. This is the true essence of independence”.
Signing off with a Vande Mataram and wishing each other ‘Happy Independence Day’, people dispersed to either run to work or grab a bite of the hot fresh samosas. Not to forget devour sweet syrupy delicious gulab jamuns prepared by Archana Singh, Honorary Consul of India for Queensland, herself.