Indians in Australia distribute flag-coloured balloons on I-Day

August 15th, 2008 - 11:08 am ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, Aug 15 (IANS) In a unique gesture, Indian community associations in Canberra Friday distributed saffron, green and white balloons and bananas and oranges at various schools, hospices and aged care homes to celebrate India’s 61st Independence Day with the wider Australian community. Australian-Indians were the first to kick off the celebrations with much fanfare as the tricolour was unfurled by Sujatha Singh, the Indian high commissioner in Canberra, and other mission heads across the country on a crisp winter day.

A band from the Royal Military College of Duntroon, where staff cadets train for commissioning into the Australian Army, played the Australian and Indian national anthems amidst cheer from the Indian community, diplomats, MPs and government officials attending the reception hosted by the high commissioner at the sprawling lawns of the Indian mission at Yarralumla, Australia’s Chanakyapuri.

In Sydney, Indian Consul General Sujan Chinoy hosted a reception at his suburban Killara residence.

Earlier, the 2008 Australia-India Friendship Fair over the weekend attracted 16,000 people at the Athletic Centre in Sydney Olympic Park with cricketers Simon Katich, Greg Matthews and the New South Wales state cricket team being the star attraction.

The fair, which attracted only 250 people in 1994, has grown manifold to become one of Australia’s largest cultural events, next only to the Chinese New Year. Organised by the United India Association (UIA), the apex body representing 18 Indian community organisations in the country, the fair is living up to its commitment of multiculturalism in the pursuit of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam or universal brotherhood.

“This fair is a great opportunity to experience the rich cultural diversity of India. With India’s emergence as an economic superpower, it’s important for us, the Australians of Indian ancestry, to act as a catalyst in forging closer relationship between Australia and India,” said UIA president Raj Natarajan, an electronics engineer who migrated with his family in 1988 from Bangalore.

The UIA has been instrumental in promoting a harmonious relationship amongst people of Indian origin and mainstream Australians by cultivating mutual respect through increased social interaction, sports, recreation and other voluntary activities.

Proceeds from this fair are used for different community projects for the growing number of Indians in Australia, which at the 2006 census accounted for 230,000.

A cultural programme of dance and music by 120 performers stretched into the evening, with Bollywood playback singer Vinod Rathod, who was especially flown in from India, entertaining the audience with some of all time old and new Bollywood musical hits.

The 100-odd stalls offered all that one needed to know about Indians in Australia. From banking and airlines to Hindi film CDs and alternative medicine stalls, yoga and meditation, from dosas and Bengali sweets to henna and camel rides, there was something for all.

The buzz at the Athletics Centre in the Sydney Olympic Park almost felt like spending a day in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. As dusk set in, a spectacular show of fireworks lit the skyline, flashing memories of many an “aatishbaji” back home.

In Melbourne, Indian Consul General Anita Nayar hosted a reception at her residence and has been one of the keynote speakers at the I-Day celebrations organised by the La Trobe India and South Asia Institute (LIISA) in Chisholm College.

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