It indeed was a day for the Seniors, Elders, or Older Peoples, or whatever you decide to call them, but it was a milestone for Fiji Indian Seniors to have launched FIJI SENIORS FEDERATION NZ on INTERNATIONAL DAY OF OLDER PERSONS on 1 October 20 23.
Fiji Indians who generally feel left out by other organisations decided it as a necessity to unite under their Pacifica identity which they are seeking, under the mentorship and sponsorship from the umbrella body of Fiji Indians in Aotearoa, FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ.
The event was held at A1 Event Centre in Papatoetoe, Manukau, New Zealand with an overflowing hall with a rolling crowd of over 450 people. It was a day for two-pronged celebration – SENIORS DAY, combined with celebrating FIJI DAY.
The Fiji day portion was graced by the First Secretary of Fiji High Commission in Wellington, Mela Baba, who passed best wishes of the High Commissioner, Ratu In
oke Kubuabola. She, with all others were also elated at Fiji’s Rugby win against Georgia that morning, and wished Fiji Girmit Foundation NZ best wishes for initiating and sponsoring the day for the Seniors and uniting them.
The Seniors started filling the hall well before the nominated start time of 10am, with the ten groups bringing their snacks of Samosa, Fried and Boiled Cassava, Gulgula, Indian savouries, Bhajia, Dhokra, Fruit-platter and other mouth-watering finger-foods for the guests. This was a huge culturally based welcoming attitude in the largest gathering of Fiji Seniors in one programme, with their numbers exceeding 200 seniors out to celebrate their day.
Formalities included a welcome address by Sam Achary, the Chairperson of Trustees of FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, followed by recognition and a salute to seniors as well as to the sponsors and volunteers by the President of the Foundation, Krish Naidu.
The programme began with older persons wellbeing, safety, security, and health in mind. The Counties Manukau Acting Inspector, a Ba-born, Steven Smith spoke about Seniors keeping safe, generally, but particularly from online scams and cold calls.
This was followed by wellbeing exposure on embracing healthy ageing and staying active in the golden years. This was conducted by Vimlesh Shukla, a health care Lecturer, who was able to talk in Fiji Hindi language to engage with Seniors and to pass the important message on elder wellbeing to Fiji Indian seniors.
This wellbeing was further emphasised by Dr Apiu Talemaitoga, a clinical consultant who focussed around staying healthy and a change in habits for better health.
And then the main event of celebrating the Seniors Day began. This was the formal launch of FIJI SENIORS FEDERATION NZ, by cutting the cake together by leaders of the ten seniors’ groups, joined by other dignitaries.
While this was a small step by Fiji Indian Seniors, it however is a leap for the message of unity to the Fiji Indian Diaspora worldwide, to control and overcome their personal egos, and work together as illustrated through the unity shown by matured, compassionate and caring leadership of Older Persons in Auckland.
And then began the Jadoo, the magical programme of Seniors, with magic show by Jai Prasad from Papatoetoe Seniors, a thrilling Girmit Dance by Shivarchan Trust Seniors. This was followed by a stage-shattering Bollywood and Garba number by very elegantly dressed, and well-choreographed dance by ladies from the only Seniors Group from West Auckland, Waitakere Seniors Association.
In recognition of Fiji Day, Damoni Seniors Fiji In
dian members performed a Fijian Meke. Then Manukau Seniors, led by Vishnu took us into the old art of Laathi, the staff/stick fight and defence. The stage was also stolen by a fashion show from Southeast Auckland Seniors (SEASCA) with their fashion parade, showing dressing, clothing, and dresses of various parts of India, with relevant songs and dances. Items were also performed by South Auckland Seniors (SASCA) and Fiji Indian Seniors Group.
In between we had Jack Punja with his thrilling Mohammed Rafi numbers on karaoke, joined by a hilarious Fiji Indian “funny-falla”, the famous DJ Sarra, using the sweetness of Fiji Hindi to create humour, in the footsteps of the legend John Mohammed.
Indeed, Fiji Hindi is a rich mixture of language, developed in cane farms and difficult environments of Girmit where various Indian dialects, Fijian and English intermixed together to create a chop suey or khichri, mixed rice, of unique conversational Fiji Hindi, or Fiji Baat (not “bat”) which creates richness, humour, and friendship amongst those from Fiji.
Fiji Hindi is a free-flowing conversational language without grammar or structure. And DJ Sarra has a unique art of bringing this out to create comedy, ability for us to laugh at our way of speaking – and celebrating our culture -and the Seniors.
The day’s programme was rounded off with Manurewa Network Seniors, who had commenced the event with national anthem. They also closed the programme with the iconic Itaukei farewell song, Isa Lei sung by all.
Of course, no Fijian or Fiji Indian networking or event is complete without Kava – or feasting. After having bowl-full of delicious snacks, the remainder volume was taken by a sumptuous Fiji Indian meal, with a taste of Fiji, not adulterated by any cream of other additions. There is something unique about Fiji-Indian-type meals where you get the real taste of food.
The verdict of the Seniors was that they wish for more of such outings, networking and wellbeing network, a day out with fellow seniors, where they are shown respect and they the focus. Requests have come from other Senior Groups wishing to be part of the inspirational FIJI SENIORS FEDERATIOPN NZ. Those others wishing to join are free to come under the wider banner of FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ.
A salute to the leadership of FIJI SENIORS FEDERATION NZ for their willingness to join and celebrate healthy and dignified ageing-together.
Wishing all Elder people, a happy and dignified ageing, best wishes for International Day for Older Persons and blessings and best wishes for a happy Fiji Day. -Thakur Ranjit Singh
[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a journalist and a media commentator. He is a Founding Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation NZ and is Secretary and Coordinator of Fiji Seniors Federation NZ. He is involved with wellbeing of Seniors in Auckland. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]