It’s not every day you meet a group of people who volunteer their time to contribute towards the benefit of the community. One such group is the 40- to 60-year-old women in Auckland who meet at the Auckland Indian Association (AIA) to cook food for wedding receptions held in the Indian community.
I stumbled upon these women last week when I found myself at Mahatma Gandhi Centre to meet someone. As there was an event going on in the dining hall, I had trouble finding my way in. A middle-aged woman, who was passing by, offered to take me through the kitchen that opens to the dining hall. When I enquired about the event, she told me that a group of women were cooking food to cater for a family, who had a wedding reception.
“We volunteer for the Association (AIA). We are catering for this family, cooking snacks and food items,” she said.
Although I found it interesting, our conversation was abruptly ended. During my meeting with the president of AIA, Purshottam Govind, I found out that these women regularly volunteered for the association to help those who are in need.
AIA, a community organisation and a part of New Zealand Indian Communities Associations (NZICA), has been working for the community since 1921. The association has members from different parts of India but is mostly dominated by Gujaratis. We have seen and read about the events and work that the community has been doing for so long, but stories like these are hardly known. These community heroes often don’t find themselves in the limelight, but the community should be made aware of their dedication and selfless work.
I spoke to an elderly lady, who was effortlessly frying delicious spinach and chickpea pakoras (snacks). When I asked her and other women why they were doing it, they all had the same response—it was because they liked it.
“There are people who are unable to arrange caterers for their functions or just don’t find the right person who suits best to their food requirement. So they request the association for in-house catering,” one of the women said.
“We cook everything. The bride’s or groom’s family or whoever has requested us for catering, provides us with a menu and we cook that,” she continued.
When I asked they could cook any dish, an elderly woman replied, “Yes almost. And wherever we get stuck, the internet is our saviour.”
When I further spoke to Mr Govind about the initiative taken by these women, he said that the women would come whenever there is help required. These activities also gave the seniors an opportunity to network and spend some time doing what they like. They do not charge the association for the services provided.
Our community needs more such people who selflessly contribute towards the community and do not expect any monetary or materialistic gains. But in return, the world receives love and compassion—something that it needs the most.
Indian Weekender would like to share stories of people who are doing selfless work for the community. If you know of any such person or organisation or group around you who are dedicating their time for the community, please share it with us and write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.