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This year’s AIII Diwali Mela at Sandown was well organised but attracted fewer crowds than previous years, writes SIMMI SINGH
The Australian Indian Innovations Incorporated and its hard working committee have pioneered celebrations of all major Indian festivals in Melbourne for over a decade now. They have provided a platform to rejoice in the Diwali festivities for the past 14 years. Their experience and expertise was again visible in this year’s efforts at the AIII Diwali Mela at Sandown, though the turnout left a little to be desired.
Speculation was rife as to the reasons why this hitherto popular event did not attract very large numbers. According to some it could be that Diwali is nowadays being celebrated in multiple locations so the crowd is distributed. Others thought it could be due to upcoming exams that may be keeping students indoors, while some opined it was too close to Navaratri celebrations. Whatever the reason, it was a disappointing turnout in comparison to previous years. Let’s hope the 15th year celebrations next year will bring back the glory that has always been associated with this wonderful event.
This year’s festival was well supported by Indya Foods, RACV, Bupa, Vodafone, Gaura Travels, Made in India, Dr RnB Entertainment and the Victorian Multicultural Commission. Festival staples including henna artists, clothing and jewellery, children’s rides and multiple food stalls were located in neat rows in the undercover section of the Racecourse. The weather held up for most of the day with an occasional drizzle that did not deter anyone from enjoying the variety on offer.
The crowd built up towards the evening just before the spectacular fireworks and the mood was decidedly upbeat.
Gaurav Jain, a regular at the event, said, “I have been to AIII Diwali for the past eight years and I find improvements every year, especially in the entertainment program. However, they should consider having more variety amongst the food stalls as multiple stalls selling the same menu does not always appeal. Having said that I was quite excited to see the sugarcane juice available to drink and the paan counter as these are not commonly available in Australia and remind us of India.”
The stage was set with some excellent performances interspersed with some formal speeches. Gabrielle Williams MP, State member for Dandenong, and Julian Hill, Labor candidate for Bruce, were amongst the dignitaries that graced the occasion and greeted all the stallholders.
Young children displayed tremendous potential and talent as they danced to an assorted medley of Indian and Bollywood music.
The vibrancy and colours on display and the vivacity of the dancers appealed a lot to Julian Burns from RACV who visited the festival for the first time this year.
“I have never been to an Indian festival like this before and I was blown away with all the colour and exuberance around me,” he said. “It was wonderful to see people enjoy themselves and I would really like to come back again next year.”
The organising committee, headed by Vernon Da Gama, Yogen Laxman, Jeet Soni and Babu Akula, received mostly positive feedback and is already planning the next AIII event aiming to make it bigger and better.