Living free

the yarn sarika yellina speech i-day

India’s story of freedom is also the story of how a nation strives to make multiculturalism work

Before I begin Festivals of South Asia Inc’s India Day message I would like to show my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, and of elders past and present.

I hope you all had a chance to witness the flag hoisting earlier on. Thank you Vijaya Vaidyanathan, Alex Morgan, Pars Ram Ji and Hari Yellina for doing the honours.

On behalf of Festivals of South Asia I would like to welcome you all to celebrate India Day.

As the president of the organisation, it’s my privilege to deliver the India Day message for 2016 on behalf of my team.

What does India Day mean to all of us? Why do we make a big deal about India Day in Australia? If you want to know the answers to this, you would have to look back into history and understand why the Indian Independence day is of great significance to the entire world, not just Indians. It’s true that on 15th of August India freed herself from the clutches of imperialism and this freedom inspired many colonised nations across the world to strive for independence to build nation-states. While India is turning 70, here is why this has been a significant journey for all of us.

The idea of India emerged as a resistance to fear above everything else. The fear that diversity will not last in India and that Indians cannot live with one another without bloodshed. That democracy and diversity cannot co-exist. That Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs cannot live with one another. That a society cannot sustain speaking thousands of dialects and many languages. And for communities to flourish and prosper you need an exclusive society, where churches and temples and mosques cannot stand on the same street in a town. The founders of India trashed that concept and hailed the importance of multiculturalism and pluralism. To the naysayers, they said India will live peacefully. Of course the last 70 years have not been a bed of roses for India or for any diverse societies, but pluralism survived in India. It’s a society where you have different faiths co-existing; it’s a place where a catholic school has 90-minute breaks on a Friday so that Muslim children can visit mosques; a place where Hindu temples and mosques coexist on the same street. The fear mongers failed and India has survived 70 years of multiculturalism. I’m sure everyday in the last 70 years, pluralism has been threatened.

So this day is now even more important because it gives us all a chance to remind ourselves of the challenges and how India as a nation has coped with them. Fear is still being dished out, when delicate minds fall for the propaganda of the Islamic State and Neo Nazis and the likes. We have examples of hope. We can point to the current Australian society and we can point to India that survived 70 years and say we can sustain as one community and build strong nations.

We can debate and settle our differences. Australia and India share common values now. These two nations strongly believe in multiculturalism. This idea of pluralism where First People, Europeans, Asians, Africans and South Asians can co-exist. That coexistence will be the cornerstone of our societies. So the idea of “India” friends is a reminder to all of us that we can survive intolerance, we can survive hate and we can survive fear. And as we battle these, we come out as a nation stronger and more powerful. India and Australia are shining examples of pluralism surviving. It’s this unity in diversity that will make Australia a beacon of hope to the millions. It’s the same hope that kept India going for the last seven decades.

Today, friends, as we celebrate and recognise individuals and businesses for their outstanding work in the community through the annual Indian Sun and Spice Out Awards, I would like to reiterate one thing: that winning an award is recognition, but if you do not win, you definitely do not lose. Each one of you who took part in the process is a winner in their own right. And we, as a community, recognise and are grateful to each one of you for your work and dedication. Let there be no disappointments tonight. Let’s take pleasure in each other’s victories and celebrate together to make this day a memorable one.

On another note, I would like to briefly touch upon the Brides of Asia fashion segment choreographed by Kareem. We have chosen Brides of Asia to be part of India Day festivities because we feel the biggest challenge India or any South Asian country now faces is in empowering its women. Now empowering women need not come through a corporate career. For millions that’s not even in their dreams. For millions getting married is a form of independence. It’s an opportunity for women to build independent economic units. She moves away from a family of five to another village to start a new life. To raise a family. It’s hope and opportunity for many women. This fashion show glorifies the beauty in that hope. The colours in her new life.

Before I conclude, let me acknowledge and thank some of our key guests tonight. Vijaya Vaidyanathan, CEO of City of Yaara, Rohini Kappadath, Chair, Multicultural Ministerial Advisory Council, Ahmet Keskin, Executive Director Australian Intercultural Society. Alex Morgan, Essendon Football Club, Alex Bhathal from the Victorian Greens Party, Hari Yellina Secretary of Festivals of South Asia, Sid from The Indian Sun Melbourne, Sri from Indian Executive Club, Sanjay Jain and Jyotee Patel from the Indian Executive Club, Kanwal from The Indian Sun Sydney, Arun Sharma and Jaya Sharma from Celebrate India, Anuj from Pitcher Partners, Andrew Clarke from Aitken Partners and Molina Asthana, who is a former winner of The Indian Sun Awards.

I would also like to thank our valuable sponsors who have made this event possible tonight. Parsramji, from Parsram Foods, Simran and Aman from Credit Hub, Suni from Colorbourne Graphics, Scott Schulz from Vesta Byte, and Cbazaar.

So celebrate the Awards, get inspired by Brides of Asia and enjoy some great Indian food from Goldy Brar and his team from the Heritage.

While on food, here’s an interesting bit of information—the curry is one of the most global dishes you can have. Look at the ingredients in a curry—tomatoes originate from South America, Onions were first grown in Iran, Garlic is from Central Asia, Cloves are from Madagascar, Chillies are from Columbia, Pepper is from Kerala in India, the word curry is English, but originated from the Tamil word Kari. The history of curry is the history of multiculturalism in itself. Enjoy your food and happy Independence Day.

This speech was made on 14 August at the India Day event.


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