At its second Gargi Awards held on International Women’s Day 2019, the Hindu Council of Australia honoured Hindu Australian women in various fields of endeavour including public service and community service.
The Royal Australian Navy’s Kamala (Nayni) Sharma-Wing took the award for public service (defence); Harita Mehta for journalism; Chandrika Subramaniyan for language and culture; and Mittu Gopalan for the arts.
Ophthalmologist Manju Jain Verma, paramedical professional Rani Sundar Subbaram, entrepreneur Esha Oberoi and health care worker Sanjila Verma won awards for their community service.
The Gargi Awards were instituted last year to commend outstanding women who make good role models for women and girls in Australia’s Hindu community. They are named after Hindu philosopher Gargi Vachaknavi (circa 700 BC), who is said to have written many of the hymns in the Rig Veda. The first of its kind, it is an admirable initiative to felicitate the achievements of our women both within the community and in the mainstream.
“Our categories were widespread this year,” Hindu Council NSW Representative Jay Raman OAM told Indian Link. “There was much interest from the community with nominations coming in from NSW, ACT and South Australia.”
The judging panel was made up of journalist and academic Judith Friedlander and former Cumberland Council manager Trish Keating. No judges, it appears, came from within the community.
Award winners spoke on the occasion about their work in their specialised fields. Some of them, and some of the presenters, spoke also about safety issues for women, the funeral for Dr Preethi Reddy, the 11th domestic violence victim this year, having taken place that very morning.
Other pressing Women’s Day issues such as pay parity and the need for diverse voices in our larger social narrative, particularly from women of colour, went by unspoken. More than a few women who took to the microphone chose strangely to thank the men in their lives, at this Women’s Day event: ladies, is it not time we took credit for our own success?
That a man (Dr Geoff Lee, Member for Parramatta) was guest of honour, was also surprising, given that two other women MPs were also present, both well-known Indophiles. The long list of award presenters also included more men than women, many of them from the Hindu Council executive.
Perhaps next year round, we will see an event organised by women, for women, and of women.
Looking back, the all-women crew of Air India, who were in town that evening, would have been show-stoppers at this event.
Visual artist Mittu Gopalan was announced winner of the “Performing Awards” category, even though performing artists abound in our community – representatives from our many dance schools performed on the night. When questioned, Jay Raman replied, “We had to pick from the nominees…”
Agreeing that the awards could have been better advertised, he revealed that tighter planning is being discussed for next year’s event with a separate secretariat being set up, and with funds collected from the Council’s flagship event, the Deepavali Fair, to be allocated towards this and similar activities.