Looking back, looking forward

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Adelaide’s desi community seems to have come into its own in the year gone by

2015 was an eventful year for Adelaide’s Indian community. The number of Indian faces has increased steadily in previous years, but I think 2015 was the year I realised everybody didn’t want to know me, didn’t want to talk to me in the supermarket just because I was Indian, didn’t want to give an apprehensive “I’m new… mujhse dosti karoge?” smile. Or even a “glad to see another Indian” smile.
Adelaide has come into its own, or rather, Adelaide’s Indians now look like they live in any other place in the world. A big place. Not a little place with a few hundred Indians where everybody literally knew everybody else.
“Now there are so many Indian faces everywhere, but they don’t come to the Association…” lament the old timers. Wonder who misses out the most. The oldies or the newbies…?
The Multicultural Australia Day Parade
And now there is not just one Indian association, but several – Punjabi, Malayalee, Bengali, Gujarati, Haryanvi, Kannada, Chattisgarhi, Tamil, Marathi etc etc associations. You know how it is – we just need to meet with people who speak the same language as us (even though we may speak English most of the time at these gatherings), or grew up in the same place as us (but we will point out within five minutes that we are not from Bangalore but from Mangalore, not Amdavad but Baroda, if you please!)
A few new associations were launched last year, FICSA, Indian Professionals Group etc, and seem to be going well so far. People gathered to meet various needs or share common interests, as usual. Well, this was expected, for “if there are two Indians, there will be three associations”!
Wherever they met, the met most at the cricket! The World Cup India-Pakistan match was all it was hoped to be. By February, the excitement had reached fever pitch – whether it was looking for tickets (plenty were sold on the black market apparently) or finding the cheapest India shirt; hosting interstate/overseas visitors or planning pre- or post-match parties… nobody could speak of anything else. The Adelaide Airport organised Indian cultural awareness workshops and asked for ideas on how best to look after the influx of visitors. They even expected that there would be a lot of homeless people after the match (which did prove to be the case) and opened up the airport with beanbags and lounge seats and showed three movies through the night!
Adelaide Indian Community.Indian Link
A new trend was the widespread use of social media. Facebook, WhatsApp and such e-sharing platforms proved to be the best publicity tools! Finally Adelaideans were not just waiting to be told through posters at Indian shops or newsletters what was going on, but were creating and sharing events and news with each other. The best of these seems to be Adelaide’s Upcoming Events Facebook page created by Umesh Nagasandra which has really caught on.
Mad March was frenzied as usual, but it seems like 2015 was the year local music and dance artists came to the limelight in the mainstream. There were several classical and contemporary performances during the Fringe and people couldn’t get enough of Bollywood. Even the prestigious Adelaide Festival was planning to have a Bollywood Flashmob!
Adelaide Indian Community.Indian Link
Anzac Day saw the first ever Indian contingent in the parade, after it was famously refused permission to join in 2014. We hope many more ex-Servicemen join in this year, and many more form our community come out to cheer them on.
In spite of the music often being loud and almost unbearable, there were plenty of Bollywood, bhangra dance parties in clubs and non-Indians seemed to celebrate everything from hens’ nights to baby showers and birthday parties with Bollywood! Even nursing home residents enjoyed grooving to Bollywood!
With these celebrations came various community melas. Mostly outdoor community events, this year for the first time, the major Indian Mela was an indoor event at the Showgrounds. Everyone thought it would feel weird but it worked out quite well. Plenty of shade too!
The Australian Masters Games were held in Adelaide and there were many Indians and Australians of Indian background who participated. There was a large contingent from India and they left with a large haul of medals. With local Indians participating in sports, fun runs etc (there are at least eight Indian cricket teams) we seem to be chanting the fitness mantra too!
Adelaide Indian Community.Indian Link
Adelaide finally seemed to get on the visiting Indian artists’ circuit as well. Not so much Bollywood film stars, but there were regional film and TV personalities who visited and several plays staged including Gujarati and Marathi ones, and Punjabi and Malayalam shows. And at last the Garba-Dandiya circuit had several popular singers from India visiting, so we didn’t feel like we were left behind anymore.
One of the best events was a Tamil folk music and dance event called Attam by overseas artistes. They encouraged the VIPs present to get on stage and dance with them. The ministers and councillors present did a pretty good job! The Adelaide Tamil Association also set up a school to teach traditional folk arts. In December they also organised a very good program to raise funds for the floods in Tamil Nadu.
In the art world, SA Art Gallery had an exhibition of Gond paintings, and another called ‘Treasure Ships of the Spice Trade’ with some very interesting and rare artefacts from Goa and other parts of the world.
A Ganesh sculpture that had been found in the zoo, was finally given an apt place in the Adelaide Zoo and had a fine puja on Ganesh Chaturthi. The Ganesha Temple celebrated 30 years with a well-organised event and released a beautiful DVD to mark the occasion.
The most significant ‘first’ event was Diwali being celebrated in SA Parliament House for the first time. Lamps and fairy lights were lit inside and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs presided over a dignified but friendly reception.
Adelaide Indian Community.Indian Link
November and December had several Children’s Days and Christmas celebrations and then everyone heaved a sigh and retired in the heat. It has been a very hot holiday season, indeed. And what better to do but stay indoors and look at what 2016 might bring…
Adelaide’s first festival of the year, The Fringe seems to have even more Indians participating than last year. Both Bollywood and classical music and dance seem to be represented in the Fringe and we have a short film this time too. Our very own Indian festival, The Mela, will be indoors again and from what I hear from rumours of the planning, it seems like it might be having a lot more stages and activities than ever before!
I think with the number of our regional associations so large, we will be having several celebrations every month and several to celebrate the same event. Beginning with January – Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri… and of course Australia Day. The Multicultural Australia Day Parade always has an Indian float, each year with a different theme. It will be interesting to see what state or activity is presented this year.
And all the above activities that took place last year, will be repeated, I think, in better quality and larger numbers with individuals making a bigger mark on a wider stage.
Adelaide Indian Community.Indian Link
Daljit Kaur won the People’s Choice Award in the Pride of Australia Award and several other people were in the forefront of other award nominations. An Indian is also among the Finalists on the Governor’s Multicultural Awards this year. Good luck to this young man!
There was quite a lot of political involvement by our community last year, with several contesting in various council elections. I predict it will be greater this year, and we may have a few more councillors in our local councils. Maybe someone even in Parliament!
Well, looking forward to an eventful and bright New Year for our community, wishes from all at Indian Link for a successful and wonderful 2016!

Vinaya Rai
Vinaya Rai
Vinaya Rai is a counsellor by profession with interests in writing, radio, emcee'ing, organising and attending events.

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