I begin by greeting everyone in the languages of the realm of New Zealand, in English, Māori, Cook Island Māori, Niuean, Tokelauan and New Zealand Sign Language.
Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni and as it is the afternoon (Sign)
I then specifically greet you: Rajul Makan, President of the Wellington Indian Sports Club and members of the Club Executive, particularly, Pravin Lalloo, Convenor of the Jubilee Committee; Members of the Club; Distinguished Guests otherwise; Ladies and Gentlemen.
In the context of this gathering may I add the greetings: Kam Cho, Namaste, Namashkar, Sat Sri Akal, Salaam Walaikuim.
It has been with much pleasure that my wife Susan and I accepted the invitation to attend this celebration to mark the 75th birthday of the Wellington Indian Sports Club. In particular it is a pleasure to see so many friends and familiar faces.
It gives me much pleasure to congratulate the Wellington Indian Sports Club on its 75th Jubilee.
When this Club was formed in 1935, I suspect that few of the 40 inaugural members could have anticipated the organisation that it would later become.
Those first members were inspired by the legendary Dhyan Chand, widely regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time, who came to prominence when he played in an Indian Army team that toured in New Zealand in 1926. He later captained a team that toured New Zealand in 1935.
Dhyan Chand, as many here will know, had played in the India hockey teams that won gold at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam and the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles and he went on to captain the 1936 team that won gold in the Berlin Olympics. His name is celebrated in the magnificent stadium in New Delhi that we the venue for all hockey at the Commonwealth Games.
And just like Dhyan, the Wellington Indian Sports Club has gone from strength to strength. It now boasts more than 600 members with teams competing in sports and recreational activities as diverse as hockey, cricket, soccer and netball as well as Tae Kwon Do and walking.
In addition, to the growth in membership and activities, there is this fine gymnasium and clubrooms complex here in Kilbirnie, which were bought, developed and maintained by club members over many years through an inestimable amount of volunteer labour.
It is a record of service to sport, recreation and to the Indian and wider community that everyone can rightly take great pride. Your efforts remind me of the words of Mahatma Gandhi whose 141st birthday was marked on 2 October, namely: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
That commitment and service can be seen in many ways. The first is in acknowledging the five members who received their life membership pins earlier this month—Hansa Parbhu, Pravin Lalloo, Rajul Makan, Navnit Morar and Harsa Pancha. Thank you for all you have done for this Club.
The second is to note the Club’s most recent achievements. They include, for example, the Primary P1 Boys’ Hockey Team winning the Wellington Primary School Boys’ Championship. Quite rightly, the Club awarded this team its highest honour—the Sports Person or Team of the Year Trophy.
Equally impressive has been the contribution of Club and its members at the regional, national and international level. I understand the Wellington Hockey Association recognises the Club as its largest hockey club and has been frequently awarded the Association’s Club of the Year Award.
More widely, I also understand that four club members played in the Wellington Mens’ Representative Team that won the Challenge Shield at the National Hockey Tournament. As well, the Club counts three Olympians among its members in Husmukh Bhikha, Umesh Parag and Mitesh Patel.
Likewise, as will be known, Susan and I had the opportunity to attend the first five days of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi this month where two Club players, Anita Punt, and Blair Hilton, represented New Zealand in the womens’ and mens’ hockey teams respectively.
Fittingly, the hockey games were played at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium, where the Black Sticks womens’ team took the silver medal after a heartbreaking penalty shoot out in the final against Australia while the Black Sticks men took the bronze medal in defeating England. Both teams did exceptionally well and are well placed as they look forward to the 2012 London Olympics.
However, what I can say is that we were impressed with what we saw in Delhi. The refurbished Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was a superb venue and the opening ceremony that was held there was spectacular.
At the opening every team received a cheer but I can bring to mind a special cheer for our country because of the wearing of each team member over their black blazer, a white scarf or angavastram – a formal scarf worn by Indians on special occasions. On this scarf were three things: the altitude of Mount Everest; a quote of Sir Edmund Hillary saying, “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”; and a quote of Tenzing Norgay, “Be great, make others great.”
This gesture of linkage between New Zealand and India and Nepal was covered in the Press and was known about and was a gesture greatly appreciated.
It was a great honour to support the New Zealand athletes as they participated in the first week of competition, in Netball; Swimming; Cycling; Athletics and Lawn Bowls.
While only two years had passed since we visited India for the first State Visit by a New Zealand Governor-General to the subcontinent, the nation’s development continues at a remarkable pace. The global financial crisis that has affected many western nations appears to have only slightly dented India’s economic advance.
In conclusion then, in 75 years, the Wellington Indian Sports Club has achieved much and it is right and fitting for the Jubilee to be celebrated. More widely the Club’s achievements also represent the contribution of New Zealanders of Indian origin. As I have been pleased to say on several previous occasions, New Zealanders of Indian descent in disciplines as diverse as sporting and cultural endeavours to business, politics, academia and the central and local government have given much to this country.
And on a note of congratulations for the Wellington Indian Sports Club as it celebrates its Diamond Jubilee, I will close in New Zealand’s first language by offering everyone greetings and wishing you all good health and fortitude in your endeavours.
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tēnā koutou katoa.