In a first of its kind, or at least in recent public memory, members of the Kiwi-Indian community in Hamilton were delighted to hear from and interact with, the Hon. Consul of India, Bhav Dhillon, who was the guest speaker at the programme, Information Night for Indian Diaspora.

The event held on Saturday, June 30, at Peachgrove Intermediate School, Hamilton, elicited overwhelming participation from the members of the Indian community in Waikato, who thronged in considerable numbers to take advantage of the opportunity.

The community organisations involved in supporting and organising of the event included diverse groups such as Overseas friends of BJP New Zealand, Tamil Society Waikato, Gujarati Pariwar Waikato, the Waikato Indian Association, and GOPIO Waikato chapter.

According to Dharmik Desai, one of the lead organisers of the event, the primary goal of the event was to celebrate the connection between the members of the Indian diaspora, in Waikato in particular, with India.

“It was an opportunity to educate Kiwi-Indian community in Waikato about the changes happening in India in recent times,” Mr Desai said.

Speaking on the occasion, Hon. Consul Mr Dhillon emphasised how the Indian government’s diaspora narrative has changed in recent times where conscious efforts were being made to stand behind each and every individual of Indian origin, in their good or bad times.

Mr Dhillon was referring to several unfortunate incidents related to the Indian community in Waikato that has stirred a lot of emotions in New Zealand and back in India, particularly the case of the botulism-infected Indian family.

It is important to note that last year in November 2017, the case of husband and wife Shibu Kochummen, 35, and Subi Babu, 32, and Mr Kochummen's 62-year-old mother Alekutty Daniel, who became medically unresponsive (vegetative state) after eating meat of locally hunted wild boar had brought massive pain to the tightly knit Malayali community of Waikato.

Similarly, a 24-year-old pregnant Indian woman battling with an aggressive form of cancer lost her life immediately after delivering her baby around the same time in November 2017; and the drowning death of a Tamil student, were the instances which brought immense grief to the Indian community in Waikato.

“The Indian High Commission stood by friends and families of those facing such unfortunate situations.

“This is definitely because of the new Diaspora narrative of the current Indian government,” Mr Dhillon reiterated.

However, the main attraction of the evening was not the mere reiterations of India’s newfound connect with its diasporas, but was the hour-long question and answer session at the event clarifying on general queries about services delivered by the Consulate and High Commission to the Indian community.

Hon. Consul Mr Dhillon patiently answered about 30-35 questions from the members of public about different services such as passport, OCI, visa, document attestation, Life Certificate for pensioners and Power of Attorney, along with clearing the air on the requirement of Aadhar card and Pan card in India.

Speaking to The Indian Weekender, Hardik Desai, another lead organiser of the event expressed satisfaction on the success of the event.

“The fact that we witnessed so many questions asked about the services being delivered by the government of India tells us that there is a huge appetite and sense of connection with our motherland India.

“... and the fact that Hon. Consul Mr Dhillon answered all those questions so patiently is much appreciated.

Mr Dhillon also made it a point in his speech to affirm that New Zealand was the new chosen home for every member of Kiwi-Indian community – a fact that should always be acknowledged and appreciated.

“We should not miss the point that New Zealand is our new home which has always been welcoming us with open arms.

“I personally thank the government of New Zealand for doing their bit in promoting NZ-India bilateral relations, which is of great significance for the Indian community in New Zealand,” Mr Dhillon said.

Among other dignitaries who attended the event were Vinod Kumar of Hindu Council of New Zealand, Mohanram Inbaraj of Tamil Society Waikato, Parvin Patel, a former recipient of the Indian Weekender’s Community Excellence Award, and Akash Rawal and Dev Bharadwaj of OFBJP.

The event had colourful cultural performances by renowned local artiste Shailaja Ravi Kumar and Raksha Thavaraja from Nritya Geetanjali – a dancing school of Hamilton.

The performance was a mash-up of Ananda Bhairavi Thillana and Nritta music set to fast-paced footwork brisk rhythmic pattern movements and abhinaya.

In all, it was an informative and entertaining evening for all who attended the event. Towards the end, the organisers of the event expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the event.

Speaking to the Indian Weekender, Dev Bhardwaj said, “We are thankful to Aswhin Johar, Chairman at Foreign Investment & NRI Cell, for his vision and support to OFBJP NZ.”