Pramjit Rai Suchdev, known as Jeet Suchdev by the community, is a famous face in the Auckland Kiwi-Indian community. The man behind Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust, a non-profit community organisation for migrant Indians, has worked tirelessly for more than two decades. He received the Queens Service Medal (QSM) in 2004 for his contribution towards the community, and he is also a Justice of Peace and a number of other recognitions are attached to his name.
Mr Suchdev continues to work harder for the betterment of Indian migrants in Auckland. Indian Weekender spoke to the veteran who started his journey as a migrant businessman and then chose to be a full-time social worker.
IWK: How did you start your life in New Zealand?
Mr Suchdev: I came to New Zealand in 1987 and struggled for a while before starting a small business. Later, I ran a successful venture of restaurants and a travel and tours businesses for 12 years. As a new migrant, I learned to be flexible and adapt to the conditions of this country, as it is usually a fresh start for most of the migrants.
IWK: When did you start Bhartiya Samaj and why?
Mr Suchdev: It all started when my sister Roopa Suchdev (QSM) joined Radio Tarana, and her talkback show became popular. She addressed a variety of issues of migrants, live on the radio. I also started taking part in the discussions and began providing solutions to new migrants’ problems. I believe, my answers may have appealed the audience, as they requested Roopaji for my contact. I started getting calls from people asking for solutions to the problems they were facing. In 1995, I took a big leap in my life. I left the business to become a full-time social worker.
All these led me to think to start an organisation, a platform from where I could address these in an organised manner. I discussed this with Roopaji and a never-ending journey began. All these worked well leading to registering Bhartiya Samaj as a Charitable Trust in 2001.
IWK: What activities were undertaken by Bhartiya Samaj?
Mr Suchdev: The primary objective of the organisation was to ensure that people of the community are benefitted by the various activities and programmes undertaken by them on a regular basis. We started doing different activities for the migrants such as workshops, educating, and touching all aspects of settlement—CV writing, presentation for interviews, Kiwi-English, NZ way of living, etc. We also started hosting Indian festivals to bring the communities together and making them feel at home. Currently, we have also added other services such as Senior Citizens Wing, Children & Youth Wing, New Migrants Support Wing, and Social Services Wing. The services are available for free for the South Asian community irrespective of their language, religion, region, and social status.
IWK: You also received the Bharat Gaurav Award earlier this year. How was the feeling?
Mr Suchdev: I firmly believe that ‘service to man is service to God’. It has been more than 20 years for me. I have dedicated every day of my life towards the betterment of the people, and when we get fruitful results, I feel my hard work was utilised for someone’s good. That is the biggest achievement for me. Yes, earlier this year, Roopaji and I received the Bharat Gaurav Award in New Delhi, India. I also received Hind Rattan Award at the 25th International Congress of NRIs in 2005 held in New Delhi.
IWK: Who has been your inspiration for working towards the community?
Mr Suchdev: I come from a family where social work is a tradition but my sister Roopaji inspired and supported me all the time.
IWK: What would you be doing if you were still in India?
Mr Suchdev: If I were in India now, I probably would be living in a village helping the communities there.
IWK: Is there anything that you miss about India?
Mr Suchdev: I miss every bit of India. And I believe hundreds of people like me feel the same. We host almost all the festivals and national days here in Auckland so that the community can feel at home away from home.
IWK: Any message you would like to give to Kiwi-Indians?
Mr Suchdev: We have chosen New Zealand as our home, leaving our country for a decent living for our families. So enjoy the good things that the country has to offer and at the same time remember that we should not be doing anything that brings shame to our country. We are known as hardworking, peace-loving people, so keep it up. Flexibility and tolerance will bring love, peace, and prosperity in your lives.