The seventh edition of The Indian Weekender Kiwi Indian Hall of Fame event last week cemented its own fame as the New Zealand Indian community’s most high-profile annual event. What a glittering night it was, with guests gushing with praise for its classiness and flawless execution that elevated it to such an enjoyable and memorable event.
Feting the best of the best in the Kiwi-Indian community for their contributions to New Zealand, for community service and for uncommon achievement at a young age, the red-carpet Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame has grown to become the most important non-festival event in the community calendar of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand.
Last week’s event inducted former Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand into the Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame, honoured Auckland Indian Association’s Harshad Patel with the Community Service Award and young footballer Sarpreet Singh as the Young Achiever. All the three recipients delivered gracious acceptance speeches and said they felt humbled by the honour bestowed on them.
The Hall of Fame Award has traditionally been presented by a New Zealand Prime Minister and this year was no different with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, draped in a stunning black sari, did the honours at the glittering evening in the presence of more than 650 invited guests including ministers of the Crown, businesspeople, top professionals, senior government bureaucrats, the Mayors of Auckland and Invercargill, sponsors of the event and prominent citizens.
In fact, there were so many Members of Parliament and politicians present this year that one senior politician said that half of the cabinet was in the room, while another jokingly commented that being at one couldn’t hope to get elected without being present at the awards. While that comment might have well been in jest, it alluded to the greater visibility of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand both in terms of numbers and their growing contribution to life in their adopted country.
Every eminent speaker praised the Indian community’s continued contribution to New Zealand society, tracing its growth from a handful of immigrants more than a century ago to more than 200,000 today. The Indian diaspora punches above its weight in adding value to the New Zealand economy, as it does worldwide in the countries that it has settled in any significant numbers, especially with its creativity in entrepreneurship, sheer hard work, love of education and living peaceably.
This was the second year that the list of 25 most influential people in the New Zealand-India relationship was declared published at the event. The list comprises people who work tirelessly to further the relationship between the two countries in a range of fields including politics, sports, business, people-to-people relations and culture, besides others, as Honorary Indian Consul Bhav Dhillon said in his introduction before the unveiling of the list.
The award ceremonies were punctuated with a range of innovative entertainment items all performed by local talent groups but those that had wide experience performing in New Zealand and internationally. The stage-management, lighting and special effects were classy and drew praise from a number of people in the audience. Many first-time attendees said that the event greatly exceeded their expectations, while those who had seen previous years’ events said this year’s was among the best they’d witnessed.
Among the star attractions of the evening was India’s popular stand-up comedian Manish Tyagi, who not only co-hosted the show with gracious TV reporter Wilhelmina Shrimpton, but also performed a small gig with his side-splitting comedy, which he seemed to have rejigged for the benefit of the least common denominator of the mixed audience of Kiwis and Kiwi-Indians. He was also honoured by Prime Minister Ardern on stage, presenting him with a memento on behalf of The Indian Weekender Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame.
The occasion was also timely to also introduce the new Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Muktesh Pardeshi, who at the time of the event was less than two weeks old in his role. Mr Pardeshi gave what might well have been his first address to a significant section of the Indian diaspora since arriving in New Zealand.
The seventh edition of the Hall of Fame has catapulted the event to another level of finesse and sophistication, never seen before in Indian diasporic events so far. As one sponsor said, “It just gets bigger and better each year. Can’t wait for the next one.”