Seniors at the Bhartiya Samaj celebrated the Indian Republic Day at Mt Roskill War Memorial Hall on Saturday, January 21. More than 200 seniors attended the celebration.

The tricolour was hoisted, which was followed by the national anthem. The seniors continued the celebration by singing songs and recollecting some of their most vivid memories of the Republic Day celebrations back in India.

Indian Weekender spoke to some of them, who shared their views about what Republic Day meant to them, how differently they celebrated the day back in their hometown in India, and their efforts to continue the tradition in New Zealand as they pass the baton of patriotism to the next generation of Kiwi-Indians.

Suresh Dwivedi: The most vivid memory that I have from the first Republic Day was celebrations in 1950. Dr Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan was decorated with thousands of diyas and flower strings on the stairs and the balcony, and the grand chariot parade on Rajpath.

Over the time, I have found that although we have massive celebrations in New Delhi and different cities in India, there is some intrinsic and honest spirit of this day that is eroding from the hearts and minds of the people. The celebrations today are more like a ritual and you don’t see the same enthusiasm that was elicited when we were young.

I came to New Zealand in 2004, and before that, my son and daughter were already part of Bhartiya Samaj, and in those days, we would march to Cornell Park for the celebrations.

Sarla Prakash: “Pt Jawaharlal Nehru would often come to our town Modinagar in Uttar Pradesh, both before and after Independence Day and especially during Republic Day celebrations. We were close to the Gandhi family. My husband was a doctor at a hospital in New Delhi and he performed Sanjay Gandhi‘s operation twice. On R-Day, we would go to the President’s House for a ceremony and had several opportunities to chat with Mrs Indira Gandhi.

“The celebrations held here are crucial. It is small but it does remind us of our great nation. I think the younger generation should be a part of such celebrations or over a period of time, they may forget what these days mean to us.”

Pradeep Narhar Chitale: “My father was a freedom fighter of Independent India. In 1946, he started a movement from Mahad—a place in the Raigadh district about 200 km near Bombay (now Mumbai)— for which he was imprisoned in the Worli Jail for nine months. Republic Day and Independence Day brings some very old memories and reminds me of the struggle of my father and freedom fighters like him, without whom the India we know today wouldn’t exist.

“I remember the chariot march on the first Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath. Every year since then, we dressed in our best clothes, pinned the tricolour flag on our chest, and gathered with family and friends to witness the parade. I was the captain of a battalion of National Cadet Corps during my college days and hoisted the flag.

“Here in New Zealand, we have various celebrations organised by different associations on different dates as per the convenience of the public. We should have one celebration on the R-Day and that too on a large scale so that all three generations can come together and observe the patriotic day together.”

Urmila Seth: “I have been active when it comes to hosting and being a part of patriotic events. I was a teacher in Chandigarh and our school had more than 1,000 students. In Chandigarh police grounds, we had a big celebration where 70 schools participated, and I trained one of the platoons, and we received the award for the best platoon.

“As citizens, we get too occupied with our family and work priorities, but the government makes sure that we do not forget the sacrifice and the contributions of our freedom fighters and forefathers. I commend the associations here who are still trying their best to keep the patriotic flame alive in our hearts, even though  it might be on a small scale”

While some seniors shared their most vivid memories of the R-Day celebrations, a few seniors said that they were too occupied with their work and family to observe the patriotic events in New Zealand.

“Republic or Independence Day would mean a holiday for me. I would close my dental clinic and stay at home, spend some time with my family. I hail from the busiest city of India—Mumbai—where a holiday would mean time for the house,” a senior at the event said.

Present among the seniors at the event was the technical supervisor at Bhartiya Samaj, Ankur Gupta, the young and dynamic photographer had been an integral part of such events.

Ankur Gupta (IWK Picture)

“Republic Day and Independence Day has a big significance in my life, and I can proudly say that it was my school that inculcated those values in me. Like every school, we had a parade, cultural performances, and flag hoisting, and such events embedded a deep patriotic spirit in me,” Mr Gupta said.

National List MP Kanwaljit Bakshi joined the celebration at War Memorial Hall, and the event concluded with a folk dance performance by children and a light lunch.