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Awards recognise contributors to community

The Queen’s New Year Honours List contains nine persons of Indian origin who have been recognised for their contributions and services in various areas of interest, broadly termed, ‘Business’ and ‘Community.’

Indian Newslink took pride and pleasure in contacting them to convey the compliments of our readers and assessing their reaction.

Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Queen Elizabeth II appoints people of distinction as Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM), one of the five classes to the New Zealand Order of Merit.

These are awarded to those “who in any field of endeavour have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and Nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits.”

Jacob Rajan

Theatre lovers and other members of the community in New Zealand will know Jacob Rajan as one of the most illustrious and successful playwrights, producers and actors, with a unique ability to make people laugh and think.

‘Indian Ink Theatre Company,’ which he established in 1996 with Justin Lewis, was described by Dominion Post as “total theatre which offers humanity and psychological insight in a package of good plain laughs, luminous performances and brilliant staging.”

His plays, ‘Krishnan’s Diary,’ ‘The Candlestickmaker’ and ‘The Pickle King’ have won three ‘Production of the Year’ awards, apart from creating new box-office records.

‘Indian Ink’ has enjoyed sellout seasons in Australia, Singapore, UK and Germany.

Mr Rajan’s initial response to the MNZM award was one of guilt.

“I am a part of a theatre company along with long-time collaborator Justin Lewis, and hence, being singled out did not feel right. But obviously it is a huge honour,” he said.

Nilima Venkatakrishnan

Visitors to Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust have often wondered how a person could cope with the challenges of looking after elders, engaging them in useful activities and enabling them to forget their worries at home. Nilima Venkatakrishnan, who is now a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, is affectionately known as the ever-smiling, patient and understanding ‘daughter’ by senior citizens and as ‘a pleasant sister,’ by the members of the Indian community.

Apart from organising events, classes, games and other programmes for senior citizens who are seen regularly at Shanti Niwas, Ms Venkat also lends a helping hand to the New Zealand Police, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin and other organisations in conducting seminars and workshops on a number of social issues including family violence.

“I am delighted as well as humbled by this honour which is recognition of my work and our community. This Award has given me great encouragement to continue working hard for the betterment of the society,” she said.

Dr Reena Ramsaroop

This Auckland based medical person was recognised for her services as a histocytopathologist.

Sumant Lala

He is perhaps the only person from the Indian community who has contributed in an incomparable measure to child cancer research.

Known widely as ‘Simon,’ Sumant Lala is a Chartered Accountant by profession, with practices in Auckland and Wellington.

He has been involved with the New Zealand Child Cancer Foundation since 1990, when his daughter was diagnosed with cancer (she is now a fit and healthy adult). He has worked as a volunteer and six years later, became its Chairman.

He established World Child Cancer (New Zealand) in 2007 to finance child cancer projects in developing countries.

His objective has been to improve the support available to children affected by cancer and raise funds for child cancer research.

He is a member on the board of ‘Can Teen,’ whose mission is to “support, develop and empower youngsters living with cancer through a national support network and high quality education,’ and a Trustee of the Ronald MacDonald Accommodation Trust.

Queen’s Service Gold Medal

The Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) is awarded to those “who have rendered either or both valuable voluntary service to the community or meritorious and faithful services to the Crown or similar services within the public sector, whether in elected or appointed office.”

Anand Naidu

Community service, goodwill towards the people he knows and meets and the large interest of the ethnic groups with which he is involved are among the qualities that have earned Anand Naidu the coveted QSM.

As President of the Waitakere Indian Association (he is now Immediate Past President), he brought dignity and honour to the post, just as his predecessors did. His earlier involvement with the Auckland Ramayan Sanstha Trust (of which he was the President) in Mangere and as a member of the executive committee of the Bharatiya Mandir, provided him opportunities to serve people.

As a Justice of the Peace, he makes himself available for attestation of documents as per the rules in force, while as a former Marriage Celebrant, he solemnised many marriages in the country.

“I feel most humbled and I acknowledge the immense support that I have received from my family and friends with the grace of God and the blessings of his parents,” he said.

Ashwin Gulab

Wellington resident Ashwin Gulab said that he was honoured to receive QSM.

“It is a privilege to serve the wider community through various Indian and ethnic organisations. I share this award with my wife and family,” he said.

People of Indian origin in Wellington and Waikato will know him as one of the busiest and finest men, rendering a variety of community services for the past four decades.

His role at the New Zealand Indian Central Association as the President, Vice-President, General Secretary and Chairman of several committees (currently he chairs the Funding Committee) has brought him in contact with member associations, associated organisations and community leaders.

Mr Gulab also chairs the board of trustees at the Wellington Indian Association.

He was a member of the Community Advisory Group for the Te Papa exhibition on ‘Aainaa Reflections through Indian Weddings in 2011.”

Giri Gupta

New Zealand is replete with success stories of people who have endured hardship, modest income, uncertain future and worse, unchartered waters.

Giri Gupta, who is a popular entrepreneur in the hospitality industry, is one such.

His ownership of motels, a restaurant and a travel agency, and his role as founder, partner and managing editor of the Indian Weekender have brought him closer to a cross section of the resident community.

Qualifications in engineering in his native India and later in the US served as a good foundation in pursuit of a career in both countries. While America, with all its potential and vocational opportunities would have assured him of a lucrative disposition, his heart and mind were set on New Zealand, which he perceived held the potential for his involvement and progress.

It was not an easy ride. He worked for less than $9 per hour at The Warehouse in Pakuranga, barely sufficient to tend to his small family of a son and two daughters (one of who is now in the US).

But hard work seldom goes unrewarded. Mr Gupta entered the property market about ten years ago and has never looked back.

“My life revolves around friends, family, customers and people in the community. This award belongs to them,” he said.

Parbhu Kanji

One of the most respected and admired members of the Indian community is Parbhu Kanji, whose long innings in business and Cricket have motivated hundreds of people to perform their role in the community.

The grand octogenarian took our call with grace and serenity.

“I am happy and feel privileged to be selected for QSM,” was his laconic reply.

Migrating to New Zealand in 1937 when he was six years old, Mr Kanji completed his education, and began his business life with a fruit shop that he owned and operated for 23 years with his brother in Herne Bay (North Shore) followed by a number of other commercial ventures..

“I consider my association with New Zealand as a distribution agent in Hobson Street at the Central Business District in Auckland as an important part of my life and career,” Mr Kanji said.

He is better known for his services to the community and most importantly Cricket.

The Auckland Cricket Association (ACA) honoured him with the post of Vice Patron in 2007, in recognition of his forty plus years of voluntary service, during which he served as its Vice-President, Member of the Senior Management Committee, Junior Cricket team manager, Grounds Committee Member for International Fixtures at Eden Park and Liaison Officer for touring cricket teams (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka).

He also served in various capacities at the New Zealand Indian Sports Association, Auckland Indian Sports Club (as a delegate to ACA, Vice-President, Assistant Secretary and Treasurer). He was also in the selection committee for the national cricket team.

Mr Parbhu was also a hockey player from 1948 to 1970.

He is a trustee of the Bharatiya Mandir Indian Temple Inc.

Paul Singh Bains

The incumbent President of the New Zealand Central Indian Association has been engaged in community service for almost 50 years, making him another worthy recipient of QSM in the New Year.

“I am greatly honoured to be recognised for community service, which has been my passion,” Paul Singh Bains said.

He has been an active member of various educational institutions, religious and community organisations. While his qualifications in engineering enabled him to launch his career as an automotive diesel engineer, his passion for rural life encouraged him to own and develop a dairy farm over the past 30 years.

His rise to the top post in the top Indian association has been marked by several milestones at several community bodies.

He is also a founder and member of the executive committee of the New Zealand Sikh Society which owns and manages the Te Rapa Gurudwara in Hamilton.

He attributed the success as a farmer and community worker to his wife Damanjit Kaur.

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