Enthusiasm, perseverance and triumphant zeal were on full display when the members of Fiji Indian senior citizens gathered together to celebrate Mothers Day and Girmit Day in Blockhouse Bay Community Hall on Sunday, May 13.

New Zealand Fijian Senior Citizens – a local community organisation, dedicated to the seniors within the Fiji-Indian community had hosted a small celebratory event to celebrate together the two important occasions.

While celebrations for Mothers day were reflective of enthusiasm, acknowledgement and appreciation of the role of the mother in one’s life, speeches on Girmit Remembrance Day were reflective of perseverance and triumphant zeal.

It will not be an exaggeration to submit that in many respect this event was unique and special.

For witnessing senior members of community acknowledging and paying tribute to their mums when they are at a stage of life where they are seen with some degree of respect by virtue of their age and experience in life, seeing them further paying tribute to all mums, is a sight in itself.

Rarely, one gets a chance to see such symbolic confluence of human emotions.  

Uma Rai started the event by offering a poetic ode to the role of mum in every individual’s life.

It was followed by some wonderful speeches on Girmit Remembrance Day, which was reflective of spirits of perseverance and tenacity within the Fiji-Indian community.

Coming from seniors in the community, who by virtue of their age and experience in life already symbolises endurance and persistence, this was again special.

Remembering the Girmits

Speaking on the occasion, Former Fiji-Parliamentarians Sardar Harnam Singh Golian and Master Shiu Charan, and founding members of the Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand, both paid tribute to the indomitable spirit of Girmits, who have endured extreme hardship and deprivations to transform a relatively barren landscape of Fiji into what is currently known as a paradise of the South Pacific.

The Girmitiyas – as the first generation Indian settlers of Fiji were known as – were acknowledged for their two precious gifts to the future descendants – social equality and preservation of culture.

The speakers called upon everyone to feel that sense of pride which is unique to the Fiji-Indian community.

The subliminal Indian-connect

Another notable, though commonly missed observation is the rich and intrinsic connectedness with everything related to Indian history, heritage and culture.

It might be apt to assert on the occasion of the 139th anniversary of Fiji-Girmit Day celebrations in New Zealand that the time has come to build new bridges and keep working on already existing bridges, between the Fiji-Indian community and the wider Indian diaspora.

The manner in which different speakers invoked, almost subconsciously, references from India’s log civilisational, political, social, religious, and spiritual history is a powerful statement of the innate subliminal connect between Fiji-Indian and the Indian.

Say, for instance, to emphasise the importance of a mother in one’s life; Master Shiu Charan told the audience a story about the great Indian philosopher, thinker and strategist – Kautilya or Chanakya. The story, though meant to convey high reverence to all mothers, supposedly attributed to great scholar Chanakya, also demonstrated how elements of Indian culture have travelled and persisted within the descendants of first generation settlers who have left India about hundreds of years ago.

Similarly, Sardar Harnam Singh Golian referred to the esteemed Sikh Guru Nanakdev to emphasise the importance of the mother.

The list was long and illustrious, what it brought out was the sense of spiritual, philosophical connection between members of the Indian diaspora, which needs to be cherished and promoted in present times.

Six years of NZ Fijian Senior Citizen Association.

Later speaking with the Indian Weekender, the founder President of New Zealand Fiji Senior Citizen Association, Meher, told that she has been running the association since last six years with one primary goal of keeping seniors active and providing them with a meaningful purpose in their respective lives, so as to assist them in aging gracefully.

“It’s all about giving our seniors meaningful purpose at this stage of their lives,” Ms Singh said.

Meanwhile, several cultural performances including Bollywood songs by famous playback singer Jagdeesh Punja, and Ganapati Vandana dance by Swarali, entertained the audience.