NZ Police rocks Chch Diwali: The Garden City lights up on the occasion

(caption for the above picture: Inspector Hirone Waretini, District Manager for Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services, and his troops charming the crowd with their electrifying dance moves on Hindi movie songs. Their performance was part of the Diwali celebrations organised by the Indian Social and Cultural Club in Christchurch on October 22 at the Horncastle Arena.)

Inspector Hirone Waretini describing the experience, "It was certainly an amazing experience and the crowd reaction blew us away. It was difficult getting people together at the same time due to rosters and other work commitments. Once we arrived at the venue to run through the dance moves, we’d all forgotten everything and there were plenty of nerves about that, not least from our teacher Shawn Thomas, who was brilliant. However, one thing about Cops is that we don’t like to lose, so we knuckled down for the next couple of hours and really tried to nail the routine. The few moments before going up on stage were the worst. Afterwards however it was relief, elation and disbelief that we’d actually – only just, maybe – pulled it off. We thought it was a tremendous chance for us to do something different and show the Indian Community that we really wanted to connect to them.”

 Minister Nicky Wagner, wearing a traditional Indian saree (in the middle), with Nalini Rama (one of the theming directors of the event), and Canterbury Police's District Commander John Price
 The event started with a performance by Anuradha Ambalavanar led Bharatnatyam Group of Christchurch. In all, there were 24 performances.

For 10th year in a row, Christchurch Diwali - the biggest Indian festival in the South Island - showcased the rich culture, history and traditions of the sub-continent to the wider community.

Also, as a testimony to the multicultural nature of New Zealand, the event also had performances from Latinzone Contemporary and Jalsa Hip Hop Group of the Christchurch Fiji Association. Though the highlight of the event for many was the rocking performance of Canterbury Police on a mix of Bollywood songs led by Inspector Hirone Waretini, who is in-charge of Canterbury Police Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services Group.

 Natu Rama, President of the Indian Social and Cultural Club, with Ruth Dyson, the Labour MP for Port Hills, lighting the lamp to start the event traditionally

"Encouraged by the continuous support that we have been getting over the years, we wanted to put on an even better show this time around. There were over 24 performances demonstrating the talent of more than 100 participants. The attendance was also better than last time, and initial estimates put that figure to close to 8,000,” noted Natu Rama, President of the city-based Indian Social and Cultural Club (ISCC), which organised the event.

 The Chief Guest of the evening, Phil Holstein, Principal, Burnside High School, Christchurch

“On a personal level, I feel humbled and honoured to be able to serve the community in my role as the President of ISCC. Moreover, as our family is completing 100 years in New Zealand this year, we thought to support the event in a big way. That's why we formed the Rama Family Trust and became one of the naming sponsors of the event.  This is the first event we supported and look forward to be a part of more such cultural and educational initiatives in the future,” he added.

 Traditional Indian artefacts were on display as well

Apart from the cultural performances, another major attraction of the event were the trade and craft stalls. Hemant Chauhan, a volunteer with ISCC informed, “We had 14 trade and 17 food stalls as part of the celebrations. The interest and participation from among the business community has also risen over the years.”

Amrit Singh from Value Mart retail store and Priya Thapar of Recontres Bling candle-lights were participating for the first-time and expressed excitement on being able to contribute towards enriching the New Zealand culture with some Indianess.  

A major change that the organising committee did this year was to sell only vegetarian food during the celebrations.

 Candle-lights display by Recontres Bling was a major attraction. In all, there were 14 trade and 17 food stalls, serving the visitors throughout the evening.

"There were some scepticism early on. But we wanted to try it out. And I am glad to report that even if only for a meal, we were able to prove to the wider community that vegetarianism is possible and healthy," added Rama.

He also shared that the theme for this year's Diwali was Monuments of India.

"One thing that always comes up is that in the concert-like nature of how we organise the Diwali festival here, the cultural aspects are somewhat subdued. While I understand that, I believe we also need to provide a platform to the Indians settled in South Island for showcasing their talents. But in the coming years, this is one thing we want to improve upon. Maybe have Ramleela on the sidelines. And along with that if we can take Diwali to the Hagley Park, which will help thousands more attending the festival, it will be the icing on the cake,” concluded Rama.

 The attendance was also better than last time, and initial estimates put that figure to close to 8,000, noted Natu Rama
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