Humble workers raise the standard of Diwali in the West

Waitakere Indian Association continues to lead the Festival of Lights

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Auckland, October 11, 2017

The wind was overpowering, the rain was cold, and the storm that came with the warning of 100 knot winds threatened to blow away the food marquees, but thanks to Party Hire, they placed extra weights that held up those tents-the only outdoor structure.

Despite the inclement weather, the food stallholders reported bumper sales.

The crappy cold weather could not dampen the spirits of those who came with their families to have a Westy time. And they sure did have fun in the weatherproof House of Diwali-the Trusts Stadium.

Tribute to President

This was the second Diwali celebrations for the new president of WIA, Mahendra Sharma. In earlier WIA Diwali articles I spoke about uniqueness of WIA – I had missed this one – where we provide leadership opportunities to common man, Aam Aadmi, like they did in India.

A simple, humble, grassroots, Aam Aadmi, a Chai-Wala (tea-seller) became its Prime Minister. We have elected such equivalent at Waitakere Indian Association – we have our Taxi-Wala (Taxi-driver) as our President.

President Sharma echoed the main difference of WIA Diwali from others, when he said, “WIA is mindful of the fact that Diwali needs to retain its theme, its respectability and dignity.”

Dress Codes for performers

In following that policy, he said WIA has special dress codes and other restrictions and check and balances to have a mix of modern culture with tradition to ensure Diwali retains its light of wisdom, divinity and dignity.

“This was reflected in the Ram Leela which was performed by artistes from Pooja Cultural Group, initiated by Pundit Ram Kumar Sewak and which operates from Skipton Hall, Mangere,” he added.

The other point he homed in was that “While other events have paid officials, our community workers give their time and expertise freely to the community.”

This was in reference to Auckland Council and corporate-organised events where those organising are paid officials, while those at WIA are non-paid community volunteers – unsung heroes with a passion for community well-being.

Homage to early settlers

Early in the day, in keeping with tradition, the event started with a Pooja and Hawan, offering in the holy fire and blessings by Kaumatua, giving respect to the original settlers. While rain and wind was lashing outside, the items continued inside with thrilling items from all ages. One objective of WIA is to provide a stage to launch many budding young and not so young artist and expose them to public.

Earlier in the evening, distinguished guests were treated in the WIA tradition of vegetarian cocktail which was a time for networking with community leaders and share thoughts.

Among others, we had Mayor Phil Goff, Kanwaljeet Bakshi, Alfred Ngaro and Melissa Lee (National), Phil Twyford, Michael Wood, Deborah Russel Brooker Loader, Shane Henderson, Carmel Sepuloni (Labour) Peter Chan and Anne-Degia Pala (NZ First), Race Relations Commissioner, Susan Devoy, Strategic Advisor Race Relations Rakesh Naidoo, Indian Newslink Editor Venkat Raman and others.

Among the speakers at the main event were Mr Goff, Mr Twyford, Mr Ngaro, Mr Bakshi and Radio Tarana Managing Director Robert Khan.

Wasteful Council expenditure

Mr Khan raised the concerns of Auckland ratepayers about financial indiscipline at Auckland Council, referring to $400,000 redundancy pay. He urged the Mayor to direct some such spare Council funds towards WIA’s fine performance as a credible organisation.

Like previous years, we had a galore of stalls: sumptuous Indian food, craft, trade and community information stalls, with colourful Rangoli and children inflatable fun, among others. There were many entertaining items, and later in the evening, the mood slowly changed into more Bollywood and thrilling music. A spectacular fireworks display took place to cap the evening, once it became clear it was safe to do so, with subsided rain and wind.

A big applause to WIA team, led by a group of relatively young newcomers for successfully pulling off this annual event, which has become an eagerly-anticipated calendar of West Auckland.

The theme of Diwali’s stood tall – victory of good over the bad winds that blew.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He has been a long-time reporter of events at the Waitakere Indian Association, of which he was Vice-President and Member of Executive Committee. His Blog, Fiji Pundit, attracts thousands of readers. He lives in Auckland.

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