India Club’s spirited altruism for the ”˜Firies’ helps collect $22,309


India Club’s Shubha and Dr. Aksheya   Kumar along with The Indian Down Under’s Vijay and Neena Badhwar, Vinod and Reeta Rajput, Puneet and Mona Anand donated $22,309 collected in a fundraiser concert for the Firies held on January 27, 2020


By Neena Badhwar

The skies are red, the sun, a mere blob, merges into the crimson hue. Somewhere beyond, yellow tongues of flame rise ferociously to the height of a ten-storey building. The valleys are filled with smoke. As if the gods are angry.

The flames leave in their wake scorched earth. The eucalyptus forests are razed to the ground, many charred trees erect and branchless, a reminder of hosting a teeming life in the past – of koalas and kangaroos, possums and snakes, birds and tiny insects who had no where to go.

It is impossible to grasp how the December-January fires this summer have destroyed 8.4 million hectares of land, raised to the ground over 2,000 homes, killed 28 people including six fire fighters and close to a billion wildlife. Burnt cattle, wounded koalas, kangaroos running, are seen everywhere, trying to save themselves from fires reaching a few hundred degrees Celsius.

Right at the frontline are our ”˜Firies, in masks and wearing protective gear, running around in hot ambers trying their best to hose down the fires, tired until they drop on the ground totally and utterly exhausted. Our hearts cry out for the young firefighters whose little children do not yet understand how brave their fathers were in fighting the devastating fires.

The pictures of dead birds, cattle, charred bush, burning houses make Australia a talking point all around the world. Friends and relatives call in from overseas concerned about the millions of animals that have perished and asking how we are coping. It creates an overwhelming emotional response from everyone, here and overseas, including governments and the issue of climate change becomes a serious discussion everywhere.

This is when Vinod Rajput spearheads a fund-raising proposal and India Club joins Indian Down Under to organise a concert for the fire victims.

The theme of the concert is ”˜Bollywood Beats for the Bush’ with singers Vinod Rajput, Pushpa Jagadish and Seema Bhardwaj and dance items presented by Tanima and her dancers.

Guests include The Hon. Phillip Ruddock, Mayor Hornsby Shire; Consul General of India Mr Manish Gupta and Mrs Nimisha Gupta; Dr Michelle Byrne, Mayor the Hills Shire; Clr Samuel Uno, the Hills Shire and Brendan Doyle, Operations Officer Baulkham Hills HQ RFS present at the event.

There is so much enthusiasm in the team but little time to organise. It happens at the Pennant Hills Community Centre in the afternoon of January 27.

The concert starts with Pushpa Jagadish’s soulful prayer song from the
film ”˜Do Aankhen Bara Haath’ – Ai Maalik Tere Bande Hum. It is followed by Vinod Rajput singing ”˜Teri duniya se door, chale ho ke majboor, humein yaad rakhna’, an apt old number in memory of the firefighters Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, and  his mate Geoffrey Keaton, 32, who were killed six days before Christmas when a tree fell in the path of their truck at the still-burning Green Wattle Creek fire, causing it to roll.

Surely, the words seem to have been written for the wives of the firefighters ”˜Hogi tanhayi tau aake teri yaadein rulayengi humein’ ”“ ”˜in our loneliness your memories will make us cry’, there were many in the audience overcome with emotion.

Seema Bhardwaj’s song from the film ”˜Umraojaan’ –”˜In aakhon ki masti mein’ was well received: that of a singer with a beautiful voice. Vinod’s song ”˜Badan mein sitaare lapete huye’ lightened the mood a bit in an otherwise somber atmosphere and Tanima’s dancers did a wonderful medley of dances to old numbers that captivated everyone.

Rural Fire personnel were there in their uniforms to be a part of the Bollywood theme. They posed with people for photographs as the community commended them personally for the wonderful work they had done fighting the fires.

Brendan Doyle, Operational Officer, The Hills NSW RFS thanked the Indian community for their generosity. He implored, “You can do a lot by supporting and visiting these places and see for yourself the people who have been affected by these fires. You can involve in activities such as bush regeneration and volunteer your support for the Firies.”

Snacks and tea was available at nominal cost during interval, food provided generously for free by Ajay of ”˜Maya Da Dhaba’. People mixed and mingled, looked at paintings donated by students of Ila Deshpande for auction, also a signed bat donated by the Haryana Association.

After the interval, Hornsby Shire Mayor Phillip Ruddock, remembered: “Our area is very much the bush and I remember how many years ago the fires had come through Galston Gorge and raced up the valley to Hornsby. It destroyed the public school, scouts hall and St. Peter’s Church. Luckily, no lives were lost but fires have the potential to destroy, the result of which we have seen this summer.”

Indian Consul General in Sydney, Manish Gupta, recognised the good work India Club was doing. He reflected on the devastating bushfires that had drawn international attention.

Dr. Aksheya the great mobiliser along with Shubha Kumar put in hard work in making the fundraiser concert successful

Dr Aksheya Kumar, President of India Club said that the specter of climate change was very much evident now. “The program was aimed at collecting as much funds as it could from the Indian community, especially for the families of fire fighters who had lost their lives,” he said.

The event raised $22,309 when in the second half of the program paintings by Murthy Anjanappa’s daughters raised $2000 and Vijay Badhwar’s bushfire painting fetched another $600 bought by Pratibha Bhanushali. A signed cricket bat was snapped at a $1500 by Sudesh and Suman Gupta.

The paintings by Anjanappa girls, Khushi and Milli Dakshin, who painted on stage in the background of speeches – one of the Snowy Mountains was bought at $500 by Dave Passi of Indian Seniors Group Hornsby and the other of a firefighter fighting fire fetched $1500, a bid sealed by the Association of Haryanavis in Australia (AHA) in an emotion-charged auction carried out by Kanti Diwan. The painting was donated to the RFS as one of its staff who had initially shown interest in the painting.

People who still were looking forward to some more songs from Vinod’s team, although disappointed, were happy enough to have contributed towards a welfare fund to help the fire fighter victims.

Nita Tanna’s Décor-E-Shaan team did a wonderful job with stage décor in the theme of fire colours that ranged from red, orange to yellow and a row of flowers up at the top depicting hope.

Besides this fund-raising concert, the indomitable spirit of the Indian community was on display as their volunteers from Guru Nanak Langar, Harman Foundation and Turramurra Gurdwara went to affected areas with truckloads of food items as well as cash with volunteers preparing food on the spot for the exhausted fire fighters and people affected by fires.

Pics by Harmohan Walia and Neena Badhwar

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