The city is dotted with cultural associations that were established a long time ago. They help maintain the culture of the community they represent as also contribute to society through welfare activities. Office-bearers and members gathered for a chat with DNA and discussed their culture and adaptability to Gujarati culture over the years, among other things.
Among the participants were Bhagchand Varlayani, chairman of Sindhi Central Panchayat; Jagdish Shahdadpuri, chairman of cultural committee of Sindhi Central Panchayat; Basant Panda, member of Orissa Socio Cultural Association (OSCA); Sandhya Panda, cultural secretary of OSCA; Dr Kumudini Padhi, Odiya author; Ariz Bokdawalla, general secretary of the Parsi Youth League of Ahmedabad (PYLA) and Bomi Sethna, vice-president of PYLA. M Punnarao, joint secretary of Ahmedabad Andhra Mahasabha and its executive member Venugopal Rao were also present. From Ahmedabad Kerala Samajam, C Somraj, treasurer and C Girishan, general secretary attended the session while from Karnataka Sangha, Ahmedabad president Sanjeev Shetty was present. Subhash Anekar, vice-president of Maharashtra Mandal, Kankaria and Narayan Bhoite, general secretary of Akhil Gujarat Maharashtrian Mahasabha and member of Maharashtra Samaj were also present.
Tell us about your association and the reason it was formed.
Narayan Bhoite: Our association (Maharashtra Samaj) was established in 1924 since there were a large number of Maharashtrians who had settled down in the city. As a part of preserving our culture, we organise festivals like Gudi Padwa and prepare traditional Maharashtrian items.
C Somraj: Ahmedabad Kerala Samajam was formed way back in 1945 as many Keralites migrated to this city to work in factories and textile mills. Initially, the association was formed to safeguard the interest of Keralites living in the city and solve their problems. But gradually, we have moved to a different level today. Apart from organising festivals, we also carry out social work activities like blood donation camps and health camps.
Subhash Anekar: This year we completed 50 years of Maharashtra Mandal, Kankaria. Our association is not caste based, but region based. The main purpose of forming this association was to preserve our culture and language. Through cultural activities, get-togethers and organising festivals together, we are working on how Maharashtrian culture can be preserved.
Venugopal Rao: Established in 1947, Ahmedabad Andhra Mahasabha today is a body working to bond the people of Andhra Pradesh religiously and culturally. The Balaji temple constructed on SG highway is the biggest achievement of this association, where we conduct religious events, take out processions of Lord Balaji and hold sabhas (mass gatherings) too. Interestingly, while Gujaratis celebrate Navratri , we have a similar celebration called Bathukamma which is spread over nine days with people dancing on all days.
Basant Panda: Established in 1978, Orissa Socio Cultural Association came into existence for the benefit and development of Odiya people migrating here. All our festivals are related to Lord Jagannath and we also celebrate Durga Pooja and festival of harvest.
Bomi Sethna: Unlike other associations, PYLA is formed by Parsi youth to serve our community. Established in the year 1980, PYLA holds gatherings, youth meets and celebrations.
Jagdish Shahdadpuri: Established 15 years ago to preserve our traditions, Sindhi Central Panchayat organises events and gatherings. As an association, we work towards development of our community members and their children.
Sanjeev Shetty: Our association was formed in 1947 with a view to help the people of Karnataka and also create a platform for proper communication among members. The association has several bodies which work for the community like Bunt Sangha working for the Bunt community, GBS (Gowda Saraswatha Samaj), Raghvendra Mandal and Billawa Sangha.
Despite being culturally different from Gujaratis, how did your community adapt in this state? Also, how do you manage to preserve your culture?
Basant Panda: Many Odiya families have been residing in this city for long. But one thing is certain, we are safe in this state. Though the city has changed over the years it remains safe for all.
Somraj: We work on maintaining our culture. Thanks to the Kerala government, which recently started Malayalam Mission to teach reading and writing Malayalam alphabets, youngsters are picking up their language.
Venugopal: The people in Gujarat are very receptive. We don’t feel left out in this city at all. However, there is one thing. When they hear my name, people call me a Madrasi, which is totally incorrect as culture in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are different (laughs).
Subhash: We have been brought up in this city and got so adapted that we accept Gujarati culture too.
Ariz: The acceptance level of this city and state can be traced back to history when we Parsis migrated here long ago and are today a part of this state. Also, many Paris speak Gujarati at home.
Jagdish: Our culture is slightly different from the city’s. For instance, we serve sindhi papad to guests first, unlike other cultures where water is served first. Diwali is also celebrated in a similar way as other communities but there are differences in rituals. Still, we have been staying here for long and trying to maintain Sindhi culture through mass activities.
What are the issues that you face in this city?
Subhash: Though we have spent our entire life here and adapted to a different culture and city, we are still called outsiders.
Kumudini: Our community has been staying in this city for long due to our adaptability. As for safety, incidents of misbehaviour with women, rape cases and robberies do come up. Many people say that Ahmedabad is safe, but it is important to know in what way and what percentage of the city.
DNA completed its fifth anniversary. Any suggestions or feedback for the paper?
Kumudini: I would say that as a paper DNA has simple language which makes it good to read.
Venugopal: Festivals and celebrations across the city by different associations are covered very well in DNA.