Thakur Ranjit Singh
Auckland, October 28, 2019
Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) was initiated and brought into being by a few third- generation Fiji Indians, descendants of Girmityas in Waitakere, West Auckland in 2000.
Nineteen years on, the Association continues to be torchbearer of the community, celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights, year after year, in the spirit of family bond.
This year’s event was held at the Trusts Stadium on October 20, 2019.
Beginning of an Association
Girmityas were Indian indentured labourers – ordinary people who did extraordinary things in Fiji in extraordinary situations 140 years ago.
Some Fiji Indian descendants of those pioneers did the same thing in Auckland, when there was no voice for their small migrant community with little or no opportunity to celebrate their traditions and culture.
WIA was started by its Trustees with the aim of providing a platform for the community to progress and enhance its wellbeing.
It was also intended as a training ground for future leaders. They ensured that decorum and demeanour of their culture (including language) remained, even in a changing world. This spirit of maintaining culture, with the lessons taught by our Girmitya pioneers have never left us – it runs deep in their veins.
One of a kind
Waitakere Diwali is perhaps the only or one of the very few Diwali celebrations of its size where the actual community and those who feel passionately about the Festival manage the event, maintaining the traditions of the Festival.
Furthermore, unlike corporate or Council-organised Diwali events, WIA does not have any paid officials managing this event. It is all done by volunteers.
Most importantly, as a community organisation, WIA appreciates the religious, cultural, traditional values of Diwali. This was reflected in the Hawan, Aarti and Ram Lila, depicting the story of Diwali at Waitakere Diwali 2019.
Preserving traditional values
One may ask, which other public Diwali celebrations of this size in Auckland start with religious Hawan, has Aarti, National Anthem in Maori and English, and has the religious theme of Ram Lila in its prime time after formal programme?
All these are done only in Waitakere Diwali, held in the largest indoor Diwali in Southern Hemisphere, in the house of Diwali, the Trusts Arena in West Auckland.
WIA was perhaps the first organisation to start Diwali public celebrations of this size in Auckland, encompassing the wider community almost two decades ago.
And in that time, they have grown up and made improvements.
While maintaining the theme of Diwali, its reverence and religious relevance as a Hindu Festival, WIA has also encompassed wider sections of the community.
Embracing the Youth
WIA has gone a notch higher by encouraging post-millennials, the new generation, empowering them to take cultural and organisational charge of this event.
The change of guard was evident on October 20, 2019.
Sanjay Dutt Sharma, who was very young when Diwali commenced in Waitakere, is now teenager to take charge as Waitakere Diwali Project Manager.
Seeing his father, Immediate Past President Mahendra Sharma excel in his time, he has apprenticed to take leadership position.
The youth commenced the Programme early and engaged with their age group to perform at Waitakere Diwali 2019. We are sure that these young men and women will become star presenters in the future.
It was refreshing for parents and grandparents like me to see our grandchildren take stage, like my granddaughter, Rania Roma Chand from Aaja Nachle Beginners Group, and numerous other “babies” performing publicly with confidence.
They were cheered and encouraged.
WIA has really taken pride in its spirit of training the new generation and encouraging leadership, as well as promoting and enhancing general community well-being.
Magnificent family event
Waitakere Diwali 2019 was a magnificent family-event with a variety of tasty food, craft stalls, children’s play, Rangoli, well-being information, networking and family fun and entertainment.
The indoor Waitakere Diwali always evokes the mood of the Festival like it was back home, with tradition and culture still alive, with the infusion that embraces the new Bollywood generation into this huge celebration.
Hence, it has now become an Indian Festival of hope for all human beings in multicultural New Zealand.
We salute the fathers, the trustees, the executives, the performers, DJ Gabroo Manish (for his excellent lighting, special effects and sound) and all volunteers of WIA on a superb job.
Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former Executive of Waitakere Indian Association and a Media Commentator. He runs his own blog called, ‘Fiji Pundit.’ He lives in West Auckland.
(Pictures sent by Thakur Ranjit Singh)