The India Club’s Diwali celebrations are everything they are crackered up to be… And more, finds Shveata Chandel Singh
The India Club’s Diwali celebrations are just around the corner and expectations are sky-rocketing. Well, that’s because with every passing year since 2009, when Shubha Kumar and Aksheya Kumar — the couple behind the Club — organised their first Diwali celebrations, the festivities have been getting more and more exciting.
Aksheya, chairman and co-ordinator of the India Club, says that as Diwali is a festival of joy and happiness, it remains the focus of the event. “We invite parliamentarians, leaders of the parties, and dignitaries at the event, so it makes the celebration a social gathering as well as a good networking platform,” says Aksheya, who is originally from Uttar Pradesh, but came to Australia to pursue his PhD in automation of geo-physical interpretation techniques and then settled here.
“In the first year of the celebration, we had some belly dancing from a male dancer from the Middle East. It was unusual and quite a hit with the audience. We also had a performance by Australian group Seven Flavours, so that added a new flavour to the event,” says Aksheya, who adds that he began taking an active interest in community events in 1994.
Aksheya, who was also the founder-member of Australia Hindi Indian Association (AHIA), says that he has organised Diwali and Holi celebrations for the AHIA in its early days. “In the 1990s, the Indian community was not that as big as it is today and there were hardly any events, but there were individuals like me who took the initiative to promote Indian cultural events,” says Aksheya.
In his professional career of more than three decades he has lent his wonderful services to various companies including Transfield and EDS which later merged with HP, one of the topmost IT companies.
He was doing really well in his profession, when he realised that besides professional commitments he should get actively involved with the community activities as well.
He adds that his wife Shubha became president of AHIA in 2001. Among other events, she hosted one of the biggest Diwali celebrations the AHIA had ever managed.
In 2003, she joined United Indian Associations as president. It was she who suggested that the UIA friendship fair celebrations be shifted from Fairfield to a more spacious venue of Homebush, Sydney Olympic Park. “It was a big risk and many executive members were not supportive, but as I started with UIA as a chief co-ordinator, within six weeks, we managed to set things up. More than 12,000 people turned up at the fair in Homebush,” says Aksheya.
Sometime later, Shubha left UIA, and in 2004, the couple started India Club. “It was started as a small organisation with a few friends. It was a conscious decision to make membership to the India Club by invitation only. We have 250 members now and it is growing fast,” he says.
Aksheya estimates that over 300 people will attend the IC Diwali celebrations. “The objective is to spread the message of Diwali to the mainstream Australian audience. We want to promote multiculturalism through the club so we always try to bring various multicultural communities together,” says Aksheya.
According to the Kumars, there is a lot in store during the celebrations – dances, songs, 100 years of Indian Cinema and much more.
“We always make a note of what people like and dislike,” says Aksheya, who adds that this year to cut down the dignitary speech timings, to 90 seconds each.