Sydney Malayalee Association celebrates its 40th anniversary
Forty years ago, 25 likeminded families went together on a picnic, and ended up vowing to keep in touch with each other.
And thus Sydney Malayalee Association was founded.
“Twenty five families were all we had as Malayalees in 1976 in Sydney,” recollected Raman Krishnan Iyer, the first Secretary of the Association.
“Honestly, many were not sure where it would all go, given the financial constraints amongst many other barriers at that point. It is a matter of pride to see this seed that we auspiciously planted has been nourished well, and has now become a large tree with dense foliage and fair blossoms that provides shade and serves as an overarching presence over the entire Malayalee community in Sydney.”
This association that had such humble beginnings celebrated its 40th anniversary RubyFest in late April this year with much pomp and gaiety. Gracing this momentous occasion were the who’s who of Sydney’s cultural, political and social arena alongside 600 members of the community.
Mr B. Vanlalvawna, Consul General of Sydney, was the chief guest during the occasion. He joined Michelle Rowland MP, Dr Geoff Lee MP, Mark Taylor MP, Peter Primrose MLC, Chairman of Multicultural NSW G.K. Harinath, and President of UIA John Kennedy in congratulating the Malayalee community.
In his succinct speech, Mr Vanalalvawna touched upon the importance that Malayalees give to literacy and acknowledged the fact that Kerala is the only state with 100 per cent literacy in India. His mention of this particular element gave an interesting context to the most anticipated act of the night.
High achievers in the High School Certificate exams were honoured including the highest scorer from the community, Swaroop Philip, who scored 99.75.
As many of the guests pointed out in their speeches, this served as the strongest indication of how the community has grown and assimilated into the country that we now call home. There sure was a surprise element when Sruthi Merin Sabu, a second generation migrant, was introduced as the first place holder in English in NSW for the HSC examinations in 2016.
Former presidents of the Malayalee Association were also honoured, and that brought back many fond memories. Apart from bringing the Malayalee diaspora from across the state to work together, Tomy Varghese, the coordinator of the event, points this out as the biggest challenge that they faced while putting things together.
“The intent was to honour the diligence of the people who worked hard to bring Sydney Malayalee Association (SydMal) to its current stature. However, it was very difficult locating some of the previous office-bearers, given SydMal’s forty-year history. We do not consider ourselves entirely successful yet. But we tried our level best and I believe this is what matters most.” Yes, it indeed is!
Balakairalai, the Malayalam School that has been functioning in Plumpton for the past eight years was honoured for its excellent work in promoting the language.
Jack Chembirika was awarded the Young Entrepreneur of the Community at the event.
A souvenir booklet marking the Ruby Jubilee of SydMal that contains articles from among the members of the community in Sydney as well as prominent Malayalee writer Benyamin was released by Michelle Rowland MP. A much-researched presentation titled ‘A Short Story of SydMal’ was well received by the audience.
Splendid cultural entertainment was on display organised by the various regional Malayalee associations that function under the umbrella of SydMal, and the night ended with a sumptuous feast.
A highly content Babu Varghese, the President of Sydney Malayalee Association told Indian Link, “The organising of this milestone event has served as the proof of the pudding, communicating the growth and legacy of the Sydney Malayalee Association to a wider community.
It was also about propagating the message that SydMal stands for one and all in the Malayalee community in Sydney. The one thing that brings great happiness to me is the feedback I received about the team spirit that was so obvious during the conduct of this event. And it is this positive spirit that helps us grow as a community.”
Photos: Suresh Pokkattu