Reading Time: 6 minutes
Taking stock of the issues and personalities that impacted our community in 2016
It was the Year of the Individual in 2016, where flashes of brilliance came from individual members of society rather than long-standing organisational efforts and platforms.
Looking back at the year that was for Sydney’s Indian community, one sees individual efforts shining through, whereas the diverse and high number of community organisations seemed to prove less effective in what they could potentially achieve.
The mela scene
There’s definitely a crisis in the mela scene. Our large-scale events at which ‘the clan’ used to gather – the India Fairs and the Diwali melas – are clearly suffocating. The Holi Mela organised by the BVB was scrapped this year, and the India Australia Friendship Fair organised by the UIA took a bizarre turn as it chose to be a mere side event at the AFL. Parramasala was a complete no-show. What is happening? The ‘clan’, it seems, is simply not interested anymore!
The fault lies squarely with the organisers, who have clearly run out of ideas. Thankfully, the Deepavali Fair organised by the Hindu Council continues to show the light, and other Fair organisers might well take a leaf from their book. Perhaps the best lesson they can learn is to have clear vision, proper structure and strong leadership.
Meanwhile, new kid on the block, Confluence Festival of India somehow managed to get the clan talking, but it clearly has miles to go before it creates any confluence in the true sense of the term.
Amongst our organisations, only one, AIBC, showed some initiative in terms of its business awards encouraging collaborations as it celebrated its 30th anniversary in Australia. Their vision looking forward seems a bit clouded as trade between the two countries stagnates.
High profile visitors that dropped by from India included Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, India’s sweetheart Aishwarya Rai Bachchan; dancer and actor Shobana; actor and singer Ayushmann Khurana; investigative journalist Madhu Trehan; and comedy troupe AIB.
What we discussed…
The issues that concerned us most, going by the number of editorial pages we devoted to them at Indian Link, include better visas for elderly parents, language learning in our schools, the scourge of domestic violence that continues unabated, and the need for better programs for our elderly. The Pink Sari Project has also met with good success, raising levels of screening amongst community women to unprecedented rates.
The growing interest in a stint in politics – at the federal, state or local council level – continues unabated among community members, although success seems hard to come by. Well done to UIA stalwart Moninder Singh who this year made it onto the Blacktown Council.
Meanwhile, our federal election survey was spot on yet again as it tapped the mood of community voters (“Too close to call”, June-2 2016 edition).
What has impressed this year, is the community’s growing interest in social enterprise. Some of our stories this year, particularly initiated by small platforms or even individuals, included:
*Med students looking after the nutritional needs of rural kids in Gujarat (MSAP);
*Socially conscious couple Vik and Bhavisha Bhandari raising $30,000 in one night for men’s health;
*The Wadlow family teaching science to Indian kids via Skype;
*Sydney fashion brand Slumwear108 upcycling old sarees;
*Sydney Sixers cricketer Ryan Carters taking education to disadvantaged families in India;
*Ultramarathon runners Pat Farmer and Samantha Gash raising awareness and funds for girls’ education;
*The not-for-profit Schoolgoers helping Indian kids get an education,
*Clothing company Change Threads enabling ethical consumer choices in Australia while combatting exploitative economic systems in India
*Sydney’s Telanganites fundraising for stricken farmers back home;
We hope we are able to bring you more such stories in 2017.
Much like last year, the newsmakers from the community turned out to be women, youth, and those involved in the sciences.
Harinder Sidhu became the first Indian-Australian woman to become High Commissioner, taking up office in India. Dr Rashmi Sharma became the youngest Indian woman to receive an OAM. Mathematician Nalini Joshi was honoured with an AM. Cancer researcher Dharmica Mistry won the NSW Young Woman of the Year Award.
The ABC’s Del Irani became the role model for Indian-origin youngsters wanting to make it in mainstream media.
From the sciences, we brought you stories of community members’ research breakthroughs in prostate cancer treatment, peanut allergies and innovations in anchor design; a unique online consultation service for patients called Dr Sicknote; a Westmead cardiothoracic surgeon Himanshu Desai’s outreach program in Gujarat, and the Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science claimed by RMIT scientist Sharath Sriram.
From amongst our youth, we brought you stories of achievement by opera singer Shanul Sharma, model and actress Chandrika Ravi, Young Pharmacist of the Year Ashish David, Youtuber Shyamali Sinha, and musician Harts.
Some of our kids shone bright as well, such as 12-year-old Maya Sathi who became the ABC’s youngest election reporter, and budding photographers Ananya Wakhare and Alex Saksena who did exceedingly well in a Sydney-wide photography contest.
Indian links in the mainstream
We saw a pretty decent Indian representation at the Sydney Film Festival this year. At the Sydney Writers’ Festival the youthful female writers from India attracted much attention. Again, some of our most prolific female contemporary artists were invited to the Sydney Biennale. We also saw some fantastic works by some of India’s best known contemporary artists Subodh Gupta and Jitish Kallat, and Sculpture by the Sea brought in Harsha Durugadda Vardhan while Yardena Kurulkar won the Blake Prize for religious art in 2016.
We bid farewell this year to some much-loved members of our community such as Hindi campaigner Kamlesh Chaudhury, former Hornsby Councillor Dilip Chopra and Indian Link’s own Malli Iyer.
In sport, the stand-out stories also came from individual endeavours: we had young guns in cricket making a mark (Arjun Nair and Jason Sangha), tennis star Sania Mirza’s Brisbane title, Badminton star Saina Nehwal’s Australian title; even a Rio hopeful in wrestling Vinod Kumar who impressed before his spectacular downfall, and, an Indian woman cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur in the Big Bash League. These individual efforts outdid the big players’ performance – our national cricket team’s Oz visit earlier this year was barely salvaged by the T20 win after a singularly lacklustre summer of cricket Down Under.
Still on sport, we saw some interesting developments at the community level. While the Sikh Games have been going strong for some 30 years now, we’ve begun to see the same in soccer with the Gujju and Mallu communities: kudos to those community members who are initiating such events in avenues beyond our traditional cultural and religious platforms.
And news from our own side
At Indian Link, we made strides outside the boundaries of ‘multicultural media’ with our first mainstream award. Our team member Ritam Mitra did us proud by bringing home a Cricket Victoria Media Award for his piece on All Abilities Cricket.
Meanwhile, our senior contributor Usha Ramanujam Arvind bagged the Multicultural Journalist of the Year Award for 2016, while our youngest recruit Namita Gohil claimed the Young Journalist of the Year Award.
Back in Victoria, our contributor Dhanya Samuel won a media honour at the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Multicultural Awards for Excellence.
Our team member Darshak Mehta received an OAM honour for his work with communities.
As well, our pioneering work with Cricket Australia in the arena of Hindi commentary went down particularly well early this year. Stay tuned for it again this season, about to get underway!
Thumbs down to…
*Anthony O’Donohue, who murdered Brisbane resident Manmeet Alisher in a senseless, random attack
*The revival of the debate on Section 18C
*Indians in Australia rorting the system such as in private colleges, childcare scams and service station underpayments
Thumbs up to…
*Navdeep Suri, the charismatic Indian High Commissioner who left his mark on the community as well as the mainstream as he wrapped up his term recently;
*Samarpan, the association for families with a differently abled member, in its efforts to raise awareness and for its advocacy;
*The Australian Government’s return to India of stolen statues
*Continued efforts to showcase the Sikh footprint in Australia
*Dev Patel for a portraying an Indian Australian on the silver screen in the upcoming Lion
*The Law Faculty at WSU for honouring Indian social rights activist and lawyer Dr BR Ambedkar with a bust
*Aussie singer Racheal Leahcar for her collaboration with Indian maestro Illayarajah.
Above are our top 10 photos from 2016