Saturday, March 17, 2018


Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the melodious singing of Faag (fagua, chautal) rang and echoed against the green picturesque trees at Corbans Arts Centre, Henderson, Auckland on Sunday 4 March, 2018, it heralded another milestone for Waitakere Indian Association (WIA).

This was like going back to the roots. Corbans Arts Centre is the location where the first public Holi celebrations in New Zealand commenced 12 years ago in 2006, initiated by none other than WIA.
THE EAST:Traditional faag presented by Shri Ram Mandir Faag Mandali, Henderson. The lead singer in the centre with harmonium is the Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir, Pravin Kumar, while his son, Prashant Kumar is playing dholak (drum). This traditional singing of faag or fagua constitutes the main element of Holi for Fiji Indian Hindus.

India in general and Hinduism in particular has given the world some festivals which embrace the whole human race, and has more integrating, unifying and all-embracing themes. They have a message of unity without being founded in divisive, exclusive religious arguments. Holi is one of them. It has profound meaning for mankind and equality for all, promoting and enhancing race relations and integration.

Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) is the award-winning organisation, which has been run by like-minded volunteers from 2000. It is the pride of Indian associations in New Zealand and has set up new standards of yardsticks and milestones on how to successfully run an association and festivals run by the community, and not commercial media organisations.

It was a milestone this Holi, as WIA listened to public, and did a fusion of traditional and modern Holi celebrations. This is what we call “Sangam” (meeting) of Purab (East) aur Paschim (West) - a meeting place where tradition meets the modern. This was after feedback that Holi celebrations had drifted to modern Bollywood music and dance, overshadowing the traditional folk singing with which Holi is identified. Therefore, WIA was responsive to the community wishes, and held a solid two hour performance by various Mandalis (religious groups).

And that is where East met West. This festival resonated into the meeting of youthful revellers with the mixture of relatively older audience, with a taste of all catered by a well-programmed event.

The traditional faag brought all in the mood to play the colours. Even weather Gods showered their blessings with a lovely weather. Multiracial group of youths crowded the “ringside” stage area to jump to the occasion of dancing to the enthralling music from DJ Manish Gabroo. Young children filled their water guns and water bottles with coloured water and chased each other in the open grounds. They also got hold of coloured powders and had a ball with their families. The older ones smeared each other with coloured powers or gulaal, opening up their usual shyness.

THE WEST:Modern, or western version of Holi celebrations, where we have public dancing on live DJ, ably provided by Manish Sharma (DJ Gabroo) at Waitakere Holi. A large part of those present were non-Indians, and they joined in to resonate the theme of Holi which is about unity and building bridges.
This time, WIA took charge of sale of gulaal, or coloured powders, and nearly sold half a ton of colours. The food stalls did brisk business with an outstanding and above average crowds. 

Another feature of WIA Holi is the increasingly patronage by Anglo-Saxons and non-Indians. One estimate places them at around 40% of the crowd. That is the multicultural pull of the all-encompassing Holi festival. Many non-Indians danced joyfully to tunes of Bollywood music. This was indeed a day of colours, music and fun for the whole families. 

With limited stage items to allow more times for public dancing, we had limited but quality stage items. Of course, WIA functions would be incomplete without the auntie-niece team of Jocelyn Singh and Joshlyn Grace, on thrilling Bollywood numbers

Politicians and community leaders mingled freely with their supporters and, took photos which are now gracing the pages of Facebook.  Among others these included Phil Twyford, Linda Cooper, National List MPs Kanwal Singh Bakshi, Alfred Ngaro and Paramjeet Parmar, Labour’s Michael Wood, Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Barbara Russell with Ami Chand of Portage Licensing Trust, Bhikhu Bhana from NZ Indian Central Association (NZICA), among others. 
The President of WIA Mahendra Sharma welcomed all, especially the multiracial crowd. ‘Now Waitakere Holi Mela has developed into an event not only for Indians but also for wider New Zealand community. Celebrating the festival of colours in our diversely cultural city is seen as a way to continue building better relations with the community. I am deeply honoured by your presence.

Again the theme of Holi is reflected in this photo. No Holi in Fiji is complete without Grog, Kava, or Nagona. Equality is reflected by all coloured in same colours, and National List MP, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi serving grog. Pictured here, enjoying the Holi mood and atmosphere at Waitakere Holi are: 
From left: Sanjiv Brahmbhatt, CEO of Reliance Ventilation, Manoj Tahal, a Trustee of WIA, Mahendra Sharma, President of WIA, Alfred Ngaro and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (List MPs, National Party) and Sunil Kaushal, Holi Project Manager.
Transport and Housing Minister, Phil Twyford stood out as an ardent supporter, and admirer of WIA ‘Waitakere Indian Association is the best managed organisation, very transparent, run by credible people with credible leadership. This event signifying victory of good over evil and equality for mankind is the message we should all emulate, ‘he said, praising the commendable and exemplary events organised by WIA. Other politicians and sponsors also spoke about the great event and the way it has brought good in all of us in the West.

For a migrant community, Indians were praised for integrating well into the local community and changed the cultural landscape of the country. Today, Aotearoa is richer because of Indians in general and Hindus in particular for introducing diversity with festivals like Holi, Diwali and other religious, cultural and social events. 

And this fusion of East and the West made Waitakere Holi that much more memorable. Many are already looking forward to the function next year, so powerful was the addiction and transmission of fun at Corbans Arts Centre in Henderson, Auckland. Thanks WIA for making this possible.
See you next year, if you missed the fun this year.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former executive of Waitakere Indian Association and a community worker. He is a media commentator and runs his blog site FIJI PUNDIT] 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Death in family: Why are we denied celebrating religious festivals -and life

Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the coloured powder (gulaal) and dust from dance of Waitakere Holi in Auckland on 4 March, 2018 settles down, there is an important but controversial issue on celebrating and enjoying this religious gift to Hindus.

There appears to be a community-imposed restriction on celebrating Holi after death of a relative. This affects me directly, as my Kaki (paternal –aunt), Mrs Shiu Kumari (Budh Ram) Singh passed away in Surrey Canada on 20 January, 2018 and my Bhabhi (sister-in-law), Mrs Pushpa Wati (Hari) Singh passed away in Fiji on 4 January, 2018. Kaki was 85 while Bhabhi was 75 - both of them lived to a ripe age. Bhabhi passed away 2 months ago while Kaki passed away just 6 weeks ago.

Lord Krishn recited knowledge of  Gita to Arjun . While we listen to Gita on the mourning of the dead for 12 nights, we refuse to follow its teachings. Among others, it says: "death is inevitable, stop crying for the dead, stop lamenting, shork nahi karo, only body dies, the soul is everlasting, it is like changing old clothes and putting on new ones." So, why we defy these teachings and have a showpiece of mourning during Hindu festivals.
In situations like this, many tend to do what had been custom and practice - they refrain from celebrations because of fear of what others will say. And they deny the fun, message and colours of this great Holi festival to the extended families - mostly to the new generation.

Many in our society are afraid of what others will say-sab konchi boli.-log kya kahenge. We tend to stop living for ourselves and become puppets of the community.

Are we being two-faced hypocrites – preaching one thing and practising another? Should not we follow the teaching and directions of our religion and scriptures? When somebody dies, Pundits preach Gita scriptures at top of their voice.
Yours truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh (left) with his Bhabhi (sister-in-law) Pushpa Wati, in Ba, Fiji over a year ago. She passed away in Fiji on 4 January, 2018

Devine religious lessons are preached to the relatives in mourning – of what Lord Krishn orated to Arjun , and which we call Bhagavad Gita, one of the most revered scriptures for Hindus. 

He preached: death is inevitable, stop crying for the dead, stop lamenting, shork nahi karo, only body dies, the soul is everlasting, and it is like changing old clothes and putting on new ones . So, there is no need to mourn, as death is predetermined, inevitable and will happen to all of us.

The gist of Gita is: out with the old, in with the new - change is inevitable. We are told and preached - Parivartan Duniya ka niyam hai. How many follow this? Why do we insult Bhagavad Gita? Why are we selective, embracing new technologies, while practising “Stone Age” customs?

BANSI REUNION IN BA, FIJI. Part of the large Bansi clan (Bansi was Thakur Ranjit Singh's paternal Girmitiya grandfather, who came to Fiji as an Indian Indentured labourer in 1915. Bansi clan has celebrated two Bansi Reunions. One was in Vancouver, Canada in April,2015, and this one in Ba, Fiji in August 2016. In the centre in white is the family matriarch of Bansi family, Thakur's Kaki (Paternal aunt), Mrs Shiu Kumari Singh, wife of Budh Ram Singh Bansi. She passed away in Surrey, Canada on 20 January, 2018. Are we to deny the whole Bansi clan of Holi and other religious festivals, despite what Lord Krishn preached about death? You be the judge.
We sacrifice our happiness and that of our children in the name of parampara, tradition, lokariti and outdated practices. Many such practices defy logic in this modern world, and run contrary to religious teachings. Despite migrating to supposedly advanced countries like Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand, why are Fiji Indian Hindus still slaves to tradition, refusing to embrace rationality and reality of the modern world, in line with the teachings of Gita? 
Through pressure of the community, we are forced to adhere to some old and nonsensical ways masquerading as tradition. Against our will, we are made to follow ways set up by those who died long time ago, and who would have wished we remained happy, and not mourn them.

Holi Hai.. Rang Barse....Thakur Ranjit Singh (right) with his wife, Shashi Kala Singh, celebrating the religious festival of Holi at Waitakere Indian Association Holi in Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand on 4 March, 2018. He broke away from tradition, and celebrated Holi with his family to celebrate the lives of these loved ones who departed between 6-8 weeks earlier. Anybody has any objections? Raise it with FIJI PUNDIT.
We need to change restriction placed on celebration of Holi (and Diwali) because of death (or birth) which is a natural inevitable phenomenon. Many will not play Holi colours or cook any sweets at home. What is this mourning for? What did they learn in 12 nights of Gita path? And why mourning only has to kick in while celebrating Holi or Diwali? Immediately after Holi, many will pull out BBQ stands, getting ready for Easter. Or getting ready with goat or chicken. There is no restriction on having birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving dinner, weddings, engagement parties, dancing, drinking and merrymaking. Why do we have to remember the dead relatives only during Holi and Diwali? Even marriage is halted for one year [But that, some other day]. 

Celebrating Holi in Auckland on 4 March, 2018 with family despite recent deaths in the family. Back,(left) Thakur Ranjit Singh and son-in-law, Ravi Chand. Front, from left, Thakur's daughter, Ragni Singh Chand, granddaughter, Rania Roma Chand, and wife, Shashi Kala Singh. As elders, we owe a duty of care to expose our culture to the new generation, and not restrict it in name of tradition and outdated practices, defying religious teachings.
I, despite having recent deaths between 6-8 weeks ago in the family, openly played Holi colours to set a trend in our community. I walked my talk. I know those who died after fruitful long lives are in a better place, their memories are with me and I used Holi to celebrate their lives. They would not have wanted to deny their children, grandchildren and hundreds of their relatives from living a normal life after they are gone. They sure would have wanted us to be happy - and play Holi.

Please follow in the footsteps of our forebears, or Girmitiyas. They were whipped, punched, kicked and heavily suffered under the British and Australian Colonisers. They lost many loved ones and “jahajis”(travelling companion) to death. If Bansi, Bholai, Ram Pher, Paragi, Tulsi, Dihal, Sirpat, Mangaru, Khaderu and Gajadhar and other Girmitiyas had stopped celebrating Holi or Diwali because of death or sorrow, our colourful culture would have died over a century ago. But no, they continued the tradition. Hence, we need to follow them and stop this nonsense, and remember them on Fiji Girmit Thanksgiving Day on 14 May. [That also will be another FIJI PUNDIT posting].

Agreed, it is individual choice, some may need time, but please do not deny religious festivals to the new generation who do not know what mourning is. As for me, I cared little of what others thought. I openly and boldly celebrated Holi, the colours to celebrate the lives of my Kaki and Bhabhi, whose souls and memories rejoiced with me at Waitakere Holi. That is the happiness they would have expected for me, as well as their families.

To the others, I remind them of Rajesh Khanna dialogue from Bollywood movie, Safar:

Zinda apne aap ko kabr mein gaar dena kurbani nahi andhkaar hai. This says, burying yourself in a grave or dying with the dead is not expression of sorrow or sacrifice. It is foolishness and darkness. The living ones are not meant to die with the dead.

You are free to ignore the teachings of Gita and mourn for those who have gone to a better place. You are also free to deprive your family of religious festivals, while yourself enjoying in other worldly fun.

FIJI PUNDIT urges practising Hindus to appreciate and understand the teaching of Bhagavad Gita, and stop old, outdated and irrelevant practices defying its teachings and lessons.
I refuse to be that pretender. Hence, I celebrated Holi despite death in the family. You are free to make your choice.

Please keep your culture and traditions alive, not by restrictions, but by following what Lord Krishn preached in Gita.

And that was: Stop being a Dhongee - stop being a double-faced person. Have faith in God and his teachings-and stop mourning the dead - and celebrate their life.

 [About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is the blogger-FIJI PUNDIT, and a trend-setter in thoughts and deeds on reforming the community to conform to the changing world.]

Monday, February 26, 2018

Time for FIJI INDIANS in New Zealand to be counted - As Fiji Indians

Thakur Ranjit Singh 

Fiji Indians are not new to New Zealand – so many came here to “clean” up the country of the noxious weed, ‘gorse’, which we referred to as ‘scrub’. 
So many from Fiji came in 1960s to clear NZ of its bushes. The rolling green field you see have been cleared by them who came on 3 month contract then.
But larger numbers continued coming and we had large influx after 1987 coup and this migration continued. My estimate is that there are over 50,000 Fiji Indians here now.
But nobody can dispute me, as they have never been counted or identified separately-they have been mistakenly treated as “Indians” which they are in a wider context.
However, they are a distinct Pacific people who need to be identified as such.
Hence, in census 2018, I am urging all Fiji Indians to be counted-and counted properly as who they are - FIJI INDIANS…...

Please read on..............................

Fijians of Indian descent in New Zealand comprise a huge number, but nobody knows how many, as we have never been recorded separately. We have either been counted as Indians, or have eclipsed in ‘Asian” category. No efforts have been made to identify us separately. Some claim that if recorded properly, we may even surpass Tongans and Niuean, and come only second to Samoans as the largest number of people of the Pacific in New Zealand.

The next generation after Girmit: The second-generation of descendants of Fiji Girmitiyas who were honoured during Fiji Girmit Remembrance Day in Auckland in May, 2014. Our request to Fiji Indians filling out census forms in NZ is to reflect our race as those who descended from them-Fiji Indians.
At the moment there is no consistent term that refers to Fijians of Indian descent-some call us Indo-Fijians, some Fiji-Indians and others Fijian Indians. Whatever the most accepted terminology, our first issue is to be identified separately in New Zealand Census, where we comprise more than most other Pacific Islanders. 

That is why in 2018 NZ Census, Fiji Indians are urged to record their ethnicity as “Other” and record it as “Fiji Indian”, so that we are correctly recorded as who we are. At the moment, we are a lost race. We have to first identify as “Fiji Indians” and then decide on the appropriate terminology for us.

Pacific Islanders with lower numbers get special recognition and government assistance programmes, while Fiji Indians surpassing island numbers get lost in Indian and Asian identities, and miss out on those benefits. 

Bansi Chauhan, a Girmitiya from Karauli, Rajasthan, India,who arrived in Fiji in 1915, served his Girmit in Ba, Fiji and settled there. Like him, other 60,500 came and majority settled back in Fiji and produced a new culture and breed of people: Fiji Indians. The author of this article, Thakur Ranjit Singh is Bansi's grandson.
The irony is that Indians in New Zealand do not regard us as Indians while Fijians (ITaukei) do not accept us as Fijians. Special benefits available for Fijians in New Zealand do not reach Fiji Indians because they are not identified as Fijians. So, Fiji Indians with a distinct culture and language became lost and drifted without any recognition, opportunities or benefits that were earmarked for us as Fijians. Special programmes reserved for Fijians ignored us. 

Fiji Indians are a distinct breed of people - they are not Indians - ask any Anglo Saxon (European). Our history in the Pacific started in the eighteenth century.

Almost 14 decades ago, the first Indians from mostly Northern India were shipped to Fiji as Indentured Labourers. Between the next 37 years, from 1879 to 1916, some 60,500 Girmitiyas, or indentured labourers were brought to Fiji by 87 ship voyages. Of these, some 25,000 were successful to move back to India after indenture, while the remainder stayed back. Why? Were they frustrated from moving back, to slave for Colonial Sugar Refining (CSR) Company’s sugar plantation? Were they seen as cheap labour for the British? Really. But that is another story for another day, to be answered by former Ba Town Clerk, Rajendra Prasad’s next blockbuster book to remove many myths about Girmit history and a failed leadership in Fiji. His next book,” Enslaved in Paradise”, a sequel to his successful historical tear-jerker Fiji Girmit history, “Tears in Paradise,” answers this mystery as to why many Indians who finished their indenture did not return.

Leonidas was the first ship to arrive in Fiji on 14 May, 1879 with the first batch of Girmitiyas-indentured labourers. There were a total of 87 voyages that brought some 60, 500 indentured labourers to Fiji. Some 25,000 returned after their indenture, and the rest settled in Fiji and the Fiji Indians descended from them.
Leonidas was the first ship to hit Fiji with Indentured Labourers. As India was a British Colony that time, the British and Australians found India a fertile ground for cheap labour for cane plantations in Fiji. India washed its hands on the suffering and plight of people in Fiji, and paid only token attention of cries from Fiji. Even when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Fiji in 1980s, she reminded Fiji Indians, that they were no longer Indians, but belonged to Fiji. But we never seemed to have belonged anywhere.

Through vision of Girmitiyas, we stood tall. This is because they vowed never again to allow a situation where their children would suffer like them. Hence, they concentrated on education and future well-being of their children. Educational opportunities and sacrifices they made for their future generations are enumerated in many historical writings.

The new breed of Indians in Fiji shed the vices that still grip India- no more caste, dowry or female foeticide (killing female foetus), among others. They made a fresh start. And so began a distinct culture, and religious traits. As they stayed on cane farms spread sparsely, they formed mandalis or religious groups, and thus began distinct religion, local singing and cultural songs, which were rooted in India but changed and adopted with local flavour. 

Indo-Fijians , Fiji Indians,or Fijian Indians-whatever you call them, are pacific people rooted in Fiji. They descended from Indian Indentured labourers-but are rooted in the Pacific and New Zealand has to recognise their descendents as such- Fiji Indians

A distinct Fiji Hindi language also transformed with a mixture of Hindi and other languages and local dialects of Girmitiyas. Fiji Hindi initially started as Lingua franca, a bridging language, but later took root as a language of Fiji Indians. This is spoken by all the descendants of Girmitiyas. 

Hence time is ripe for Fiji Indians to be counted in New Zealand –as a distinct race of people. One may hazard a question to two prominent people identified as Fiji Indians, as to what they will fill as race: Former MP, Rajen Prasad and former Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand? Whatever they fill, all the other Fijians of Indian descent in New Zealand are requested to be counted and have pride in their heritage -and counted properly as who they really are – FIJI INDIANS.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a third generation Fiji Girmitiya descendant, now settled in Auckland. He runs blog, FIJI PUNDIT and is a media commentator. He has filled his race/ethnicity in the 2018 NZ census as "Fiji Indian"and urges others like him from Fiji to do likewise, to be counted properly]

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Walking the Talk: Practising What we Preach

Thakur Ranjit Singh

God loves those who love their fellow beings. Hinduism preaches that the most meritorious, virtuous, righteous and saintly deed one can do is “parr hitt”- service to other fellow beings in particular and humanity in general.
Taking this on board, Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust has ventured on a visionary project, a walkathon that is termed, Ram - A –Thon, to help worthy national organisations providing services to communities of New Zealand.  Funds raised last year went to the Starship Hospital in Auckland, while this year’s efforts raised funds for Saint John Ambulance.
This article maps out the event and is intended as a salute to those who literally walked their talk to practice the religious motto of service to humanity.

Indeed, you serve God by loving and serving fellow-beings and humanity. And Shri Ram Mandir devotees literally walked their talk in serving fellow being by raising fund for Saint Johns through a walkathon -Ram- A-Thon on 4th February, 2018.

You may not believe in miracles of God, but the gift of nice fine weather on 4th February, 2018 was nothing short of a miracle. Despite forecast of stormy weather, the day dawned into a beautiful morning. We all assembled at Ram Mandir in Henderson and were transported by Ritchies bus to the starting point, the Winter Gardens at Auckland Domain.

Let the walk begin for a worthy cause. The enthusiastic and energetic walkers commencing the walk at Winter Gardens, Auckland Domain on 4th February, 2018

The Co-Op Taxis had sponsored this point and its executive, Jacob Patel, handed over their donation. Earlier, there was welcome address by the Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar, and appreciation from Saint John Representative, Dennis Dufty. With morning tea, sandwiches and refreshments, we were fuelled for the first stage of 5.3 km walk from Domain to Western Springs. Unbeknown to many, we had amongst us an 84 year old who started the march.

The Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar, giving the welcome small-talk at Auckland Domain (Winter Gardens), before the walk. It was his vision to practise what is preached by Hinduism - serving and loving mankind is one of greatest devotions to God.
This 20km walk served many objectives. We were raising money for a worthy cause-for Saint John. We were getting much needed exercise by walking. This event also brought family, friends and the community together.

One specialty of the walk was health and safety angle. Volunteer Doctors Ajay and Kulvant Singh kept close eyes on the walkers throughout the walk. And Sanit John vehicles accompanied the walkers all the way through. Anybody feeling tired had a choice to terminate the walk and board the accompanying vehicle. And those feeling unwell had more than adequate medical attention.

Pit Stop at Western Springs which was one of the main stops, where Sport Waitakere held activities for Seniors and Families. Pictured here, from left is Ram-A-Thon Executive Committee member, Madhavan Raman, Siona Fernandez, Indian Sports and Wellness Coordinator, Sport Waitakere, and Distinguished Guest, Labour List MP, Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

But the real beauty of this walk was the 20km of contrasting, breath-taking views of Auckland. The first stage, comprising 5.3 km went close to the CBD of Auckland, past Upper Queen Street. Passing by Auckland hospital, in the distance shadows of the Sky-Tower, over Grafton Bridge and through famous (some say infamous) K –Road (Karangahape in full), down Great North Road, through Central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn to the first pit stop-Western Springs.

Western Springs was the main pit stop where Sport Waitakere kept the senior citizens busy with their innovative sports and recreation activities. The kind sponsors, The Cooperative Bank provided abundance of healthy food snacks and drinks. The Bank Executive, Alice Cappleman, and Labour List MP, Priyanca Radhakrishnan addressed the walkers, gave them words of encouragement and spoke about virtues of helping others.

The group photo at Western Springs,with Saint John Ambulance and St John Shuttle van in the background with a third transport car in the middle, dwarfed by the walkers.

After group photos, walkers marched past Western Spring Lake and through a picturesque Western Springs  Park, crossing the motorway overbridge, onto the cycle tract parallel to motorway 16. This is a shared path between walkers and cyclists, and is the longest stretch of the walk, comprising 8.3km. This is a tough one, with a mixture of sea-view, traffic noise and beautiful Waitakere Ranges in the horizon.

A picturesque walk through International park, between McCormick Reserve and Tui Glen. This is led by the youngest walkers. On left is Sukirti Sharma, who at just over 10, completed the whole 20km walk, being youngest to do this. On the right is the baby of the walk, Rania Roma Chand, who was the youngest, at 5 years 9 months, to complete one leg of the walk.
Minister of Housing and Transport, and the local Te Atatu Electorate MP, Phil Twyford welcomed them at McCormick Greens in Te Atatu South, just beside Motorway 16. This pit stop was kindly sponsored by Kumar Guru, Austar Reality, of LJ Hooker.

The big supporter of Shri Ram Mandir activities, the local electorate, Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford,(with mike and cap) being the guest at McCormick Greens Pit stop, addressing and encouraging the walkers. Phil is also Minister of Housing and Minister for Transport. He is appropriately flanked by his two stalwart supporters, Shane Henderson, Chair of Henderson - Massey Local Board, with MC for the pit stop, Madhavan Raman (extreme right) while Pundit Jagdish Sharma, with hand-held hailer, ensuring that the Minister is heard by all. 

The walk from McCormick Reserve to Tui Glen is perhaps most pleasant. Walking past some residential area, sneaking under Central Park Drive Bridge, and walking thought the international gardens among best greens and path made this a very pleasant experience. It was here that the youngest walker, Rania Roma Chand, just 5 years 9 months, joined the walkers for this leg of the walk, with her mother. She chattered the way through with her group of walkers at easy pace while more energetic ones breezed through the shortest leg of 3.2 km walk.

The much deserving prizes for the oldest and the youngest walkers. The prize to the oldest walker, 84 year old, Gangi Taunk, handed over by Dennis Dufty of Saint Johns (top)  Above, prize for the youngest walker was given to Rania Roma Chand . Prize is being handed over by Mandeep Kaur Sidhu of NZ Police, and also a committee member of Ram-A-Thon committee. Rania is only five years nine months and completed one leg of the walk, while Sukirti Sharma, aged 10 was the youngest to complete the whole 20km walk. 78 years separated the ages of the youngest and the oldest walkers.
Tui Glen pit stop was sponsored by AB International and chair of Henderson –Massey Local Board, Shane Henderson was on hand to address the walkers, while Minster Phil Twyford had joined the walkers from Mc Cormick pit stop.
When walkers arrived at the final stop outside Ram Mandir on Brick Street, we had a welcoming party consisting of students from Waitakere Hindi School and musicians from Mandir with drums and cymbals to lead the walkers to the Mandir, where the formal part of the programme was held.

The first was naming and awarding prizes to various walkers. The following were the winners:
Prize for most generations walking was given to Master Shiu Charan Family. Dennis Dufty of Saint Johns (left) is seen handing over the prize to the family-Shiu Charan, Granddaughter Jayshree Anita Charan and Daughter-in-Law, Lucretia Charan. While the grandfather , Shiu Charan completed one leg of the walk, and also won the prize for the highest individual collector, the mother-daughter team completed the whole 20km walk.

·         Highest individual collector-Master Shiu Charan

·         Highest Corporate collector-Lotus Foreign Exchange

·         Family -Generational –Master Shiu Charan, Daughter-in-Law, Lucretia     Charan and granddaughter Jayshree Anita Charan (3 generations).

·         Family-highest number- Sanjay, Nandini, Vivek and Vishal Kumar (4)

·         Family completing the full walk:  three winners- Falgun and Sangita Shah,     Amrit Bhai and Amba Ben and Suman Sharma and Kajal Kumar.

·         The youngest: Rania Roma Chand- 5 years 9 months.

·         The oldest: Gangi Taunk- 84 years old.


   Cheque of $15,522.40 being presented to Dennis Dufty (4th from right) of Saint John by Ravend Kishore, (second from right) a Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, while flanked by Pravin Kumar, Managing Trustee and Salend Kumar, another Trustee. On the left are the team from St John that accompanied and oversaw the security and wellbeing of the walkers, and a police representative.

The real winners were the walkers who were rewarded with the satisfaction of helping St John, and of course Saint John who were handed $15, 522 collected in the walk.
This whole event was with a message for other similar religious organisations to venture of the real spirituality of engaging with the wider community and helping those who help others.

We will await you next year for a day of fun with your families-in serving humanity. And God.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs the blog, FIJI PUNDIT, took most of the photos and was also Acting Event Director of Ram-A-Thon project 2018.]

Friday, January 5, 2018

RAM - A - THON: Shri Ram Mandir sets a trend for religious organisations

Thakur Ranjit Singh

What started three years ago as a prop to raise funds for completing Shri Ram Mandir in Henderson, Auckland, has turned into annual fundraiser for needy organisations. 

A Flashback of the last Ram-A -Thon on 11 December, 2016. The team of walkers assembled in from of Shri Ram Mandir early in the morning before being bussed to Auckland Domani for commencement of the walk.
The next walkathon, which has been named as Ram-A –Thon to reflect its initiative from Shri Ram Mandir, will be held in early 2018. The walkathon is on Sunday 4 February, 2018, starting from Winter Gardens in Auckland Domain to Shri Ram Mandir, Brick Street, Henderson.

The 2018 Ram-A -Thon flyer with all relevant details. Please feel free to call us for further details.
This is a whole day, 19 km walk to raise funds for Saint John Ambulance. There will be entertaining and helpful stops on the way at Western Springs, Te Atatu South and Tui Glen Park in Henderson, culminating in presentations and dinner at Ram Mandir in the evening. There would be dignitaries, food, refreshments and special guests at each location, addressing and encouraging the walkers.
Waitakere Sports, the Police, Saint Johns, elders, youths and other organisations have come on board to give a helping hand. Corporate sponsors such as Coop Taxis, The Cooperative Bank, Harcourt’s and Mitre 10 Henderson, among other, have come on board with an open heart. Greater details will be on our Facebook page, and will be spread through this medium.

Welcoming speech by Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi before the last walkathon at Winter Gardens at Auckland Domain
Indeed, the idea that commenced to complete the Temple has now escalated into an activity that has been used to assist deserving charities. Last year, Ram-A Thon charity walk contributed some $10, 000 to Star Ship Hospital. This year, it has grown bigger with a walk for Saint John Ambulance.
Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust’s (SRMCT) trend-setting charity walk comes with a difference. The difference is that it is not merely to raise funds, but to amplify well-being of community, importance of keeping fit, networking, service to community and enhancing diversity and multiculturalism. 

The most important message is to religious organisations to extend their radar of focus from religious to spiritual activities. Thus, Shri Ram Mandir has endeavoured to widen its focus from religious activities to the wellbeing of the wider community.
The person leading the organisation that came with this benevolent thought, stressed that this type of walkathon has multi-pronged objectives. Pravin Kumar, the Managing Trustee of SRMCT said, “We have advised from the outset that the priority of this charity walk was not fundraising. While that is one of the aims, it is one on low priority.”

The man behind this philanthropic initiative, the Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar (right), with his good wife, Kasmin Kumar.
He advised that the multi-objectives of this walk are: 

To engage with the wider community, including children, youths, elders, women and people from all walks to life – enhancing diversity, teamwork, networking and multiculturalism. In fact it enhances and brings together the whole family and the community.

To create awareness of well-being, healthy living, walking, exercising and keeping fit.

To help raise funds for the Community Wellbeing. Last year we raised money for Starship Hospital. This year we are walking for equally deserving Saint John Ambulance.

Some prominent supporters of the last Ram-A-Thon at pit stop at McCormick Reserve, Te Atatu South, Auckland. From left, your truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh (Acting Event Director), Hon Phil Twyford, (then MP for Te Atatu, and now also Minister for Housing and Transport.) Mahendra Sharma (Event Director, but now away overseas), Shane Henderson (Chairperson of Henderson-Massey Local Board) and Pravin Kumar (Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust)
“We are pleased that we are able to pass the wider message to the community for its well-being through the temple project,” Kumar said.

It is also stressing the message of change to other religious organisations to widen their focus from religious to spiritual wellbeing of the community where we use our morals, ethics and teaching for helping others.

The fun-team of walkers in the last event on 11.12.2016, having a well-earned short-break under Rosebank Road underpass
We are urging general public to reserve Sunday, 4 February, 2018 in your calendar for walking the talk on helping the community and widening the objectives and aims of religious teaching in supporting   vulnerable and needy in our communities.

A flashback to the first Ram-A -Thon over 3 years ago on 30 November, 2014. Please note the incomplete work, and exposed timber (on left), still being finalised for completion of the Mandir. The dignitaries who graced the occasion- from left, Managing Trustee, Pravin Kumar, Kanwaljit  Singh Bakshi, (National List MP), Phil Twyford (MP, Te Atatu), Alfred Ngaro  and Parmjeet Parmar (both National List MPs and Linda Cooper(Auckland City Councillor).

Further information can be obtained from Acting Event Director Thakur Ranjit Singh on 021 235 4559 or e-mail – For further details please visit Shri Ram Mandir Facebook page or can be obtained by contacting Pundit Jagdish Sharma on 09-836 4647.

About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs the blog FIJI PUNDIT, and is also a media commentator, and promotes community and other events beneficial to the society and enhances community wellbeing.. He is also Acting Project Director of Ram-A Thon, sitting in for Pundit Mahendra Sharma who is away overseas in India.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Thirsty at Auckland Transport stations?: No problem - drink from Council toilets

The Kiwi culture of drinking water from public toilets in the Super City

Thakur Ranjit Singh

While the mainstream New Zealand media is oblivion to this fact, FIJI PUNDIT is again raising an issue that escaped their radar. Perhaps they are too busy muckraking over who mistakes our PM as somebody else’s wife. So, we tackle something important and relevant to all of us.

Auckland Council appears to be promoting a new culture of drinking water from toilets. This is because planning of Council facilities are bereft of any human, health, hygienic or public-need considerations.

Auckland Transport  Bus and Train Stations do not have the essential amenity of drinking fountains and it reflects on lack of compassion and planning skills of those who needs to care. They need to learn from a Third World Fiji bus stations.

We do not have free drinking water at all its railway and bus station network, except two. There are no separate taps or drinking fountains-you drink in toilets.

The bigger irony is that the Western Springs Lakeside Park which is built on the site of former Auckland Reservoir, which provided water to early settlers, is as dry as Sahara Desert. None of its fountains in the park walkways have running water. 

Another irony is that the $28 million dollar Otahuhu bus and rail station which opened in October, 2016 and which has won an award, also has no drinking fountains. People are forced to drink from toilets, as no separate hygienic free water is available at any of Auckland’s bus and train stations (except two).

I wonder who were the judges who granted this $28m Otahuhu station an award? Like Auckland Council planners, these judges are too rich and never use these facilities for the poor to realise we need drinking fountains. This award-winning Bus/Train station is also "dry", unless you drink from its toilets.
This article was written seven months ago, in April, 2017, and sent to all councillors, Mayor Phil Goff and CEO of Auckland Council. But as usual, it seems to have ended in the Council trash bin. That is why I am rekindling this water issue as the summer heat makes us thirty, and we have a new Government which can whip a dead horse - Auckland Council. This is especially because the Super City’s lead jockey, riding and Uncontrolled Auckland Council is Labour’s former leader.

You travel on a train or a bus network from Waitakere Station in West Auckland to Pukekohe via Papakura (including Sylvia Park network) in South. If you have an empty water bottle, you will find no place to fill, except in Auckland toilets. Same thing applies if you travel on Northern Busway, from Albany Station to all stations (Constellation, Sunnynook, Smales Farm and Akoranga) to the city. 
In Britomart, you now have a sole fountain for hundreds of thousands of commuters and visitors. New Lynn has a low-pressured lone drinking fountain. That is the sum total in Auckland- JUST TWO. As mentioned earlier, the most recent multi-million dollar showpieces at Otahuhu and Panmure stations are also ‘dry”. 

"Water Water everywhere, not a single drop to drink". This Western Springs Lakeside Park which is built on the site of former Auckland Reservoir, which provided water to early settlers, is as dry as Sahara Desert. None of its fountains in the park walkways have running water. It appears many at Auckland Council are sleeping on the job.
Auckland, as a supposedly most liveable city needs to live up to that name. Health and well-being of its citizens is it prime priorities. Free water contributes to healthy bodies. Tens of thousands of school children use these facilities, and are encouraged to buy frizzy and sugary drinks instead of free water supply in a country overflowing with so much water. 

Ironically NZ does not blink an eye-lid to give free water to overseas companies who profit on our natural resources. Yet our city is unable to provide it to us. Some stations, apart from pricy water, also sell Coke products and supposedly healthy glutton and fat free products, but fail to provide water fountains. Does Auckland Council have shares in Coke or water bottling companies, selling water at twice the price of petrol?

I suggest Mayor Phil Goff to take a ride on his motorbike, thirsty and with an empty water bottle, and verify where you can have clean free fill or drink of water, away from a toilet. The Mayor can have the new Minister of Health, Hon Dr David Parker, and Minister for Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta in tow to give them a first-hand look at wanting Super City and its heartless and blinkered planners.

It seems the Mayor, Phil Goff and his planners are so high up the salary scale , and up the ivory tower that they have no consideration for the common people on earth. They are too busy in activities that have little to do with immediate objectives of a City Council. They cannot even provide us basic drinking amenities in the City - a very blinkered planning.
I suggest Phil Goff also send some highly paid Auckland City planners on a junket to Fiji, a Third World Country on first class tickets to see how we do it there. All Fiji municipality markets and bus stations throughout Fiji have separate pipes and free water for its thirsty citizens -not in toilets. Fiji may be poor, but its decision-makers have a heart and compassion for the people who pay their salaries.

Cash-strapped municipalities in Fiji can teach Auckland Council how to manage people facilities. We can teach them a lot, if they listen. 
Public transport network in Fiji municipalities do NOT make our people to drink from toilets. 

Auckland Council does.

Cry, a beloved, most liveable, Super City

[About the Author-Thakur Ranjit Singh manages blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also manages the Facebook Page- “”Auckland Council WATCH”, where he raises pertinent issues relating to Auckland Council, hoping somebody, some day, will take notice. This article was posted there, and also sent to Auckland Mayor, its CEO and all Councillors in April, 2017. Nobody seems to have taken any notice.]