Gambhir Watts and Arcot Sampath Kumar were awarded Australian honours this month, report RAJNI ANAND LUTHRA and SHERYL DIXIT
Executive President of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Founder and CEO of International Centre of Nonviolence Australia, Gambhir Watts is renowned and respected within the Indian community, and for very good reasons. Since his arrival here in 1992, Mr Watts has made a significant contribution to Australian society, working tirelessly towards the promotion, education and acceptance of India’s rich heritage and culture.
For Mr Watts, the award is certainly an honour and an acknowledgment of the work he has been doing for a while now, but he is modest about being presented with such an accolade.
“The important thing is to continue the good work for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Australia (BVB), and to continue striving to make a difference,” Mr Watts tells Indian Link.
As one of the largest NGOs in the world, the BVB literally means the House of Indian Knowledge/Wisdom, and has over 367 constituent institutions, with the Sydney Centre being its first in Australia. Mr Watts was instrumental in setting up and launching the Bhavan in Australia in 2003, and has carried the reins of responsibility since then; his current role is that of President.
“My motto is that of the Bhavan: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or ‘The world is one family’, and I strive to achieve this through various events designed to bring people together,” he says.
The Bhavan organises various activities to enhance India’s culture and heritage in Australia, as well as promoting Sanskrit and Hindi languages and multiculturalism through mainstream events.
One of the biggest events organised by the Bhavan, the Holi Mahotsav is held annually at Darling Harbour, and is attended with equal enthusiasm by local Australians and Indian origin patrons. Mr Watts works tirelessly to showcase the event every year, which keeps gaining in strength and popularity. “The Holi Mahotsav celebrations have increased to three days now, but my eventual aim is to organise a week-long celebration,” he says.
Another significant event organised under the auspices of the Bhavan was the highly successful World Culture Concert and Arts Festival that ran from 2004-07, displaying performances of original cultural music and dance from different nations, which he intends reviving in the future.
One of the Bhavan’s newest achievements is the recent setting up of the International Centre of Nonviolence Australia, with the blessings of Ela Gandhi (granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi) and in association with International Centre of Nonviolence South Africa and Gandhi Development Trust South Africa, of which Mr Watts is Founder and CEO.
As can be imagined, Mr Watts leads an extremely busy life, balancing his business with his philanthropic work and working tirelessly towards achieving his goals. He works seven days a week, sometimes well over ten hours a day, but it’s all for a good cause – to achieve greater recognition for all that’s good about his motherland. On behalf of the community, we congratulate him on this important felicitation and wish him all the best in his endeavours.
Dr Arcot Sampath Kumar
A country practice
Dr Sampath Kumar was honoured for his service to the community of Canowindra in NSW, particularly as a general practitioner.
“I am very grateful to receive an OAM for my work as a general practitioner for over 40 years in Canowindra and the surrounding area (including Eugowra and Woodstock),” Dr Kumar tells Indian Link.
His work involves visiting the 32-bed Canowindra Hospital as well as at the 60-bed Moyne Nursing Home.
“Working as a doctor in a small and supportive country town has been rewarding to say the least,” Dr Kumar says. “I am now campaigning for young doctors to come and serve in the country. It is a great opportunity. Every little bit you do is greatly appreciated”.
Dr Kumar moved to Australia in 1971 as a young doctor keen to take on post-graduate studies.
“I was all ready to go to the UK, but a senior colleague who was already here convinced me that Australia is a great place to live and work. I am glad I took his advice!”
Dr Kumar started work at Manly Hospital but soon found an opening in the country at Canowindra.
He has never left.
He took his bride Uma there soon after they were wed, and they raised their family of three kids there, quite happily.
“The community welcomed us with open arms,” Dr Kumar says.
The Kumars became quite prominent members of the local community. Dr Kumar joined local organisations such as Apex Club and Lions Club (of which he served as Secretary as well as President), and wrote for the local Canowindra News.
The family also got involved with the local farming community, having bought a farm themselves in the area.
“We took steps to involve ourselves whole-heartedly with the whole gamut of the social and community life here – from work to school to farming,” Dr Kumar reveals. “Being involved in farming has also given us greater insight into this rural community”.
Yet he lets slip that Uma was a bit taken aback at having to start life in a small community after having lived in the bustling city of Bangalore back home.
“But she assimilated very well. In no time, she had made many friends, and when the children came along, we put them in the local schools here, which also helped”.
The Kumars are all for a country up-bringing for their children. “We soon discovered Canowindra is a great place to raise a family. Our kids have got a good education starting here and then boarding in Orange and Canberra. Today, our sons are specialist doctors in Sydney working as a neurologist and an oncologist, and our daughter is a lawyer”.
The Kumars travel to Sydney every fortnight to visit their kids – and to stack their fridges with home-made food!
But for them, it will always be the country life.
“I’d like to send the message out to young doctors out there, to come and try a country practice. The work is varied and rewarding, and you’ll enjoy the peace and quiet and the country hospitality of the wonderful people here”.