ANZAC day, celebrated on April 25 every year is the day our nation remembers her forefathers (many of who never returned home) who fought in wars far away from home in the two World Wars.
Not many Kiwi-Indians in New Zealand, especially those of younger generation are aware of any Indian connection with the ANZAC spirit – a spirit which defines New Zealand’s national identity.
As a relatively recent and a fast growing migrant group of this beautiful country, it is a matter of seeming disquiet to be seen disconnected with the most important national identity narrative of this country.
Although not entirely unusual, as many new migrant groups all over the world initially struggle to develop a ‘connect’ with national identity narratives of their respective chosen countries of residence.
Commonly, immigrant groups everywhere around the world have to find innovative ways to connect with symbols, traditions, culture, language, politics and all other cultural artefacts that define a nation.
However, rarely does any immigrant groups anywhere in the world gets a chance to find a ‘connect’ with the main spirit of national identity narrative that defines their respective country.
The spirit of ANZAC represents New Zealand’s national identity, and any opportunity to connect with this eternal spirit would make a community or social group feel eternal part of the New Zealand nation.
Now, the Kiwi-Indian community has that opportunity to establish an emotional chord with the national identity narrative that constitutes the very essence of New Zealand nation.
An exhibition currently underway in Wellington Public Library, titled ‘Honour and Duty: A Tribute to Sikh Valour’ organised by the Sikh Foundation NZ remembers the contribution of 100 Indians out of 150 odd Indians living then in New Zealand in the early 1900s.
The exhibition informs that over 100 Kiwi-Indian men (it would not be inappropriate to describe those Indian-descent men as Kiwi-Indians) had enlisted themselves for the war and four of them actually ended up fighting with 32 more in the reserves list.
This is not insignificant information, currently forgotten or not celebrated enough either within Kiwi-Indian community itself or beyond the community within broad contours that define New Zealand nation.
This piece seeks to raise a voice that probably time has come for the Kiwi-Indian community to ‘brag’ about Indian connection with the spirit of ANZAC.
The choice of word ‘brag’ is purely because of the absence of a better word to describe emotions and source of pride that normally accompanies with any question of national identity.
Nevertheless, narratives of national identity are customarily built upon seemingly small events or episodes in history which are often forgotten or deemed inconsequential in the absence of a concerted effort from the future generations of those who were part of those events in history.
The current generation of Kiwi-Indian community in New Zealand owes it to those earliest members of our community whose spirits and actions not only contributed to New Zealand’s national identity narrative but also played an important role in giving us a distinct ‘Kiwi-Indian’ identity in New Zealand.
Probably, the current generation of community leaders needs to pick up from this call and take the lead in celebrating and bragging about the Indian connection with the ANZAC spirit.
It is important to note that any aloofness and diffidence on such an important issue that can provide our Kiwi-Indian community with an important 'emotional handle' to connect with New Zealand nation should not be given a pass.